This week it’s the turn of Volvo’s newest estate / sport wagon - the Volvo V60 D3 R-Design – to arrive for review & road test. Just another Volvo estate, or something more interesting?
It takes a very long time for established views to change.
I mean, who’d have thought that Take That could ever be cool or that Skoda could make desirable cars.
Mind you, it took a while. Take That had to fall out with Robbie and then spend a decade in purdah before the world allowed them back. And Skoda had to be gobbled up by VW and become a cheap alternative to its new foster parent before it finally started to stand and fall on its own reputation.
Which brings us to this week’s transport – the Volvo V60 D3 R-Design – in for a week of running around to review and road test.
As is the wont of she who must be obeyed, showing an interest in what I do (which really is appreciated and something I don’t reciprocate enough) is a given, and she always remembers to ask what car’s coming next week, even though cars are a far from overwhelming passion for her
‘It’s a Volvo V60 R-Design’, said I, when asked. ‘What’s a V60 R-Design?’ came the reply. ‘It’s a mid-range Volvo Estate with sporty bits bolted on’ I informed. ‘That’ll look silly’, she said.
And therein still lies the problem for Volvo. Especially in the UK.
You see, we Brits have a passion for a Wagon. An overwhelming urge to own an Estate and be prepared for any fetch and carry life may impose on us. And Volvos are the Estate cars. Or always where.
Beloved of the antique dealer or anyone wanting a big, boxy, reliable mode of transport that really could squeeze a big brown wardrobe in its nether regions when push came to shove, the Volvo Estate became as synonymous with the lives of a certain section of Middle England as Agas and Joanna Trollope.
But selling big estate cars to Antique Dealers is a relatively modest market, something Ford discovered in its years at the helm of Volvo. So they planned changes, and many of those changes are starting to have an impact on the market, just as Ford has divested itself of Volvo.
Perhaps the S60/V60 is the first real next generation Volvo. It certainly looks different to any Volvo before. In fact, in the V60 R-Design guise we have here, it looks positively appealing; cool, even. My, my.
Based on (extensively modified) Ford Mondeo underpinnings, the V60 is not a Volvo Estate in any way you could reasonably expect. In fact Volvo would much rather we call it a Sport wagon than an Estate, and you can understand why. This is a stylish and appealing load-lugger, made even more appealing with the addition of Volvo’s R-Design cosmetic tweaks.
The R-design option isn’t an over the top be-winged and bulbous caricature sports pack, but instead a refined set of slightly more aggressive tweaks to make the V60 (whether carrying a lowly diesel engine in the D3 or a range-topping T6 petrol with AWD) look like it means business.
Still, it seemed something of a shame that Volvo had sent us the sheep in wolf’s clothing which is the V60 D3 R-design, rather than something with a surfeit of horses. But the D3 will probably be the best seller, so it’s of interest nevertheless.
Stepping in to the good looking V60, the interior is much as we’ve come to expect from Volvo; good quality materials, simple but effective ergonomics and a general feeling of being in something that’s a cut above the average.
The R-design pack that endowed the exterior with more butch bumpers, black grill and sexy alloys has also been at work in the cabin. The instrument dials are blue (which if this were a German car would signify ‘Eco’) and the seats, steering wheel and gear knob have a more ‘Sporty’ feel – and an R-Design logo or three. Just like the exterior, it’s enough to matter but not so much it shouts.
It’s the same with the way the V60 drives too. Volvo has fitted a strut brace at the front and new dampers out back (dampers which also get stiffer bushes) and the springs have been cut by 15mm. All of which just seems to make the V60 tauter without jarring your fillings. A nice surprise for a ‘Sport’ package.
On the road the 2.0 litre diesel in the D3 isn’t going to turn you in to Jenson Button, but it does have enough torque to be very punchy in the mid-range. No, it’s not really quick with a 0-60mph of 8.9 seconds, but use the torque well and it will keep up with much quicker stuff.
The only real gripes (gripes is too strong – mild disappointment is better) were with the steering and the noise.
The steering is direct enough, but at times we felt like we were out-steering ourselves. There’s not a huge amount of feel coming through and it’s easy to twirl away at the wheel and over-cook the manoeuvre. Or it could just have been us.
On the noise front, the V60 was good enough around town and at lower speeds, but it did make itself heard when pushing on, and wind noise was a bit more intrusive than we’d really have liked. Not awful, just not great.
Accommodation was good, unless you were expecting to get that big brown wardrobe in the back, then you’ll be disappointed. But you won’t be disappointed with most load carrying you do.
There’s a decent amount of space in the back of the V60, and you can use that space cleverly with a back seat that splits three ways and folds flat without moving the squabs.
So it’s a good package all round, and the extras the R-Design package add are more than just cosmetic. Yes, the cosmetics are appealingly understated for a sports pack, but the tweaks to the suspension do seem to make the V60 more chuckable, without breaking your spine.
There’s no doubt the Volvo V60, especially the R-design model, is a cut above the average mainstream mid-size estate / sport wagon. But it still feels like a middle ground between the mainstream and the premium, rather than a fully paid-up member of the premium club.
This particular V60 D3 R-Design came complete with a chunk of extras which took the list price up to £33,435, but even at its unadorned list price of £29,420, it’s still a bit on the steep side.
Mind you, the light of my life was suitably impressed with the V60 and declared it very appealing indeed. In fact so appealing she rather thinks it would be a good car to have around; great for shopping, dogs, kids and looking good in. It would appear this particular ‘Sporty’ Volvo looked far from silly after all.
And actually (although probably a D5 if we were both to use it ) I wouldn’t mind having one around for a while either. It might just grow in to a premium contender in what, I have to conclude, is possibly my preconceived notion of where this V60 fits in the desirability stakes.
Which says far more about how far Volvo estates have come than my preceding 1,000 or more words of thoughtful analysis possibly could.
Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Quick Tech Specs
- Engine: 1984cc Diesel, 161bhp
- Performance: 0-60mph 8.9 seconds / Top Speed 137mph
- Economy: 55.4 mpg - Official / 45.2 mpg - Test
- Emissions: 132g/km
- Price: £29,420 | Price as tested £33,435
Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Full Specifications
Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Photo Gallery
(33 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)