2019 Volvo V60 first drive review: The best kind of cookie cutter

The term "cookie cutter" usually throws shade at an automaker for failing to create an expressive design for each of its vehicles (think Audi's which-car-is-which lineup). But when you're Volvo, and you've come out with one of the best design languages in recent memory, you'd be dumb not to slap that look on everything.

It's not just design, though. From the in-car tech to the engine, Volvo used every trick in its parts bin with the 2019 V60, and the result might be its best-packaged vehicle yet.

A whole new look, sorta

At first glance, the 2019 V60 shares just about every angle with its bigger brother, the V90. But on closer inspection, I think it actually looks better. The V60's rear glass isn't as raked, giving its rear end more of a traditional wagon shape than the V90. The headlights are slightly different, with the LED "Thor's Hammer" running light cutting through the lens and almost extending to the grille. Throw in a livelier pair of character lines on the side and some chiseled sculpting in the front bumper, and you've got a perfectly proportioned midsize wagon.

It's the same inside. The 90-series vehicles have big punches of wood trim on the dash, whereas the V60 uses a thinner, streamlined design. It still bears far more than a passing resemblance to every other new Volvo, but its minimalist, no-fuss layout is still one of the best in the luxury segment. Ample glass on every side means I have light and visibility for days. While it's smaller than the V90, the cargo area can still hold four suitcases side-by-side, and the load floor is nice and low for easy access.

The V60's standard leather seats are plenty comfortable, but on the base Momentum trim, buyers have the no-cost option to switch to a plaid cloth, which looks the absolute business. Out back, there are inches of leftover legroom when a six-foot-tall passenger sits behind an equally tall driver, and the wagon's flat roof means rear headroom isn't much different than up front. 

Compared to the outgoing V60, it's lower and longer.


The best use for the T6 engine yet

When the V60 launches in the US in 2019, it'll have three powertrain choices: The front-wheel-drive T5 with its 250-horsepower I4, the all-wheel-drive T6 with its 316-horsepower I4 and the plug-in-hybrid T8 with 400 net horsepower. (There are diesel trims, as well as a second PHEV variant, in other markets.) My time is spent in the mid-tier T6, albeit wrapped in its fanciest Inscription trim, which adds swanky bits such as four-zone climate control, 10-way power front seats and pretty driftwood inlays.

The T6 engine is available on every new Volvo with the exception of XC40, but I think it feels most at home in the V60. It doesn't have to carry the extra heft of the 90-series vehicles or the slightly bulkier XC60, so more turbocharged-and-supercharged hustle comes through when you need to enter a highway or punch through traffic. The eight-speed automatic feels smooth and unobtrusive.

The V60 does carry a bit of traditional European-market composure (read: stiffness) around town in Comfort mode, some of which can be pinned to the Inscription's large wheels and thin tires. I can ramp up the road feel by putting the car in Dynamic mode, which adjusts the steering, throttle, shift points and even the brakes for a slightly sportier ride. There's also an Eco mode that numbs the inputs and short-shifts for thrift, if that's what you're into. Even in its stiffest setting, though, the V60 remains comfortable, even without the 90-series' air suspension, which isn't an option.

Infotainment needs improving

Volvo's Sensus Connect infotainment system resides on a vertically oriented touchscreen. While it packs great features such as embedded apps (Yelp, Spotify) and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it's been maligned in the past for being on the slow side. The V60, however, packs a new chipset with 50 percent more processing power, meaning the system starts up much faster and is able to bring systems like the camera online in a bigger hurry.

It can still be a bit daunting, as a swipe to either side of the home screen presents me with dense menus that can change just about anything on the car. But while it's complex, it's functional, and extras including a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot are nice additions.  

On the safety front, standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and a steering assist that will boost my wheel input if I swerve to avoid an imminent collision. The only piece of safety equipment that isn't standard is blind spot monitoring, which is available as an option.

Also available is Volvo's Pilot Assist lane-holding system, an enhanced version of adaptive cruise control that helps the vehicle stay centered in its lane. It's mostly for stop-and-go traffic, and at no point is it a hands-off affair, but it helps reduce on-road tedium. In my experience, it works pretty well, avoiding the ping-pong effect of other automakers' systems.

The infotainment system's new chipset was sorely needed, and it's appreciated from the first time you start the V60.


Like and subscribe… again

Care by Volvo, the automaker's new subscription-based program, will be available on the V60 when it launches. We don't know the US pricing yet, but it'd be wise to assume a starting subscription price above the most expensive XC40 trim ($700 per month). Should you choose a traditional buying method, expect an MSRP starting somewhere in the $40,000 range.

Despite the fact that 80 percent of Volvo's US sales volume is made up of SUVs, the company is committed to offering sensible wagons and sedans as alternatives. Having driven the new XC60, I believe the V60 has it beat in terms of both looks and driving dynamics. In fact, I think it's one of Volvo's best implementations of its parts catalog to date, and if buyers are willing to forego ride height in favor of something more carlike, the V60 is worth more than just a look.

Editors' Note: Roadshow accepts multi-day vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel and hotel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists.

The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.

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