Volvo V60 2012 t6 r-design polestar

Volvo V60 Review

Rating: 8.0
$52,490 $78,490 Mrlp
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The Volvo V60 T6 R-Design takes the fight to its German rivals offering great styling, swift performance and handling with a first class luxury cabin.
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If you’re after a luxury-sports wagon that blends space, style and swift performance, then look no further than the Volvo V60 T6 R-Design.

Although Volvo’s five-door wagon range kicks off with the $52,490 T4, the model tested here book-ends the range, priced at $78,490.

That’s around $10K more than what the T6 R-design cost before April this year, but the previously-optional (for 10-large, funnily enough) Polestar performance pack is now standard. Previously, the 3.0-litre turbo six in the R-design produced the same 224kW and 440Nm as the standard T6. Armed with the flash-download from Volvo’s international racing partner, Polestar, the R-design now produces 242kW and 480Nm – a 18kW/40Nm increase.

Like many premium wagons, the V60 is priced to compete against SUVs that carry more luggage and (sometimes) people. Even inside the Volvo range, the V60 T6 R-design costs the same amount as the XC60 R-design and around the same coin as the demonstrably larger XC90.

Arguably, however, for those who prioritise looks and dynamics over outright cargo- and people-carrying abilities, the V60 beats more than just Volvo’s SUVs. It also looks like a bargain against other Euro sports wagons, especially when comparing performance numbers.

Flatten the throttle and the Polestar-enhanced V60 R-Design backs its boosted six-pack with all-wheel-drive traction and a six-speed auto, sprinting from 0-100km/h in a claimed 5.9 seconds.

A similarly-priced Audi A4 2.0T quattro Avant is half a second slower to the metric ton than the V60 T6 R-design, while the S4 Avant is 0.8 seconds faster … but is $45K more expensive. A BMW 335i M Sport wagon shares the Volvo’s standing start claim, but is $35K pricier.

For foot-flat ferocity for less, the Swedes have every German covered with the exception of the VW Passat V6, which is 0.2 seconds quicker to 100km/h and $18K cheaper than the similarly-sized Volvo V60.

Still, whether you’re punching the throttle from a standing start or at 60km/h, this is one Volvo wagon that doesn’t hang about to entertain any square sterotypes.

There’s big low-end torque available from 2100rpm, but despite the twin-turbochargers there is some turbo lag if you’re quick to jump on the throttle. The V60 T6 R-Design responds best to progressive throttle inputs. Get this right, and in-gear acceleration is a bit better than brisk.

Torque steer is contained, too. The T6 gets its power down through Volvo’s permanent all-wheel drive system, unlike all other V60 variants, which make do with front-wheel drive.

The downside to the V60 T6’s drivetrain is the relatively slow-shifting six-speed automatic transmission.

Even in Sport mode, both upshifts and downshifts are tardy. It’s a shame that Volvo has not yet engineered its six-speed dual-clutch (Powershift in Volvo speak) transmission to mate with this high-performance powerplant.

The R-Design badge also means the V60 sits 15mm lower than the rest of the line-up and gets stiffer front and rear springs, as well as thicker anti-roll bars.

The rear twin-tube dampers have been replaced with monotube dampers, while the bushings on those dampers have been stiffened by 20 per cent.

The end result is a Volvo wagon that performs (almost) as well in the corners as it does in a straight line. It carves corners well, but it can’t quite slice up the German competition.

Despite winding the needle on the scales to 1750kg, the Volvo V60 T6 R-Design offers a fundamentally sound chassis that can be pushed hard in the bends, yet it remains composed and predictable over challenging roads.

Equally commendable is the T6 R-Design’s ride comfort. While it offers only a slightly firmer ride than its non-R-Design siblings, it’s extraordinarily forgiving at pace over less than perfect roads.

But for all the performance upgrades on the V60 T6 R-Design, Volvo has chosen to stick with the standard front and rear ventilated brake package rather than perhaps beefing up the fronts with a better Brembo set-up.

A touch less steering assistance dialled into the electro-hydraulic steering would also be nice, which seems to get more help at speed and less at slower speeds. However, it’s a quick-response steering system that also provides decent feedback for the driver.

Not so good is the V60 T6’s boat-like turning circle of 11.9 metres, meaning plenty of arm twirling when performing U-turns.

Visually, the V60 is a certified head-turner from any angle. Its low-slung coupe-like exterior with aggressively raked windscreen and tapered roofline distinguishes the V60 from plainer European rivals.

The R-Design specification is easily recognisable by its deeper front apron with larger air intakes, high-gloss black grille and various silk metal accents including side mirror caps, grille frame and rear diffuser with twin exhaust tips.

Inside, the R-Design is a blend of superb comfort, high-quality materials and intuitive ergonomics.

The leather seats offer armchair-like luxury with high-levels of bolstering for quick corner-work. The leather itself is super-supple with contrasting stitching throughout, and there’s real metal trim everywhere.

Volvo’s signature floating console, as well as all the switchgear is entirely driver-centric; all the buttons are within easy reach and the instrumentation is clear and uncomplicated.

Design-aficionados call it Scandinavian minimalism, but to us it’s simply smart and clutter-free.

The V60 T6 R-Design is also well stocked with a host of standard features including a seven-inch screen with a central control dial to handle inputs for the satellite-navigation, Bluetooth phone and music streaming, along with a host of other functions, but it’s still no match for BMW’s ultra-intuitive iDrive system.

Other premium features on board the Volvo include a quality eight-speaker audio system with steering wheel controls, park assist (front and rear) with reversing camera, electric parking brake, electrically operated front seats (driver’s with memory), auto-dimming rear-view mirror, electronic climate control with cabin pollen filter, cruise control, puddle lights, electrically-retractable door mirrors, keyless entry and exit with remote interior movement sensor.

As expected, the range-topping Volvo V60 T6 R-Design packs of some of the most advanced active and passive safety systems in the business, including city safety; adaptive cruise control and collision warning with full auto brake, queue assist and pedestrian protection, blind spot information system, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and emergency brake assist.

There’s also six airbags including full-length curtain and front side-impact airbags, together with Volvo’s proprietary double-dose of acronyms – side impact protection system (SIPS) and whiplash protection system (WHIPS). Our test car was also fitted with the optional lane departure warning and road sign information, a particularly useful system that warns drivers of the correct speed on any given road, at any given time.

The V60 shares its wheelbase and overall length with the S60 sedan, but the taller roofline has helped expand luggage capacity from 380-litres in the S60 to a maximum of 430-litres with the rear backrest up. The rear seats fold flat, too, so extra-long loads can be carried in the V60.

However, we’re not so sure about the space-saver tyre that sits in the middle of the cargo bay (strapped in), as there is no room to store it underneath. It’s not a practical solution, although the V60 also comes with a can of goo for temporary puncture repairs.

No need to worry about expensive booster seats for the kids either, as the V60 comes with two of them integrated into the rear seats and adjustable with two height settings. They’re clever and entirely useful for parents with young children.

The V60 is surprisingly roomy offering generous rear legroom for this small-ish wagon, but the low roofline will compromise headroom for taller folks in both seat rows. Volvo’s traditional bunch of hat-wearing buyers won’t be pleased.

The Volvo V60 T6 R-Design may not have the space of an SUV, or the absolute dynamic ability of a German wagon, but it blends a broad range of abilities with some clever Scando design and style. Compared with Volvo wagons of yore, it really is, erm, poles apart…