In automotive terms, we here at the Bulmer household pride ourselves on being an equal opportunity employer. By that I mean we hold no prejudice for automotive ethnicity. Germans, Japanese, Aussies (an endangered species, granted), Koreans, and obviously Scandinavians; we welcome them all. Vehicular biodiversity, if I can put it that way, is embraced.
So, back in 2010 , when plucky Saab, under the misguided stewardship of General Motors, finally sank through an automotive ice hole, it left Volvo as the sole flag-bearer for Sweden, under the protective wing of Chinese giant Geely. That ‘last-Swede-standing’ status makes me feel slightly protective towards Volvo, and Swedes in general, to the point I regularly give my old Roxette cassettes a good cranking and insist my young daughters master the art of assembling their own bedroom furniture.
I’d also hoped that a decent stint in Volvo’s mid-size sports wagon could shift my feelings from simple optimism for the company’s prosperity to genuine admiration for the product.
So where does that leave me after six months? I’d put the V60 at the upper end of a pass mark, but short of a distinction.
Let’s recap the car’s strengths and the elements in which it managed to endear itself. First up, I liked the exterior styling – its distinctive Volvo signatures, the bonnet line that falls away towards the nose to avoid being too blocky, the solid four-square stance and flared waistline. Inside, the soft, fragrant leather welcomed, and my daughters – who are always impeccably behaved, and quiet as church mice, provided, of course, they’re bound and gagged – appreciated the integrated booster seats. Up front there was a lot to like about the Swedish sense of design aesthetic, though this often didn’t translate into ergonomic or operational sensibility. At least the seat’s memory positions for two drivers was appreciated, given the height disparity between The Good Wife and myself. A one-button press to raise her to the prescribed height quickly allowed her optimum vision of the road ahead, and also helped the cabin acoustics better reflect her dulcet tones as she sang along sweetly to her Enya CDs.
But then there was the packaging issue. You’ll know by now that the Bulmer clan has yet to learn the art of travelling light – Sherpas have been known to see us coming and turn tail, shouting, “No boss! Load too big! Yak will break!” So as a family we often found the V60 – especially having transitioned from the capacious Mercedes ML wagon – a little on the tight side.
Once we were on the open road, the V60’s decent body control was always appreciated; it’s just a shame it came at a cost in terms of the car’s ride compliance around town. The thumping and jarring at urban speeds was not a compromise that I ever grew to willingly accept.
Then there’s the powertrain, promising diesel efficiency further improved by the ‘Drive-E’ technology suite of fuel-saving features. Good in theory, but four-cylinder diesels have made massive leaps in the last few years and Volvo’s 2.0-litre falls short by comparison. It sounds and feels a little old-school in its grumbly idle and gruff mid-range under full throttle, though the performance was never anything less than pleasing. Still, the new-generation twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel (165kW/470Nm) fitted to the new XC90 is positively gagging for a home in the V60.
Speaking of the Volvo XC90, a recent quick spin in this all-new (and wholly developed under Geely’s control) model shows exactly what Volvo is now able to deliver. Rather than chase sporty dynamics, this large SUV features beautiful interior detailing, clever packaging and a relaxed driving experience. Our V60 was a loyal family friend, and the future is clearly bright for Volvo.
Click here to find out more about the Volvo V60.
This article was originally published in Wheels November 2015.