The 2015 Volvo V60 is an all-new model, a sports wagon that has been eagerly anticipated, because Volvo's legacy is built on wagons. The V60 also has automatic history, as it marks the beginning of a new Volvo engine program called Drive-E.
The 2015 Volvo V60 lineup offers a choice of three engines, a new four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbo, a 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbo and a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbo. V60 also offers a choice of front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
The front-wheel-drive V60 is powered by a new four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbo that's powerful and efficient, mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission that gets it right. Volvo plans to move Drive-E engines into other models. With front-wheel drive EPA-rated at 25/37 miles per gallon City/Highway, or 29 mpg Combined city/highway.
The new Volvo four-cylinder engine incorporates a number of tricks to help achieve its mileage. The Eco+ system can improve fuel mileage by 5 percent, with functions including start/stop that shuts the engine down from 4 mph; plus Eco-coast which reduces engine drag and Eco-climate which reduces load on the air conditioner.
That's when you feel like Dr. Jekyll. If you want to be Mr. Hyde, that same do-gooder engine makes 240 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque, and will accelerate from zero to 60 in a quick 6.1 seconds, with front-wheel drive. It's helped to that jackrabbit time with a super-boost feature on the turbo that gives it 285 pounds-feet of torque for the first 10 seconds of full-throttle acceleration.
There are two other models of V60, using carryover powertrains. The V60 T5 AWD uses a 2.5-liter inline-5 engine making 250 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque to reach 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. The 2015 Volvo V60 T5 AWD is EPA-rated at 20/29 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined.
The V60 T6 R-Design gets the 3.0-liter inline-6 making 325 horsepower and 354 pounds-feet of torque, with 0-60 in 5.4 seconds. The Volvo V60 T6 R-Design gets an EPA-rated 19/28 mpg, 22 mpg Combined.
If that's not enough there is the Polestar V60, Polestar being the high-performance division of Volvo, like AMG to Mercedes, or Mazdaspeed to Mazda, or Nismo to Nissan. The Polestar V60 takes the R-Design and makes it track ready by changing the suspension, brakes, exhaust, engine mapping, wheels, tires, and aerodynamic trim. Zero to 60 in 4.7 seconds. EPA 18/27 mpg City/Highway, 21 mpg Combined.
The Polestar is for extremists. Even the front-wheel-drive T5 Drive-E with available Sport chassis offers plenty for the enthusiast. The ride is firm for good handling, and the cornering is flat and without understeer, thanks to standard torque vectoring, called Corner Traction Control. In turns, the outside front wheel gets more drive to keep the car tracking where the driver steers it.
The V60 was designed to follow the flow of the S60 sedan's award-winning architecture, including its sculpted sloping hood. Two character lines stretch elegantly from the front to rear fenders, at shoulder and rocker. The roofline suggests coupe as much as wagon. It's a graceful car.
It's a wonderful driver's cabin, with simple and effective switches and screen. The man-machine interface works. It's stylish and clean, with organic blue-lit instrumentation and the best speedometer ever. Hand-stitched available leather seats are bolstered well for hard cornering or road trips.
The V60 is a whopping 9 inches lower than the Volvo XC60, while giving up only 1.3 inches in rear headroom. Cargo capacity is only 43.7 cubic feet compared to 67.4 in the XC60, but that might be compensated by the convenience of the standard 40/20/40 rear seat that folds flat easily. A flat-folding front passenger seat is available.
We found it interesting that the V60 hasn't grown in size, from the original V70 wagon in 1998; it's actually 1 inch shorter, but 4 inches wider and with a wheelbase that's 4.5 inches longer, for better stability. It better in every respect, including about 5 mpg in fuel mileage with a more powerful engine. The T6 AWD costs almost exactly the same as the V70 did in 1998. Consider 61.6 percent inflation since then, and it's clear that the V60 (and all new cars) is a steal, in the big picture of the quality of life.
The Volvo V60 was designed to follow the flow of the S60 sedan's award-winning architecture, and it does. Especially the hood, which sure doesn't say station wagon. There will be no rain gathering on this hood, as it falls fast and steep to the grille, with two character ridges defining the path. From the inside, it seems the car has no nose at all. The hood is gracefully muscular.
The grille needs a couple more horizontal bars (the R-design is a different story, different grille). The spaces are wide enough that you can see stuff behind the grille and, not only that, the lower grille, stretching to the foglamps, is way too busy. It distracts from the lovely lines of the hood. The grille on the V60 that's sold in Europe is trimmed more cleanly, and it's beautiful. Volvo tarts up its face for American tastes, we guess. In any case, we think the European version looks better.
Two character lines stretch elegantly from the front to rear fenders, at shoulder and rocker. It's so simple, you wonder why so many cars try so hard, with scoops and swoops and stuff. The lines define the car without changing it.
The window line cannot hide the fact that this is a wagon, but it can enhance it, like the V60's does, while embracing the spoiler. Big red taillamps the way they should be, twin chrome rectangular exhaust, and beautiful 10-spoke wheels all make perfect trim for this machine.
We like Volvo's description of the V60. The pronounced wedge shape and slim coupe-like silhouette create a gentle yet powerful double wave from the headlights at the front to the taillights at the rear. The dip in the middle of the double wave visually pushes the car down, enhancing its stance and making it look sleeker and lower. The sculpted hood and short overhangs also emphasize its athletic stance.
The Volvo V60 sport wagon's wheelbase is 8 inches longer than the Jetta Sportwagen's, while its length is just 3 inches longer due to the short overhangs. Still, the V60 loses 2 inches of rear legroom to the Jetta, at 33.5 v 35.5 inches. But the V60 gains it back in cargo volume, despite the coupe-like roofline eating some big box cubic feet.
Comparing it to the Volvo XC60, it's a whopping 9 inches lower, while giving up only 1.3 inches in rear headroom. But if carrying cargo is what matters, the XC60 is a better choice, with 67.4 cubic feet to the V60's 43.7.
The loss in total cargo might be made up for, by the convenience of the standard 40/20/40 split rear seat. All three sections fold flat easily, making it versatile, and the headrests are power. The optional flat-folding front passenger seat on T5 makes it possible to carry 4x4's and SUP (stand-up paddle) boards. There's space for small items behind the wheel wells and under the floor.
It's a wonderful driver's cabin, with simple and effective switches and the screen. The man-machine interface works. Even the radio, with its two knobs, one for on-off volume and another for tuning the stations, and they work every time without your having to risk you neck by taking your eyes off the road and figure out some non-intuitive system. What a fantastic idea: two knobs!
It's stylish and clean, with organic blue-lit instrumentation and the best speedometer ever. It only shows a 40-mph range at any time, 20 below and 20 above the current speed. You can glance at your speed without your eyes and brain having to sort out a needle on a big round gauge.
The tach works on the same theory: all you need, no more. It's a vertical bar in a small rectangular window to the right of the larger speedo; with an engine like this, a tachometer doesn't warrant big space and you don't need to know the revs down to the 100s. In sport mode, the transmission gear you select shows up clearly in the tach window.
The steering wheel is top-notch, with more original design. Besides the non-obtrusive humps inside the wheel for your thumbs to grip the wheel at 10 and 2, there are others on the outside of the wheel at 3 and 9, for your little fingers to rest on, with your thumbs over the wide spokes there. So, Volvo recognizes both hand positions on the steering wheel.
Everything you look at, think about, and touch in the cabin feels right, including the comfortable supportive seats. Standard upholstery is an off-black textile. Leather and Sport Leather are optional. Ours was perforated leather with white stitching, which comes with the Premier Plus package. The leather-wrapped shift knob fits your hand, as do the shifting paddles for the 8-speed transmission's sport mode. There's a slot for the key fob, below the start/stop button.
Excellent visibility out the rear window in the wide tailgate. All V60s are equipped with the Volvo Sensus system that controls audio, navigation (optional) and other functions, displaying them onto a seven-inch high-definition color monitor. The standard 160-watt 8-speaker audio system includes CD, MP3, HD satellite radio, AUX and USB inputs, Bluetooth with audio streaming.
Sensus Connected Touch, available as an accessory, connects the car to the Internet using the touchscreen. The user has access to full Internet browsing (except when driving), Internet music streaming and Internet radio, Google maps, integrated navigation and an app store for new function upgrades.
It's rapid and silky. Can you imagine a few years ago, saying that about a four-cylinder engine? That's the way the new turbocharged four-cylinder feels in the base Volvo V60. It does that zero-to-sixty time of 6.1 seconds with nary a noise or vibration. You can't feel redline, and you can't feel gear changes in the new 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. The car gets you to feel things not so visceral, including the world around you because the V60 is not distracting to drive. The V60 loses no soul by being seamless. This is 2015 and it's a family hauler. And it will tow 3500 pounds.
You can tell you are accelerating though, because you can feel torque steer. Compared to, say, the 1995 Volvo V70R, it's nothing, a mere gentle tug at the steering wheel and not an angry yank; but torque steer is not gone, just mostly erased.
Other programs to assist the handling include Corner Traction Control with Torque Vectoring, which gives the outside front wheel more power in turns, balancing the grip on the tires and keeping the car true. This feature operates on the front wheels for the V60 T5 Drive-E and both the front and rear wheels for the T5 AWD and R-Design. The $1500 T5 Sport Package offers a whole lot for the money, starting with the sport chassis featuring a lower ride height, strut tower brace, monotube shocks (compression and return damping use the same valve, quickening the response) with stiff bushings, and beautiful 19-inch alloy wheels. The package throws in paddle shifters, and sport seats.
The dynamics this package brings to the car are superb. The ride is superb; steady and firm, but not too firm for comfort, unlike the memorable V70R. It takes bumps and undulations with nary a hitch. On a rough freeway at 60 mph the Sport Package gets a bit jagged, like a good sport suspension should, because it would be too soft if it didn't. The base Touring Chassis should do better on patchy freeway. The fit and bolstering of the leather sport seats soaks up a lot. This is a road trip car.
It hugs the road and takes corners flat, precise and predictable; it should, with fat 19-inch Michelin tires. The electric power steering is sensitive and quick, so you might find yourself turning too much especially on bending freeway curves, but a driver naturally adjusts.
The brakes are sensitive too, but it's all good there. You won't find yourself on your nose. The brakes just get you stopped without much pressure on the pedal.
As for the new 8-speed automatic transmission, when it's not in Sport mode you can't even feel it. In manual mode with the all-business paddles, everything works for the symphony, and that's rare: seat, pedals, paddles, and transmission. In Sport mode or when using the paddles, the shifts quicken by 20-30 percent in third to sixth gears, and up to 50 percent from first to second gear. Between these quick shifts and the turbo boost to 285 pounds-feet, you begin to see where that speedy 0-60 time comes from. However, the transmission doesn't seem to like poking around town as much. We heard it thunk a couple of times, as if the software mapping ran off course. Especially it thunked under deceleration from 65 to 30, in Eco-coast mode.
The Volvo V60 is a new model, with the base T5 using a new 2.0-liter engine called Drive-E that's fast and estimated to get 29 mpg, with a new 8-speed automatic transmission. AWD and R-for-racy models are available. Its body is stylish, its chassis firm, interior beautiful and blessedly functional, and its powertrain is silky smooth and silent. It costs about 60 percent less in today's dollars than its forebear the V70 did, 20 years ago. What's not to like?
Sam Moses filed this report after his test drive of the Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E near Portland, Oregon.
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