Paul Horrell’s international first drive 2018 Volvo V60 Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

IN A NUTSHELL What you’d expect from a modern Volvo estate: beautiful cabin, great safety, comfortable if slightly unengaging to drive. And hugely practical.

2018 Volvo V60 (European spec)

PRICE N/A WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km ENGINE 2.0L petrol or 2.0L diesel POWER 228kW at 5700rpm (T6), 140kW at 4250rpm (D4) TORQUE 400Nm at 2200-5100rpm (T6) 400Nm at 1750–2500rpm (D4) TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual (D4) or 8-speed auto (D4 and T6) DRIVE all-wheel drive (T6) front-wheel-drive (D4) BODY 4761mm (l); 1850mm (w exc mirrors); 2040mm (w inc mirrors); 1427mm (h) TURNING CIRCLE 11.0m TOWING WEIGHT 2000kg (braked), NAkg (unbraked) KERB WEIGHT 1700kg (D4) SEATS 5 FUEL TANK 60 litres (T6) 55 litres (T5) SPARE Opt THIRST 7.2 l/100km (T6) 4.4 l/100km (D4) combined cycle

THE NEW V60 IS much bigger than the old one – 10cm longer in the wheelbase, and with an extra 100 litres in the boot. Still it’s likely that the new V60 won’t cost much more than the old one, spec-for-spec, despite the extra space and sophistication.

The outgoing one was based on an old Ford Focus, while today’s V60 is very closely related to the new XC60 crossover, itself a shortened version of the seven-seat XC90.

That means that all the safety, connectivity and comfort technologies of the top-end Volvos are now available to the V60, even if a few more of them have moved to the cost-options list.

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As usual for Volvo, all powertrains are related, using a basic two-litre four-cylinder block, in either diesel or petrol formats. The diesel in the V60’s case is a twin-turbo unit, while the petrol has both turbo and supercharger.

After launch, there will be a plug-in hybrid version with that same petrol engine, but also a battery down the spine of the car and an electric motor to drive the rear wheels. As a commuter car it’s very economical. But we have no confirmation if that will come to Oz (though they do sell the XC60 with that PHEV powertrain here).

What’s the interior like?

As the V60 is longer than a Mercedes C-class but has a space-saving transverse engine, there’s loads of space for your family.

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I’m an average-height bloke, and with the driver’s seat set for me, I can comfortably sit behind, although as in most cars it’s better if the driver raises their seat cushion a bit to give the person sitting behind a taller space to slide their feet forward.

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Since this is an estate, let’s talk boot. You get 529 litres back there. The rear backrest then folds, in two sections, to give a load floor measuring 1821mm long and more than 1m wide.

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You can find chromed lashing loops around the floor, and hooks on the sides. An option pack adds electric folding releases for the rear head-restraints and seat-backs, but the whole folding (and erecting) system is well enough designed that it’s a cinch to do it yourself.

The only PITA back there is that when you’ve removed the luggage cover blind, it can’t be stored under the boot floor.

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The front seats are extraordinarily supportive. Not the sort of soft chair that makes you go aaaaahhh when your backside first sinks in, but we know from experience you can do hundreds of kms and get out with not the suspicion of an ache.

In the back, there are vents in the B-pillars as well as the centre console, among other amenities.

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As usual, Volvo has gone for lounge-like rather than racecar-like cabin finishes. The materials are plush and look light and relaxing.

The driver gets, as standard, a TFT screen displaying virtual instruments, which allows a decent 3D map between the speedo and rev counter. Optionally you can have an excellent head-up display in the windscreen.

Volvos are also known for the huge centre touchscreen. The cabin’s decorative simplicity is possible because of a near-absence of minor switchgear. The touchscreen is home to almost all controls and settings. As we said for the XC60, it’s initially a wow, because of the quick response and delightful graphics. The maps have connected high-def traffic, all as standard equipment. Orderly menus control dozens of car functions, including sensitivities for all many of the myriad accident-avoidance systems.

Volvo has partnered with lots of app providers, so integration of things like Spotify looks pretty much native. CarPlay and Android Auto are available too.

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But in the end it’s a bit overloaded, as it includes climate controls too, and we prefer them to be on actual physical buttons and knobs. In the Volvo you have to summon them up on the screen. That’s fine if you have a set-and-forget attitude to climate, but if you want to re-set the temp or distribution while under way, it’s trickier to jab at the screen than it would have been to gran something physical and permanent. Besides, some functions are buried too deep in the menus. It’s five levels down just to set the audio treble.

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Talking of audio, the standard system is fine, the optional Harman Kardon one really good and the top Bowers and Wilkins setup pretty sensational.

What’s it like on the road?

The T6’s engine does a pretty good job, with the supercharger working at low revs and then handing off, imperceptibly, to the turbo higher up the dial. That means plenty of grunt at all times. Its sound is refined enough for a four-cylinder, though certainly not charismatic, and no match for the sixes still used in a few rivals.

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The diesel engine is also reasonably refined for its kind. But Volvo engineers insist its 140kW output is enough for most drivers. Well yes, but again rivals offer more. The V60 will haul kids and furniture and dogs, but not ass.

The biggest issue, both in the petrol and diesel, is the eight-speed transmission, which kicks down reluctantly and then with a thump. And there are no manual over-ride paddles, though you can use the lever.

The test cars didn’t have the optional air suspension, but did have the optional adaptive dampers. This gives you a sports mode but it harms the ride more than it helps the handling, so we reverted to comfort even on twisty roads.

The V60 corners gamely, with little body roll and plenty of grip. The steering is nicely precise and progressive, so it’s easy to place accurately on the road. But there’s very little feedback, and coming on or off the throttle doesn’t alter the way it’s going, so the car doesn’t seem to be goading you to have fun with it.

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Fair enough, because this is a family estate that knows its mission. The ride remains comfortable and quiet most of the time, and the damping’s well enough tied down so the kids won’t feel sick.

On the highway, the optional Pilot Assist (radar cruise control and lane-following steering support) not works very smoothly.

What about safety features?

There’s no independent crash-test data for the V60 yet, but just look at the circumstantial evidence. The very closely related XC60 scored a sensationally good 98 percent for adult occupant protection in its EuroNCAP test last year, and 87 percent for child protection, and a remarkable 95 percent for safety assist.

If you think taller SUVs might be better for protection than estates, well the V90 estate got only marginally lower scores.

Among its huge number of active safety systems, the V60 introduces another world first. This is part of the ‘City Safety’ suite, which can already warn the driver of the following dangers, and begin braking if there’s no response: stopped or slowing vehicles in front, pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals.

The new element is protection when an oncoming vehicle is actually in your lane, for instance one that has misjudged an overtake on a single-carriageway. The car will auto-brake. It’s not enough to stop a head-on crash, but it can cut the speed by enough to make a significant difference to survivability.

This feature doesn’t use any new sensors or systems, but the engineers say it took an awful lot of testing to make sure it would react at the right moment but not when there’s no actual danger.

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On top of that the V60, like the other Volvos, can help keep you on the road if it detects you’re going off (as useful on empty rural roads in outback Oz as it is in the Swedish tundra) and also give steering assist to nudge you around a hazard ahead. In towns, it is designed to recognise if you’ve crossed a junction in the path of an oncoming vehicle, and again brake.

Optionally, there’s the radar pack which gives blind-spot protection and when reversing will warn you of traffic crossing your tail so you don’t back out into its path. Strange that this is an option, but Volvo says it prioritises the systems that are proven to protect you against the most common and severe accidents.

Then there’s the frontal radar option for adaptive cruise control and lane keeping.

All V60s have LED headlights, but you can also sec the adaptive sort that you leave on main beam as they blank the portion that would dazzle other drivers.

So, what do we think?

Well, can it justify the price hike over a Commodore – especially as the Holden can be had with a V6? The Volvo gets its kudos because it’s just so nicely designed inside, and is loaded with safety kit. And those things are enough to make it a credible choice even against Mercs and BMWs, provided your driving style is reasonably relaxed.


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About Author

Paul Horrell

Paul's working life has been paced out in cars. He began road-testing when the VW Golf was in its second generation. It's now in its eighth. He covers much more than the tyre-smoking part of the road-test landscape. He roots around in the financial machinations of the car corporations and the apparent voodoo of the technologies. Then he clarifies those complications so his general readers – too busy to lodge their heads up the industry's nether regions – get the fast track on what matters and what doesn't. A freelance writer living in London, he usually gets around the city by bicycle, which adds to his (sometimes justified) reputation as a bit green and a bit of a lefty. He's a member of Europe's Car of the Year jury.

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