Volvo is currently going through a metamorphosis involving some very stylish new models arriving with amazingly advanced new powertrains. Despite being introduced to our market only last year, the V60 sport wagon has yet to receive these new design enhancements, but nonetheless it remains a thoroughly attractive and luxurious premium compact. The model I tested also incorporates Volvo’s impressive new Drive-E powertrain.
Drive-E is Volvo’s new family of lightweight, high-pressure, die-cast aluminum 4-cylinder engines with direct injection capable of 6- and 8-cylinder levels of output, depending on their state of tune. The entry-level V60’s version is a turbocharged and intercooled 2.0L unit producing 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the latter available from a very tractable 1,500 rpm. It comes mated to a smooth-shifting, quick-reacting 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with manual Sport mode, adaptive shift control, and auto start/stop technology that, in Eco+ mode, even disengages the engine when coasting at the 5 km/h mark instead of the usual complete stop.
While plenty quick off the line with ample passing power, this version of the Drive-E system mostly focuses on reduced fuel consumption and emissions. The base Volvo V60 is good for a 9.6L/100km city and 6.7L/100km highway rating―the latter marks a 20% improvement from the old inline 5-cylinder.
A hybrid variant of the V60 is coming by the end of the decade, by the way.
Along with the energetic powertrain, my entry-level tester proved quite capable through the curves, wonderfully controllable over rough pavement, and reportedly excellent in inclement weather (although I never experienced such) thanks in large part to a rigid body structure and well-sorted, fully independent suspension. The nice, compliant, and luxurious ride suited its premium personality ideally.
The Volvo V60 is quiet, as well. Engineers did a good job of filling hidden crevices with sound-deadening material and covering pretty much every surface with NVH-reducing soft-touch synthetics. There’s an overall sense of quality throughout the cabin, with beautifully textured aluminum and satin-finish metal trim highlighting key areas, the floating centre stack filled with superbly crafted aluminum and composite switchgear. All the roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, by the way.
The primary gauge cluster is an attractive combination of analog dials with bright orange/red needles and digital displays, although not as graphically stimulating as the top-line cluster. Ditto for the 7” Volvo Sensus infotainment system atop the centre stack: It’s a bit smaller and slightly less functional than that of key competitors, while mine didn’t include navigation or even a backup camera. Fortunately, the standard 8-speaker audio system provided very good sound.
The base Volvo V60’s seats are upholstered in attractive mesh cloth with genuine-feeling T-Tec leatherette bolsters, and in Volvo tradition were sublimely agreeable to my backside. There’s also good shoulder and hip room front and back, plus ample leg and headroom. The cabin’s height tapers off somewhat towards the rear, however, giving the car an elegantly sporty profile, but also making its cargo capacity just 430 litres behind the rear seats―a tad less than its closest competitor, the BMW 3 Series Touring. Same thing for total cargo volume at 1,220 litres with its 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks flattened. This shortcoming may be an issue worth considering if you regularly haul more stuff.
Likewise, the V60 doesn’t offer the same level of options as key competitors, missing items like cooled front seats and a panoramic sunroof. On the other hand, its standard menu is quite comprehensive for a $40,600 luxury compact. Features not yet mentioned include LED daytime running lights, 17” alloys, power heated side mirrors, an electromechanical parking brake, push-button ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth with audio streaming, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-way power driver’s seat with memory, a power front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, HD and satellite radio, Volvo On Call, a power glass sunroof, power-folding rear headrests, and more.
The 2016 Volvo V60 also comes with an array of standard active and passive safety features that set it apart, such as City Safety autonomous braking, Dynamic Stability Control with sport mode, and torque-vectoring Corner Traction Control. This makes the V60 and its 4-door S60 sibling the only base models in the segment to achieve a best possible Top Safety Pick+ score from the IIHS.
My tester also included a $1,350 Climate package with heated windshield and wiper nozzles, a heated steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, and an interior air quality system. For the same price, you can get all of the above without the heated rear seats that get replaced with segment-exclusive dual child booster seats integrated within the rear cushions (also available as a standalone option for $650).
If you can’t decide whether to buy an efficient wagon or a compact SUV such as the Volvo XC60, the V60 Cross Country splits the difference with crossover-style body cladding and 63 mm of extra ride height resulting in 200 mm of trail-capable ground clearance. Alternatively, maybe the high-performance V60 Polestar can tempt you back toward a wagon, its 350-horsepower engine and specially calibrated 6-speed autobox capable of reaching 100 km/h in 5.0 seconds.
I must admit to really liking the base Volvo V60, especially its sleek, minimalist styling, beautifully finished, high-quality cabin, excellent balance of performance and comfort, impressive engine technology, and of course its class-leading safety. It’s not without fault, but the V60 deserves close comparison with the 3 Series Touring or any other compact wagon you may be considering.