Volvo estates aren't what they used to be. Jonathan Crouch checks out the second generation version of the brand's V60 mid-sized estate.
Ten Second Review
Volvo's regeneration continues with this second generation V60 mid-sized estate model. It gets the company's sophisticated SPA chassis, class-leading safety tech and two choices for Plug-in hybrid power. If you're looking at German rivals like the Audi A4 Avant, the BMW 3 Series Touring or the Mercedes C-Class Estate, this Swedish alternative might be a refreshingly different option.
Estate cars. They used to be things you bought to carry around loads of kit. Not any more. These days, most people wanting to do that will buy an MPV or an SUV. Leaving estates to focus almost completely on style and driving dynamics. Which is why compact mid-sized premium-branded wagons like Audi's A4 Avant and BMW's 3 Series Touring can't actually carry much more than the saloons upon which they're based. Now you wouldn't expect Volvo, a solid, traditional brand that pioneered the kind of boxy estate car into which you could fit a fridge (or several), to want much to do with this kind of trendy form over function approach. But you'd be wrong.
The Swedish brand actually invented this style-conscious market niche long before the German brands turned up, bringing us the classic P1800E model that Roger Moore drove as 'The Saint' way back in the Sixties. But it took them until 2010 to return to it with the first generation version of their V60 model. That car wasn't quite good enough to significantly trouble its dominant German-branded rivals. But this design, its successor, might well be.
Reflecting Volvo's determination to electrify all its new cars going forward, the V60 comes with two plug-in hybrid powertrain options. There a T6 Twin Engine AWD petrol plug-in hybrid that generates a combined 340hp. Or a T8 Twin Engine AWD petrol plug-in hybrid that delivers 390hp. Most V60 buyers of course will plump for something more conventional from the company's 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engine line-up. There are straightforward petrol T5 or T6 powertrains developing either 250 or 310hp. But most will probably want a diesel, either the 150hp D3 or the 190hp D4.
The previous V60 could really match the sharp handling reactions of its premium German rivals but buyers can expect a significant improvement in that area this time round thanks to the installation of the stiffer, more sophisticated 'SPA' 'Scalable Product Architecture' platform we've already seen used in the company's XC60, XC90, S90 and V90 models. As usual with Volvo models, there's a standard 'Drive Mode Settings' system, one of those set-ups now familiar in this segment that can tailor throttle response, steering feel and - if you've a self-shifter fitted - auto gearshift timings to suit the way you want to drive. Plus there's the option of adding in Volvo's 'Pilot Assist' system. This is a set-up that at cruising speeds of up to 80mph can effectively drive for you.
Design and Build
The original V60 model was quite a departure from the conventional boxy Volvo station wagon shape and this MK2 model continues that trend. To look at, it's very much like the larger V90 estate model that shares its sophisticated 'SPA' architecture. In fact, from a casual glance, you might easily mistake this V60 for its larger stablemate. Get up a little closer though, and you'll find that the front apron is more aggressively styled with this more compact wagon. There's some design inspiration from the XC60 mid-sized SUV in places too. The 'Thor's Hammer' LED headlights for example, though they're a bit more sculpted here. , while the front apron is more aggressively styled in comparison to the smooth face of the V90.
Inside, there's much more borrowed from those V90 and XC60 models, the interior boasting Volvo's latest, paired back interior design language with a 9.3-inch portrait orientated touchscreen infotainment system. Plus there's a digital instrument panel, with virtual dials separated by a customisable central space that can display a navigational map, trip computer info or your chosen phone or media settings. Out back, boot space comes in at 529-litres with the rear seats in place, outstripping the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring and the Mercedes C-Class Estate. The rear bench splits 40/20/40 and drops down flat to the floor.
Market and Model
If you've looked at the various premium brand rivals targeted by this car, you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect here when it comes to pricing. The V60 range sits in the same £28,000 to £40,000 bracket targeted by competitors. Expect the usual 'Momentum', 'R-Design' and 'Inscription' trim levels, plus a mildly SUV-like 'Cross Country' variant is planned for the future. Safety standards are class-leading - and most of the features come as standard across the range.
The City Safety with Autobrake technology system uses automatic braking and detection systems to assist the driver in avoiding potential collisions, and is the only system on the market to recognise pedestrians, cyclists and large animals. In a world first, City Safety now also engages auto braking to mitigate oncoming collisions. The purchase options are innovative too. In certain areas of the country, customers who want an alternative to outright purchase, leasing, contract hire or finance schemes will be offered the opportunity to acquire a V60 using the new 'Care by Volvo' scheme. Here, there's no deposit required and you'll get a two year agreement that also includes use of another Volvo model for up to two weeks a year.
Cost of Ownership
The 190hp D4 diesel variant most will choose offers combined fuel consumption of up to nearly 60mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions from around 125g/km. The petrol-powered 250hp T5 offers combined fuel economy of up to around 45mpg and CO2 emissions from around 160g/km. The 390hp T8 Twin Engine AWD petrol/electric plug-in hybrid offers an all-electric driving range of around 35 miles.
Ultimately of course, we can talk about figures all day but the ultimate cleanliness and frugality of any car has as much to do with the driver as with the automotive engineer. Here, the figures quoted assume that the car is being operated in the most frugally-orientated of the available drive modes - 'Eco' - a setting that gives you a green-tinged gauge you can use to regulate throttle application. Maintenance should also be relatively affordable for a car of this kind, with intervals every year or 18,000 miles. Three or five year pre-paid servicing packages are available to help you budget ahead. With the useful 'Volvo On Call App' remote connectivity system, this V60 can be programmed to autonomously realise when a service is due, then automatically book it for you at a dealership of your choice. Finally, we'll tell you that the warranty is the usual three year, 60,000 mile package.
Volvo estates aren't what they used to be - and in this case, that's a very good thing. This second generation V60 will, I think, find it easier than its predecessor to conquest sales from German rivals. Class-leading safety gives this Swedish contender a tangible advantage over such competitors. So does this V60's high-tech cabin with its more sophisticated infotainment and instrument binnacle screens. You get generally more complete levels of standard equipment too.
This is then, a tale of the unexpected. If you're just about to sign for a premium 3 Series or A4-sized estate, then you might want to try one of these before you do. Swede dreams are made of this.