1 Nov 2013

Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the 2013 Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux, the estate version of the S60

Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux

Some cars have a fairly distinct purpose whilst others are designed to accommodate a host of uses.  The Volvo V60 D3 is something of a multi-tool of a car.  It's comfortable, economical, practical, spacious, easy to drive and quite good fun.  It isn't super fast and it is in the same pricing bracket as similar offerings from Mercedes, BMW and Audi but I can forgive it those, and you might too once you have read this review.

The Volvo V60 is one of those estates that doesn't make you feel like a failure for having bought an estate.  Unlike boxy Volvos of old it is shapely and curvaceous.  Volvo has always been confident in its design direction and the current range share a corporate identity but retain individual model characteristics.

With its low roofline and narrowing rear windows it is more an estate in the design language of a Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake than an E Class Estate.  It is actually a more successful design than its saloon sibling, the S60.

In short I love its shape.  You might not but I think most will. The colour, Rebel Blue, works too although some people who saw it thought it too loud.  Importantly my 11 year old son thought it looked great, and he's seen some seriously sexy cars this year.

In terms of space the boot is compromised by the low roofline, and a high boot floor.  Because the V60 is also available with four wheel drive (with the T6) and the body is engineered to accommodate this the boot is as high as a 3-series estate.  A car engineered purely for front wheel drive would have a lower boot.

That's not to say it's small.  I took a huge load to the tip, and it accommodated my three dogs well.  It's quite long and wide, just not very tall.

Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux
Inside the cockpit and what looks like a nice car outside looks pretty awesome inside.  As your backside hits the seat you realise why the V60 is set at a premium price.  The seat leather is soft and as the back of your head meets the headrest (tilted forward to reduce whiplash) it feels like a velvety cushion.

The seat needed adjusting once, and that was it for the whole week I ran the car.  The steering wheel, pedals and armrest are perfectly placed.  There's even cushioned leather on the door armrest.

The dash top is elephant hide plastic but it's squishy, so I can forgive it.  I couldn't find a single piece of cheap trim in the car.  The steering wheel, dash, console all look and feel rather wonderful.

The infoscreen isn't a touchscreen (it will be next year) and houses the satnav, media and various car and driver aids and controls.  The smartphone integration is the best there is and it does have digital radio.  At first I thought the satnav was fantastic but then the ability to enter a postcode disappeared, and reappeared only after going two menus deep.  This isn't really good enough.  For satnav postcode is everything, not street name, city etc.  It needs to revolve around postcode, with everything else as an add-on in the next-gen.

The various driver aids can be turned on or off via the touchscreen.  They are integrated so well you might as well keep them all on.  There's lots of functionality you can adjust, such as climate control, voice commands, phone volume, how long the lights stay on after you've turned the car off and the force of steering wheel assistance.
Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux interior

Take a look at my Volvo V60 D3 R-design interior video review here.

The four knobs that control stereo, menus and two for climate feel good to the touch and are simple to use.  The only annoyance is lack of dual-zone climate synchronisation for those of us of an OCD persuasion who have to keep the temperature the same on both sides of the car.

There are decent sized, but strangely shaped, door pockets, a large glovebox and masses of storage in the armrest area, which also houses two cupholders, that I mainly used to store my iPhone.  There is a USB socket under the armrest too so you can charge on the go.

Now we come to the two weak points in the cabin.  One is the damned e-brake.  It's in the same place as in a Porsche Cayman, low down on the dash next to the door, and it suffers the same problem the Cayman does.  Is it forward or back for on or off?  I had to read the label every time I used it, which doesn't illuminate in the dark.

The other is a by-product of the narrowing windows at the rear.  Look over your shoulder to reverse and you can't see much behind.  This is a problem shared with many modern cars where style takes over from substance, but it did mean reversing out of my drive was tricky sometimes.

Otherwise the cabin is a marvel of comfort and convenience.  I spent two 12 hour days on the road in the V60 and couldn't think of many cars I'd have preferred to be in - and none in the same price range.

It certainly punches above its weight.
Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux seats

On the road and for the moment let's imagine we're in the dark, because winter is upon us soon and most commuters will drive to work in darkness.

Click the lightbulb button on the key fob and the V60 illuminates itself subtly but in all the right places. Pools of light shine down from the wing mirrors so you don't step in a puddle.  Nice touch.

Pull the handle and the interior is again subtly lit, enough so you can see everything you need to see.

Keep the plastic blob/key in your pocket or push it into its slot in the dash and press start.  The diesel engine thrums into life.  Sounds different to any other diesel.  Not so rattly, more meaty.  My son said it sounded like a muscle car.

Whilst not quite accurate he was right in that it sounds aeons better than most diesels.  It's a 2 litre with 136bhp, 258 lb ft of torque and, crucially, 5 cylinders.  It's that extra cylinder that makes the difference in terms of refinement and sound, if not outright power.

0-60mph takes 9.8 seconds and the top speed is 124mph.  If you ever reach that speed it'll feel solid as a rock.

The steering is as good as it could be on a front wheel drive estate.  You can push the car hard until such a point as the front wheels lose some grip and gently understeer.  Right up until that point it has plenty of grip and feels like it might just cock a rear wheel in the air just like a hot hatch.  It is genuinely flingable, for an estate.
Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux

The steering feels nice, has no dead spot and gives good enough feedback.  You can adjust the levels of assistance but medium suits all conditions quite adequately.

The gearbox in the test car was a 6-speed Geartronic automatic - the same unit as in the V40 T5 I tested.  The ratios are sensible and its response is good.  It has semi-auto functionality via the gearstick but could be improved by having steering column mounted paddles.

Response to kickdown could be a tad faster but all in all it's up to the job.

Acceleration isn't exactly the D3's strong point but it is good enough, and you never really want for more, apart from when overtaking.  The wave of torque aids acceleration more noticeably from 30mph upwards, rather than from a standing start.

A diesel turbo with an auto box can suffer hesitance from a standstill whilst the turbo spools up, and the D3 does suffer from this but much less than in other diesel/autos I've driven.

But general talk about the acceleration and steering don't sum up this car's talents adequately.  It is simply one of the best cars I've ever driven, just to spend dreary journeys in.

I had the V60 for a week.  In that time I took it on lots of local trips but I also took it on a full day journey to Norfolk, a decent drive up to Silverstone and a 12 hour day in Devon.  I got stuck on plenty of motorways at crawling speed and did hours and hours in busy but flowing traffic at 70mph.
Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux

The ride is superb.  The controls are easy to use.  The stereo is great.  The cabin is a treat to be in.  The seats are super comfy.  The engine sounds OK and has a decent pull.  It does 40-odd mpg.  And the icing on the cake is the Adaptive Cruise Control.

I could go on about this for hours.  To save you the bother of reading more than a couple of paragraphs you could watch this video I filmed which demonstrates how it works.

You might have cruise control in your car.  You set it, then you fiddle with it, then the traffic ahead slows down so you brake, then it speeds up so you abandon cruise control and don't use it ever again.

Not so with Volvo's ACC.  You set the speed you want then it controls throttle and brakes, according to the speed you set and what the vehicles in front are doing.  It detects cycles, motorbikes and pretty much anything ahead.  It makes dreadful journeys a pleasant experience.  If you come to a standstill it waits four seconds and turns off.  Press the restart button on the steering wheel when the traffic moves and it comes back to life and continues to do everything but steer for you.

And then we come to the headlights.  They're as clear as you could get.  Xenon, they point where you are heading and are as bright as a button.  Select main beam and Volvo's active high beam adjust dips them whenever it sees another car. I drove for hours in this mode and it didn't put a foot wrong.  It shades where there is another car, even when you are driving behind one.

Of course, as with the adaptive cruise control, the driver is the only one who can think and you need to stay aware and manually over-ride whenever it gets in a lather, which neither system did on any occasion.

Official fuel consumption is 57.6mpg.  I got 42.3mpg over the course of a week, with some pretty enthusiastic driving.  I'd say you could possibly achieve in the 50s if driving economically but high 40s would be more realistic.

As mentioned above the V60 D3 R-Design Geartronic is priced to match similar models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, rather than Ford and Vauxhall.  This shift in Volvo's market position has happened since its emancipation from under Ford ownership.

The car cost £33,195 and included several options which whacked the price up to £41,005.  I'd forgo everything except the £1,900 Driver Support Pack (which includes ACC) and Rebel Blue Paint.  Delve  into the complex pricing structure and it is possible to buy a V60 much cheaper.  The base spec Business Edition (terrible name, Volvo) costs £24,330 with the same engine and gearbox.

For roughly £33k you can buy a BMW 318d Touring, Audi A4 2.0 TDI Avant or Mercedes C 200 CDI Estate with similar trim levels.  That's a tough market to crack.  The Volvo holds its head high though, and rates higher than any of them in the most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey.

I liked the V60 enormously and the only flaws were mere niggles.  Highly recommended.

You might also like:

Ford Mondeo TDCI Estate review
Volvo XC90 D5 review
Mercedes C 250 CDI AMG Sport review


Price - £33,195
Engine - 2 litre, 5-cylinder, turbocharged, diesel
Transmission - 6-speed automatic
0-60mph - 9.8 seconds
Top speed - 124 mph
Power - 136 bhp
Torque - 258 lb ft
Economy - 57.6 mpg
CO2 - 129 g/km
Kerb weight - 1661 kg
Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux

Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux

Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux

Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux

Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux

Volvo V60 D3 R-Design Lux

Article by Matt Hubbard