THE VOLVO V60 is, as Volvo explains, aimed at people who “need the versatility of an estate but want the handling of a sports sedan – all in a stylish Scandinavian package”.
Unusually for PR-speak, it’s actually hard to argue with that. With its swooping lines and sloping rear, it’s a far cry from the boxy Volvos of old, while accurate steering, excellent grip and eager engines do indeed help tick the sporty box. And there’s no doubting it’s Scandinavian. We’ve just waved goodbye, after a week of driving, to the updated 2014 version of the V60 D4 R-Design. The whole Volvo 60 family – the S60, V60 and XC60 – have been extensively updated for 2014, with an exhaustive list of design, interior, engine, safety and entertainment system tweaks and improvements.
The front of the V60 has been facelifted to an almost fussy degree – the previously visible washer nozzles have been squirrelled away under the bonnet while the headlamp washer jets now sit flush with the bumper to give a cleaner look, while the radar cover on the grille has been painted black and the ironmark badge is even bigger, enhancing, as Volvo says, the car’s self-confident look. Round the back, the tailpipes are now integrated, adding to the sporty vibe.
Our car got some R-Design-specific tweaks, with running lights in the corners and some nice big 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, new figure-hugging, supportive sport seats come as standard in the V60 R-Design, featuring a blend of black nubuck textile and perforated leather. In the back, there’s plenty of legroom and a 430-litre boot, which can be expanded by folding down the rear seats in a variety of combinations.
New for 2014 is Volvo’s Sensus Connected Touch system, which can connect to the internet either through a USB dongle in the glovebox or via a mobile phone, allowing the driver to use the voice-controlled in-built Spotify app to call up pretty much any music in the world. Typically, with all this choice at my command, I could never think of what I wanted to listen to. Usefully, the Connected Touch can always share a WiFi network with anyone in the car.
In terms of safety features, there’s an update to the already slightly bewildering detection and auto brake technology. The new Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection system scans in front of the car. If a cyclist heading in the same direction as the car suddenly swerves out in front and the system reckons a collision is a certainty, the car will automatically jam on the brakes.
Likewise if a pedestrian steps out in front of the car, and the driver doesn’t react quickly enough, the brakes will come on automatically. At speeds of up to 30mph, the City Safety system does the same trick if it looks like you’re set to rear-end another car. Several terrified and angry motorists, cyclists and pedestrians later, I never successfully tested any of this because, in the game of hit-and-run chicken, I invariably lost to the Volvo and stuck the brakes on myself.
Under the bonnet, the five-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel we drove ate up motorways for fun, boasting an average fuel consumption of 62.8mpg. That efficiency puts the V60 into the C Vehicle Tax Band, meaning that after your first year of ownership, it will only cost £30 per year in tax. This despite a sprightly 0-60mph time of 8.9 seconds and a real sense of power on the motorway. The six-speed gearbox did seem a little slow and sloppy at times, however, especially when trying to make a quick getaway from angry cyclists.
Steering is precise, and the suspension on the R-Design is pretty firm, which can make for a slightly bumpy ride on rough roads, cobbles or over speed bumps. This can come as a shock, because everything else about the drive is so refined and smooth.
With its 2014 update, Volvo has taken an already competent car and added some technological trimmings that really raise the bar – its safety systems are industry leading, whilethe internet integration is surely a glimpse of things to come in the wider market.
CAR Volvo V60 D4 R-Design
PRICE £38,170 (as tested)
PERFORMANCE Max speed 137mph; 0-60mph 8.9s
MPG (combined) 62.8mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 119g/km