The automotive landscape has changed greatly in the more than 20 years since TWR-built Volvo 850R wagons two-wheel’d their way into banishment from BTCC competition. In the years since, much of the western world has turned its back on the five door family hauler, filling the void left behind with SUVs and so-called Crossovers, which may be good at some things, but aren’t particularly great at any one thing. These same consumers have also turned their back on colors of the ROYGBIV variety in favor of black, grey and silver. These changes have left cars like our V60 tester in an interesting position.
At the time of writing, Volvo’s V60 T6 R-Design stands alone in the new car marketplace. Audi won’t sell an Avant version of it’s S4 in the States, Cadillac made their CTS V announcement without any mention of a 5 door, and although BMW has changed their nomenclature from Touring to Sports Wagon, their hottest offering gives up nearly 100 horsepower to the Volvo. The only real competition that comes to mind is Polestar’s version of the same car. So with all that said, Volvo either has its work cut out to find V60 buyers, or the car should be an extremely easy sell.
Five years into the current body shape and one full year removed from a fairly major styling update, the V60 remains a very attractive car. As design is one of the Swede’s many strengths, our Passion Red R-Design tester was more than capable of turning heads throughout the week it spent in our possession. The only (minor) complaint that we had is that it would greatly benefit from a slightly lower ride height. Luckily, this is on the shortlist for our upcoming project car.
Open the door, and those familiar with any Premier Automotive Group-era Volvo will immediately feel at home. Controls and layout are largely unchanged, and to be honest, that’s not a bad thing. The key interior tweaks are almost entirely of the electronic variety, as part of Volvo’s 2015.5 update; namely the implementation of SENSUS Connect MMI Structure, SENSUS Navigation with Mapcare and a very cool frameless rear view mirror. As you’d expect, the brand's new deeply bolstered sport seats (the same ones you'd find inside a Polestar S/V60) trimmed in leather offered an otherworldly level of comfort. Even the headrests are worth mentioning, easily giving the pillows in my bed a run for their money.
Power is routed to all four wheels through a 6-speed automatic gearbox with dedicated Sport mode and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. While shifts from the paddles are not exactly what I’d consider quick, moving the gear selector to Sport gets things headed in the right direction as throttle input is sharpened, but more importantly, shift points are raised while remaining variable. This means that you can comfortably keep the car in sport mode and not be subjected to pointless, maddening revs while just putting along like in many other cars. It’s likely the best sport mode I’ve experienced thus far regardless of make.
To further the success of the V60 T6’s Sport mode, a 325hp Twin-Scroll Turbocharged six rests underhood, which is good enough to propel the roughly 4000lb wagon to 60mph in just 5 seconds flat. In typical Volvo fashion, acceleration is completely drama free coming as more of a crescendo than a surge, resulting in extra-legal velocities if you don’t keep a watchful eye on the speedo.
The chassis is extremely compliant on the roughest of surfaces, which is a good thing for the majority of driving situations. For those instances when the tarmac smooths out and the bends are frequent, the car can seem a bit soft. It’s in these situations where the V60 T6 R-Design is outpaced by the more traditional sports sedan offerings from ze Germans. A tad quicker on turn in and a slightly firmer suspension, and Volvo would have the boys from Munch and Ingolstadt rethinking things a bit.
If we were to spec the car ourselves, we’d have checked the boxes for the Convenience and Technology Packages, equipping the car with a rear parking camera, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning among other convenience options. You could certainly drive the car without any of the above features, but for $50k, you’d expect a few of these conveniences to be installed. If you don’t feel like picking these options individually, opt for the higher-spec Platinum trim V60 and all of these options will be included.
The other key gripe that we had with the car was the electronic defroster in the windshield, comprised of tiny coils running vertically down the glass. It works brilliantly, but it’s also one of those things that once seen you can’t un-see, making itself even more present at night or during periods of fog. For a country that experiences so many hours of darkness each winter, you’d think they would have omitted it, or simply come up with a better design.
While the V60 is not without it’s flaws, it delivers a driving experience and comfort level that is unmatched in its extremely small segment. The R-Design has all the makings of a car that will help to attract the new owners that Volvo desperately needs, and the looks to bring customers into dealerships. In that, we think the V60 T6 R-Design is a home run.