V60 introduces yet another style of Thors hammer LED DRL in a full-LED light cluster standard on all UK versions

V60 introduces yet another style of 'Thor's hammer' LED DRL in a full-LED light cluster standard on all UK versions

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There was a noticeable air of excitement amongst Volvo Car UK people at the redesigned V60's press launch in Yorkshire this week. This was not at all surprising: as the company's head of PR, Mike Gale (a recent recruit from one time Volvo powertrain partner Renault) noted, the brand has a "long history of wagons".

Yes, indeed, Volvo Cars built its first 'estate car', as the British like to call what I, laden with brochures scrounged from a family friend's Vauxhall/Chevrolet dealership, grew up knowing as 'station wagons' back in 1953. Personal favourites from more recent days of yore - the 245 and 740/760 models which had a strong following amongst Volvo enthusiasts and were well known for their practicality, build quality, occupant safety measures and durability. More recently, we've had the V40, its V50 successor, the V60, the V60 XC (Cross Country) and now there's a fully redesigned second generation V60 with a new Cross Country variant yet to come.

In many ways, stepping into the fully redone V60 is now eerily very familiar as Volvo uses similar exterior and interior styling and all but identical hardware and powertrains across all the models it builds on the 'large car' Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform which arrived in 2015 under the XC90 large SUV and has since underpinned the Chinese built S90 saloon and Swedish built V90 estate car siblings, XC60 mid-size SUV and the recently launched saloon/sedan counterpart to this V60 estate, the US-built S60 sedan. Though on the different CMA 'small car' architecture, the XC40 small SUV also shares many styling features and much of its cabin design, technology and layout with its SPA-based big bruvvers.

This first V60 Volvo on the SPA platform takes advantage of the flexibility the architecture gives the designers with just one (firewall) fixed point and plenty of scope to vary front and rear overhangs, width and wheelbase and carry over a carefully selected batch of the other SPA models' in-house designed and made Drive-E petrol and diesel engines, six-speed manual or eight-speed Aisin automatic transmissions - but just two-wheel drive for the UK. AWD (using BorgWarner torque split components) will come with the Cross Country versions still to be launched and also with the T6 (hybrid) and T8 Twin Engine (plug in hybrid) versions in the pipeline over the next year or so, essentially by default because SPA cars use the combustion engine to power the front wheels and the electric motor to drive the rears. An additional 2WD petrol drivetrain, the T4, is also planned.

The initial V60 front-drive-only powertrain line is pretty short and sweet - 150hp D3 diesel, 190hp D4 diesel and 250hp T5 petrol. The diesels come with a choice of manual or automatic gearbox, the T5 versions are eight-speed auto-only. Volvo expects the UK sales split to be about 65% fleet and 35% retail so it is no surprise it also forecasts the fleet buyer/user chooser's fiscally-friendly D3 diesel as the most popular engine choice.

Trim levels - now pretty much shared across the entire Volvo UK range - are Momentum (expected to take 15% of annual sales), Momentum Pro (10%), R-Design (30%), R-Design Pro (15%), Inscription (20%) and Inscription Pro (10%). Even 'entry level' Momentum versions are 'nicely equipped' (as they put it in the US) with nine-inch touch screen infotainment system with annually updated navigation, LED headlamps, power tailgate, dual zone climate control, 10-speaker sound and standard Drive Mode settings accessed by the touch screen. R-Design versions, expected to be most popular with UK buyers, add part-leather seats, gearshift paddles for the automatic, sports suspension, special 18-inch alloy wheels, front park sensors and high gloss black exterior trim. Inscription spec adds leather upholstery, power front seats, 'driftwood' cabin highlights and chrome exterior trim. The Pro pack adds head-up display, keyless entry, hands-free tailgate open/close, active bending highlights, heated steering wheel, leather trim for Momentum and Nappa soft leather upholstered ventilated seats in the Inscription.

Styling is clearly a modern evolution of the previous V60 with styling cues from the XC60 and some new details. There is yet another take on the now familiar, T-shaped (Thor's hammer) LED running lamps in the full-LED headlamp clusters, some attractive body side sculpturing to avoid that slab-side 'wagon look' and nice new tail lamps with a very distinctive red LED 'signature' illuminated, as is long a Volvo tradition, any time the ignition is on. Integrated roof rails are standard and a long list of packaged or individual item options can add things like surround-view parking camera, laminated side and rear windows and a panoramic sunroof.

Every new model redesign these days seems to increase in size and the latest V60 is no exception: overall length is up 126mm to 4,761mm on a wheelbase stretched 96mm to 2,872mm, width is up 17mm to 1,916mm (door mirrors folded) but height is down 51mm to 1,433mm resulting in a much sleeker appearance than the predecessor model. Volvo claims class-leading boot space of 529 litres with rear seats up (1,441 seats folded) and considers the key competition to be the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring and Mercedes C-class estate. UK prices start at GBP31,810 for the Momentum D3 manual and rise to GBP40,100 for the Inscription Pro D4 automatic. Adding as much as GBP10,000 in options is easy from the vast list.

The redesign was announced in Stockholm back in February and made its global show debut at Geneva in March, days after the 1 March start of UK dealer ordering. Retailers launched the new car on 12 July and first customer deliveries in this top RHD market commence 'late' third quarter. The V60 is built in Gothneburg, Sweden, alongside the XC60, XC90, and V90.

For both Volvo Cars and its UK subsidiary, this thoroughly redone V60 is yet another welcome weapon in the hard fought premium sector armoury, following on from the earlier SPA based cars and the CMA-underpinned XC40. The automaker boosted full year 2017 worldwide sales 7% to a record 571,577 cars (accompanied by a healthy 27% boost in operating profit) while the UK unit sold 46,139 units, its second best result to date. It also boosted market share from 1.73% to 1.83%. First half global sales reached 317,000 cars with Volvo UK's tally 23,605 while executives claim it's "on track to eclipse" 2017's result this full year. The UK unit wants to achieve 60,000 sales a year by 2020 with the company eyeing 800,000 worldwide.

Based on a brief first look and a satisfying drive (good performance, handling, ride and build quality) this new V60 can only help with that sales push.

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