Extended Test: 2019 Volvo V60 T5 Inscription

Can the upmarket petrol estate match diesel SUVs for frugality and practicality?

More Info

Specifications

  • Model 2019 Volvo V60 T5 Inscription
  • Engine 1,969cc, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
  • Power 247bhp @ 5,500rpm
  • Torque 258 Ib ft @ 1,800rpm
  • Transmission 8-speed auto with manual mode, front-wheel drive
  • Kerb weight 1,645kg
  • Towing capacity 1,800kg (braked) / 750kg (unbraked)
  • Top speed 145mph
  • 0-62mph 6.7sec
  • Fuel consumption (NEDC) 41.5mpg (combined)
  • CO2 emissions 157g/km (NEDC)
  • Road tax £515 for first year; £140 for years 2-6 (without options)
  • Dimensions 4,761mm x 1,850mm x 1,433mm
  • Price from £38,270
  • Price with options £45,745
  • Options fitted Metallic paint, £650; Intellisafe Pro Pack, £1,625; Xenium Pack, £1,800; Convenience Pack, £500; Tinted rear windows, £600; Winter Pack, £525; Sensus Connect with Harman Kardon audio, £825; Keyless Drive plus handsfree tailgate operation, £500; Smartphone integration, £300; Space saver spare wheel, £150.

Test details

  • Test period February – August 2019
  • Starting mileage 857 miles

Updates

March 3, 2019: Can a petrol estate car do a better job than a diesel SUV?

Long-term car review 2019 Volvo V60 estate by James Mills for The Sunday Times Driving.co.uk

After running what seemed to me to be the perfect family car, a seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq 4×4 SUV, the worry is that this Volvo V60 estate is on a hiding to nothing. So why choose a car that’s smaller, has fewer seats, lacks four-wheel drive, isn’t as economical yet costs more money?

Well, despite their popularity, SUVs are rarely rewarding to drive. Yes, they give you a good view of the road and some do a fair job of smothering the shocking state of Britain’s roads, but when it comes to the way they make you feel when the road ahead unfolds like a vista of driving nirvana from an episode of The Grand Tour, they’re about as satisfying as a soggy cheese sandwich.

So we’re giving Volvo’s mid-range estate — a rival to the BMW 3-series Touring, Audi A4 Avant, Mercedes C-class estate and suchlike — a try. Might it raise a smile on the right road?

At the same time, the Skoda was diesel but diesel is now considered a dirty word. The car makers will tell us that the toxic damage caused by the latest diesels with all manner of fancy-pants emissions treatment is less impactful than an equivalent petrol-powered car. But can we trust them? After all, that’s what Volkswagen told the world before dieselgate. You can understand the public’s concern.

So the V60 has a petrol engine. It’s called a T5, and is the only petrol unit currently available in the V60 range, complete with an automatic gearbox as standard. It’s powerful and so not especially frugal, but its relatively high consumption can be forgiven if it’s found to drive better than a diesel and the car feels as though it’s solid value for money.

Well, that’s another thing: our test car is kitted out in Inscription trim — the second poshest trim level in the range. Volvo anticipates that it’ll be popular, however, only outsold by R-Design versions.

To this, Volvo had already added a hefty range of options before we could intervene, taking the price from £38,270 to £45,745.

This price hike is worth dwelling on momentarily. By pushing it over £40,000, someone buying this car would face a significant hike in road tax, from the second to sixth years included (up from £140 a year to £450).

There are more affordable versions available but only one costs less than £37,000, so anyone who wants to avoid paying such a penalty in road tax will have to go easy on the options or pay for the privilege.

Setting all that to one side, I defy anyone to deny that the V60 is one of the best looking estate cars on the road. Furthermore, it has one of the most calming interior environments of any estate, too. But is there more to this car’s personality beneath the surface? Time will tell.

March 13, 2019: What are the best options and trim levels for a Volvo V60?

Long-term car review 2019 Volvo V60 estate by James Mills for The Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - interior dashboard

Part of the fun of buying any new car is poring over the options choices, salivating like Mr Creosote at the table of a Michelin-starred French restaurant.

From larger alloy wheels that’ll have your ride rolling down the road looking like it’s straight out of a rap star’s Instagram feed, to paint that has been perfectly matched to a favourite Chanel handbag, the choices are all designed, let’s face it, to entice drivers to spend more money.

Whether you are paying for it with your own hard-earned cash or your employer is stumping up the funds, there’s the opportunity to transform the car into something special. But get it wrong and there’s every chance you’ll end up kicking yourself, each time you open the doors and climb aboard.

So which options should someone choose for a new Volvo V60, the mid-size estate that is here to convince Britain’s motorists that it’s time to turn their backs on German cars and embrace Sweden’s number one export by value?

The V60 on extended test with Driving is in Inscription trim, and powered by the T5 petrol engine. Inscription is the second-most popular trim level chosen by buyers of the V60, says Volvo. And it’s easy to see why. As standard, it comes with a generous level of equipment.

That includes leather upholstery (with Volvo’s signature and rather natty Swedish flag emblem sewn into the sides of the front seats), electrically powered front seats, ‘driftwood’ trim that would be at home in a boutique Cornish hotel, front parking sensors and all manner of soothing illumination throughout the car.

These features are in addition to the entry-level, Momentum trim, highlights of which include cruise control, adjustable driving modes, powered tailgate, rear parking sensors, roof rails — essential for living out fantasies of exploring the great outdoors with the combined enthusiasm of Bear Grylls and Ray Mears — alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, the generous 12-inch touchscreen display, all manner of safety systems and a pair of Isofix mounting points for child seats, on the two outer rear seats. (Volvo offers integrated or independent child seats, with prices staring from £180 for the former, and £240 for the latter.)

Long-term car review 2019 Volvo V60 estate by James Mills for The Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - boot space

As an estate, it’s good to find every V60 comes with a guard to prevent the bumper being scratched — ideal for antique fairs or trips to the tip — a luggage cover, lighting for the boot, underfloor storage, lashing points and a 12-volt power socket. Also, the back seats split 60/40 if folded down, while Volvo added a plastic boot liner to our test car, for £180.

But noticeable for its absence is a boot net to keep luggage safely restrained where it belongs, in the boot, rather than sailing past passengers’ heads as the driver slams on the brakes.

That brings us to our V60’s first option. It’s a Convenience Pack. Yours for £500, it includes power-folding back seats, a 3-pin plug socket (230v) by the back seats, a net storage area by the front seats and a load protection net, which answers my first criticism of this car. Frankly, in any estate car, the latter should be included as standard. Is this pack worth having? Maybe not; if you want a luggage guard, you can order it separately for £85.

Long-term car review 2019 Volvo V60 estate by James Mills for The Sunday Times Driving.co.uk

The next bundle of options fitted to this car is something called an Intellisafe Pro Pack. It includes adaptive cruise control, a driver assistance system called Pilot Assist, a blind-spot alert system and another for helping reduce a rear impact, and mirrors that dim automatically at night. That little lot is £1,625. Personally, I wouldn’t have it, but some drivers who cover high mileage might value the adaptive cruise control and Pilot Assist, which can help prevent a car wandering out of lane.

For the not insignificant sum of £1,800, those that want a panoramic opening sunroof, 360 degree surround view camera system and automated parking system can have it, but once again, I’d save the money. Why? Well, I can park a car perfectly well myself, thanks very much, and over the years more than one engineer has told me how any sunroof or panoramic roof robs a car of its strength in the event of an accident.

Like most drivers, however, I’d agree that the Winter Pack, which includes heated front seats, headlight wash, an electrically heated windscreen and heated windscreen wiper blades, is a luxury worth having on an ice-cold day.

But in an age where vehicle security is back on the agenda, I’d forgo the £500 for the Keyless Drive smart key and tailgate that gives handsfree opening of the car, including the boot lid when you wave your foot under the back bumper.

Audiophiles might insist on the Harman Kardon sound system, which costs £825 together with the Sensus Connect smartphone integration, which also provides online connectivity and a suite of apps. That said, for just £300 you can have phone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a pair of USB ports.

And finally, a compact “spacesaver” spare wheel is, in my view, an essential get-you-home safety feature, and £150 well spent.

Long-term car review 2019 Volvo V60 estate by James Mills for The Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - boot spacesaver spare wheel

The ‘denim blue’ paint is metallic, and a £650 option. Not having posh paint on a car in this price range, and one that looks as good as this, is probably a bad idea.

But what of the ‘blond’ leather upholstery? My initial instinct was that it looks lovely, and helps create a calming environment that’s uniquely Volvo. But then I thought of our three children, and how they have the ability to transform anything from clean to filthy in the time it takes the driver to turn around and ask, “Has everyone got their seatbelt on?”.

So far, the light shade of leather trim is proving surprisingly resistant to dirt. But the same can’t be said of the plastic trim around all the door sills, which shows up mud and scuffs in a quite glaring fashion, even after being wiped clean when washing the car.

Long-term car review 2019 Volvo V60 estate by James Mills for The Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - boot spacesaver spare wheel

Still, it’s a small price to pay for feeling as though you’re in your own Scandinavian space capsule.

April 17, 2019: Is the Volvo V6 T5 good at long journeys?

Long-term car review 2019 Volvo V60 estate by James Mills for The Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - Silverstone pitlane

Not all drivers want a car to feel sporty, whatever that all too overused term means. More often than not, comfort, connectivity and safety are at the top of any car buyer’s wish list. Which begs the question: does the Volvo V60 T5 make a comfortable cruiser?

Is it a car that somehow seems to shrink long distance drives, offers seats fit for a king or queen and syncs with a smartphone without a glitch?

The simplest way to find out is put it to the test. And at 5am one morning, that’s exactly what I did, firing up the engine, punching Silverstone Circuit into the sat nav, 130 miles away, and setting off into the still dark morning.

The first button I hit is for the driver’s heated seat. I say button, I mean icon on the V60’s portrait oriented, nine-inch touchscreen. The heated seats aren’t standard with Inscription trim, and came as part of the car’s optional Winter pack.

Next comes the heating, nudged up to warm away the morning chill. Then it’s the turn of the driving mode, a neatly styled, physical barrel that you spin and push to cycle through the car’s choice of four operating modes – Eco, Comfort, Dynamic and Individual. On a long drive, I tend to opt for Eco, as it reduces the effect of the air conditioning, which helps prevent eyes from drying out, while also easing the car’s fuel economy into a slightly more respectable zone – almost 31mpg, to date.

The leather upholstery is some of the softest stuff you’ll find this side of a roll of Andrex. Somehow this makes it warmer to the touch, while the seats themselves are amongst the best of any car out there supporting all the right areas, including the tops of your shoulders and back of your head – a rare occurrence.

There are memory settings (a choice of two) for the electrically powered front seats, and you can electrically adjust the lumbar support in three directions, or move the leading edge of the seat base to provide more support beneath your thighs.

As the weather starts to improve, the panoramic glass roof (part of the optional Xenium pack) is providing more open-air motoring, and the wind deflector does a good job of preventing any turbulence, so your head never feels as though it’s about to be sucked off your shoulders.

More significantly, the design and layout of the interior and driver’s environment is as calming as a natural yoga session in the middle of a forest (yes, it’s a thing). I like that Volvo is wisely playing on its Scandinavian roots and working with materials that are distinct to the brand.

The 2-litre, turbocharged is as good as silent. Even when sliding the lever for the automatic gearbox into the self-shifting mode, and working the engine hard out of the collection of roundabouts that lead toward Silverstone, it barely any louder than a dose of snowfall in Sweden. Meanwhile, the car’s get up and go is pretty effortless.

I still think there’s room for improvement with the ride comfort. The 45-section Pirelli tyres and springs don’t quite smother the road surface in the way you’d like from a Volvo, but then again, it’s no more jarring than any German rival. And the sat nav screen is scaled by pinching it, which I’m not a fan off; a plus/minus adjustment is more effective.

By the end of a day’s work, and on the return 130 leg of my journey, with rush hour traffic to contend with on both the M1 and M25, I was pleased to be travelling by Volvo.

Quiet, brisk and comfortable, it shrugs off such distances with ease.

 

May 22, 2019: How spacious is the boot of the Volvo V60 estate?

To answer how spacious the boot of the 2019 Volvo V60 is, I could share a number – 529. That’s how many litres its capacity has been measured at. But what does that mean?

Well, it’s slightly more capacity than you’d find in the back of an Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring or Mercedes C-Class, which are down by 24, 34 and 39 litres respectively. Which is good to know but that still doesn’t really help give an idea of how much ‘stuff’ can be loaded inside.

I’ve been living with a V60 for four months now, and it’s clear that it’s a practical car. Families can let out a small but significant sight of relief, because the days of mid-size estate cars being laughably small are over.

Allow my dogs to demonstrate. We have Merlin, a Labrador, and Bear, a Cockapoo, and the pair of them have space to spare when stretched out in the boot. It means you don’t feel bad about adding some soft bags and suchlike. The bumper and boot floor are pretty low, too, so they have no problem with jumping in or out.

What’s disappointing for any estate, and more so a Volvo – a company trades on its reputation in this area – is that the extendable luggage cover has no restraining net built into it and has a solid flap that sits proud of the main mechanism, eating into boot space. Moreover, if you fold down the back seats, the luggage cover has to be removed and laid in the boot or left at home, because it doesn’t latch on to the backs of the seats as these things do in the best estate cars.

That last point is important. Say you wanted to load some mountain bikes or furniture, or liberate the home from clutter and visit the local tip. Estate cars that have a parcel shelf with an integrated luggage restraint net and can be attached to the backs of the seats allow the front of the cabin to be partitioned off from all the clobber in the boot.

Volvo attempts to solve this in one of two ways. There’s an optional Convenience Pack, which includes a load protection net (along with power-folding back seats, a 3-pin plug socket (230v) and a net storage area by the front seats). But it’s £500. If you want a simple luggage guard, you can order one separately for £85.

The back seats split and fold 40/60, which is handy. I dropped the larger portion and loaded in an adult’s mountain bike, with the front wheel removed, and a child’s mountain bike, again with its front wheel removed, and they fitted perfectly in the boot.

So, despite a couple of grumbles, for a busy family of five the V60 is meeting our needs when it comes to the race for space. The bonus is it’s one of the most handsome estates on the road, with one of the most pleasurable interiors. Little wonder it’s a hit with all the Mills clan.

Thinking of buying a Volvo V60? Or do you already own one? Share your experiences in the comments below, or drop Millsy a tweet.