Volvo V60

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Volvo V60 SD4 SE Lux Nav Driven

Driven December 2013

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The face is lifted only mildly, but behind it lurks the key to Volvo's future. In early 2009, Volvo engineers were told their company was being put up for sale by Ford, so they decided to make sure they'd have their own engines and platforms. They took a bold decision: in place of fives, a six and a V8, there'd be nothing bigger than a 2.0-litre four-cylinder. Power would still go well beyond 300bhp, courtesy of various combinations of turbo, supercharger and electric boost.

Because this versatile engine family is more compact and light than the old multi-cylinders, the new platform will have a smaller engine bay and better crash-impact absorption. And because these new diesels and petrols all use the same-shaped block, all can use the same set of engine mounting points. It's a huge saving over the eight engine architectures they use at the moment.

We don't have the platform yet - it launches with the new XC90 next autumn - but some of the new engine family is appearing in the S60 and V60. Ignore the confusing badges: the giveaway is all the new ones are 1969cc.

The top petrol, labelled T6 and making 306bhp, is, oo-err, a ‘superturbo': a supercharger gives sub-3,500rpm pick up, while a turbo supplies high-end power. At low and high revs, it reacts quickly and proportionally, the exception being a trace of lag at 3,000rpm. It doesn't sound brilliant, but hey neither does BMW's fastest four, the 28i. It goes like stink, but the traction (and traction control) mostly keeps up.

Anyway, the diesel will be the main seller. Just check the specs above for its remarkable power-economy trade-off. Diesels tend to get noisier if they're tuned either for performance or extreme economy, and with an aluminium block it tends to get worse. But new injection tech helps overcome those hurdles. The auto 'box shifts smoothly and anticipates your needs well. But automatic diesels do tend to feel sluggish, and this one is no different. The on-paper performance is more than OK, but I suspect it'd be more sparkly with a manual.

I'd like more sparkle in the chassis of the diesel I'm in. It's lifeless to the steering and dull in bends, though it compensates with a supple (if occasionally slightly shuddery) ride. The petrol has the optional lowered springs and feels reasonably sharp, and that set-up can be optioned on the diesel, too.

Paul Horrell

Verdict: Not quite the best driver, but stylish inside and out. Now with tax-busting economy and fine performance.

Stats: 1969cc, 4cyl turbodiesel, FWD, 181bhp, 295lb ft, 74.3mpg, 99g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 7.6secs, 140mph, 1632kg, £32,995

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