First Drive: V60 powers to victory
Volvo’s new engines give its German rivals a run for their money, and may finally find more favour with Irish car buyers
OUR VERDICT Brilliant new diesel engine seriously lifts the V60’s game and will have the BMW 3 Series looking to its laurels
Date Reviewed: October 7, 2013
The introduction of a new range of four-cylinder engines may not sound like the most earth-shattering event, but for Volvo it really is the beginning of a new era. Even though the Swedish firm is no longer under Ford ownership (it’s now majority-owned by Chinese car maker Geely) it’s still using a lot of Ford-derived components, especially engines.
Well, starting now, those Ford engines are being phased out and all models will now start to use a new family of 2-litre turbocharged petrol and diesel units. Eight variants, ranging in power from 120bhp all the way up to 300-plus bhp are planned but, for now, just three variants are being made available: a 181bhp D4 diesel, a turbocharged 245bhp petrol T5 and a range-topping turbo-and-supercharged 306bhp petrol T6.
Of that three, the T6 is obviously rather fast and furious. Of much greater import is the D4 diesel, which replaces the aged, if characterful, 163bhp five-cylinder engine. Power is now increased to a highly competitive 181bhp and torque rises to 400Nm, which means that the V60 estate we tested felt distinctly fleet of foot.
Thanks to electronic launch control (yes, really, on a Volvo) the V60 D4 can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in a very un-dieselly 7.6secs, and on to a top speed of 225kmh. That it does so while returning a claimed 3.9-litres per 100km (the guts of 80mpg) and scoring a 105g/km CO2 rating is doubly impressive.
True, that CO2 advantage is worth more in bragging rights than in outright motor tax savings (there’s a mere €20 annually in it) but the effect on Vehicle Registration Tax is palpable. Spec for spec, a V60 D4 undercuts a 320d Touring by as much as €6,000-€8,000, an advantage not to be sniffed at.
The Volvo outpoints the BMW in one other significant area – refinement. BMW’s 2-litre diesel has been getting increasingly noisy of late, but the Volvo D4 engine really has it trounced for noise suppression. Cruising, or at low throttle openings, this engine is astonishingly quiet. Open the taps, and yes, there’s a noticeable diesel roar, but it’s well suppressed and shuts up again once your need for acceleration is done with. Combined with the usual superbly comfy Volvo seats and a cabin that is more welcoming and pleasingly laid out than any of its German rivals, and you have a car that is especially good at knocking off long journeys without any seeming effort.
In its handling, the V60 has to give some small ground to the Beemer. The steering just isn’t as sharp, the chassis not quite so poised, and it’s more ready to understeer than the Munich benchmark. Your choice of alloy wheel will also be crucial. The V60 is naturally a softly sprung car, but going for wheel sizes above 17in adds an unnecessarily harsh and jiggly note.
No Volvo launch would be complete without another new addition on the safety side of things, and this time it’s an extra layer of software in the City Safety and pedestrian detection systems. Now, the forward-looking camera can pick out a weaving cyclist and warn you of an imminent impact, or even slam on the brakes if you don’t take action in time. The system now also has a helpful function that lights up a small red indicator on the dash when you’re getting too close to the car in front. Traditional Irish tailgaters will presumably ignore that light, but it’s useful for the rest of us.
Volvo has struggled in Ireland in recent years, unable to keep pace with the likes of BMW and Audi in sales terms, and this in spite of the fact that its current range – the S60 and V60 especially – are unusually well suited to Irish conditions. A lack of marketing spend doesn’t help matters, but hopefully the introduction of this hugely impressive new diesel engine – and the arrival of a €29,995 1.6 D2 diesel S60 model to compete with the likes of the Audi A3 Saloon – will rekindle Irish affections for the Swedish brand that has nothing to do with flat-pack.