Sunday 22 January 2017

Volvo's good vibrations

Published 18/12/2010 | 05:00

The Volvo V60: some tasty touches
The Volvo V60: some tasty touches

NOT many carmakers manage to make an estate that is better than the saloon upon which it is based. It is a rare bonus.

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In the case of the Volvo V60 estate, I think I've come across one of those rarities -- but there is a price to pay. Isn't there always?

This is a smart medium-sized estate. Now that might sound a bit trite but it is true. It smacks of finishing touches applied with taste all over the place.

The V60 is a sister/brother of the S60 four-door saloon (which looks like a coupe), but in my mind this sleek wagon leaves the sibling in its slipstream.

The only snag is that it can cost up to €4,000 more for some models. In doing so it can push this into serious starting money territory of €36,000-plus -- and more than €40,000 if you want some of the extra trim and creature comforts available at the flick of a cheque book.

The cabin has simple, clean lines with a touch of sophistication here and there to mark this out as a potential rival to established posh marques.

I particularly liked the way the central spread of the dash corralled nearly everything you'd need when driving -- audio and ventilation dials and controls.

The seating was excellent, firm, supportive and there was decent adjustment.

A couple of back-seat passengers felt they had what they called decent space.

And the boot/luggage area is plenty big enough to take the shopping or the golf bags without any strain.

It felt good on the road and the 2-litre diesel engine is one of the best I've experienced in a Volvo for some time. I might quibble over a slow-ish kickdown from sixth gear when I looked to overtake but I won't complain over the nice pickup in speed at other times.

Look, I could find fault with lots of things. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you even my shadow wouldn't be safe if you threw down the gauntlet.

I mean no car does everything right; every one has its flaws. But sometimes, and not too often, you not so much overlook them as not let them irritate you when there is an overall positive vibe.

I would contend that if a grumpy ould devil like me can feel that, then there is a good chance a moderate, decent individual such as yourself will as well.

And that is what I found with the V60. It didn't try to be anything other than a well-made, decent-looking, smooth-driving machine that looked after its occupants (some not in the best of moods betimes) rather well.

As I swung it around back roads and the like (ah! the freedom after the snow), there was no flipping and flapping to remind me of Volvos of a not-too distant vintage.

I know, too, it is a bit of a cliché to talk about safety equipment and all that but the fact is when it comes to carrying your family around, the prime concern has to be their protection.

In fairness, all carmakers these days put great emphasis on that area but Volvo really shove the stuff in. Good mix. Good package.

And after all that I just can't resist a few cribs.

The electronic parking brake is a God-send of an idea but I never got used to whether I should press or 'lift' the button. A bit distracting.

There was too much wheelspin on the front when I, admittedly in a hurry a few times, put the foot to the floor. This is called 'torque steer' where the wheels can't cope with the amount of power being delivered to them.

It is, possibly, a tribute to the 163bhp lurking in the excellent engine but, especially for a Volvo, just a bit disconcerting.

See what I mean? Even in a car I really like I can't resist a whinge. But I'll leave it at that.

Volvo's V70 is the best large estate around at the moment. It is a thoroughly impressive piece of work.

I think this V60 is pushing hard to be the best mid-sizer. I just wish we didn't have to pay the premium over and above the price of the saloon. That would make it a really great alternative.

What:

Volvo V60 mid-size estate D3 diesel (1984cc, 163bhp), 6spd gearbox, frontwheel-drive, CO2 of 144g/km, 51.4mpg, 5.5l/100km; VRT is 20pc. €302 annual road tax.

Cost:

From €36,250 (for D3 diesel). Delivery, related charges extra.

Target Market:

Families, couples looking for versatile space for lifestyle hobbies, executive salesmen.

Plus:

Cabin, engine, equipment, space, looks.

Minus:

Up to €4,000 premium over saloon, road tax, estates not a big deal here.

Standard Equipment:

Huge range of airbags, electronic climate control, 16-inch wheels, whiplash protection system, day running lights, electric parking brake, cruise control, charcoal trim, five-inch colour screen. My SE spec test car also had rain sensor wipers, rear park assist, high performance audio system, Bluetooth hands-free system and 17-inch alloys.

Others to consider:

Skoda Superb Combi, Skoda Octavia Combi, VW Passat estate, Honda Accord estate, Peugeot 407 estate, Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3-series Touring, Saab 9-3 estate, Toyota Avensis estate.

Star Rating: 81 / 100

ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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