The Volvo V60 is the car you probably want, but the XC60 is the car you actually need.
Some would say that Volvo is the pioneer of the luxury wagon. No doubt some Germans would debate the merits of that argument, but no matter how you look at it, the people that make Volvos and their countrymen love wagons. One only has to visit Sweden or Europe in general to see the popularity of wagons over SUVs, which is exactly what we did to drive the new 2019 Volvo V60.
Here is the thing: in Australia, we love SUVs, and the problem for the new V60 – straight up – is the XC60. It is in every way a more practical car that will be better for you and your family, also have better resale, and pretty much every other positive you can think of, bar being ‘yet another SUV’. So, sure, the new V60 will be unique, and you can be that guy at dinner in the V-neck telling your friends that you refused to sell your soul and buy an SUV, so you paid pretty much the same coin for a wagon. You know the guy… No-one really likes him.
Nonetheless, as a vehicle on its own, the Volvo V60 is rather good. It’s based on the same new architecture that Volvo offers across its new cars – including the XC60 – so jumping inside reveals a very familiar interior that is hard to distinguish from Volvo’s other new models.
Our test car was the Volvo V60 T6. We also got to drive the D4 diesel, but we have a suspicion that only the petrol models will make it to Australia, given the limited volume potential of the wagon and the even smaller potential of said wagon in a diesel.
The T6 is a twin-’charged 2.0-litre petrol, with a turbo and a supercharger for good measure. That means it will output a healthy 228kW of power, but a not so significant 400Nm of torque. According to Volvo, the T6 wagon will go from 0–100km/h in 5.8 seconds, which is more than reasonable for a family car this large.
So, why would you buy the V60? Well, apart from having a licence to legitimately wear a V-neck to dinner, it does actually have a bigger boot than the equivalent XC60 (529L vs 505L) and, well, that’s about it.
From the outside, the V60 carries over the familiar ‘Thor’s hammer’ headlights and the now well-known sharp rear tail-lights. It has a very gorgeous side-on profile, and compared to the old car it measures 13cm longer, with 10cm of that coming from the wheelbase itself. This sees a more generous interior that can now easily accommodate 6ft-tall passengers in the front and rear without much hassle (although you do miss out on the built-in booster seats of the XC60, which is a big shame).
The headlights are more expansive compared to the V90, and Volvo says that the V60 is more about dynamic ability and driving sensation than pure luxury and comfort, which is where the V90 is aimed. It’s fair to say that the V60 not only looks better (in our opinion) than its bigger brother, but also drives better. But at a cost to ride comfort.
Jump behind the wheel and the V60’s interior is rather unique in its class. There is something about the airy and open feel of a Volvo cabin that the Germans and their obsession with ultra-dark themes just can’t seem to match. The Scandinavian wood treatment throughout the dash, the general sense of openness, it’s all very nice. But it’s not perfect. The infotainment system with its 9.0-inch screen is a little slow, which is not ideal given you have to use its control functions for the heated seats and such.
Then there is the full digital instrument cluster, which we found rather lacking compared to what Audi offers with its Virtual Cockpit in the equivalent A4 Avant. It does the job, and if you’ve never seen Audi’s offering it probably won’t bother you, but the graphics are nowhere near as sharp and neither is the refresh rate.
Turn the engine on and head out onto the highway, and you’ll quickly realise just how quiet the V60 is. Truly, it’s akin to the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class for its NVH levels. It’s the ideal long-haul cruiser because you will not hear much inside the cabin. Not that there’s much to hear, as the engine isn’t exactly lively, which in our opinion is a bit of a miss.
For us, the reason to buy the V60 T6 with its all-wheel-drive set-up would be to get a more dynamically competent car than the higher-riding XC60. But in our short assessment of this wagon in Barcelona, that is simply not the case.
Pushing a little hard through the outskirts of the Spanish countryside, we found the V60 T6’s steering to be lacking the finesse that we have experienced with the Germans, yet at the same time, the ride quality of the T6 was a little on the firm side – even with the optional adaptive suspension – and that’s on the super-smooth European Union-funded roads, so we don’t hold much hope for it in Australia. Strangely enough, we found the ride to be superior in terms of comfort in the diesel front-wheel-drive variants. Both cars were running the same 19-inch wheels.
Further to that, the high-spec petrol powertrain feels a little underwhelming given the power and torque figures compared to its rivals, but it’s worth noting that the car weighs a hefty 1720kg – about the same as its XC equivalent. But unlike the XC60, we found the eight-speed transmission coupling misbehaving at times with rough shifts at low speeds. It feels quick enough for what it is, but when you’re on it, it would be nice to have some paddle-shifters to get the most out of it. A rather odd omission, we must say.
Thankfully, though, the long-standing reason to buy a Volvo – safety – is still very much a case for the V60. Apart from having all the necessary safety gear one needs available, there are some new features, such as auto-braking to mitigate oncoming collisions.
That’s part of Volvo's Pilot Assist system – that allows some level of autonomy, both with the speed and steering, on well-marked roads at up to 130km/h – which in the V60 has seen its hardware and software updated to better manage its steering system. We found it works rather well on the highway, but it can be a little forceful with staying dead centre in the lane. A good thing, we suppose, but it doesn’t mess around with letting you screw up its lines.
Like the XC60, there is also the Run-off-Road Mitigation system, as well as a host of other active and passive safety features. Is it a real advantage over, say, what Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi offer in their equivalent wagons? Probably not, but it’s definitely not lacking in this regard.
We suspect that when the 2019 Volvo V60 arrives in Australia towards the end of this year, prices will start at around $60,000 (similar to the current model), the car will be available in two specs (Momentum and Inscription), and likely only with a petrol engine.
Overall, we do love what Volvo has done with the V60 wagon, though we can’t help but say that you should go try it out and just buy the XC60 instead, because you ultimately get a better car for similar coin.
Of course, if you’re one of the very few Australians that love their wagons, then shop this extensively with the German offerings. It lacks the dynamic ability and powertrain competency of its direct rivals, but in its own way, it makes up for it with gorgeous interior and exterior design.