It has been a tough few years for Volvo since being sold to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in 2010. But, after more than $11-billion (U.S.) in new investment, the Swedish company is back doing what it does best – developing and producing vehicles that are a distinct alternative to German and Japanese luxury brands.
Prior to finding a new owner, development was at a standstill and the new vehicle pipeline dried up for a few years. Product development is not an overnight process, so we are only now beginning to see the results of this fresh investment.
There are several new areas of interest at your local Volvo store – the wagon is back, other models have received a mild makeover and there is a new drivetrain (Drive-E) available across the line.
Next up – a new XC90, the first product on a new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) to be shared with all new Volvos. It will use the new drivetrain and showcase a new design direction displayed at recent auto shows. All Volvos going forward will use the new platform, design and drivetrain.
Volvo provided the opportunity to drive a trio of 2015 models equipped with its slick new Drive-E drivetrains – the refreshed XC60 and S60 and the new to-North America V60 wagon.
After more than 700 kilometres at the wheel, I am convinced that Volvo is back. The new engine is a sweetheart in both guises, the restyle of the XC60 and S60 keeps them current and the wagon is a delight.
Both the XC60 and S60 boast a new look up front and some content and feature upgrades, but the big news is the availability of the Drive-E system. Those provided here had the T6 version. Power is instantaneous and linear. There is a little – and pleasant – whine from the supercharger from rest under heavy throttle, accompanied by some torque steer. Performance is impressive.
The V60 wagon had the T5 turbocharged Drive-E engine and here again performance impressed, thanks to an extra dollop of torque under wide-open throttle.
The turbo is programmed to push more air in for 10 seconds in this situation, boosting torque from 258 lb-ft to 280 lb-ft. There is a gravelly sound common to direct-injected fours discernible only at low speeds while accelerating.
The eight-speed transmission has been properly programmed, shifting seamlessly and keeping the engine in the sweet spot for all situations. The transmission can be placed into S for sport mode by pulling the lever to the left. Paddle shifters allow a driver who is so inclined, to select ratios at will.
Volvo dealers and fans can rejoice in the arrival of a new wagon.
After all, Volvo and wagons are synonymous.
This one has been available in other markets but is just now crossing the Atlantic. While we have come to know boxy Volvo wagons, this one has a sloping roofline and an overtly sporty appearance.
The instrument panel is configurable over a trio of appearances. Information displayed, location and background colour change as you cycle between ECO, normal and sport. Steering effort can also be adjusted, only while stopped.
The interior design remains Scandinavian – style without bling.
The floating centre console, highly legible and configurable displays and top quality materials and assembly are offset only by a busy array of buttons for the audio/nav/phone that on most new vehicles are consigned to a controller and screen.
The seats are among the best in the industry with exceptional support and long session comfort. The steering wheel can be adjusted for height and through an exceptionally long range of reach.
That attractive roofline comes at the cost of some rear seat and cargo space.
Volvo says if you need more space in those areas, it has a couple of CUVs you might be interested in.
An efficient new drivetrain, and signs the Chinese owners have encouraged the Swedish company to do its thing, promise that good times lie ahead for Volvo – finally.
2015 Volvo V60
Type: Mid-size station wagon
Base price: $39,800
Engine: turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 240 hp/258 lb-ft
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Drive: front-wheel drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 6.3 city/highway combined (estimated)
Alternatives: Acura TSX Sport Wagon, Audi Allroad, BMW 328i
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