25 Nov 2013

Volvo V60 R-Design DrivE Long Term Review

Richard Eaton reviews his own Volvo V60 R-Design DrivE

Have you ever seen a Volvo looking so sporty? Courtesy of JJP Automotive Photography
Image courtesy of JJP Automotive Photography
As a petrolhead with a list of previous cars including Lotus', numerous GTI's, Saab Turbo's, Impreza Turbo's etc etc then 5 years ago if you'd said I'd be a Volvo estate owner I'd have thought you were mad. In the words of Dudley Moore in the movie Crazy People I'd always viewed Volvo's as "boxy but good". I've also always hated diesel engines and think they should only be destined for tractors and Land Rovers. So how come 18 months ago I collected a brand new Volvo V60 R-Design, and whisper this next bit, the eco friendly 1.6 diesel DrivE version...

My previous car was a Saab 9-3 2.8 V6 Turbo Sportwagon. Owning a dog and having 2 young children meant that a 2 seater sports car or a 3 door hot hatch wasn't really practical any more. If I was going to have to compomise and have a sensible estate car then it was going to have over 250bhp :) The Saab fitted the bill and reminded me why big turbos are great, and the capacity of the engine meant no lag issues either. 

It also reminded me how thirsty a big turbo car can be when driven enthusiastically which isn't much fun with current fuel prices. At the same time I was thinking about this, we were planning to be living abroad for 3 months in central Europe that involved a 3000 mile round trip and lots of travel while out there. I started looking around for a new car that would have friendlier fuel bills and of course everything that got headline grabbing MPG figures was a) diesel and b) pretty new. 

This got me looking at personal leasing and I spotted a silly deal on Volvo V60s. The great thing was that it was a short lease of just 18 months and was for the sporty R-Design version. The only downside was that it was the eco version with a paltry 115bhp :( 

I really liked the looks of the R Design version and after spending some time poking around them I arranged a test drive to see if I could live with the engine and the huge drop in power. With my sensible head on I decided that I could, and then spent a couple of weeks deciding on exactly what I wanted.

The first thing to decide was colour. I've always had a thing for black cars as nothing can beat the shine you get from a freshly polished black car. The downside of course is keeping them clean. As my previous 4 cars had been black I quite fancied a change. In the end I shortlisted black, white, and red. 

Black was good for all my previous reasons but the trim contrasts around the front of the car and diffuser were lost. White really suited it, especially with the dark wheels, and I've never actually owned a white car. Again though, the contrast was lost with the silver wing mirrors and silver trim elsewhere. 

In the end I went for red as both the black and silver constrasting trim worked really well. Then it was on to the options list where I went for what I considered was the absolute minimum. These were parking sensors, upgraded audio system, and privacy glass. I went for parking sensors as my last couple of cars had them and I'd got used to them. I also knew I'd never forgive myself if I did manage to reverse into something by not having them! 

I did find the lack of them as standard as a strange ommision on a premium car though. The next thing was the upgraded audio that I went for.  Not really for the upgraded speakers/amp etc (which really is stunning by the way) but for the bluetooth handsfree phone integration. Again, a surprising omission on a new car these days. Finally I went for the privacy glass as I knew we'd be spending 3 months abroad in 30 degrees and I wanted to minimise the heat for my children and dog. It also looks fantastic and transforms the look of the car and compliments the dark wheels as Volvo's privacy glass is "proper" limo black. That was it, Volvo ordered...

Fast forward 3 months (I'll spare you the delivery delay story due to the company that delivers all cars to Volvo dealers going bust!) and I went to collect my shiny new car. As soon as I saw it I knew I'd made the right choices of colour and spec, it really did look fantastic.
My first view of my V60 when collecting
Even now I still think it's a great looking car and still fairly rare on motorways full of A4s and 3 series. There are some lovely lines on it, especially with the raked rear profile and swage line that runs right from the front to the rear. This gets more and more pronounced towards the rear of the car where the rear lights emphasise this even more.

The rear or rear 3/4 are the best angles of the car in my opinion as it's very different to any other car out there. The R-Design's rear diffuser and large chromed exhausts (one placed at each side of the diffuser) help to make this work even more. The front end is decent with a purposeful look but is a little safe and nose heavy in comparison to the rest of the car.
I think the rear 3/4 is the best view
So now I'm about to give the V60 back to the leasing company what do I think after clocking up 16,000 miles over 18 months?


It's the R Design so has lowered sports suspension and 18" wheels. Having driven a non-R Design S60 I noticed that this setup is noticeably stiffer and definitely less prone to body roll through corners. It is a fairly hard suspension setup but not uncomfortably so. 

The great build quality and sound proofing shields you from any harshness or jarring too. The turn into my steep driveway is my quick test for a decent handling stiff chassis. At low speeds as you turn into it a well sorted chassis cocks the rear inside wheel. The V60 passes this test :) 

Out on the road it feels planted with lots of front end grip, well weighted steering, and decent feel for this type of car. The heavy diesel engine becomes apparent though when really pushing on through sharper corners and the overall lack of power leaves it wanting when you really want some fun. 

To get the most of it off the line then it needs some revs so it's on turbo when you dump the clutch, otherwise nothing really happens until the turbo spins up which is disappointing. In day to day driving it's actually pretty usable for most situations though and doesn't feel too slow to make sensible progress. I simply adjusted my driving style and where previously I'd have quickly and safety overtaken a car I now stay behind until a larger safer gap appears.


This is where the V60 really excels. As mentioned previously, I drove across Europe to the Czech Republic which was over 1500 miles that I covered in 2.5 days. Even covering that sort of mileage in a short space of time I never had a single ache, pain, or complaint. The seats are that good that even after driving all day I could have quite happily got back in the car and done it again. 

A combination of cruise control, a comfortable motorway ride, decent visibility, quiet cabin, and excellent audio system meant that I was completely relaxed and the miles and time just flew by. The car's interior is also a really nice place to be and pleasing on the eye. It's simple enough not to be fussy but interesting enough not to be bland. The R Design adds lots of chrome that spices things up nicely and everything feels decent to the touch and is great quality. 

It's got a good sized colour screen in the centre of the console that is modern looking, clear and readable. This is used to display most information like settings, radio, parking sensors, and works well. There are some other nice touches that have been really well thought about that you only appreciate when living the car for a while. One such thing is the front passenger seat that folds completely flat. 

When out in Czech I was refurbishing an apartment and this was great for moving large long pieces of wood. Otherwise these wouldn't have fitted in the car or any other cars of this size. I also found the ski hatch to be useful as I sometimes give presentations and the folded projector screen fits perfectly through this. As for the boot itself then it's not huge like the big old square Volvos of the past. The boot is still big enough for a practical family car but the styling obviously takes it's toll and sacrifices some boot space.
A rather full boot when about to board a ferry across the channel

Even my dog loves the interior

So what's bad about it?

Not much to be honest. I wasn't a fan of the electronic parking brake to start with as I was never sure which way was on or off. After a couple of weeks you soon get used to it though. To some people the ability to use its auto-disengage for easy hill starts is probably a great feature too. The only other niggle is the real life MPG figures compared to the quoted ones. Volvo quote 62 MPG but I always hover around the 50 MPG mark. I have a short 10 mile mainly motorway commute to the office and only get 48 MPG on this trip which is no doubt down to the cold start. On my euro trip then even fully laden (and I mean fully laden!) with cruise set at 70mph I averaged 52 MPG which I was pretty impressed with. I've never managed much more than that though so always take the official figures with a pinch of salt.

So, 18 months on I still think it's a fantastic car and I'll actually be sorry to see it go later this week. Even though the V60 has just had a minor facelift it is still a lovely looking, practical family car. It's great to drive, has excellent build quality, and yes I'd have another one. I guess that's as good as a recommendation for a car as you can get.

Still looking great 18 months on