Volvo V60 Review: 2011 Model | V60 | Car Buyers Guide

2011 Volvo V60 Review

The new Volvo V60 is an estate car. Stating the blatantly obvious, you might say, but it’s an important point. It’s not an SUV, a crossover, a versatile active utility coupé or whatever other previously non-existent sub-niche the Germans have cooked up this week. It’s an honest-to-God estate car, with normal-car styling, normal-car proportions and normal-car handling. And make no mistake, this is a very good thing. But don’t be fooled into thinking that it represents a retrograde step for Volvo. The V60 (it’s an all-new model rather than a replacement for something) is not a throwback to the warehouse-on-wheels Volvo estates of old. Instead, Volvo calls its a ‘sports wagon’ – essentially an S60 with a bigger boot.


From the outside, it continues the fine tradition, exemplified by cars like the BMW 5-Series and Audi A4, of estate cars looking smarter and better proportioned than their saloon brethern. The aggressive shape of the rear lights and the sweeping upward curve of the window line are particularly attractive, even if the latter does limit rearward visibility to a certain extent. Overall, it’s a typical piece of smart but restrained Scandinavian design, and the dark blue colour of our test car tied in nicely with this. The interior is designed in a similar minimalist vein, so it won’t appeal to those who like to be reassured of the fact that they’re in a luxury car by the presence masses of wood and leather and more buttons than NASA’s mission control room. However, more modest individuals with an appreciation for aesthetics and efficiency will love its clean, uncluttered appearance. We tested the SE specification, which enhances the cabin with the addition of graphite aluminium trim and swish seat textiles. SE also adds power-folding door mirrors, Bluetooth capability, a high-end audio system, rear parking sensors and 17-inch alloys, all of which make it worth the roughly €4,000 premium you’ll pay over the entry-level S, depending on your choice of engine.


Whichever model you go for, though, a V60’s cabin is a nice place to be. But what about that other vital aspect of an estate car’s interior, the boot? Well, the fact that the larger V70 remains in Volvo’s range tells you all you need to know, really. If you have a serious IKEA addiction and need a serious load-lugger to help feed it, the V60 is not the car to go for, but in fairness, Volvo isn’t pretending that it is. Rather, the V60 is aimed at family buyers who will occasionally make use of the extra space and flexibility offered by the estate bodystyle, when going on holiday or doing a big pre-Christmas shop, for example. Makes sense to us. Naturally, the load area can be temporarily increased to take outsize items, at the expense of passenger capacity, thanks to a 40/20/40-split rear seat and a fold-flat front passenger seat.


So, the family will enjoy the V60’s pleasant cabin and its large – if not cavernous – boot will take care of their luggage needs the vast majority of the time. But it’s time to consider the driver’s lot now. Overseas, the V60 can be specified with a stonking 300hp, 3.0-litre petrol engine, but Irish tax and fuel costs mean we won’t be seeing it here – the only petrol option being offered by Volvo Ireland is a 140hp, 1.6-litre unit. Leadfoots need not despair, though, as Volvo has developed some cracking new diesel powerplants for the S60 and V60. Our test car was motivated by the D3, a 5-cylinder, 20-valve, turbocharged unit that’s an absolute peach and offers ample, smooth and quiet power delivery in every gear. It’s available with either a conventional manual ’box or ‘Geartronic’ semi-automatic transmission. In manual mode, the semi-auto box’s response times are not quite as sharp as some of the German systems we’ve tried, but it still does a great job of allowing you full access to the truly oceanic levels of torque on offer from this engine – 400Nm, to be precise. The single-turbo D3 engine is so good, in fact, that it hardly seems necessary to pay more for the twin-turbo D5 unit, which gives you only about 40 additional horsepower and just 20Nm of extra torque. At launch, the lowest-emissions V60 models will be the manual-gearbox versions, with Band C emissions and €302 annual road tax. Specifying the Geartronic transmission pushes things up into Band D for the diesels and Band E for the petrols, but those looking for a truly green V60 will need to wait a few months for the low-emissions, 1.6 diesel, ‘DRIVe’ version to arrive.


Unsurprisingly, making progress around town or on the open road, even with the gearbox in fully automatic mode, is an effortless process in a diesel V60, which surges forward with the merest hint of pressure on the accelerator, even in top gear on the motorway. And although there’s no disguising the car’s weight or dimensions on a twisty back road, the V60 is still a huge improvement over previous Volvo estates in the handling department. It’s only really let down by the oddly weighted steering, which has a tendency to go light in mid-corner and doesn’t give you fantastic levels of feedback.


It’s a miracle we’ve come this far in a Volvo estate review without mentioning safety, but this remains as high a priority for the Swedish marque as it has always been, and two new technologies in particular are worth mentioning. The first is City Safety, which is designed to help prevent low-speed impacts in stop-start traffic. With this system, the car automatically brakes if the driver fails to react in time when the vehicle in front slows down or stops – or if they are moving too fast towards a stationary object. Volvo says that he system can lessen or even entirely avoid low-speed rear-end impacts at speeds up to 30km/h. The second piece of new safety technology on the V60 is Pedestrian Detection, which can detect if a pedestrian steps out into the road in front of the car. If the driver does not respond in time, the car can automatically activate the brakes. In an emergency situation, the driver first receives an audible warning combined with a flashing light in the windscreen’s head-up display. In order to prompt an immediate, intuitive reaction, this warning resembles a brake light. At the same time, the car’s brakes are pre-charged. If the driver does not react to the warning and an accident is imminent, full braking power is automatically applied. Volvo claims that Pedestrian Detection with full auto brake can avoid a collision with a pedestrian at speeds up to 35 km/h if the driver does not react in time. At higher speeds, the focus is on reducing the car’s speed as much as possible prior to impact.


Both of these systems are extremely innovative and impressive pieces of technology, no doubt, but one can’t help but wonder what kind of attitude to driving they will foster in certain drivers. After all, should someone who fails to notice a car stopping in front of them or a pedestrian stepping out onto the road really be driving a car in the first place? Such systems are fine as long as they are treated as what they are – last-gasp fail-safes, not a replacement for good judgement, common sense and sound observational skills.


It almost goes without saying that even a base-spec V60 is loaded to the gunwales with the more ‘commonplace’ safety equipment – driver, passenger and curtain airbags; whiplash protection; stability and traction control are standard (as is the aforementioned City Safety), while Blind Spot Warning; Lane Departure Warning; and the aforementioned Pedestrian Detection can be specified as optional extras.


So there you have it – the new V60 is safe, quick, comfortable and, despite its sporting pretensions, reasonably practical. Its styling, inside and out, may be too restrained and understated for some, and those in search of a truly rewarding driving experience will still find their needs are better met by the men from Munich. Otherwise, though, the V60 is an extremely attractive package for anyone who’s after a great family car, in the strictest sense of the word.



Volvo V60 D3 SE Geartronic


RATING: 9/10



2.0-litre, turbocharged 5-cylinder diesel

Output @ rpm

163hp @ 3,000; 400Nm @ 1,400–2,850


6-speed semi-auto, front-wheel drive


0–100km/h in 9.4s

Top speed




CO2 emissions


CO2 tax band

D (€447 p.a.)



Boot capacity


Base price


Price as tested



Torque-tastic engine; classy cabin; looks great


Slightly sluggish gearbox, load space compromise



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