Vehicle Style:Premium five-door wagon
Price: $64,890 (plus on-roads), $71,990 (as tested, plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 180kW/350Nm 4cyl petrol | 8spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.8 l/100km | tested: 10.6 l/100km
Earlier this year, Volvo launched its Drive-E engines, a pair of uprated turbocharged four-cylinder motors which - Volvo claims - will “take driving pleasure to a new level”.
Delivering the 'driving pleasure' is a combination of more power and torque, but with less fuel consumed.
Volvo is aiming to be taken very seriously these days, and isn’t afraid to put competitors on notice.
The T5, for example, produces 180kW and 350Nm, lining up BMW’s 2.0-litre squarely in its crosshairs, and the company is happy to mention that it bests Audi and Mercedes-Benz in its PR guff as well.
So, how does the Drive-E technology fare in a family wagon? That’s what we set to find out, spending a week behind the wheel of the lovely V60 T5 R-Design. Here’s how we saw it.
Quality: Volvos have always been solidly built, but of late the quality, presentation and ergonomics have improved out of sight.
The V60 (and its S60 sibling) has high-end metal accents and surrounds, while the dashtop plastic is nicely grained and soft to the touch. Even the bread-bin cupholder cover slides smoothly and never feels cheap.
Things like the floating centre console could be cleaned up with less buttons and more integration into the infotainment system, however the fitment is all very solid.
The all-digital instrument display is a delight, with clear readout on speed, revs, fuel and other driving information, all in a neat cluster. It’ll even give an audio prompt for when you approach speed cameras.
Comfort: Open the doors and the smell of the leather is your first clue as to how nice the seats are. Sit down and the comfort becomes apparent.
The side bolstering is not just there because it looks good, it actually holds you in place without restricting movement. It’s an excellent balance of support and comfort, just like the seats themselves.
The rear seats are also very comfortable, however rear legroom isn’t overly expansive; there’s just enough room to not feel squished.
The integrated bolsters are an excellent idea, though smaller children do need to sit slightly closer to the centre of the car so the seatbelt doesn’t sit across their necks.
Equipment: If there’s one outstanding piece of technology in the V60, it’s the stereo.
Audiophiles will immediately fall in love; it’s arguably the best stereo for the price in any car. With both crystal-clear treble and bowel-trembling bass, it can be cranked ultra loud but never hurts your ears. Brilliant.
There’s more, though. Standard kit includes self-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, rear camera with parking sensors, cruise control, auto headlights with DRLs and electric park brake.
Linked to the aforementioned stereo is an exceptionally clear Bluetooth system for phone and music, CD with MP3, an auxillary port and a multi-function steering wheel.
Also fitted was the Driver Support Pack, including lane change and blind spot warning, lane keeping aids and driver alerts among other things, which adds $5000 to the cost of the car.
Storage: Being a wagon, you’d expect the V60 to automatically be more useable than its sedan counterpart, and that’s true, but the advantage isn’t nearly as great as you may think.
The S60’s boot space is 380 litres, while the V60 offers 430 litres.
Volvo’s competitors certainly have the advantage here, but if you fold the rear seats, the space grows to 1231 litres.
Behind the “floating” centre console is a small area where a phone or wallet will sit, plus there are small door pockets up front and even smaller ones for the rear.
The glovebox is lockable, and there are four cupholders (two front, two rear) and a medium stowage area under the centre armrest. Storage-wise, the V60 is certainly middle-of-the-road.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Using direct injection and turbocharging, the Drive-E 2.0-litre petrol motor in the V60 is a cracker. It’s certainly not the most inspiring aurally, but its willingness and efficiency is excellent.
Power is rated at 180kW, which, backed by an Aisin eight-speed auto, helps the V60 gets to 100kmh in a very respectable 6.4 seconds.
Even if given a bootful from rest, it’s more civilised than most front-wheel-drives with that level of power, with little of the typical scrabbling for grip.
There are paddle shifters attached to the wheel, but they’re a bit slow to respond, and the automatic does a great job of keeping the engine on the boil, whether in normal or in sport mode.
It’s certainly a smooth-shifting ‘box, but, that said, it doesn’t quite match the fluidity of ZF’s eight-speed auto.
With peak torque of 350Nm coming in nice and early (1500rpm), the power delivery is almost diesel-like, except it doesn’t run out of puff up top. It’s an excellent motor, though in everyday driving we struggled to match Volvo’s 6.8L/100km claim, registering 10.6L/100km for our week.
Refinement: Volvo’s Drive-E motor is quiet and smooth, though it’s a little shrilly for something which makes 180kW. The cabin is commendably quiet, especially when idling, but those beautiful 19-inch alloys certainly do make some noise at speed on most surfaces.
If it’s serenity you’re after, best opt for smaller wheels.
Ride and Handling: Volvo’s suspension is firmly sprung with standard Euro-spec damping, but even with larger wheels, it’s not back-breaking.
The trade-off is surefooted grip from this 1649kg wagon, even when pressing on in corners. It sits relatively neutral through bends and has grip limits far higher than most drivers will experience.
The steering has very good weighting, too, though it does feel rather artificial. Still, it’s quick and accurate and doesn’t kick back or allow torque steer to become pervasive.
Braking: With discs front and rear, it’s a given that the V60 can brake effectively. Pedal feel is quite good, with an initial bite that requires a lighter press to start slowing. Press harder and there’s plenty of meat behind it.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36.34 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: The V60 comes comprehensively equipped with dual front airbags, side airbags and head-protecting side curtains. Antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and electronic stability control (ESC) are also standard.
City Safety - a crash avoidance system which brakes if a collision is sensed - is fitted across the range, as are seabelt pretensioners, collapsible steering column and a roll-over avoidance system which uses the stability control system to prevent the car sliding into a position to tip over.
Volvo virtually wrote the book on car safety and the V60 benefits from its years of safety R&D.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Service costs vary between states and dealers (and intervals), so for a full rundown, contact your local dealer.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW 328i Touring ($73,990) - BMW’s mid-size wagon isn’t quite as nicely finished as the Volvo, but it does offer far better dynamics. It starts out more expensive than the V60, however, and option it up and the budget quickly starts to blow out. (see 3 Series reviews)
Mercedes-Benz C 250 Estate ($71,990) - With a much-improved interior and lovely ride (on smaller wheels), the C-Class Estate is an excellent package. Its boot space could be larger, but with good safety credentials, it’s well worth a look. (see C-Class reviews)
Audi A4 2.0 TFSI S Line Avant ($70,800) - Audi’s trump card has always been its interiors, and the A4 Avant is no exception. But it’s arguably more sterile inside and disconnected from the road. (see A4 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If there’s one thing Volvo does well, it’s to make a good looking wagon. And with the V60 T5 R-Design you’ve got Polestar looks at a reduced price.
Of course, it’s not quite Polestar quick, but given it’s packing 180kW, it’s not exactly a slouch either.
The V60’s appeal, however, is its safety and individuality among a sea of German vehicles. With a beautifully built interior and awesome stereo, this Volvo is a very pleasant (and safe) way to cover ground.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- T4 Kinetic - $49,990
- T4 Luxury - $54,990
- D4 Kinetic - $56,890 (Drive-E)
- D4 Luxury - $61,890 (Drive-E)
- T5 Luxury - $59,890 (Drive-E)
- T5 R-Design - $63,890 (Drive-E)
- T6 R-Design - $71,990
- Polestar - $109,950
- T5 Kinetic - $55,890 (Drive-E)
- T5 Luxury - $60,890 (Drive-E)
- T5 R-Design - $64,890 (Drive-E)
- D4 Kinetic - $57,890 (Drive-E)
- D4 Luxury - $62,890 (Drive-E)
- T6 R-Design - $72,990