Volvo is a curious company, capable of backing a V8 Supercar race program in Australia but also building plug-in electric cars in Sweden.
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Safety, of course, is bedrock for the brand. Design, also, is more than just straight black lines on a white background these days. Thank goodness.
In fact, the Volvo V40 T5 is the favourite car of my partner Ali. She loves the design, the performance, the flexibility and the size. Oh, and the safety.
So I was pretty sure she would have a tick ready to go when I turned up with a Drive-E V60 T5 R-Design — and isn’t that a mouthful? — as Volvo’s newest and greenest model.
Sure enough, it’s a winner with her. My son loves the back seat, especially the built-in pop-up booster seats, and the carrying capacity in the tail.
The price is pretty good for a car with leather and punchy sound, aircon and alloys, rear parking camera and a huge number of safety systems. And, thanks to the race program, people are starting to talk about Volvo without using safety first.
The latest V60 is part of a Drive-E push for efficiency that stops short of a full hybrid but brings much greater efficiency to petrol and diesel engines alike at Volvo.
The first two engines are turbocharged, which means a chance to reduce consumption without affecting performance.
They also employ something called i-ART, which is an adaptive system to ensure super-precise fuel metering for each cylinder.
I’m also a fan of the way it drives, the solid quality feel and the level of standard equipment.
Yet Volvo is still not a go-to brand or even top-of-mind when people shop in the luxury class. That’s one reason for the V8 Supercar involvement but that’s another story.
The Drive-E range, covering the S60, V60 and XC60, also uses an eight-speed automatic and an ECO+ mode that’s far more than just a button on the dash. I quickly detect that it kills the aircon and makes the engine response a bit dull, but it takes Volvo man John Duggan to give me some real insight.
“With the stop-start function the engine cuts out at 7km/h,” he says. “Eco Coast mode helps the driver maintain the kinetic energy when the accelerator is released. Engine braking is released, at which point engine braking is deactivated.”
His tips are good and definitely help on the efficiency front. My fuel consumption drops quickly into the 7.0L/100km range and I can see the V60 working very well as a long-distance tourer.
It will still sprint to 100km/h in 6.4 seconds, maintain a quiet and very comfy highway cruising pace, and provide the sort of built-in luxury I enjoy.
The eight-speed auto is smooth and very responsive if you turn to the flappy paddles.