Testdriving the 2012 range of Volvo cars and SUVs available …

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VOLVO V60 Plug-In Hybrid – 2.4 D6 AWD Geartronic

Volvo evolved: driving the 2012 range of more frugal Volvos

Thursday, 11 August 2011 12:17 PM

The Volvo C30 touring car by tuners Polestar. It s as quick as it looks and it looks wild n wicked! Unfortunately we re not driving one of these today, but there is 300bhp of Polestar fun to come.

There’s been some mpg-belt-tightening for fleet-buyer-flirting over at Volvo, with their frugality-focused DRIVe lower CO2 and improved economy diesel engines coming to the range; complete with start/stop technology. Good news for number-crunching fleet managers, and thrifty families.

There’s also been some over- and under-body sharpening with the recent launch of the eye-catching and apex-shaving R-Design upgrades and, most mouth-watering of all, a beast unleashed in the shape of the snorty, 329bhp V60 T6 Polestar. Good news for fashion followers and thrill seekers too then.

So, with Volvos evolving in all the right directions we thought it best to get behind the steering wheels of some of the 2012 model range cars that’ll be ready to buy from dealers in September. From the S60 saloon, the XC60 SUV and, of course, that pulsing V60 Polestar estate

Test drive: Volvo S60 D5 R-Design; £29,750

You’d have to be wearing some seriously dark sunglasses to miss this Passion Red S60 R-Design it’s sharp, stylish and athletic-looking with its pinched and aero front-end, chiselled 5-spoke 18-inch Ixion alloys, and high, stocky shoulder line. The S60 certainly wears its vibrant red R-Design suit well.

A tug on the driver’s door handle reveals a nicely snicky handle mechanism and a reassuring heft to the door itself. And that’s probably what we’d expect from a manufacturer that’s built a reputation for solid and safe cars. But Volvo would like to sprinkle a little dynamism into the safe ‘n’ solid recipe spicing things up a little.

And the R-Design bodywork and firmer and lower chassis tweaks are a good start.

Into the interior and I’m greeted by the height of Swedish restraint and understatement. Everything is cleanly laid out and there’s a nicely uncluttered feel to the spacious and airy cabin. Volvo are targeting extra fleet sales the more buoyant side of the new car market right now, with retail rather flat — with their eco- and trim-tweaks to the 2012 range, and fleet buyers are a well-travelled, discerning bunch who, with company car tax in mind, will be looking for as much comfort and convenience trim as they can get for the price point.

And a reasonable turn of speed but without a too high CO2 tailpipe price.

Top marks go to the S60 for it cosseting comfort. The more sports-flavoured seats offered near-perfect support all the way up my back, finishing with my head rested comfortably against the soft and sculpted headrest. But best of all was the steering wheel adjustment, and this was the most wide-reaching of any of the many new cars I’ve tested recently.

With my seat where I wanted it to be a long way back for these long legs — a tug and tilt bought the steering wheel very comfortably close to my chest for a really in-control driving position. I know it sounds like a small point, but consider it after 300 miles behind a steering wheel that you just can’t seem to position just right. And a great driving position only encourages a great driving experience.

The 5-cylinder, 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engine up front in the S60 makes 215PS (nearly 215bhp) and 440nm of torque from just 1500rpm in the rev range. Decent torque nice and early, basically. On the road that torque matched to an easy-going 6-speed manual means quick and fun, yet quite frugal motoring is instantly accessible.

I say accessible because the S60 feels immediately easy and friendly to drive.

Economy-wise and this S60 returns respectable figures; 124g/km of CO2 and 60.1mpg on the combined cycle. Certainly in the right ballpark, but automatic gearbox beware — the robotic shifter adds 30g/km to the CO2 tally and takes a much bigger slurp from the fuel tank, down to 47.9mpg.

The 215PS engine and 6-speed manual gearbox work well together (60mph comes in a spritely 7.2secs) while a pleasantly firm and flat ride which manages not to jar overtly over bigger road imperfections underlines the potential mile munching capabilities of this exec’s cruiser.

So, this Volvo S60 D5 R-Design looks good, goes well, comes with excellent comfort and a respectable spec; and now with the right frugality figures in the right places. Fleet buyers looking to step away from the German-average should take a look.

Test drive: Volvo XC60 D3 DRIVe SE Lux Premium; £34,450

This XC60 D3 DRIVe is an interesting proposition indeed all the solidly handsome looks of the popular XC “cross country” cars but with more fuel-friendly front-wheel drive and the latest diesel-frugal DRIVe tech, complete with Start/Stop. Now it appears that you can have your Volvo SUV cake and eat it!

The “Volvo look” that we’re happily used by now sculpted and high-shouldered; chunky but not too (dare I even say it!) boxy — remains to be seen (and enjoyed) with the XC range, and this Scandinavian compact SUV nestles in a quietly confident fashion amongst some other more shout-about-it soft-roaders.

At nearly £35k (plus nearly £4k in options on this test car) for what Volvo describe as their “most luxurious variant” we’ll be expecting some interior wow factor from our XC60 SE Lux Premium interior. Like the exterior there’s a calm quality inside.

The beige leather in this car doesn’t sound like it’ll set the heart beating but I don’t think that’s something Volvo set out to do, and climbing into the driver’s seat it’s more a case of “ahhh” than “ohhh”.

Soft, classy and well-stitched leather, solid and very nicely fitted wherever you look; a clean, airy and uncluttered space and plenty of it greeted me inside this XC.

Again there’s the most comfort-encouraging adjustment to seat and steering wheel that I’ve found in any brand of car, and once everything was clicked into place I started out on this road test in a peaceful frame of mind.

A chunky gear knob controls a nicely positive 6-speed manual gearbox hooked up to a 163PS, 5-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, powering just the front wheels. The foot controls feel progressive and easy and the engine pulls well enough to roll the big XC along without too much aural drama, and all the while feeling safe, secure and comfortable.

This easy-going performance is quoted to return 49.6mpg with this manual transmission and 41.5mpg with the auto; combined economy, while the manual car attracts a reasonable £130 per year in road tax due to a CO2 production of 149g/km.

Braking and cornering is composed and quite flat for a car with long-travel suspension and a relatively high centre of gravity, but this does return quite a stiffness in compliance when tackling ragged potholes. However, I found most of my cruising in the XC pleasantly refined, and that commanding driving position would soon be missed with the keys returned.

Test drive: Volvo XC60 D5 AWD SE Lux; £35,900

Same model, different engine. Perhaps the more usual transmission for an off-road-intended XC, with all-wheel drive and a bigger, 5-cylinder 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engine making 215PS and powering a 6-speed automatic gearbox.

AWD XC can fling the mud, should the mood take us.

This XC wears its Ice White paint very well, managing to look cool and classy where some SUVs sporting white bodywork can look a little too “hip hop video”. The quietly stylish 18-inch Zephyrus alloys also avoid any OTT pretentions.

At £35,900, plus over £4k in options one of them being £1,485 for the Geartronic automatic suspension we’re getting the same smoothly luxurious inner space for five full-size passengers and a big enough boot to match the competition.

VOLVO V60 Plug-In Hybrid – 2.4 D6 AWD Geartronic

On the road and the extra power and torque comes across well but not in such abundance to shame the 163PS XC. If you’re XC intends to tackle some rough stuff then you’ll indeed look to this all-wheel driver, but if tarmac is always your playground then the extra economy and lower road tax and insurance costs of the 2WD will probably make a lot of sense.

With the less efficient automatic gearbox which partners this type of more relaxing driving style nicely, by the way — you’ll be paying a fair premium extra in terms of CO2 output, at 179g/km meaning £315 per year in road tax, as well as seeing a less heart-warming combined economy figure of 41.5mpg. The XC60 D5 AWD with a 6-speed manual gearbox returns 50.4mpg in comparison. You takes your transmission choice.

Test drive: Volvo V60 T6 Polestar AWD R-Design; £36,285

“The most powerful Volvo ever”, says the large graphic along both sides of the Ice White V60 T6 AWD R-Design sitting low-slung and full of purpose in a car park packed with “normal” Volvos. Once spotted; immediately wanted — keys grabbed and silky straight-6, 3-litre engine quickly poked into life.

So, what else do we get for our 304PS in this uber-Volvo? The 62mph sprint is taken care of in 5.9secs and the top speed is a heady (but limited) 155mph. So fast, so good.

The V60 R-Design estate shape is a handsome one, in my opinion. Deep, slab-sides top-out in a high shoulder line with the short rear-shrinking glass area lending a low and fast look to this most saucy of the Scandinavians. It’s a Volvo but not as we know it.

Or do we?

Do you remember the turbocharged 850 T5s from the mid-90s? Various saloon and estate car racers won races all over the world and the British police used them to carry tons of kit whilst catching speeding criminals. The T5 was a bit of a legend in petrolhead-land.

Now it’s time to see if the T6 can fill those big-bhp-boots. The fact that it’s tuned by Volvo’s touring car builders, Polestar, certainly points in the right direction.

The usual Volvo interior rules apply so I’m immediately comfortable and ready to rock. The at-idle soundtrack isn’t intrusive for a 300bhp car and while a 3-litre straight-6, turbocharged engine certainly sounds tasty, the chunky leather-clad handle controlling the 6-speed Geartronic automatic gearbox looks and feels out of touch. There is no manual box option.

Still, we’ll pop her in “drive” and see what we get.

This is a Volvo with all-wheel drive, fat tyres and as much safety and traction control as any car can muster, so without fear of retribution I get her pointed straight on a deserted back lane and give the go-pedal the ol’ lead-footed treatment.

Speed and sound build quickly as 60mph is comes in 5.9secs; that long, silky engine making smooth work of the pulling duties, with some more exhaust growl as the revs rise accompanied by a whoosh from the turbo.

The auto-shifter may look out of date but the gearbox itself does a decent job of cog-swapping up the ratios with a reasonably smooth and quick action. It’s only when you ask more of it that it shows its lack of the most modern gear-changing tech, like braking hard a dropping several ratios before a hard turn. There is a manual override that’s a little more involving but, of course, it doesn’t change the underlying mechanics of the gearbox.

The ride is firm and flat and the steering quick but not overly razor-like; all correctly in keeping with the look, feel and performance of the V60 T6. The brakes, as we’d expect from this safety-conscious brand, are powerful but with a progressive feel.

The T6 is quick alright and that slippery straight-6 engine is a smooth and torquey operator, and once a head of turbo-steam is built, this long, low ‘n’ mean-looking Volvo marches towards the horizon with impressive gusto. A snicky 6-speed manual gearbox would be the icing on this understatedly potent performance cake.

By Daniel Anslow

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VOLVO V60 Plug-In Hybrid – 2.4 D6 AWD Geartronic
VOLVO V60 Plug-In Hybrid – 2.4 D6 AWD Geartronic
VOLVO V60 Plug-In Hybrid – 2.4 D6 AWD Geartronic
VOLVO V60 Plug-In Hybrid – 2.4 D6 AWD Geartronic
VOLVO V60 Plug-In Hybrid – 2.4 D6 AWD Geartronic
VOLVO V60 Plug-In Hybrid – 2.4 D6 AWD Geartronic

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