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I've been driving so many Volvos lately I might start wearing a hat and speaking Swedish with a Chinese accent. Aside from those afflictions it's not been too bad.
This "Swedish Valiant" is the V60 D3 wagon, a bull-nosed sharp-looking family hauler that looks nothing like the old Volvo wagons that were around when I was growing up .... I mean, when I was younger.
The V60 D3 Teknik model is by no means a bargain-basement load-lugger, given that it's priced from $62,490, a $4500 hike above the base D3.
The Teknik extras include the satellite navigation system, Active Bending Lights with Headlight wash system, the BLIS blind spot warning system, a power-adjustable passenger seat and an upgrade to the instrumentation to a "watch-dial" - I thought watches were Swiss?
The Teknik model has leather trim, power-adjustable front seats, a flat-folding front seat and a rear splitfold seat, filtered dual-zone climate control with rear B-pillar vents, power windows and rear privacy window tint. The V60 gets a cruise control that pops up a digital speed when set, but there's no digital speed readout for normal driving - why?
There's also rain-sensing wipers but no dusk-sensing headlights (despite appearing on cheaper, lower-spec Volvos?), rear parking sensors, an electric park brake, an auto-dipping rearview mirror and a trip computer. There's a Bluetooth link for the phone and sound system (which argues with iPhone 4's iPod when USB cable is also in use) and folding external mirrors.
There's no shortage of new technology in this car's arsenal, but most of it is safety-related - but the new D3 does get a two-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel engine that produces 120kW and 400Nm, the latter between 1500 and 2750rpm, to shunt the wagon along at a solid rate.
Like it's low-pressure turbo petrol cousins, the engine has something of a hair-trigger accelerator but the mid-range is considerable and solid pace is maintained without massive throttle openings.
Teamed with a six-speed automatic, the V60 front-wheel drive claims 6l/100km (rising to 8.3 around town and down to a remarkable 4.7 on the highway) - our time had it sipping at 8l/100km from a 67.5 litre tank, giving it an easy range of well over 800km. The Swedish wagon also has a brake energy regeneration technology and a maintenance-free exhaust particle filter.
As is fast becoming the case around the globe, the humble wagon, for all its practicality, needs to look like something else. The V60 takes plenty from swoopier sports coupes in terms of its external lines, while attempting to retain the mundane abilities of shopping, commuting and doing the school run.
It largely succeeds, as this is not an unattractive car, but it's also not a pretty machine either.
Inside, the Swedish design makes for a functional interior, without the austere flavour that invades some German cockpits. The menu functions are largely straightforward and it has clever touches - the two-stage booster seats for the two outboard children in the back, pushing the kids up to the appropriate height, although a little more lateral support wouldn't go astray.
The rear doors and windows can also be locked by the driver with the push of one button - no early exits and no window races. The 692-litre boot is a useful size, with a clever floor for separating and securing loads - there's also underfloor storage, but sadly that has come at the expense of a spare wheel - there's only a mobility kit.
The brand is one of the automotive world's safety leaders and the V60 has plenty of gear as a result - there's a five-star NCAP rating to show for that, thanks to a safety-conscious body structure, dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags, as well as pre-tensioner-equipped seatbelt for all five occupants, while the front two have load-limiters as well.
The sub-30km/h accident-avoidance City Safety system is standard fare, with adaptive brake lights, stability and traction control and anti-lock brakes also among its features. Clever little touches include the park brake that won't automatically kick off with a prod of the throttle without the driver's seatbelt being in place.
There's no need for hats in these things - unless it's a baseball cap that may or may not be on backwards. The V60 is quiet from within - although the odd engine note on the outside is certainly a diesel - but getting underway is far from a laborious chore, as once pressure in the turbo has built, the wagon is well underway.
It's not going to frighten the big petrol turbos in the Volvo range but it's far from tardy, with solid in-gear progress as well. The automatic is not as slick between ratios as the twin-clutch transmission available elsewhere, but it works well make the most of the torque, just don't bother trying to manual-change - it cruises at 100-110km/h just below 2000rpm and is quiet when doing so.
The back-road blast factor is better than you'd think, with plenty of pep on offer for the right foot, good body control and a nose that doesn't feel weighed down by the diesel, just don't ask for too much information through the steering.
The seating is comfortable but when pressing ahead it could do with more lateral support, front and rear - the rear occupants have enough headroom but legroom is at a premium, unless the front pews are well forward.
Only a few complaints with the V60 - ride is on the firm side and there are no automatic headlights; the Bluetooth audio link kept trying to over-rule the USB cable and the blindspot information system flashed a few times during heavy rain.
Anyone tired of the choice of German, German or German in the compact prestige wagon market has a worthy contender from the Swedish brand. The V60 D3 gets plenty of points for its useful and frugal drivetrain and for being that little bit different, but doesn't score well given the lack of a spare and having a rear seat that's a little tight for legroom. Parents with young kids will love it but those looking to use the rear seat for adults will want to be below-average height.
Frugal and punchy powerplant, clever floor, integrated booster seats, sound system, safety gear, competent handling WE LOATHE rear 3/4 vision, rear leg room, no spare tyre, no auto headlights, front wheel drive with all that torque.
Volvo V60 D3 Teknik
Price: from $62,490
Warranty: 3 years, unlimited kilometre
Resale: 44% Source: Glass's Guide
Service Interval: 15,000km or 12-months
Economy: 6 l/100km, on test 8, tank 67.5 l; 160g/km CO2
Equipment: six airbags, ABS, EBD, stability control.
Crash rating: 5 star
Engine: 120kW/400Nm two-litre five-cylinder DOHC 20-valve turbodiesel engine
Transmission: six-speed auto, front wheel drive
Body: 5-door, 5 seats
Dimensions: 4628mm (L); 1865mm (W); 1484mm (H); 2776mm (WB)
Tyre Size: 235/40 R18
Spare: Space saver
|D3||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$13,090 – 17,490||2012 Volvo V60 2012 D3 Pricing and Specs|
|D3 Teknik||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$14,300 – 18,810||2012 Volvo V60 2012 D3 Teknik Pricing and Specs|
|D5||2.4L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$16,830 – 21,560||2012 Volvo V60 2012 D5 Pricing and Specs|
|T4||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$14,080 – 18,590||2012 Volvo V60 2012 T4 Pricing and Specs|