2019 Volvo V60 review: A well-rounded all-rounder
The 2019 Volvo V60 is a car that checks all the right boxes. It offers top-notch comfort with useful utility, a driving experience that's both engaging and relaxing, and it looks like a million bucks. Actually, no, two million.
But if there's one thing I've learned after a few stints in Volvo's compact wagon, it's that you don't have to spend a ton of money to get a truly luxurious experience. Nicely equipped right from the get-go, the 2019 V60 presents a strong case for going base.
"This car will absolutely not be a rental car," Anders Gustafsson, CEO of Volvo North America said at a media event for the S60 sedan and V60 wagon last year. "These are very well-spec'd cars."
To that point, the V60 Momentum comes standard with LED lighting, a panoramic moonroof, a 9-inch touchscreen running Volvo's Sensus infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a power tailgate and leather-lined seats. Being a Volvo, safety equipment is in similarly high supply, with the company's City Safety collision avoidance system, run-off road mitigation, lane-keeping assist, road sign information and rear park assist fitted to every V60.
It's a great-looking car right out of the box, too. Subtle visual tweaks differentiate the S60 and V60 from their SPA platform mates, and the results speak for themselves. With its upright fascia, long dash-to-axle ratio, wheels pushed out to the corners and slightly reshaped "Thor's Hammer" running lights, the V60 makes an impressive statement on the road -- one that's immediately recognizable as a Volvo, but somehow more interesting. My only recommendation is to ditch the Momentum trim level's standard 17-inch alloy wheels and upgrade to 18s, for $800. You can even go one inch larger and get the 19s pictured on this test car, for $1,000, but I think the not-too-big, not-too-small 18s look best.
Less is more
The V60 comes with two powertrain choices, both of which can be had with the base Momentum trim level. On the base end, there's the T5, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that produces 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, mated exclusively to front-wheel drive. The more powerful T6 brings all-wheel drive to the V60, and bolts a turbocharger and supercharger onto that 2.0-liter engine, resulting in 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. An smooth-acting eight-speed automatic transmission handles shifting duties for both setups.
There are merits to both engine choices, but after extended time testing both, my money's on the less-powerful T5. At no point does the turbo-only 2.0-liter engine ever feel underpowered, with plenty of low-end and midrange torque for both off-the-line and at-speed acceleration. Sure, the T6 offers healthy grunt -- and the double dose of forced induction is appreciated while driving at high altitudes -- but it comes with a few tradeoffs. The power arrives at weird peaks during the rev range as the turbocharger and supercharger try to work in harmony.
I've always maintained that SPA-platform Volvos are at their best in their least-powerful setups. I like the T5 a lot more than the T6, and prefer both of those to the not-for-US T8 plug-in hybrid I recently had the chance to sample. Despite an additional 56 horsepower and 37 pound-feet of torque, the T6 setup doesn't feel much more powerful. And it doesn't improve on the T5's wonderful, intrinsic balance.
Effortless to drive and totally natural-feeling in its responses, the V60 is as enjoyable along mountain road switchbacks as it is down long, boring stretches of highway. The base chassis offers a comfortable ride with a perfect balance of taut reflexes and relaxed manners. Volvo offers its adaptive Four-C chassis for an extra $1,000, but the regular suspension is so good that it's an option box I'd never think to check.
Another advantage to the T5 setup is fuel economy, with EPA ratings of 24 miles per gallon in the city, 36 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive T6, meanwhile, reduces those numbers to 21, 31 and 25, respectively. It's also worth noting that pretty much everyone on the Roadshow staff has had a tough time achieving these numbers, regardless of powertrain. After 230 miles of testing a V60 T6 AWD, most of which were spent on the highway, I only saw 24 mpg.
The only tangible benefit I can see to the T6 powertrain is that it lets you add all-wheel drive to the party. On the other hand, the T6 engine comes at a $4,500 premium. If foul-weather prowess is the goal, consider waiting for the 2020 V60 Cross Country, which will pair the T5 engine to all-wheel drive for about the same upcharge.
Snazzy duds, but not the most space
No matter which trim you choose, the V60 offers a great in-car experience. All touchable materials are of the highest quality, and a few bits of brightwork adorn the interior's otherwise minimalist design. Higher-spec R-Design and Inscription models unlock different accent materials, including an open-pore driftwood option. But even in its most basic spec, the V60's cabin is comfy and quiet, with a truly premium feel.
The shapely leather seats are some of the most comfortable thrones available at any price point, and opting for the Momentum trim is the only way to get Volvo's ultra-cool City Weave cloth inserts. These bits of stylized fabric add great visual flair, and I can't imagine buying a V60 without 'em.
Front and rear passengers have ample space to stretch out, with class-appropriate shoulder- and legroom. Headroom is at a bit of a premium, however -- a byproduct of the V60's sleek shape. At least the standard panoramic sunroof lets a lot of light into the cabin, for a bright, airy ambiance.
That low-slung roofline takes its toll out back, too. Make no mistake, the V60's maximum cargo space of 50.9 cubic feet with the second row seats folded is quite generous. Long items like, I don't know, flat-pack Ikea boxes will have no trouble fitting in the back of this spacious Swede. Taller pieces, on the other hand, aren't so easy to accommodate. Both the Audi A4 Allroad and Buick Regal TourX offer more space for hauling. Heck, even the smaller Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen has a more capacious rump.
Same ol' Sensus
The V60 uses the same Sensus infotainment system as every other Volvo, displayed on a 9-inch, portrait-style touchscreen in the center of the dash. My likes and dislikes are the same here as they are in any other Volvo: Sensus is ultimately a beautiful, feature-rich system, but it's not the easiest to use.
Swipe to the left and you'll find buttons for all the car's controls, with easy on-off toggles for various driving aids. Swipe right, and you'll find different multimedia options and third-party apps, and the most recently used function will appear in the lowest tile of the Sensus home screen (this is also where Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is housed). Swipe down from the top, and you'll enter the labyrinth of vehicle settings. From brake pedal effort to Wi-Fi settings, it feels like almost everything is adjustable.
In an effort to fix the slow start-up and response times of earlier Sensus systems, Volvo began installing a faster processor into its infotainment hardware. All 2019 model year vehicles have this upgrade. Yes, the software loads more quickly than it did before, but it's still not quick enough. Firing up the V60 on a cold morning, the system lags as I try to activate the heated seats and steering wheel. Once it's up and running, Sensus no longer delays as you move through its myriad menus. But just like your author, it needs a little extra time (and a cup of coffee) before getting to work first thing in the morning.
Ace of base
The 2019 V60 starts at $38,900, not including $995 for destination, and even in its most basic form, it feels like a lot of car for the money. Make mine a T5 Momentum, add $645 for Denim Blue Metallic (Black Stone is the only no-cost option) paint, $800 for the 18-inch wheels, skip the full-leather seating surfaces so I can get that sweet City Weave upholstery pattern and tack on $750 more for the heated seats and steering wheel. Right there, I'm looking at $41,095 out the door.
That said, most buyers will likely opt for things like the $2,500 Multimedia Package, which adds embedded navigation, a Harman Kardon premium audio system and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, or the $2,500 Advanced Premium Package, which gets you a head-up display, 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, LED foglights and other goodies.
R-Design and Inscription models come in at $43,900 and $49,400, respectively, the latter of which can only be had as a T6 AWD. Yeah, these trims add some unique bits of styling inside and out, but I don't think any of it is necessary. Besides, the Momentum comes with all the stuff you really need -- and it's as comfortable and good to drive as any other V60 variant. As a starting point from which to create every other 2019 Volvo V60, the Momentum trim level is a strong, solid foundation.