Estate of grace: Volvo V60 driven

16 August 2018

Volvo V60

Volvo V60
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good: safe, stylish, big boot, lovely comfy cabin
Bad: no storage cleverness, not all safety kit is standard
Price: from £31,810 – the model tested starts at £40,860

The Volvo V60 is by no means the prettiest car ever built, but it must surely be in the running for the best looking estate to date. Viewed from the side, especially, it has the kind of form that makes you want to unfold a camp chair, sit down by the roadside, and admire it like a sculpture in a gallery.

That would probably be a bit weird, though, so I don’t advise you head out with a chair and try it. Instead, it’s worth sitting down inside the cabin and taking a V60 for a spin. Not least because Volvo knows how to make some very comfortable seats that are quite a lot more inviting than those canvas and wood contraptions.

The Swedish firm also knows how to make good-looking estates that can still carry plenty of stuff. Behind the V60’s wide tailgate you’ll find 529 litres of well-shaped boot volume, or 1,441 litres if you flop the seats and fill the resulting space to the brim.

Volvo V60 side view

While those figures don’t actually make it the last word in capacious practicality – for that I’d probably recommend an echoing Skoda Superb estate or a Transit van – it does put the V60 at the more cavernous end of the spectrum among its upmarket competition. Pack your bags into an A4, 3-Series or C-Class estate and you’ll need to leave something behind that you could have still squeezed aboard a V60. Like a dog or a smallish child, for example.

While it is big in the back it’s not clever, alas. In the boot of the Volvo XC40, for example, you’ll find an ingenious concertina boot floor that not only works as a divider but also provides a row of hooks for securing shopping bags, while the lift-out parcel shelf stows under the boot floor.

Volvo V60 boot

In the business end of the V60, by contrast, it’s all rather humdrum by comparison. The flip up boot divider seems half-hearted, and the roller-blind-style cover is frustratingly easy to leave in a raised position, meaning you’ll frequently shut the boot, get in the driver’s seat and only then realise you can’t see out of the rear window. Again.

There is, thankfully, space for a spare wheel under the boot floor, though that will probably not be true for the plug-in hybrid edition. The petrol-electric T6 Twin Engine version of the V60 will arrive at some point in 2019, with all the punctuality of a Great British train.

For now there is a somewhat reduced engine line-up, comprising a pair of 2.0-litre diesels in D3 and D4 guise, and a T3 2.0-litre petrol.

Volvo V60 headlamp

Volvo expects the D3 to be the biggest seller, accounting for 60% of sales. It can rustle up 150 horsepower and 320Nm of torque, sufficient to propel the car to 62mph in 9.9 seconds. People in a hurry can shave 2 seconds off that sprint with the D4, which is basically the same engine but with an extra 40 horses and 80Nm of torque released from the traps in exchange for an additional £1,000.

The T5 petrol tops the initial model range, offering 250 horsepower but with the inevitable downside in efficiency terms – it is rated at 150 to 154 grams of CO2 per kilometre depending on wheel and tyre choice, whereas the D4 and D3 models all fit between 117g/km and 125g/km, varying with tyres and the choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s the manuals that enjoy a better rating, eking out an extra 2 to 4 grams per kilometre.

All these options are front-wheel drive only, whereas the plug-in hybrid will bring an electric rear axle to bear, offering selectable 4x4.

Volvo V60 front interior

The V60 price list starts at £31,810, which buys the D3 engine, base Momentum trim and a manual gearbox. At the other end of the current range, the D4 Inscription Pro automatic, pictured, starts at £40,860. Finance offers start at £2,999 plus £279 per month for two years, while insurance group ratings run from 24 to 31 – generally not quite as cover friendly as an A4 Avant but better than a 3-Series Touring. As ever, compare car insurance quotes before deciding what to buy.

Pretty as it is, the V60 does suffer slightly from the Russian Doll effect, closely resembling a shortened version of Volvo’s V90 or a lowered XC60. The V60 is to my eyes the best looking car of that bunch, and the cheapest too, but it’s still a shame that Volvo hasn’t been able to give the new estate a little more character of its own. After all, the Gothenburg design team managed to create a unique look for the XC40, which is still clearly a modern Volvo but manages to stand apart from the other cars.

Volvo V60 dashboard

Inside the V60, you’ll find the results of another cut and paste exercise. At first glance I was convinced the V60 and XC60 dashboards were absolutely identical down to the last fillet of driftwood veneer, but if you treat the two like one of those spot-the-difference puzzles you’ll soon realise that they are, in fact, as unalike as chalk and a slightly different piece of chalk.

In some ways that’s great. Volvo saves money by buying switches and knobs in tremendous bulk, fitting the same items in every car. It then reinvests those savings into sparkling knurled switches and knobs that it couldn’t otherwise afford. In other ways, however, component sharing is not so brilliant, because disappointments in one product are repeated like genetic illnesses across the whole family.

Volvo V60 centre console

A case in point: the 9-inch centre screen in the V60 still underwhelms, just as it did in the XC60 and V90. The user interface is clunky in places, feeling closer to filling out a spreadsheet than controlling a luxury car, and the software – takes – an – age – to – boot – up – from – cold.

It is, therefore, a relief to note that Volvo is working with Google on a wholesale redesign of its Sensus infotainment system, which will be based on the Android operating system, make use of Google’s maps and voice assistance, and support third-party apps. None of which is a help if you’re contemplating a V60 today, because the new software won’t arrive until 2020 or so.

Enough carping. The Volvo V60 is, mostly, a delightful thing to be in. It rides well, is very quiet and cossets its passengers in comfortable, tasteful surroundings.

Volvo V60 rear cabin

And naturally the V60 will keep its occupants safe, especially if you opt for the £1,625 Intellisafe Pro pack, which adds blind-spot detection, cross-traffic alert and Volvo’s clever Pilot Assist system.

Pilot Assist is an adaptive cruise control system that not only takes care of throttle and brakes, but also keeps the car centred in its lane. It needs well-painted markings to work, but on an endless motorway slog it’s a godsend, seeming to drain about half of the strain from the journey. By removing the constant little course corrections that are otherwise a background mental task, it helps you to concentrate more clearly on the road around you. Let go of the wheel and Pilot Assist will squawk and then switch off, just as it should, because it’s a driving aid not an autopilot.

Overall, the new V60 is a handsome estate car, with a good-sized boot and quiet, comfortable interior. It’s a credible Swedish alternative to BMW, Audi and Mercedes sport wagons, particularly if you value comfort, peace and safety over a stiff ride and an aggressive, get-out-of-my-way demeanour.

Volvo V60 rear view

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