2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
The Volvo wagon is back...in a very good way!
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyers Guide
Volvo has a long history of making wagons, beginning with the Duett in 1953 and continuing through the present day. For a while recently, Volvo had the distinction of selling the most wagons in the U.S.A. of any automobile manufacturer. Surprised that a small manufacturer like Volvo would have that distinction? At that point in time, SUVs and crossovers had occupied the wagon niche for nearly every other automaker, and Volvo wagon buyers were, well, dedicated Volvo wagon buyers. Numbers were not huge.
But overall market share is the name of the game, and in order to increase theirs here, Volvo got into the crossover field, first with the XC70, a derivative of its V70 wagon, then the large XC90 and midsize XC60. And then they dropped wagons from the American lineup.
Other than the Volvo faithful, few Americans noticed. Such is the popularity at wagons that don't attempt to be something else these days, alas. But there have been changes at Volvo since that time, including new ownership and actual development money, and the wagon is back in the form of the 2015 V60.
As you might guess from the name, the V60 is a variation on the S60 sedan. Which has new styling ahead of its windshield as of model year 2014. That, no surprise, is shared by the V60. Also, no surprise, the V60 is unique behind its windshield.
It looks more like an updated and stretched version of the late C30 coupe than a wagon. It's a head-turner that gets attention. The 2015 Volvo V60 is not not what you are likely to visualize when thinking "station wagon". It makes the last V70 look as boxy as a 144 wagon from the late 1960s.
The V60 is an early 2015 release, and the lineup is transitional. Model designations are familiar -- T5, T5 AWD, and T6 AWD R-Design -- but only the AWD versions have the engines expected by the numbers. Under the T5's hood is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, turbocharged to make 240 horsepower -- nearly the same as the 2.5-liter turbo five-cylinder in the T5 AWD. The new engine is not merely the old one with one cylinder lopped off. It's all-new and will form the basis of Volvo powerplants for the foreseeable future, with supercharging added to turbocharging for more power to replace the current six, and with internal modifications for diesel power. In the T5, it's matched to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The older engines get the old six-speed.
I drove the latest S60, 2014 model year with the old five-cylinder engine, recently enough that it was still fresh in my memory. I've just gotten out of a V60 T5. Other than the obvious, body style, differences between the two seemed minor to me. Most notably, the new four automatically stops when sitting unmoving, as at a stoplight, the then starts as soon as the driver removes pressure on the brake pedal. That should improve city mileage, depending on how much time is spent at lights and in traffic. If the change in bodywork added any weight, that same amount was lost with the smaller, lighter engine, so performance and fuel economy were nearly identical. Ditto interior comfort, few seats are better than those in Volvos. The wagon body style means more interior space and cargo versatility, and it's lower, with a lower center of gravity, than a crossover for sportier handling characteristics. Few vehicles combine sport and utility as well as a sport wagon, and the 2015 Volvo V60 is a fine example of a sport wagon.
APPEARANCE: Forget any notion of wagon as frumpy, boring box. This is the opposite, and, to my eyes, even better-looking than the S60 sedan. There is more taper to the roofline than is usual for a wagon, and the ovalish shape of the side windows further emphasizes that. The car looks light and lithe. It has interesting lines and details but is not overstyled. Taillights reaching to the roof have long been a Volvo styling cue.
COMFORT: Other than the obvious difference of open rear cargo area versus trunk, the V60 shares the S60s interior. Absolutely no complaints there. It's Volvo's latest interpretation of Swedish Modern, with elegant looks and fine comfort. Standard trim includes nearly everything expected in a luxury car at the mid- to upper-thirties price point. My test car had both the Premier Plus and Sport option packages, which meant leather sports seats, the adaptive digital TFT instrument display, power retracting outside mirrors, rearview camera and more. Front seat comfort is as expected in a Volvo, first-rate.
SAFETY: "Volvo" doesn't really mean "safety" in Swedish, but… The V60 has all of the required and expected safety equipment and construction for both passive and active safety. Its unibody structure was designed and built to protect occupants, and a full complement of airbags, the Whiplash Protection Seating System (WHIPS) for the front seats, and the City Safety System, which automatically applies brakes if sensors determine that a collision is imminent at speeds up to 19 mph (30 kph) and more handle passive safety. Good handling and maneuverability and strong antilock four-wheel disc brakes with a variety of assistance systems take care of active safety. The accident you don't have it always the best one… Electronic systems such as blind-spot warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning With Full Auto Brake, Driver Alert Control, Lane Departure Warning and more are optionally available.
RIDE AND HANDLING: As in the S60, the Sport Package means an appropriately firmer calibration to the fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink, but it's not at all harsh. And is much less thumpy over small irregularities than older Volvo sport suspensions. Good, predictable response to driver inputs not only gives pleasure to the driver, it also enhances active safety. This is not the Griswold Family Wagon. It is a very pleasant car to drive, and drive quickly, on twisty backroads or the Interstate slab.
PERFORMANCE: Efficiency was the goal, hence the "E" designation. All else being equal, a four-cylinder engine has fewer moving parts than a five or six, for less weight and less frictional loss. Think of forced induction -- turbocharging or supercharging -- as a virtual displacement increase. More boost equals more virtual displacement as it means more air into the cylinders. Yes, that also means more fuel -- but the amount of time an engine runs at full boost is usually minimal, at least in everyday driving. Volvo's new engine architecture was designed for use as diesel as well as gasoline power, with thicker iron cylinder liners and a different cylinder head for the diesel. The block and head are aluminum alloy, both camshafts have continuously-variable phasing, and dual balance shafts ensure smooth operation. Maximum horsepower is 240, at 5600 rpm, with 250 lb-ft of torque between 1500 and 4800 rpm. The engine is designed and built to further improve efficiency by stopping when the car is stopped for more than just a few seconds, and that system operates unobtrusively. There are two operating modes, normal and sport. Normal mode emphasizes efficiency with lower revs and shift points, yet still gives a good driving experience. In sport mode, with higher revs and shift points, it feels nearly identical to the old turbo five. An eight-speed automatic transmission offers further improvement in efficiency. Mileage? Volvo claims 25 mpg city, 37 highway. I found it more like low- to mid-twenties around town and on backroads, and high twenties to low thirties on the highway at real highway speeds. YMMV, as the saying goes.
CONCLUSIONS: With the debut of the 2015 V60, the Volvo wagon is back! And in a very good way.
Watch the introduction of the new Volvo V60 at the Los Angeles Auto Show
2014 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E
Base Price $ 35,300
Price As Tested $ 42,225
Engine Type turbocharged inline 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection and stop-start technology
Engine Size 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.
Horsepower 240 @ 5600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 250 @ 1500-4800 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length 109.3 in. / 182.5 in.
Curb Weight 3527 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 14.7
Fuel Capacity 17.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires 235/40R19 96W Bridgestone Potenza 5001
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / x
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink
Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed
25 / 37 / 25
0 to 60 mph est 6.5 sec
Towing Capacity 3300 lbs.
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Premier Plus -- includes: Leather seating surfaces, auto-dimming rearview mirror, adaptive digital TFT display, side window brightwork, silver roof rails, Keyless Drive with Personal Car Communicator, rear park assist camera, Homelink® integrated garage door opener, digital compass, grocery bag holder, power retractable exterior mirrors $ 2,550
Sport Package -- includes: sport chassis, paddle shifters, sport seats, 19" BOR diamond-cut alloy wheels $ 1,500
Metallic paint $ 550
Heated front seats $ 500
Destination charge $ 925