It?s been fifteen years since Ford agreed to buy the Volvo automotive company and subsequently it?s been resold to the Chinese automaker Geely. Volvo survived through the transitions with few changes to the product lineup especially in recent years, but during the last year we?ve been seeing signs of a renaissance.
The most significant change came last year with the introduction of a new drivetrain lineup with high tech four-cylinder engines called Drive-E and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Volvo says they plan to convert all their vehicles to four-cylinder engines in a variety of configurations that will include the use of turbochargers, belt driven superchargers, hybrids and diesels. We?ve driven some of Drive-E cars and thought the four-cylinder engine with both a supercharger and turbocharger had nearly as much power as the six-cylinder cars.
In addition to the Drive-E models, the current lineup still includes inline five- and six-cylinder turbocharged engines for the all-wheel drive versions, like the V60 T6 R-Design model we tested. This sportier model is equipped with a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder turbocharged engine with Polestar performance software upgrade which produces an enthusiastic 325-hp.
Although not at the same performance level of the German cars enhanced by in-house tuners, the R-Design still accelerates quickly from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds with virtually no turbo lag when the throttle is applied. The EPA rates fuel economy for this model at 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 22, mpg combined. We averaged 21.4 mpg during a week of mixed driving.
Combined with a quick shifting six-speed ?Geartronic? automatic transmission, which can be manually shifted with the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, the V60 is a joy to drive especially on the winding mountain roads near our home in southern Washington State. The handling is precise and controlled, but not as sporty as similar competitive models we?ve tested.
The new Electrical Power Steering Assist is accurate and gives the driver good feedback and it?s also adjustable in the upper level models. Front MacPherson strut and multilink rear suspension yield a solid controlled ride with no harshness and only modest body lean.
New car shoppers seem to have a love or hate response to wagons ? we happen to be in the ?love? column. The Volvo V60 design has a dramatic coupe-like roofline that sweeps back and down to the rear liftgate. The front end has a long hood line that follows the classic Volvo grille with the traditional diagonal bar. The lower section of the front end has a wide lower air inlet accented with a contrasting gray trim. The light pods have a single projector beam and there?s a straight bar of LED daytime running lights in the lower corners of the front end optically defining the 60 series Volvo. The overall look is very dramatic.
Volvo has always been one of our favorite cars for road trips because the seats are so comfortable and V60 is reinforcing that opinion with its soft leather and well bolstered design. The second row seat back in the V60 is split 40/20/40 to extend cargo space as necessary. Each of the three pieces easily folds to create a flat load floor and the rear seat headrests can be folded electrically from a switch on the center stack. Maximum cargo capacity is 43.8 cubic feet.
The V60 interior has a strong Scandinavian influence with simple clean lines and abundant brushed chrome accents. The designers clustered all the buttons on a single center stack panel which looks good but we discovered with all the buttons so close together it required taking your eyes off the road to find the appropriate button ? perhaps familiarity will make the task easier. We did like the position of the high mounted standard seven-inch display screen used for the infotainment system but thought the system was a bit slow responding.
Safety has always been a pinnacle of the Volvo automotive philosophy and this latest model has all the latest technologies available. Standard on all V60s is City Safety which is designed to mitigate collisions with a vehicle ahead while traveling at speeds of 31 mph or less. When it determines a collision is likely, it pre-charges the brakes or automatically brakes to avoid a rear-end collision or lessen the impact. Also standard are rain sensor wipers, Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, Roll Stability Control and Cornering Traction Control through Torque Vectoring.Volvo was one of the pioneers of the Blind Spot Information technology and we?ve always thought that should be among the standard features, but Volvo packages it in a $900 package with Cross Traffic Alert, front and rear park alert and Lane Change Merge Aid. One other feature we think should be standard is the much needed backup camera, which is only available with Convenience Package option which is $1,000 to $1,500 extra depending on the model.
The optional ($1,500) Technology Package on the T6 (standard on the Platinum trim) adds adaptive cruise, collision warning (including pedestrian and cyclist) with full auto braking, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control, Lane Departure Warning, active high beam and read sign information system that actually reads the speed limit signs.
All the V60 models come with a standard new telematics system which includes a driver-activated SOS button, automatic collision alert and GPS location tracking by emergency operators. If an airbag or seatbelt pre-tensioner is deployed, a call automatically goes into the operators even if no one presses the button. The system also has remote engine start, trip log and navigation directions accessibility from a cloud based service using the car?s rooftop antenna. The system creates a Wi-Fi 3G-based Hotspot for passengers to connect their smartphones, laptops and tablets to the internet. The services can also be accessed from a smartphone using a Volvo app.
The 2015.5 Volvo V60 is available in eight trim levels including the four-cylinder Drive-E, Premier and Platinum models which have base prices of $36,675; $38,575 and $42,225 respectively including the destination charge. The AWD turbocharged five-cylinder T5 versions of the same trims are $1,500 more. The two T6 R-Design AWD versions are priced at $46,075 and $49,475 for the Platinum. The Platinum T6 with all the available options can go as high as $56,395 when equipped with all the available options which includes a dual screen rear entertainment system, dual two-stage child booster seats, 19-inch wheels, heated seats and metallic paint.
It?s great to see Volvo back in the ballgame with new and exciting products like the Drive-E drivetrains and the new V60 sport wagon. We?re looking forward to even more innovation in future models.