The bigger treat
No more than two decades ago, if you wanted to buy a family car you would choose between an estate (station wagon) or a Kombi (microbus). Thanks to the advent of SUV’s, cross-overs and niche cars, those days have long gone. I find this a real pity as I’ve just spent some time with Volvo’s excellent V60.
Quite a few manufacturers bravely soldiered on with their estate cars but dreadful sales figures meant that the likes of Audi, BMW, Honda, Mercedes and Opel eventually dropped most or all of their station wagons from the price lists. Volvo however, stood their ground. And rightfully so.
Not only can the Swedish company look back on a sea of successful estate cars, their safety- and family-orientated philosophies make them the ideal candidate to take most of what’s left in South Africa’s station wagon pie dish. Only Audi, Mercedes and Subaru still have bibs strapped on.
Volvo currently offers two options for aficionados of fine station wagons; the V40 estate-hatchback crossover and this full-size V60 estate. Recent platform sharing and technical advances mean that you can choose between no less than thirty V40 and seventeen V60 models.
All engines are turbo-charged and Volvo’s new Drive-E technology will eventually see the manufacturer producing the same amount of models (and possibly hybrids) with just two base engines – a turbo-diesel and a turbo-petrol in varying states of tune. Our V60 T5 test car is an offspring of the latter motor.
Four cylinders share 1,969cc to produce 180kW (245hp) at 5,500rpm or 350Nm at 1,500rpm, driven to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox to reach 100km/h in 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 230km/h. Claimed average fuel consumption is 6.2L/100km from a 67L tank, CO2 emissions about 142g/km.
We can confirm the engine’s excellent power outputs and low-down grunt with enough gear ratios to always keep you moving at your intended pace. A few heavy loads and some rush hour traffic pushed our consumption beyond 10L/100km but the figure plummeted with open road cruising.
A start/stop system helps to curb the T5’s thirst but it’s my humble opinion that the claimed figure is only achievable with insanely careful and/or slow driving. As soon as you go near the throttle, it shoots up. It will do this in conjunction with your speed and enjoyment though, so it’s your call.
While I’ve got you thinking about enjoyment, I’d quite like to mention how much of it you’ll find in a modern Volvo. Perhaps it’s just my personal taste but the V60 possesses a lovely combination of understated style, clever tech and comfortable luxury. Take one for a drive and let me know if I’m on to something?
The cabin may not be the biggest but I’ve come to appreciate the cocooned layout with its interesting shapes and textures. Volvo now uses its half-digital instrumentation in most model ranges and while I still can’t fathom the eco or power gauges, the various themes are always a highlight for me.
Passenger comfort is very good but you’d do well to avoid big wheels and low-profile tyres if it’s supreme comfort you’re after. The fat stuff fitted to our test car endowed it with a bit of street cred and extra grip though; this estate feels planted and flat through most corners.
Push beyond its limits and a sweet silicon nanny curbs the front end wash as part of a very impressive safety arsenal. Every V60 also features City Safety, a low-speed collision warning and avoidance system. Optional extras include blind spot, high beam, road sign, lane departure and driver alert assistants.
Load space is not class-leading but I am yet to meet a person who stands in a car park with a megaphone, proclaiming that his is bigger than yours. I used this V60 as a support car for moving house and the 60/40 split rear seats extended its cargo capacity to highly impressive levels.
I also spent a considerable amount of time just looking at the silver Volvo with its pinched and pedestrian-friendly front end, tapered window line and sexy, squat rear quarters with styled exhaust outlets. If all station wagons looked this good and had so many variants, would more people buy them?
Well, to own a Volvo V60 T5 you’ll need at least N$450,000 and happily it won’t cost much more to spec it up a bit. Your choices of colours, trim and reasonably-priced options are just as diverse and as a final treat, a 5-year/100,000km warranty and service plan are included in the price.