Volvo evolves – but into what?

2011-02-02 21:54


Volvo V60: Safety
Volvo S60, V60: R-Design

Only one question hangs over the brilliant new Volvo V60 after its launch in South Africa this week: what is it, exactly?

The V60’s very obviously sedan sisters arrived here towards the end of 2010 and there can be no doubt about their styling pedigree - they have four doors and a boot, dammit, so ’nuff said - but is the V really a Vagen in the time-honoured Volvo pantheon?

Or is it merely (gulp!) a hatch?

Think back to the Volvo “hearses” of the 1970’s: a bonnet, hauling a big box on wheels. Even the later models, though looking less like a coffin than their predecessors, were most certainly meant for work around the farm, the cattle station, the stables.


So, I ask: does a 4.6m long, slim-hipped sports machine not much taller than the rear of an F1 car own fairly to the title “wagon”? The load floor isn’t much bigger than a regular boot (in fact smaller than some) and the tail door isn’t vertical, but well sloped, and the rear seats fold just like a… a… a hatchback.

Volvo agrees with me, to a point. Michelle Naude, Volvo SA’s marketing lady, said during a presentation at the Old Mac Daddy trailer park (you should pop in there, it’s fun) down The Valley road off the N2 near Elgin in the Western Cape: “The V60 is a mould-breaker – it’s not just a wagon, in fact it’s not a wagon, it’s a sport wagon.

“Its middle name is versatility.

“The S60 launch was a highlight – so is this, with new engines, a new look. Volvo is starting to evolve.”

NO HIDING IT: The sloping tail door identifies the V60 for what it is - a very sexy hatchback.

Right on, Michelle, and the evolution is that Volvo has at last given birth to a high-performance hatchback to rival classics such as the Golf GTI and the Ford Focus. And more power to their corporate elbow, because this is one helluva car; frankly, I’d have one in my garage tomorrow.


Though petite, the V60, with its exciting looks, astounding performance and incredible road-holding (nothing I’ve driven has done the Cape’s Houwhoek Pass as competently and reassuringly as this car), and it’s fitting that one of the videos associated with the launch featured a seriously menacing black panther leaping through the tail door of a V60.

“Sleek, sophisticated, sexy – a wedge with a coupe outline,” said Volvo’s Astrid de la Rey. “The car is track-inspired.”

Agreed, and it’s that very coupe outline that puts the final nail in the, er, coffin of the Vagen. Hail the Volvo Hatch! The rearward tapering side glass emphasises the coupe look and pays lip service to the “wagon” genes; a Golf GTI would look the same if its tail was squashed a bit.

SMART SEATS: Not only does Volvo do great leather on its seats, it also thinks outside the box on the seating configuration. The rear set is not only split 20:60:20 but also converts into kiddie seats.

Volvo says the typical sport wagon customer is an S60 sedan buyer who would like some extra space and flexibility but without compromise on design and driving properties. It helps that the car is packed with safety and comfort-related technical innovations.

And a great variety of engines. They range from an economical 110kW version to a high-performance three-litre T6 turbo capable of 224kW and 440Nm and 0-100km/h in 6.2sec. Top speed is limited to 250km/h and Volvo claims a 10 percent cut in fuel consumption to 10.2 litres/100km (EU combined).


The power is delivered through a second-generation six-speed Geartronic transmission. New valves and less friction mean faster gear changes and all-wheel drive is standard.

New is a direct-injection two-litre engine badged 2.0T and T5. This four-cylinder GTDi (gasoline turbocharged direct injection) engine sends out 149kW/300Nm from only 1750rpm, 100km/h comes up in 7.9sec with a manual gearbox and 8.4sec with the automatic. Top speed is limited to 230km/h with either gearbox.
Fuel consumption is 8.1 litres/100km (manual) and 8.3 (auto).

The T5 version makes 177kW/320Nm and sprints from 0-100km/h in 7.5sec. Top speed is limited to 230km/h.

Either engine can be specified with a six-speed manual or six-speed Powershift transmission.

Volvo has twisted a lot of power from the pair of 1.6-litre GTDi engines that are badged T3 and T4 and deliver, respectively, 110kW/240Nm and 132kW, the latter capable of 240Nm and brief bursts of 270Nm

PEOPLE PROTECTION: An advanced radar system scanning from the top of the V60's wndscreen can identify humans (of any size) and, if its driver doesn't react to the hazards, can do the braking itself.

The 132kW T4 engine offers maximum torque of 240Nm from just 1600 rpm all the way up to 5000 rpm. During short-term over-boost, it provides an impressive 270Nm of torque. This gives excellent lugging ability throughout the speed range. The torque curve is relatively gentle, resulting in a particularly comfortable driving experience.
The V60 T4 is available in combination with Volvo's automatic six-speed Powershift transmission or a six-speed manual gearbox, while the T3 comes with a manual gearbox only.
Then there are two five-cylinder turbodiesels - D3 and D5. The twin-turbo D5 happened to be my favourite among the units available at the launch. It’s good for 151kW and 420Nm, 7.9sec to 100km/h and top speed of 230km/h. The two turbos work sequentially to eliminate lag.

The two-litre D3 makes 120kW/400Nm, takes 9.4sec to 100km/h (manual or auto) and tops out at 220km/h (manual) and 215km/h (auto). It’s claimed fuel consumption is 5.5 litres/100km (manual) and 6.1 (auto).
The D3 is available with either a six-speed auto or six-speed manual transmission; the D5 is fitted only with an autobox.

All variants of the V60, except the upcoming R-Design, can be specified with a FOUR-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) active chassis which has been modified and refined for better control and comfort than previous Volvos – it works really well on the V60 T6.


Like the all-new S60, the V60 has advanced stability control and cornering traction control – essentially, this brakes the inside rear driving wheel and sends more torque to its outside twin.

Which brings us to the exceptionally clever pedestrian detection (video) system that uses radar to identify human bodies in the car’s path and to take action to avoid hitting them – right down to emergency braking. The same system protects the car from frontal collisions at low speeds – such as in rush-hour traffic.
There’s also a new infotainment system whose information is presented on a fascia screen, as are a multitude of vehicle comfort and control settings.

In South Africa, the V60 will be immediately available with all seven engine derivatives. The new engines (T3, T4, T5 and D3) are now also available in the S60 sedans. Here’s how the prices read (remember to try the T5, especially on a mountain pass, before you decide!) with CO2 tax (in brackets) included

T3 - R317 700 (R2625)
T4 - R341 900 (R2625)
T4 - Powershift R359 300 (R4200)
T5 - R390 300 ( R5175)
T5 - Powershift R406 300 (R5550)
2.0T - R366 000 (R5175)
2.0T - Powershift R382 100 (R5550)
D3 - R362 700 (R1800)
D3 - Geartronic R376 800 (R3150)
D5 - Geartronic R418 300 (R3675)
T6 AWD - Geartronic R474 700 (R8775)

Both the new Volvo S60 and V60 will be available in R-Design (video) by the end of February 2011.

  • RichardP - 2011-02-03 00:00

    simply stunning and fresh design. i would take this above the s60 sedan. The T3 of R317k sounds like very good value for money and unlike its german counterparts the volvos have all the bells and whistles fitted as standard. is the pedestrian system fitted standard?

      gumboguru - 2011-02-03 10:08

      I couldn't agree more. I am awaiting delivery of my S60 D5, and I got a hell of a lot more standard than just the steering wheel, seats and the air inside the cabin. What is more unbelievable is the fact that Wheels 24 actually did a good write-up on a Volvo.

      xolisa.boqwana - 2011-02-03 10:55

      Volvo is always the best value for money, my only worry is resale value and mentanance after the auto plan is finished. I don't do less than 45000km a year so their cars wil be a loss to me.

  • SpyCam - 2011-02-03 10:07

    LOL... beaten with the UGLY stick.

      Dros - 2011-02-03 14:06

      Each to his own, but would love to know what you regard as pretty.

      SpyCam - 2011-02-03 17:07

      Yep, it's a personal view, but I don't like "droopy" car design, so the Mercedes CL / CLS designs don't work for me either. S60 is pretty, XC60 is pretty. This, not so much.

  • HowardX - 2011-02-03 10:14

    The manufacturers of these estate vehicles all seem to missing a demographic: I have three German Shepherds. I like to take them to the park. I've been shopping around for a new estate for this purpose. Bizarrely, the majority of these so-called estate vehicles have such small load bays with sloping ceilings that they cannot realistically accommodate a largish dog. Weird. Sounds like this is no different. Maybe ppl don't haul their dogs around much anymore? Even some SUVs have laughably small load areas.

      ArtimusPrime - 2011-02-03 10:27

      Then maybe look at a double cab bakkie like a Hilux or something?

      AnTiyota - 2011-02-03 12:49

      No, not a hilUx. Be unique. Be someone else than your neighbour in his corOLlA.

      Dros - 2011-02-03 13:57

      The Volvo estate ticks every box for me - i have dogs as well and they fit comfortably (probably not as big as yours though) but then you should be looking at LWB bakkies with higer canopies for this sole purpose as i don't think any estate vehicle in SA will fit your criteria.

      RB - 2011-02-03 15:53

      Howard, it sounds like you need a Subaru Outback... definitely big enough for your Hounds, just a pity its dog ugly!

      Dr. Zeek - 2011-02-03 16:08

      Howard, try a Fortuner (handling is dodgy on gravel, though). The new Mitsu Outlander could be worth a look. You should definitely examine and test drive the Subaru forester and outback. The outback is possibly the closest match to your requirements, it's just a shame it's so pig-ugly.

      ArtimusPrime - 2011-02-03 16:31

      @ AnTiyota - quite funny you saying no to a hilux, given your Nic name. hahahaha. Anyway, If I had dogs, I wouldn't put them in a car and mess up my leather seats or lavishly appointed boot. Put them in a back of a canopy'd bakkie, there they can drool till they drop

      Pieter - 2011-02-09 20:09

      You need a XC60, boet.

  • RancoR - 2011-02-03 11:53

    The Accord Tourer looks better

  • Dros - 2011-02-03 13:39

    Awesome car, pricing relative to what you getting as "standard" and agree with RichardP & gumboguru, but will wait for the R models pricing before trading in my V50 D5. With the handling and turbo lag sorted out it makes for exciting driving. Wonder were all those Geely bashers are after they took over Volvo.

  • chapman1303 - 2011-02-03 14:26

    I Drove it over the weekend and I have to say that it is one of the most comfortable, well balanced vehicles I have ever had the pleasure of driving and that includes the Germans. Dont diss it before you try it, you might just like it :)

  • cviljoen1 - 2011-02-03 17:19

    So how exactly does a 20:60:20 seat split work?

  • cviljoen1 - 2011-02-03 17:19

    So how exactly does a 20:60:20 seat split work?

  • chub - 2011-02-04 09:19

    The Geely influence?

      aurora9 - 2011-02-07 08:47

      Meaning? ON an Audi you have the VW influence...

  • Pieter - 2011-02-08 22:40

    Competes with Golf and Focus hatch? Is this guy a retard? This car competes with the German trio & Lexus, not budget hatch backs. Is he a food critic maybe?

  • pages:
  • 1