What is it?
Which came first: the saloon or the estate? For most firms the estate is based on an existing saloon, but so entrenched is the estate in Volvo’s psyche, it’s arguable that on this occasion the chicken did indeed come before the egg. Anyway, the V60. Volvo, a company that has built its reputation on sensible, practical workhorses, wants you to see the V60 as a ‘Sport Wagon’. It has a sleek profile and now, for £49,775 you can have an Audi S4 Avant-rivalling Polestar version. This has 350bhp and, whisper it, is really rather good to drive.
Now that the Swedish firm has got its knickers in a twist about being ‘fun to drive’ we ought to scrutinise the V60 in a way that would’ve been deemed unfair a few years ago. For this is meant to be an engaging, entertaining car to drive – a radical departure from the safe, comfortable, sensible Volvo products we’re all used to.
Truth is, this is one of those safe, comfortable and sensible products. A firm ride (for handling) compromises the ride quality a bit more than it should, and while there are powerful engines to spear the V60 up a straight bit of road if you so require (the T5 petrol is particularly good for this), there’s little feel from the steering and the chassis dynamics aren’t quite on the pace. It’s better than past efforts, but this means you can’t bung the V60 into a corner with the speed and confidence that makes the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class such involving load luggers.
On the inside
Now that Volvo is messing about with its USP, one major thing that’s meant to separate the Swedes from the, er, Bratwursts, is missing. That ‘coupe’ profile means the boot is small for this class at just 430 litres. A pair of fat black Labs are going to have a hell of time. And it’s no limo from the back seats either. However, overlook all this and you have a very nicely designed and appointed interior that is generously equipped, refined at motorway speeds and extremely comfortable.
Although Volvo is having an identity crisis and wants us to believe it’s making sporty cars, the perennially safety-conscious Swedes have accidentally made the V60 one of the safest cars on the road, and not just for its occupants. With the City Safe system – standard on all – it will detect a pedestrian wandering into the road and, at low enough speeds, stop the car all on its own. It’s brilliant, if a bit Orwellian. Another Volvo strength, environmentalism, is intact: the V60 has been upgraded for 2014 – the new D4 Drive-E averages 74.3mpg. Incredible.