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After three months living with the Volvo V60 T5 Luxury, as one of our office long-term testers, it’s time to hand it back, but not before imparting my own views on this stylish, sporty and fun-to-drive wagon.
Those are three traits most people wouldn't normally associate with Swedish car company, Volvo, a brand universally lauded for its safety attributes, first and foremost.
But that’s exactly what the Volvo V60 T5 delivers on a daily basis, at least for me. But then, I've been a fan of Volvo wagons for decades, ever since the 850 R launched in 1996.
With 185kW/350Nm on tap from its 2.3-litre turbocharged engine, here was a Volvo wagon for the enthusiast, rather than the middle-aged mother of three, sold on Volvo’s reputation of tank-like build quality and a bulletproof safety record.
It even had proper racing cred, with Tom Walkinshaw Racing and Volvo teaming up for the brutally competitive British Touring Car Championships in 1994, when they campaigned an 850 Estate Super Touring Car with some impressive results.
But whereas Volvo wagons of this era subscribed to the ‘Boxy’ design language that made it a favourite among kid-toting doctors and accountants, by putting warehouse-size load space and passenger comfort ahead of performance and handling – the current V60 pledges a very different approach to design.
Unequivocally handsome, and far more gregarious with its styling than its two key rivals; the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series Touring, the Volvo V60 T5 is a compact family chariot for the fashion conscious with a hint of rev-head in their veins – the thing that appeals to me most about this car.
Armed with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol four, punching out a solid 180kW and 350Nm of torque (almost the same specs as the 850 R all those years ago), our V60 T5 Luxury is genuinely quick, claiming a 6.4 second sprint from 0-100km/h. Neck and neck with the revered Golf GTI.
Regardless of the Volvo’s straight-line performance claims for the V60 T5, this is a wagon that feels genuinely punchy from almost anywhere throughout the rev range, except from launch, where it suffers from a minor dose of turbo lag under full throttle – even in Sport mode.
And, I don’t mind the engine note, either. It’s not quite as snarly as Volvo’s five-cylinder powerplant, but bury the throttle from anywhere above 2500rpm, and there’s easily enough growl piped into the cabin to put a smile on your face.
If there’s any real downside to the Volvo’s sporty approach to their wagons, it would be the lacklustre eight-speed auto transmission. While it’s a relatively smooth-shifting unit, it seems unwilling to bang through the gears with any real urgency – again, even when Sport is selected. It kind of negates the need for paddle shifters, preferring, instead, to knock the shifter into manual mode, providing drivers with more control over each upshift or downshift.
All V60s (bar the range-topping T6) employ a front-wheel drive setup, and in the case of our T5 tester, there can be a bit of torque steer to contend with if you're not patient enough when launching into a 90-degree turn from a standstill. It’s not alarming, but something to be aware of.
However, despite its wagon-like profile, it tends to handle with the same agility as a well-sorted hatch. Underpinned by a relatively stiff chassis, the V60 T5 is relatively flat through the bends and turn-in is nice and sharp, at least over smooth surfaces.
Although the suspension soaks up most of the bumps and potholes, the car can feel a tad too busy over poorly surfaced roads, but overall, it’s a generally comfortable ride in both seat rows.
Of those in the CarAdvice office who have spent quality time in the V60, all have raved about seat comfort. It’s the combination of anatomically sculptured (and bolstered) front buckets and soft-to-touch leather, which make this car such a pleasure to spend time in.
Rear legroom, while not massive, is still adult friendly, and with 430 litres of load space behind the rear seats (which also fold flat), there’s more than enough room for bikes, boards and bassinets.
The highlight, though, at least for parents with younger kids, are the pair of integrated booster seats that magically pop out of the rear seat cushions, offering the ultimate in convenience, as well as hundreds of dollars in savings.
Granted, it’s not a large wagon, but clever space packaging and flat-folding rear seats, means it had no problem swallowing a couple of surfboards, including my daughter’s extra-wide 9-foot Mal, as well as as a stack of wetsuits and other beach gear.
In line with the Volvo’s prestige billing, there’s a generous inventory of luxury kit on board the V60. Favourites include the 11-speaker audio system, which although unbranded, belts out tunes with good solid power and impeccable clarity.
And while it might seem trivial, I’m a fan of the ‘approach and puddle’ lighting feature, which turns the said lights on the moment you near the car, as long as the key fob is on your person. Our cul-de-sac has limited street lighting, so it saved me from tumbling head over heel over a low-riding rock wall on several occasions.
Options are relatively minimal, but we'd suggest ticking the Driver Support Pack, which adds a full suite of active safety tech including blind spot information system, cross traffic alert, driver alert system (lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, active high beam, forward collision warning and roadside information system), adaptive cruise with collision warning with full auto brake.
That said, while the metalwork and interior plastics have a premium look and feel to them, it all feels a bit dated. That’s especially true of the seven-inch infotainment screen, which is a generation or more behind the Volvo’s latest and greatest iPad-style system in the new Volvo XC90.
Like it or not, Volvo is a brand that generally flies under the radar in the luxury car segment, but pound for pound, the $59,900 Volvo V60 T5 is something of a bargain alongside its German competitors.
It’s also around two grand less than Audi’s A4 2.0-litre TSFI quattro Avant, though as the name implies, the Audi holds an all-wheel-drive advantage over the front-wheel drive Volvo.
Apart from a few minor flaws, the Volvo V60 T5 offers more than just good value for money. It’s also one of the only reasonably-priced luxury wagons that’s a lot of fun behind the wheel.
2015 Volvo V60 T5 Luxury
Odometer reading this update:
Date acquired: March 2015
Odometer reading: 3012km
Travel since previous update: 2658km
Consumption since previous update: 10.4L/100km