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First Drive: 2011 Volvo V60

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2011 Volvo V60

SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyers Guide


By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channel

VERONA, Italy. September 2010. It applies to all markets worldwide: a car cannot be successful if the price is not right. That is especially the case on the Dutch market, where prices are sky high because of huge taxes.

Christiaan Kouwel, product manager of Volvo Nederland, the Dutch distributer, had to fight with his Swedish head quarters for the lowest possible prices of the brand new V60 estate. Compared with the station wagon models of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, he succeeded to get the V60’s price tags to be just under the prices of the German competition. (Here, prices begin with 34,000 euro for the T3 model)

Production of the V60 in Torslanda, Sweden, was started by mid September. Each day some 240 unites leave the plant and Volvo expects to build 50,000 V60s this year. Ninety percent will be sold in Europe, with Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany and Italy as the main markets.

Both the new S60, that was launched earlier this year ( SEE STORY HERE ), and the V60 have to bring Volvo back on the map in the compact premium segment. Since the demise of the ‘old’ S60, the Swedish brand did not have a model in Europe’s most popular segment anymore.

Volvo is expecting the S60 to be a success. The Dutch distributor organized so-called dealer days, where dealers bring prospects to the Volvo Netherlands headquarters from where they could make a short test drive. This generated quite some orders before the market introduction, At the world premiere of the S60 at the Geneva Auto Show, Stephen O’Dell, Volvo Cars president and CEO, said that Volvo plans to build 90.000 unites per year in its Belgian plant in Gent.

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Boxy looks are gone
Since the boxy looks are gone, Volvo expects consumers to buy the V60 estate because of its lifestyle image. Indeed, the new station wagon looks smart. People who go for the V70, usually need its larger size combined with its user friendliness. But the V60 will undoubtedly cannibalize some of the sales of the smaller V50, that will still be for sale. The remaining ten percent of the V60 production goes to Japan and Australia. Contrary to the S60 sedan, the estate will not be exported to the North-American market.

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As I said before: it is a pity, that consumers in the US are not interested in station wagons anymore.
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Because this body type generally offers room for five and lots of luggage, or, by folding the rear seats down, or lifting them out completely, lots of room for household goods and much more. They also drive well, sip less gas than crossovers (with their higher weight and worse aerodynamics), and look well too. This also applies to the new Volvo V60. But for now, the American consumer can only buy the S60 sedan.

Safety first

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All models of the V60 estate come standard with City Safety, the system that avoids collisions at low speeds (up to 18 mph) by slowing down the car automatically. It also decreases the impact of rear-end collisions.

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It speaks for itself that the Pedestrian safety system, that debuted in the Volvo S60 is also available for the V60. It is part of Volvo’s commitment to have nobody killed or seerely wounded by a Volvo in 2035 and making both the V60 and S60 the safest Volvo’s ever.

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New features are the speed limiter and the Driver Alert Control, that alerts distracted drivers. Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Information System and Active Xenon Lights are the other safety features that are available for the V60.
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Also children are protected in the new station wagon with two-stage integrated child booster cushions in the outer rear seats. They can be set at two heights for children of different sizes (between 45 and 55 inches and between 37 and 47 in.).

Volvo promised the V60 will offer a dynamic character, but it is not more dynamic than the S60 that I drove in May. It does not completely match its German competition, but its strong point without any doubt is its good handling combined with excellent comfort. The suspension is comfortable enough to make up for bad roads and it isolates those surfaces well. Like in the S60, the steering gear ratio is faster than Volvo used in earlier models, reacting quicker to drive input. It provides a good feel, but compared to the German brands it is somewhat vague. But buyers of this life style estate would probably not mind. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the driving capabilities of the V60.

Nor is there anything wrong with engine power and the functioning of the transmission. I drove the new 5-cylinder D3 diesel with 163 hp. Its automatic transmission was behaving somewhat reluctant, so I feel the response could be better, especially since the engine is lively. Also the 180 hp T4- engine offers a lively character. It feels fast and is willingly reacting to throttle input.

With a boot that offers 15.18 cu.ft. capacity is not an industry best and even with the seats down space is not exceptional. It is a pity that the practicality of the car is not somewhat better. If you only compare the V60 with its in house competitor V50, than you see that its boot offers only .45 cu.ft more space. But Volvo more or less warned us by saying that we should not consider the V60 a real estate. Who wants to buy such a practical car has a choice of two, the V50 or the V70. The V60 will have attract people who love the design and who do not count cubic feet, but use the space as it comes. They’ll also get comfort and premium safety features.