DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I’ll confess to having kind of written Volvo off lately -- though the cars have been solid entries, sales have been low enough to inspire whispered rumors of the brand’s imminent demise. For comparison’s sake, the Lexus ES and Mercedes E-class each outsold Volvo’s entire lineup in July 2014. Even perennial dead-brand-walking Mitsubishi sold more cars.
In this 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E, though, there are signs of a Volvo renaissance. So far we’ve heard plenty of lip service paid to Volvo’s future, mainly from its ever-cheerful executives, but this car is the first tangible evidence that the last remaining Swede could have a very bright future indeed.
Our V60 tester gets the brand’s new, and soon to be ubiquitous, 2.0-liter I4 featuring turbocharging and direct injection in this state of tune. It’s backed by an eight-speed automatic per current custom, and the combination suits the family sport-wagon dynamic just about perfectly. Yes, it’s still FWD but you can get AWD if you need it (you probably don’t), and only the purists will gripe -- torque steer is almost nonexistent, and vibration through the wheel is equally absent.
Given that it’s a Euro sport wagon and not a ’91 Roadmaster, the V60’s extra cargo capacity isn’t going to help you get 4x8 sheets of plywood home, but the volume goes from 12 cubic feet in the S60 to almost 44 cubic feet in the V60 -- that’s real room, and our tester perfectly swallowed a 55-gallon rain barrel with room to close the rear door and still allow me to see out the back window. Try that with a sedan.
Here’s the kicker: Unlike some Volvos we’ve had through the fleet lately, and very much unlike anything German anywhere, the V60 represents a solid value for the money. That’s not to say it’s inexpensive, but for the level of equipment, build quality, power and relative exclusivity, $42K is a perfectly acceptable MSRP for this attractive wagon.
Oh, and one final thing: Volvo still builds the best seats in the business.
Unlike many of its German counterparts, the V60 represents solid value for the money.PHOTO BY VOLVO
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I sort of forget Volvo exists half the time. Seriously, how many do you see on the road on a daily basis? One? Two? Not many. This car shows maybe there are a few signs of life left in the ol’ Swede. The car is really good-looking inside and out (it’s actually a sexy-looking wagon if that’s possible, and if Volvo’s last few concepts are any indication the company is doing some really nice design right now). The 240 hp this 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder cranks out is more than respectable, and mated to the eight-speed trans, is a smooth and eager powertrain that works well here -- it’s quite the flexible engine. I didn’t particularly dig the stop/start function -- I’ve felt smoother ones.
That’s a minor beef, though, and overall the car feels agile and light definitely quick and fast enough. It’s a fun car in which to bomb around town and is quiet at highway speeds. The ride is a tiny bit firm, but in no way unpleasant.
The interior is nicely built and mostly intuitive, though I did have a heck of a time resetting the trip meter after I filled it. I suppose one would get used to it. Fit and finish is good and, yeah, these seats are terrific -- I’ve always liked Volvo seats.
I also agree this is solid value considering, as Stoy points out, equipment levels, fit and finish and such.
The Volvo V60 Drive-E receives power from a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four.PHOTO BY VOLVO
SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: This V60 T5 Drive-E is -- as noted already -- a very well-trimmed and -built midluxury wagon. If you didn’t know better, one look at its clean and smooth exterior design might make it difficult to imagine Volvo’s history of building a wide range of “boxy but good” survival-cells on wheels.
The interior stands out noticeably as one of the more well-conceived cabins in the industry, with nice materials, excellent and supportive seats (black ones here, with contrasting white stitching), easy-to-understand-and-operate controls … there is so much to like here in the context of day-to-day living with a vehicle.
My only disappointment -- probably a somewhat harsh word to use -- with this V60, unfortunately, is the driving experience. Not so much that is drives poorly, but you feel the potential beneath you and, at least from an enthusiast standpoint, you know it can be improved. The brake pedal feels like you’re stepping into quicksand; too much pedal travel and no clear, strong bite-point. This overly progressive speed reduction fails to inspire loads of confidence.
The chassis setup, compared to our old long-term 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design, let alone the S60 Polestar version, exhibits a fair amount of bodyroll through corners despite the optional sport package. Volvo’s typical customer doesn’t likely care much about such things, but I’m confident Volvo could add an extra dash of sportiness while sacrificing little, if anything, in terms of ride quality.
Power from this new direct-injection engine comes smooth and linear, though I concur with Raynal that the stop/start function annoys you quickly; I turned it off after not long. Somewhat bizarrely, the car still felt as though it was shutting down at red lights, even though the tach clearly showed it idling somewhere around 800 rpm. However, driver insulation from the engine at idle is remarkable as you hear and feel nothing until you release the brakes, whereupon a little bit of mechanical noise and vibration returns.
Something else that returns for 2015, apparently: the car’s automatic release of its electronic parking brake upon startup and gear selection remains a pet peeve. As the system disengages, you hear it release the brake, and it sounds like a high-tension cable being freed from pressure. You also feel its release through the brake pedal. Big deal? Not at all, but it does annoy once you realize it’s doing this all the time, and I’ve come to despise it.
None of these observations is much of a deal breaker for me, just worth noting. As an overall package, though, the build quality, practicality, style and smoothness make the V60 a bang-for-buck sleeper; judging by sales numbers, a lot of people have either forgotten it exists or never knew -- and that, my friends, is a crying shame.
The V60's interior is well executed and easy to live with.PHOTO BY VOLVO
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: Lot of praise being thrown around for this Volvo here. A lot of that comes from the fact that the V60 T5 Drive-E stands alone as a well-designed, well-executed vehicle. The rest of it probably has to do with the fact that it’s a well-designed, well-executed vehicle from Volvo.
Volvo has tantalized us with a couple of stunning show cars -- the P1800-inspired Concept Coupe, XC Coupe and Concept Estate spring to mind -- but the automaker hasn’t exactly lit up the sales scoreboard Stateside. The company’s Drive-E powertrain push, which revolves around four-cylinder engines, also seems like a somewhat risky gamble for the premium/luxury segment.
So the extent to which this V60 wagon delivers is a pleasant surprise. Despite the T5 Drive-E names attached to the tester V60, it is neither an I5 nor a hybrid. But the turbocharged inline-four punches above its 240 hp; the 258 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 rpm helps get things moving quickly.
Still, it wasn’t perfect. The button-laden center stack was inelegant to my eyes -- hardly an example of Scandinavian austerity. Benz does a better job cramming buttons and switches ’em in a small space. The instrument cluster could use an upgrade; the digital speedometer lagged by a split second, and I really hate that. And the car didn’t have a backup camera, which seemed odd given Volvo’s safety rep.
As for the on-the-road feel? Mac is right on. There’s potential, but the steering was light and could have been more direct; the brake pedal likewise lacked sensitivity. And I do wish the power was channeled through all four wheels -- not that this FWD wagon, properly shod in winter tires, would be ill-equipped for snow and ice.
But these are largely enthusiast quibbles, and this particular car is not really targeting enthusiasts. If you want more power and AWD, you can opt for the R-Design version. I’d love to drive that and see if it feels livelier.
As it stands, though, it represents a fairly good bargain for an upscale buyer looking for something different. I suspect that, if Volvo can adjust its interiors while maintaining a price tag in this vicinity, its product will appeal more and more to those burned out on high-dollar German offerings.
Volvo still makes some of the best seats in the business.PHOTO BY VOLVO
EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: Other than the front end, which is fine, but probably a bit of a step back from a styling standpoint, the Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E is one of the prettiest cars we’ve had through the office in recent memory. The shape is really pleasing, but the rearward sloping roof comes at the cost of some utility, but it looks great.
Through the transition to Chinese ownership, Volvo has maintained a high standard of build quality, and the V60 feels exceptionally solid, even over broken pavement. It’s quiet and comfortable around town and on the freeway; definitely something I could see doing a long trip in. Power is adequate and it’s fun enough to drive. The price is even fair, considering the level of equipment.
WEST COAST ASSOCIATE EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: What a good-looking wagon. Both sleek and stubby at the same time, it’s the exact car we need for image-obsessed trendsetting wannabe obsessives who still harrumph at anything “wagon” if there might be an indication it’ll be preceded by the word “station.” It essentially picks up where the Audi A4 Avant used to leave off and the plastic-clad Allroad continues--and it makes the German wagon look dowdy, to boot. (That’s a wagon pun, you guys.) The aggressively sloping hatch doesn’t seem like there’ll be much room back there, but Volvo claims 43.8 cubic feet with the seats down--about seven cubic feet less than the Allroad, or one less bookshelf from Target. Headroom in rear is plentiful, and, yes, the headrests snap downwards with a push of the button up front, a standard feature on Volvos and a desirable necessity everywhere else.
The sport seats are wonderful, wrapped in soft leather as they wrap around you. The carpet in the cargo area is so plush and thick it makes you feel bad to potentially spill Home Depot mulch on it. The visibility out the back is excellent, especially if you hit that wonderful headrest button.
How does it drive? It’s competent, smooth, quiet and comfortable with only the occasional creak over bumps. The suspension is very smooth and never inflicts too much roll. The eight-speed pulls a little when it shifts, but does so quickly enough to feel slightly reassuring. No understeer on our FWD model and no torque steer, either. You can barely hear the engine--just a full thrum of the tires, but road noise does filter in acutely. The steering is light through most of the rotation and offers stability at highway speeds, but not much feel. You can compare this unfavorably to the Germans, but the Germans aren’t exactly building wagons anymore. You’d have to talk to an Audi Q5, a BMW X5 (or, God forbid, an X6), but you’d feel awkward because they can’t talk back.
You could talk to a Mercedes-Benz E350 wagon, however--which is similarly sized but starts $14,000 more than the most expensive V60. You could also talk to the awe-inspiring E63 AMG wagon, but it’d probably remind you that it starts at $103,295. Then, it’d slap you.
Plus, the Mercedes isn’t available in a color called power blue metallic that presumably takes its inspiration from a fjord. That makes the Volvo even more attractive, literally and figuratively.
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