AFTER seeing my boxer hound, Hobbes, hit his head on the top of the boot aperture of the Volvo V60 T5, I was quick to remind him that the Swedish manufacturer used creative licence when placing the letter V, usually denoting “versatile”, on the estate version of its S60 range. I was about to explain that this Swedish company again broke its own rules by recently launching the distinctly hatch-like V40, but the sight of a squirrel darting up a nearby tree rudely interrupted our conversation.

It was this very un-Volvo-like “compromised” versatility that resulted in the Volvo V60 T5 grabbing many of the headlines at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. With its pinched rear-end and swooping shoulder lines, Volvo made it clear it wanted the V60 to be referred to as a sport wagon. From early on in the design process, the plan was to make the car appear as coupé-like as possible.

Although the resultant luggage space (320 dm3) is smaller than most of the V60’s German rivals, it was only my clumsy boxer who found the area (specifically the low roofline) compromised during the 12 months that I spent with Volvo’s wagon. Adding to Hobbes’s transportation woes was the fact that extra care was needed not to scratch the unprotected colour-coded lip of the luggage area while jumping in and out. This same caution was required while packing luggage for the handful of weekend getaways during which the V60 was used in its 12-month stay at CAR.

Having already accumulated more than 6 000 km of hard mileage prior to joining our long-term fleet, I was pleasantly surprised at just how well the interior fit and finish of this Flamenco Red V60 held up. Even when the time came to return the keys 20 000 km later, there was little to complain about in this regard. The leather-upholstered seats proved extremely com-fortable throughout the year, with the memory function on the electrically adjustable driver’s pew coming in handy after other members of the CAR team used the car. Although rear-passenger legroom is slightly tight (partially due to the bulkiness of the front seats), overall comfort levels remained high even on longer journeys.

The Volvo V60 T5 lacks very little in terms of standard specification and, aside from a too-small display screen (relative to the rest of the controls), all other functions, including climate control, audio (including Bluetooth) and cruise control are simple to understand and easy to use. I did, however, note that the area around the controls on the multi-function steering wheel got warmer the longer the journey continued.

I look forward to seeing how Volvo has evolved its instrumentation layout, look and feel for use in the forthcoming V40 (see our driving impression in last month’s issue), as this is one of the areas in which the V60 loses ground to its more modern rivals with their interactive, full-colour displays.

Volvo has adopted further creative licence in the nomen-clature department. Previously, a T5 badge on the back of a Volvo hinted at the fitment of the company’s potent 2,5-litre five-cylinder engine. In recent models, including this T5, a Ford Ecoboost-based turbocharged 2,0-litre four-cylinder engine with 177 kW and 320 N.m of torque has been called upon. Mated with a Powershift six-speed dual-clutch transmission, I was fairly impressed with the performance of this engine … until I sampled the same powerplant, this time with a normal automatic ‘box, in the Range Rover Evoque. Somehow, if felt as though there was more punch available in Evoque application. My suspicions were confirmed after I compared CAR test acceleration figures for both vehicles. The heavier (by some 200 kg) Rangie boasted not only comparable and, in some instances, quicker overtaking-acceleration times, but also sprinted from zero to 100 km/h faster than the V60.

This performance anomaly aside, the T5 performed fault-lessly throughout the year and, although I struggled to match Volvo’s claimed combined fuel-consumption figure of 8,3 litres/100 km (achieving an average well into 10,0 litres/100 km on most tanks), the V60 proved to be as accomplished on my daily commute as it was on the open road. The only bugbear was that the steering is slightly heavier than expected for a vehicle this size, something
on which a number of CAR testers agreed.

I mentioned my average fuel consumption to CMH Volvo Cape Town when booking in the car for its 20 000 km service and was informed upon collection the next morning that the vehicle’s ECU had been upgraded as a possible solution. I was also asked to return the car to the dealership (once the relevant parts had arrived) to comply with a cam cover-related recall that had been issued for this model. The day before this scheduled work was to be carried out, and almost as an act of defiance on the part of the Volvo, I discovered it parked in a puddle of antifreeze-coloured water. About 90 minutes later, the V60 was on its way to the dealership, safely loaded on the back of an AA flatbed (a service included in the warranty). With the recall work complete and a brand new radiator hose fitted, the car was ready for collection the following day. My fuel index remained the same for the rest of the review and averaged out at 10,7 litres/100 km.

This wouldn’t be a Volvo report if we didn’t mention the standard safety equipment within the V60 T5 Essential. Aside from a full complement of airbags and Isofix anchorage points, all V60s are fitted with Volvo’s impressive City Safety accident-avoidance system. While I’ll give this autonomous braking system (active at speeds below 35 km/h)
credit for reacting faster than me in one traffic-related instance, I have to admit to some embarrassment after City Safety ground the V60 to a halt short of a harmless parking boom while a startled parking attendant waited to hand me my ticket.

Test Summary

Gone are the days when boxy station wagons catered strictly for weekly school runs and Brady Bunch-style family road trips. The Volvo V60 T5 forms part of a new breed of wagon-shaped vehicle. Similar to the Audi A3 Sportback, these cars are aimed at buyers who don’t necessarily require additional boot space over the equivalent saloon or hatchback variant, but instead enjoy the versatility, practicality and, importantly, distinct styling cues of an extended roofline.

While the V60 shows signs of ageing faster than Volvo would like, particularly in areas of power-train efficiency and infotainment technologies, it remains a comfortable, refined, good value and safe purchase.