I’ve long had a soft spot for Volvos, especially its estates. A few years ago, I came close to buying a fully restored Amazon estate, before realising that I’d probably hardly ever use it, so I’ve never been the custodian of my own load-lugging Swede (conveniently ignoring the fact that Volvo is now Chinese-owned). However, I have previously run a couple of Volvo long-termers for Diesel Car – a V70 and a V40. I wanted to love them both but couldn’t, because they had a few too many minor irritations, fundamentally good though they were.
Since I ran the V40 four years ago, Volvo has been going through something of a renaissance, with owner Geely happy to let the Swedes get on and create great cars without massive interference. It’s a strategy that’s working, as Volvo now has one of the most appealing ranges of cars with some of the nicest designs. The latest V60 is a case in point; of the various new models that I got behind the wheel of last year, this stylish estate was one of my favourites.
At the start of the year I booked a week in Scotland, to explore the Highlands, Mull and Skye. When everything was set up I was going to be taking Diesel Car’s Dacia Duster, but when the Volvo became ready early, the Dacia was handed over to a colleague and I ended up heading north in the V60 instead. I have to confess that I didn’t feel too cheated by the last-minute switch.
The new (red) V60 D3 R-Design Pro was a replacement for the white V60 D4 Inscription that Sue Baker had been running for a few months. The idea was to compare them more directly, but in the event I didn’t get the chance to sample the D4 before it went back. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; certainly the D3 doesn’t lack power, so the extra urge of a D4 doesn’t seem especially necessary. However, I would like to try a V60 with a regular suspension set-up as I think perhaps my biggest bugbear with the car so far is its firm ride. All V60s come with 18-inch wheels as standard (apart from R-Design Pro, Inscription Pro and the new Polestar Engineered models which get 19-inch rims), and standard suspension, but the R-Design sits lower and everything is stiffened up, which does the ride no favours.
However, the R-Design equipment pack looks fabulous, especially in the Fusion Red of our test car – this metallic finish is one of the few extras fitted, along with a space saver spare wheel and jack which adds £150 to the purchase cost. The other two other options are smartphone integration for £300 (which brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) plus the £1,625 Intellisafe Pro pack, which adds a raft of driver assistance systems which we’ll report on later.
The V60 had something of a baptism of fire, because soon after it arrived it whisked me plus all of my walking and cycling kit up to Scotland for my week-long 1,200-mile excursion. The load bay was full of rucksacks, bags, camera equipment, a pushbike, laptop and more. Because the rear seats fold flat it was simplicity itself to just treat the car as a two-seater with a huge boot for the entire trip.
One of the most interesting things about the trip was how many 19-plate Vauxhalls, Kias, Peugeots and Renaults there were, being driven around the roads of Mull and Skye. Virtually all of them were painted in dreary colours and were low-spec models because they were from hire fleets. In such company the Volvo really cuts a dash, looking genuinely special. Compared with all of its rivals, such as the A4, 3 Series, XE and C-Class, the Volvo looks much more distinctive and more desirable too. So far the beauty appears to be rather more than skin deep, so I’m really looking forward to finding out over the next six months whether all of those annoying little niggles that my previous long-term Volvos suffered from have been eradicated.
Date arrived 12th April 2019
Fuel economy 45.6-51.4mpg (combined) 45.4mpg (on test)
The red paint is an extra-cost option, but it really makes the car stand out in a sea of grey, silver and black cars. It’s worth every penny of the £675 cost.
The R-Design’s stance and body kit improves the looks, but the stiffer suspension with limited travel produces a hard ride.