Volvo is rightly proud of its latest 2.0-litre 'Drive-E' diesel engine now fitted to the D4 version of its lifestyle-orientated V60 estate. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Volvo has offered us a glimpse of its future with the 2.0-litre 'Drive-E' diesel engine plumbed into the V60 D4 estate. This powerplant is Volvo's own, marking an end to the years the company spent borrowing engines from Ford and PSA. Just as well then, that it's a very good one, with 190bhp and CO2 emissions of just 104g/km.
Many industry commentators have been quick to write off Volvo's prospects. Since the Gothenburg brand was acquired by Geely Automobile of China in 2010, the doom-mongerers have had a field day, portraying the Chinese as bloodsuckers who merely wanted to harvest all the know-how from Volvo without contributing anything of their own. Thing is, it hasn't really worked out that way. In its biggest market, the US, Volvo sold 53,952 cars back in 2009. Since Geely acquired the company, that figure has picked up substantially. Much of that success has been through products that put more of an emphasis on design and quality. Products like the V60 estate we look at here. Lately, however, Volvo has been showing us something few expected, namely that it can produce engines of the absolute highest quality. The 'Drive-E' 2.0-litre D4 diesel offered with the V60 is a case in point.
With 190bhp under the bonnet, you know that the V60 D4 isn't going to hang about and so it proves, demolishing the 62mph sprint in 7.7 seconds and running on to about 140mph. So far so good, but it's really not that hard to amp up the boost on a turbodiesel and make it feel quick. Where Volvo has excelled is in making this car both quick and clean. Quick, clean and refined, I should add. It's only at higher revs that it begins to sound a bit strained, but with the full quota of 400Nm arriving at a mere 1,750rpm, you'll rarely feel the need to hang onto a gear. The eight-speed transmission used on the automatic version has an 'EcoCoast' function to help save fuel. Changes are smoother and quicker than in the old Powershift box, and there's also the option of paying £150 for wheel mounted paddles. I wouldn't bother. You'll use them a couple of times and then probably come to the conclusion that the transmission's software is smart enough. Advanced Stability Control is standard, as is Corner Traction Control which acts like a limited slip differential to control understeer when cornering. The V60's body control is such that it feels happier being driven in a more relaxed fashion and it's this aspect more than any other which feels a little off the pace compared to some rivals. The suspension is firm-ish which sends some bumps and thuds into the cabin, but the same could be said for most equivalent VW or Audi products.
Design and Build
Changes to this improved V60 have been subtly made in recent times. A few years back, we saw some exterior changes: smarter bumpers, a redesigned bonnet incorporating extra flowing creases, plus revised headlights incorporating a cornering function and an auto-dimming main beam. The cabin has also been lightly redesigned in the last few years, with smarter materials and silk metal frames around the air vents and light controls. These days, buyers get the Adaptive Digital Display we first saw in the smaller V40 hatch: this lets you change the look and feel of the instrument dials via three 'themes' - 'Elegance', 'Eco' and 'Performance'. Plus there's also the option of a 'Sensus' infotainment system that allows you to add connectivity and internet access into the car. This set-up turns the 7-inch infotainment display into a state-of-the-art infrared, beam-scanned touch screen that can be used even when wearing gloves - a world first in cars. The boot is 430-litres, which is almost 100-litres up on the S60 saloon but less than you'll cram into compact executive estates like the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant. Volvo points out that there's more to practicality than sheer load volume and it's got a point. The V60 load area has been designed with a wide aperture of 1,095mm and a uniform shape, so all of the available capacity can be used. The rear bench splits 40/20/40 and drops down flat to the floor, while the front passenger seat can do likewise to further increase luggage space.
Market and Model
Volvo is pricing this car from around £24,500, which undercuts some very accomplished rivals. An Audi A4 2.0 TDI Avant 150PS would cost around £4,500 more. A bigger rival may well be a BMW 320d SE Touring which packs a 184bhp punch but also needs a £30,000 budget. The excellent City Safety technology that can automatically warn the driver and, ultimately, apply the brakes if it detects an imminent collision, is standard for all V60s. There's also an optional Pedestrian Detection function that keeps an eye out for people stepping in front of the vehicle. Key to this improved V60 is the ensus infotainment system. Via this, the driver can go online either via a car-mounted 3G/4G dongle or a personal mobile phone and features include the industry's first in-dash, fully integrated, voice search Spotify application. The voice-activation system works on all music sources connected to the Connected Touch. It is also possible to share a WiFi network with everyone in the car.
Cost of Ownership
The Volvo V60 D4 can't really be faulted on its efficiency metrics. Where a BMW 320d SE will manage 58.9mpg and emit 125g/km, the Volvo quite clearly one-ups it, scoring 74.3mpg and 99g/km. The Audi can't get close to this either, managing 124g/km and 60.1mpg with an engine that's 31bhp down on the Volvo's. The awkward issue for Volvo sales people to explain is why this potent 181bhp 2.0-litre D4 now returns better running cost figures than the supposedly eco-minded 115bhp D2 version (which manages 68.9mpg and 108g/km from its older PSA-sourced 1.6-litre diesel). I'll leave them to try and explain that one. With a fuel tank of 67.5 litres, this Volvo D4's touring range is, in theory, around 1,000 miles which means that you'll never really be on first name terms with your local petrol station staff. Residual values may not quite match the engine's class-leading numbers but they're far from poor.
Volvo is a company that appears to have been treading water slightly. Concerns about budgets for future products have hung in the air, but the introduction of the D4 'Drive-E' diesel engine clearly demonstrates the company's future direction, with this powerplant and a sister 2.0-litre petrol unit providing the propulsion for the majority of Volvo's midsize cars for the foreseeable future. That future looks rosy too, because this diesel engine is bang on the money when it comes to economy, emissions and driveability. The rest of the V60 package remains appealing, although in some aspects of suspension design the car lags behind the class best. The interiors still feel wonderfully restrained and elegant and it makes a cultured, left-field choice against key German rivals. And a very cost-effective one.