Wednesday, 9 July 2014

COLUMN - July 2014


Here is my column from the July edition of The Local Herald. I dubbed this one a 'Volvo special' as it contained only Swedish metal. They're all estate cars, yet each one vastly different. From the large and traditional V70, to the super technological V60 plug-in hybrid, we have it all. As always you can find full reviews for all these cars on the reviews page. Enjoy this one, and keep an eye out for next month, it should be a cracker!

This column could well be considered a ‘Volvo special’ as I have three models to talk about. I shall start briefly with the freshened up V70. This is the Volvo that looks most like the stereotypical big boxy estate many people still (wrongly) associate with the marque. That being said the recent facelift has given it a more modern look. On the inside it was the usual plethora of luxury I have come to expect. This one even had the rear-seat entertainment which would work wonders on keeping the children entertained on a long journey. It also had the wonderful engine in the new 2.0-litre D4, but more on that later.

Next up we have the V60, in two guises. First up is the technology-crammed PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) which basically means a large electric motor in the back, and a 2.4-litre diesel up front. That’s great because you can drive for around 31 miles on battery-only power, from a 4-hour charge, and proves very useful indeed for pottering to the shops and back. It’s nice knowing there’s a diesel reserve as well, because you can even use this to save battery power for later, and achieve 560 miles in hybrid mode.

You have three drive modes – pure (electric only), hybrid (which optimises depending on driving conditions), and power (which gives everything in one huge lump). Combined power is 285PS and 640Nm in power mode which makes for 0-62mph in 6.1seconds and a top speed of 143mph. Not too bad for a car that emits 48g/km CO2 and has combined fuel consumption of 155.2mpg. That’s great for company car drivers, but the list price of £48,775 (although the government will currently give you £5,000 back) will look a bit hefty on the P11d.

At the time my only criticism was that although it was lovely, it didn’t really appeal to drivers who wanted a sporty edge with the economy. Since then Volvo has announced that for next year there will be an R-Design version. And that answers everything. Except the question “do you even need a hybrid?”…

The only reason I ask this is because the day the hybrid was collected the kind chaps at Volvo delivered me a V60 R-Design with the all-new, 4-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel D4 engine. Here are the punchy stats- 181PS, 400Nm of torque, 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 140mph. My car came with Volvo’s new 8-speed automatic gearbox, but still emits just 112g/km of CO2, meaning free road tax in the first year, and £30 thereafter. And that’s remarkable. I literally have no idea how Volvo have done it; a car which is powerful and fast, with a proper auto box, that’s so economical.

To drive the V60 is absolutely superb. The gearbox is smooth, yet can give you a little punch in sequential mode. The 5-pot warble may be missed, but the power is still there. Ride is smooth and handling defies the exterior size. All the usual luxuries are there, and in particular the seats and cabin trim are a huge success.

As with any Volvo these days, the starting price (of £34,695) is reasonable. But get a bit giddy with the options list and you end up with my press car; a whopping £43,495. And that’s a lot. However, referring back to my earlier question, is a hybrid the way to go. Here you have a (much) cheaper option, that’s (nearly) as economical in the real world- offering 65.7mpg combined- that looks great too. And that’s why I think a fair few executives will be putting in orders…

As always, see my blog for full reviews of all the cars mentioned. Next month is a big one as well; I’m getting married!

Dan

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