Beyond Skyfall: Bonding with a Volvo S60 in Scotland

Volvo S60 at Skyfall

You could justifiably buy a new Volvo S60 on the strength of its looks alone, and I’d salute you for it. Volvo’s compact saloon is, without question, the best looking car in the segment. Heck, it might be one of the best looking new cars on sale in 2019.

And the chiselled, catwalk styling might be the S60’s strongest attribute, that’s if my first drive in Scotland is anything to go by. Behind those supermodel looks lies a car that’s very easy to like, but surprisingly difficult to love.

A case of style over substance, then? Read on to find out (if you can stop drooling at the pics).

As soon as I was told I’d be flying to Edinburgh to drive the S60, I had one destination on my mind: Glen Etive. It might be as clichéd as turning up at Scottish-themed fancy dress party wearing a kilt and a Rod Stewart wig, but the area in Scotland where 007 and M went ‘back in time’ has become a popular spot for fans of the 2012 film Skyfall.

Hold your breath and count to 10

Volvo S60 in Scotland

I wanted to venture beyond Skyfall; to continue along the road past the point at which the characters played by Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench stood in front of the DB5, staring into the middle distance, presumably feeling the effects of spending 500 miles in a 50-year-old Aston.

They’d have had no such problems in the S60. Volvo doesn’t build uncomfortable cars; the combination of superb seats, minimalist cabins and clever use of lighting means that driving one of its cars is no less relaxing than a foot massage from Enya.

The S60’s biggest problem is familiarity. It’s five years since the Volvo XC90 debuted in Geneva, and while the interior remains a fabulous example of fit, finish and ergonomics, the wow-factor diminishes with every subsequent new car. You kinda know what to expect.

Volvo S60 interior

Not that I was complaining as I made my way out of the airport car park and into the morning commute. The first UK cars are offered in R-Design Edition spec, which means all but the most opulent and lavish equipment is fitted as standard.

The sea of charcoal that swathes the cabin is as bright and cheery as a gentleman’s wash bag, but the gloom is pierced by a metal mesh inlay running across the dashboard. Predictably, the quality is first-rate, but I don’t remember the air vents feeling this flimsy in Volvo’s larger cars. Probably my memory playing tricks on me.

Stirling work

Volvo S60 dashboard

“Don’t drive tired”, proclaimed the matrix display above the M9 motorway, a stark reminder that I’d been up since 3am and crowbarred into a crevice on a red-eye flight from Bristol. I lowered the Volvo’s seat and steering wheel heating, reduced the temperature of the climate control, and changed the sat-nav route setting to ‘scenic’. Time to wake up.

The Sensus nine-inch touchscreen remains a visual treat, but too many commands and settings are hidden away and you’re required to take your eyes off the road for too long in order to change things. Fortunately, I remembered that Volvo’s voice control is one of the best, so I used that throughout the journey.

Try doing that in your DB5, Bond. “Set passenger seat to eject…”

The sat-nav directed me through Stirling, where the S60 seemed to be as eye-catching as the castle sat atop the rugged crag. I caught sight of at least three chaps turning their heads to get a better look, and it’s not hard to see why.

Volvo S60 at Glen Etive

The S60 looks alluring from any angle: as toned as a marathon runner, curvaceous in all the right places and far better resolved than the S90. It takes a lot to upstage the magnificent beauty of Scotland, but the S60 achieves it. It warrants a closer look, too. Note the voluptuous haunches and the wafer-thin panel gaps.

The R-Design treatment certainly helps, with the S60 packing high-gloss black trim, dual integrated exhaust pipes and 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels. The good news is that my test car was running on the standard 18s, which proves you don’t have to upgrade to the probable-ride-ruining 19- or 20-inch rims to achieve maximum glamour.

So far, so good, then. If cars were judged on the strength of their styling and cabin, Volvo would be off to Ikea in search of another trophy cabinet for another ‘winner takes all’ victory. Other Swedish clichés are available.

Feel the earth move?

Volvo S60 T5 R-Design Edition

But it’s at this point that the S60 starts to lose some of its lustre. There’s enough here for a terrific first date, but a lasting relationship might be off the cards.

Power is sourced from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder T5 engine producing 250hp and 258lb ft of torque, which sounds great on paper, but is more ‘meh’ in reality. The engine is totally devoid of character, and although the peak power appears at 5,500pm, the engine sounds strained when you reach the upper reaches of the rev counter – there’s no reward for pushing the S60 hard.

It’s strange, because the engine is far from slow. The 0-62mph time is a not-too-shabby 6.5 seconds, and because the torque is available from 1,800 to 4,800rpm, the S60 makes light work of slow-moving camper vans, mobile libraries and coaches. Yes, I’m speaking from experience here.

Volvo S60 first UK drive

Yet it never feels exciting, even in Dynamic mode, when the throttle is at its most responsive and the entire car feels tauter and more focused. It doesn’t help that the eight-speed transmission appears to prefer a slow dance to a waltz, with even the paddles seemingly unable to inject a dose of excitement.

This might be a touch unfair: Volvo isn’t pitching the S60 as a performance saloon, but when the roads are as good as this, it should be possible to have fun.

Accelerate hard and there’s a touch of torque steer, with the front end feeling detached from the asphalt beneath the wheels. This ‘floating’ sensation is joined by steering that is short on feel and too light in anything other than Dynamic mode. It’s not unpleasant to drive, but it’s far from engaging.

This might not matter in the U.S., where the S60 is built at Volvo’s new plant in South Carolina, because corners haven’t been invented there. But if you’re touring Scotland and fancy some excitement to go with the stunning scenery, look elsewhere.

At Skyfall

Volvo S60 T5 at Skyfall

Just before noon, I was parked at the precise spot where Craig and Dench stared into the Scottish mist. It’s easy to find – just look for the ‘layby’ created by seven years of location-hunting film fans. This must be the only layby in the world created indirectly by a Dame and a 007. There’s another worn-out patch of Scotland on the other side of the road, created by folk turning around and heading back to the A82.

But I wasn’t going back. Instead, I continued beyond the famous spot, taking the single track Glen Etive Road to its conclusion. For the benefit of any doubt, Bond didn’t continue along this road – it’s a dead-end – and Skyfall Lodge was built on Hankley Common, Surrey. But you probably knew that already.

It’s just as well Bond didn’t take the Aston too much further. In places, the road resembles Belgian pavé, which would have shaken and stirred the DB5 to bits long before Javier Bardem’s helicopter loomed into view.

Volvo S60 at Loch Etive

The Comfort setting is advised if you value your spine – I dread to think what the S60 would be like on 20-inch rims. On 18s, the ride is a little on the firm side, if far from uncomfortable, but given the S60’s lack of precision, I’d have preferred it to be a little softer.

The 12-mile road follows the path of the River Etive, taking in open moorland, forests and small Scottish homesteads as it makes it way through the mountainous landscape.

The further you travel, the more you feel like you’re driving into the unknown, although the feeling of isolation is punctured by the endless stream of black Vauxhall Corsa hire cars. Still, it makes a change from the endless stream of yellow Arnold Clark stickers you see away from the tourist routes in Scotland.

Hear my heart burst again

Volvo S60 headlight

An hour or so later, not only was the weather on the turn, but the clock was ticking ever closer to my departure from Edinburgh Airport. Bond had a date with Raoul Silva – and M had a date with death – but I had little more than an Easyjet booking to look forward to.

The return leg was a frustrating mix of poor weather, coaches, roadworks and intermittent digital radio signal. I tried one last time to extract some enjoyment from the S60, but I reached the conclusion that it’s a little like fast food: quick, but lacking in substance.

A more pertinent issue would be to work out where the new S60 sits in the UK market. Will the styling, cabin and safety credentials be enough to counter the less-than-sparkling performance and the rather limited choice of engines and trim levels? A T8 plug-in hybrid, Polestar Engineered version and Inscription trim will be added in the future.

As I said at the beginning, you could buy a Volvo S60 on the strength of its looks and live happily ever after knowing that your car looks a million dollars. And you will enjoy some exclusivity – Volvo says it will “achieve higher sales than the outgoing S60”.

Volvo sold 960 previous-generation S60s last year, so the company is not expecting huge numbers from its compact exec. Standing out from the me-too German cars is almost guaranteed in an S60.

We will stand tall

Not Daniel Craig at Skyfall

Part of me doesn’t want to reach a conclusion, and not just because I’m forever being distracted by the library of S60 images on my desktop.

Please don’t get me wrong: there is so much to love about the S60. The seats in the R-Design are fabulous, the cabin is a delight and it’s probably safer than covering yourself in bubble wrap and never leaving the house.

So, like Bond, I’m going to stare into the middle distance and contemplate a more decisive future for the S60. As a trailer for the main feature, the T5 R-Design Edition is a competent teaser. Here’s hoping the Polestar version is more of a thriller, leaving the Inscription to feel as cosetting and cosy as watching a black and white movie in front of the fire on a wet Sunday afternoon.

Not much of a conclusion, is it? But what were you expecting, an exploding pen?

Volvo V60 T5 R-Design Edition

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
Power: 250hp @ 5,500rpm
Torque: 258lb ft @ 1,800 – 4,800rpm
WLTP fuel economy: 35.3-39.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 152g/km
Price: £37,935
Price as tested: £39,160

New Volvos warn each other of bad weather

Connected clouds: new Volvo cars to warn each other of bad weather

New Volvos warn each other of bad weatherStarting from next week, all new Volvo cars sold across Europe will be able to warn others of poor weather conditions, or possible hazards on the road.

Sharing data in real-time, Volvo cars fitted with Hazard Light Alert and Slippery Road Alert will communicate directly with each other about dangers.

Volvo hopes that the warnings will contribute to safer driving, and is just the latest in a series of announcements from the company, aimed at improving road safety.

New Volvos warn each other of bad weatherThe industry-first technology was initially offered in Sweden and Norway in 2016, being fitted to Volvo’s 90 series of cars in the two countries.

Somewhat fittingly the system uses cloud-based communications, enabling information to be passed between Volvo cars, and also trucks, instantaneously.

Hazard Light Alert detects when the hazard warning lights have been activated, sending a notification to all other connected Volvos in the locale. The aim is to pre-warn drivers of potentially dangerous situations, which otherwise may be hidden from view.

Slippery Road Alert analyses anonymous information from cars connected to the cloud, noticing patterns and trends in road surface conditions. This is then shared with cars farther away on the same road, warning them in advance of what to expect.

New Volvos warn each other of bad weatherAlong with being offered on new Volvo cars, the company can also retrofit the service to older models. All 2016 model year cars onwards, excluding the V40, should be eligible to receive the upgrade.

The news comes after Volvo’s groundbreaking announcement, that it will be making all its accumulated safety knowledge available to the rest of the automotive industry.

Volvo has also stated it will fit 112mph speed limiters to all cars sold 2020, and is also investigating the use of interior cameras to detect impaired drivers.

Volvo open-sources 60 years of safety research

Volvo safety research

It’s been a busy month for Volvo. Having announced that it will be installing in-car cameras and sensors to monitor drivers, the company also said it would be sharing 60 years of safety knowledge. Because sharing is caring.

The announcement was made on the 60th anniversary of the three-point safety belt – one of Volvo’s gifts to the automotive world – which it says has saved more than a million lives globally.

In launching Project E.V.A. – that’s ‘Equal Vehicles for All’ – Volvo says it intends to share 60 years of safety research to make motoring safer for everyone.

“We have data on tens of thousands of real-life accidents, to help ensure our cars are as safe as they can be for what happens in real traffic,” said Lotta Jakobsson, professor and senior technical specialist at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre.

“This means our cars are developed with the aim to protect all people, regardless of gender, height, shape or weight, beyond the ‘average person’ represented by crash test dummies.”

Volvo Project EVA

Volvo’s accident research team has been collecting data since the 1970s to better understand what happens during a collision. The team has gathered and analysed data from more than 40,000 cars and 70,000 passengers, which has led to the development of many of the safety systems we take for granted.

For example, Volvo discovered that women are at higher risk of whiplash than men. This influenced the design of Volvo’s Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), which combines a robust head restraint with a clever seat design to protect the head and spine. Crucially, there’s no longer a difference in whiplash risk between men and women.

Volvo even developed the world’s first average-sized pregnant crash test dummy to study how the occupant moves and how the safety belt and airbag affect the woman and foetus. Safety isn’t sexy, but you could lose a couple of hours discovering how much Volvo has done to improve road safety.

As Volvo’s co-founder Gustaf Larson once said: “Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo therefore is, and must remain, safety,”

Future Volvos will be watching – to keep you safe

Volvo cameras and sensors

In 1984, American singer Rockwell sang about how he felt like somebody was watching him. “Tell me is it just a dream?” he asked. Well, Kennedy William Gordy, aka Rockwell, thanks to news from Volvo, we can reveal that it was far from a dream. Volvo will be watching you. Bang goes your privacy.

As part of its ambitions to end fatalities in its cars, Volvo is addressing the issues of intoxication and distraction. By installing in-car cameras and sensors that monitor the driver, the company believes it can intervene if there’s a risk of an accident leading to serious injury or death.

Volvo points to figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showing that almost 30 percent of traffic fatalities in vehicles in 2017 involved intoxicated drivers.

If the system detects a problem – maybe through a lack of steering input, weaving across lanes or eyes off the road – it could limit the car’s speed, alert the Volvo On Call assistance service or, as a last resort, bring the car to a stop.

Avoiding accidents altogether 

“When it comes to safety, our aim is to avoid accidents altogether rather than limit the impact when an accident is imminent and unavoidable,” says Henrik Green, senior vice president, research and development at Volvo Cars. “In this case, cameras will monitor for behaviour that may lead to serious injury or death.”

Volvo tackles intoxication

The introduction of the cameras will start on the next generation of Volvo’s scalable SPA2 vehicle platform in the early 2020s, with details of the cameras and their positioning to follow at a later stage.

This news comes a couple of weeks after Volvo’s announcement that future cars will be limited to 112mph as part of its Vision 2020 initiative. Speeding, intoxication and distraction are Volvo’s primary areas of concern for traffic safety.

“There are many accidents that occur as a result of intoxicated drivers,” says Trent Victor, professor of driver behaviour at Volvo Cars. “Some people still believe that they can drive after having had a drink, and that this will not affect their capabilities. We want to ensure that people are not put in danger as a result of intoxication.”

Future Volvos will be limited to 112mph from next year

Volvo speed limit 2020

Volvo’s position on the market as a leader in automotive safety is being further cemented, as the marque takes a stance against speeding with a range-wide speed limit of 112mph.

It aims to “send a strong signal about the dangers of speeding” by limiting the speed on all of its cars to 180kph, or 112mph. When, you ask? It will begin from 2020, as a part of Volvo’s Vision 2020 initiative. This aims to see that no one is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo after 2020.

Plugging the ‘gaps’ in automotive safety

Volvo speed limit 2020

Volvo concludes from its research that there are three ‘gaps’ that need plugging on the way to ending serious injuries and deaths in its cars. Speed is considered one of the most prominent, alongside intoxication and distraction.

“Volvo is a leader in safety: we always have been and we always will be,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars.

“Because of our research, we know where the problem areas are when it comes to ending serious injuries and fatalities in our cars. And while a speed limitation is not a cure-all, it’s worth doing if we can even save one life.”

It’s not just top speed that Volvo is investigating, either. Geofencing with automatic speed limits coming into effect in appropriate areas such as near schools is a serious avenue of investigation for the marque.

Volvo aims to address the latter ‘gaps’, presenting ideas at a safety event in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Do carmakers have a right to limit speeds?

Volvo speed limit 2020

That is an interesting question and one that Volvo is aware needs answering. Nevertheless, it’s happy to play devil’s advocate and open up the conversation.

“We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver’s behaviour, to tackle things such as speeding, intoxication or distraction,” said Mr Samuelsson.

“We don’t have a firm answer to this question, but believe we should take leadership in the discussion and be a pioneer.”

Volvo speed limit 2020

What is for sure is that while this seems a touch shocking, speed limiters are nothing new. Just look at the German ‘gentleman’s agreement’ 155mph limit, which was for environmental reasons at the time. Limits for safety are nothing new, either. The Bugatti Chiron is limited to 261mph, for instance…

Another more down to earth example is the country-wide limits on cars in Japan, to 111.8mph. That limit initially came with a horsepower limit on production cars too, to 280hp. Let’s see where this conversation goes. We’re sure Volvo is the right brand to open it up.

Volvo will launch its final new diesel engine this summer

Volvo XC90 PowerPulse diesel engineVolvo has vowed to wean itself off diesel and, this summer, it will stick to its word – by launching the final new diesel engine it will ever make.

Details of the new engine have not yet been confirmed, but it’s expected to help Volvo meet ever-stricter new real-world emissions regulations.

“We don’t see a future for diesel,” said Volvo senior vice president for global operations, Lex Kerssemakers during a London briefing. “We are already reallocating resources [that would have been spent on diesel development] into full EVs.

Volvo XC90 diesel engine

“The engine we will launch in mid-2019 will be the last one we will develop.”

Kerssemakers admits that diesel still has a role to play today, which is why Volvo has future-proved itself against regulations for the next few years. But the switch to electric is going to come quickly, he insisted.

“By 2025, 50 percent of new cars we sell will be a full EV.”

Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid

Here, Kerssemakers was clear: that 2025 target does not include plug-in hybrids. “PHEVs are clearly an in-between step,” he said. Switching rapidly to full electric will be the only way for car manufacturers to meet strict future emissions targets.

Helping drive mainstream adaptation is Volvo’s policy to electrify ‘regular’ cars, rather than sell a standalone range of electric vehicles.

The first all-electric Volvo Group vehicle will be the Polestar 02, which will launch in 2019, quickly followed by an all-electric XC40.

“Then, every new car or refresh will include a full EV version.” And diesel? In its final throes of powering Volvo road cars.

History of Volvo estates

A history of Volvo estate cars

History of Volvo estates

For many years, Volvo estate cars have been synonymous with green wellies, Labradors and the good life. Indeed, a 145 was the choice of wheels for Jerry and Margo in the hit BBC TV series, The Good Life.

So, hot on the heels of the launch of the new V60 Cross Country, we take a nostalgic look back at a history of Volvo estates.

Volvo PV445 Duett – 1953

History of Volvo estates

From 1949 to 1953, the PV445 formed the basis for small lorries, vans and estate cars, all of which were available through independent coachbuilders. In 1953, the PV445 Duett was introduced – a car widely regarded as the godfather of all Volvo estates. It was one of the first Volvos to be exported to the US and was even immortalised on its own Swedish postage stamp.

Volvo P210 Duett – 1960

History of Volvo estates

The P210 Duett was introduced in 1960 and was essentially a continuation of the PV445 Duett. Times were changing, and although the P210 was available as a van or estate, the popularity of coachbuilt special editions was in decline. Production of the P210 continued until 1969, with sales focused on Nordic markets.

Volvo Amazon – 1962

History of Volvo estates

While the P210 enjoyed success in Nordic countries, the P220 – or Amazon – would become Volvo’s international bright young thing. Unlike Volvo estates of old, the Amazon wasn’t based on a delivery van and was more elegant as a result. It was practical, stylish and rather nice to drive.

Volvo 145 – 1967

History of Volvo estates

In 1967, Volvo launched the car that would lay the foundations for one of the most iconic shapes in the automotive world. The 145 was the estate version of the 140 Series and featured a near-vertical tailgate. At launch, the 145 featured a split in the rearmost side window, but this disappeared in 1970.

Volvo 1800 ES – 1971

History of Volvo estates

The 1800 ES was a shooting brake version of the beautiful P1800 coupe. It arrived in 1971 and featured an extended roofline and a profile reminiscent of an estate. Now, 1800 ownership was open to more people, with the ES offering four seats, a sizeable boot and decent levels of performance. Sadly, the 1800 ES died in 1973 – a victim of American safety legislation.

Volvo 245 – 1974

History of Volvo estates

Is this the archetypal Volvo estate car? Absolutely. Launched in 1974, the 245 would live on until 1993, by which time it had cemented itself as the favourite amongst soccer moms and the middle classes. In 1981, the 245 Turbo became one of the fastest estate cars in the world, and the first to be fitted with a turbocharged engine.

Volvo 265 – 1975

History of Volvo estates

The Volvo 265 was the more upmarket version of the 245, fitted with a more powerful six-cylinder engine. It would enjoy a 10-year production life, offered with both 2.6- and 2.8-litre engines.

Volvo 66 – 1975

History of Volvo estates

In the mid-seventies, Volvo took total control of DAF Car BV, and the first car to benefit from the change in ownership was the DAF 66. In 1975, it became the Volvo 66, featuring rear-wheel-drive and the famous Variomatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Volvo VCC – 1980

History of Volvo estates

In 1980, Volvo launched its VCC experimental vehicle. The VCC – or Volvo Concept Car – was built to test concepts in the fields of energy and consumption and was equipped with monitors in place of a traditional dashboard. The VCC was a test bed for the 760, which would arrive in saloon form just two years later.

Volvo 260 – 1983

History of Volvo estates

The Volvo 260 of 1983 was the result of little more than a badge-changing strategy, with the 265 becoming the 260. The Volvo 264 was replaced by the 760 GLE in 1982, but with the estate version still three years off, the five-door 260 estate remained in production until 1985.

Volvo LCP Concept – 1983

History of Volvo estates

If the Volvo LCP 2000 had the whiff of fish and chips, this was no coincidence. The LCP – or Light Component Project – was Volvo’s vision of a lightweight and fuel-efficient car of the new millennium. It was fitted with a choice of engines, including a 1.4-litre unit that could run on rapeseed oil – hence the smell of Britain’s favourite takeaway.

Volvo 740/760 – 1985

History of Volvo estates

The Volvo 760 GLE was powered by a 2.8-litre ‘Douvrin’ engine it shared with Renault and Peugeot, but customers were given the option of four-cylinder turbocharged and six-cylinder diesel units. Unlike Volvos of old, the 4 and 6 in 740 and 760 no longer referred to four- or six-cylinder versions. Instead, the ‘6’ was the more luxurious of the two.

Volvo 940/960 – 1990

History of Volvo estates

The 940 was introduced in 1990 and was – along with the S90/V90 – the last rear-wheel-drive Volvo to be built. The 960 was the more upmarket of the 900 range and was offered with a new aluminium 24-valve six-cylinder engine.

Volvo 850 – 1993

History of Volvo estates

The 850 estate was unveiled in February 1993, two years after the launch of the 850 saloon. This was a significant car for Volvo, not least because it heralded the dawn of a new front-wheel-drive future for the brand. It was the first car in the world to offer a side-impact protection system (SIPS).

Volvo 850 T5-R – 1994

History of Volvo estates

Keen to shake off its staid and dependable image, Volvo turned to Porsche for help. The Stuttgart company assisted with the engine tuning, transmission and interior of the 850 T5-R, helping it to a top speed limited to 155mph. The ultimate Q-car, assuming you didn’t tick the box marked Cream Yellow paint.

Volvo 850 BTCC – 1994

History of Volvo estates

This is without doubt one of the most famous racing cars of all time. The Volvo 850 BTCC car was the first factory-entered racing estate car and it made its debut at Thruxton in April 1994.

Volvo V40 – 1995

History of Volvo estates

The V40 – mechanically identical to the S40 – arrived in 1995. Not to be confused with the current Volvo V40, this was a compact estate car built at the Nedcar factory in the Netherlands. The S40/V40 was actually based on the same platform as the Mitsubishi Carisma, meaning it is also related to the Proton Impian.

Volvo 850R –1996

History of Volvo estates

When it was launched in 1996, the 246hp 850R was the fastest and most powerful Volvo ever produced. Unlike the 850 T5-R, the 850R was not a limited-edition model and it is thought that between 5,000 and 7,000 were actually built. A future classic in the making.

Volvo V70 – 1996

History of Volvo estates

In 1996, the Volvo 850 seamlessly morphed into the V70, retaining its now familiar near-vertical tailgate. It may have been based on the 850, but the V70 spawned a few rather special editions…

Volvo V70 XC – 1997

History of Volvo estates

In 1997, Volvo introduced the X70 XC, which would later become the XC70. Alongside Audi and its Allroad model, Volvo pioneered the premium 4×4 estate car segment, combining the on-road dynamics of an estate with the off-road capabilities of an SUV.

Volvo V70R – 1997

History of Volvo estates
The V70 XC was developed off the back of the all-wheel-drive Volvo V70R. Up to 300hp was available, depending on the model year, with AWD tech successfully managing to harness the potential of that glorious five-cylinder engine. The 90s was a golden decade for fast Volvo wagons.

Volvo V90 – 1997

History of Volvo estates

Although it featured some new interior and exterior colours, the original V90 of 1997 was little more than a badge-engineering exercise, designed to bring the 960 in line with the new model-name strategy. Just over 9,000 of these six-cylinder estate cars were built between 1997 and 1998.

Volvo PCC2 – 2001

History of Volvo estates

Could this be the best looking Volvo estate car never built? The PCC2 – or Performance Concept Car 2 – was introduced at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show and featured a 300hp five-cylinder engine and a trick suspension system. The V70-based concept was finished in Laser Blue.

Volvo ACC 2 – 2002

History of Volvo estates

Another year, another concept car. According to Volvo, the Adventure Concept Car 2 (ACC 2) provided a “glimpse into the future of extreme winter transportation” and featured studded tyres and GPS-controlled headlights, which would automatically adjust for left- or right-hand-drive traffic conditions. The interior was said to be inspired by the Swedish Ice Hotel and the Swiss Army Knife.

Volvo V50 – 2003

History of Volvo estates

The V50 was the replacement for the V40 and it shared its platform with the Ford Focus and the Mazda 3. Highlights included the availability of all-wheel drive and a five-cylinder 2.5-litre engine. It also featured Volvo’s signature ‘floating console’ centre stack.

Volvo V50 SV Concept – 2004

History of Volvo estates

This was the first Volvo to be built by the firm’s Special Vehicle department in Gothenburg and it made its debut at the 2004 SEMA trade show in Las Vegas. It was designed to appeal to a younger audience, with its 2.5-litre engine developing an eye-watering 340hp. Other tweaks included a 12mm lower ride height, AP Racing brakes and race-bred Pirelli tyres.

Volvo XC70 AT Concept – 2005

History of Volvo estates

A year later, Volvo unveiled the XC70 AT Concept. It featured a 408hp 2.5-litre engine, a six-speed automatic transmission and – as is probably obvious from the photo – all-wheel drive. The air suspension could see the ride height increased by as much as eight inches compared with the standard XC70.

Volvo XC70 Surf Rescue Concept – 2007

History of Volvo estates

Inspired by the surf vehicles of the Californian coast, the XC70 Surf Rescue Concept was another SEMA show special. With its 20-inch wheels and 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine, this thing was perfect for would-be Pamela Andersons across the world. A neat idea, but if Volvo ruled the world, we doubt anyone would ever find themselves in danger on the beach.

Volvo V60 – 2011

History of Volvo estates

In many ways, the V60 flied in the face of Volvo’s estate car heritage, majoring on style and performance, as opposed to outright practicality. That said, with the V70, XC60 and XC90 in the range, you’d forgive Volvo for introducing what was essentially an alternative to a large hatchback.

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid – 2013

History of Volvo estates

This was the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid, combining 48g/km of CO2 with a claimed 155.2mpg. The combination of a 215hp five-cylinder diesel engine and a 70hp electric motor earned it the right to wear a D6 badge.

Volvo V60 Polestar – 2014

History of Volvo estates

This was Volvo at its bonkers best. The V60 Polestar felt like an old-school performance wagon, lost in a new era for Volvo. But don’t let that put you off, because the combination of a 3.0-litre straight six engine and all-wheel drive made it one of the best all-weather wagons on the market.

Volvo Concept Estate – 2014

History of Volvo estates

Before it launched the all-new XC90, Volvo teased us with three glorious concepts. In our humble opinion, the Concept Estate was the best of the trio. A shooting brake finished in brown and blessed with a delightful interior – what’s not to like? Aside from the fact it was only a concept.

Volvo V60 Cross Country – 2015

History of Volvo estates

We didn’t see this one coming. In 2015, Volvo launched the V60 Cross Country – a soft-road version of the larger XC70. It was available in both front- and four-wheel-drive guises, but either way it offered a ride height increased by 65mm.

Volvo V90 – 2016

History of Volvo estates

Volvo might be doing a fine job of making some of the world’s best SUVs, but it’s reassuring to know that it hasn’t given up on the estate car. “In many people’s minds we are known as the definitive estate brand. While the Volvo brand today stands for more than estates, we are proud to carry forward this rich heritage with the V90,” said Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo’s president and chief executive.

Volvo V90 Cross Country – 2016

History of Volvo estates

Twenty years after the launch of Volvo’s first off-road estate, the Swedish company unveiled the new V90 Cross Country. It was developed to cope with the extreme Scandinavian climate, so it should be more than up to the task of dealing with some light drizzle and a stiff breeze. It also looks more appealing than a crossover. Discuss…

Volvo V60 – 2018

History of Volvo estates

Volvo won’t stop until it has built the most attractive cars within each segment. The V60, which goes into battle against the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4, combines all that is great about the V90, but in a smaller, well-proportioned package. In true Volvo tradition, it features a huge boot, offering 539 litres of luggage space with the rear seats in their upright position.

Volvo V60 Cross Country – 2018

History of Volvo estates

The V60 Cross Country sits 75mm higher than the standard wagon and features all-wheel-drive, hill descent control, corner traction control and an off-road driving mode as standard. According to Volvo, it takes the V60 from the suburb to the skogen (Swedish for forest).

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Volvo 360c

Volvo wants to beat domestic flights with a first-class cabin on wheels

Volvo 360c

Volvo wants to bring the first-class flying experience to the road. How? With the new 360c concept.

What is the Volvo 360c?

Volvo has revealed a surprise new concept car called 360c, a vehicle it describes it as “a holistic view of a future of travel that is autonomous, electric, connected and safe”. It all sounds both very futuristic, and very Volvo-like.

On the surface, it’s a future-looking concept not unlike any other. It’s not unattractive and it is discernibly a Volvo – a change from most manufacturers’ anonymous visions of the future in a similar mould.

Where the 360c really pushes the boat out is in the attention to detail, given its intended purpose, and the conversations that Volvo wants it to start. More on that in a bit…

What’s inside the Volvo 360c?

This is where it gets interesting. To all appearances, the Volvo 360c is entirely configurable to your personal needs. Indeed there are four potential uses –  sleeping environment, mobile office, living room and entertainment space. All are said to “reimagine the way people travel”.

Volvo wants this car to bleed into other areas of your life and in doing so, improve it – transport, work and otherwise. A hotel room-come-cabbie on the go to help you “recapture time while travelling in the cities of the future”.

Pictured are a bed configuration, with the cabin not looking unlike a first-class pitch on a transatlantic flight, an office arrangement, fit to seat four, a party arrangement, complete with champagne, and a standard living room-style setup.

Live 200 miles away from the office? Not to worry, there’s a mobile office on your drive. Got a journey from Seattle to LA? Set off at 10pm, have a night’s kip, be there by 3pm the next day… (Okay, one thing autonomous cars will never be, is as fast as a domestic flight.)

It’s all rather appealing and well thought-out, especially when you consider Volvo’s musings on the future of transport.

“Autonomous vehicle concepts have a tendency to become a technology showcase instead of a vision of how people use it,” said Robin Page, senior vice president of design at Volvo Cars.

“But Volvo is a human-centric brand. We focus on the daily lives of our customers and how we can make them better. The 360c is the next iteration of this approach.”

What’s the point of the Volvo 360c?


The conversations this 360c was built to start, are the point. Volvo are keen to stress the scale of the quantum leap in transportation that the advent of autonomous cars represents. How far-reaching can the remit of the autonomous car be?

Volvo reckons pretty far, citing domestic air travel as a target that it thinks a network of these pods could beat. The apparent inconvenience of domestic flights, as taken by some 740 million of us by Volvo’s maths – security, cramped seating, emissions output and so on, all to be remedied by a comfortable across-country ride in the Volvo 360c.

“Domestic air travel sounds great when you buy your ticket, but it really isn’t. The 360c represents what could be a whole new take on the industry,” said Mårten Levenstam, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Volvo Cars.

“The sleeping cabin allows you to enjoy premium comfort and peaceful travel through the night and wake up refreshed at your destination. It could enable us to compete with the world’s leading aircraft makers.”

“When the Wright brothers took to the skies in 1903, they did not have a clue about what modern air travel would look like.”

“We do not know what the future of autonomous drive will hold, but it will have a profound impact on how people travel, how we design our cities and how we use infrastructure.”

Volvo 360c

Before we get to that stage though, we need to lock down how an autonomous infrastructure is going to work. To this end, the 360c is intended as a conversation catalyst, and it’s a conversation Volvo is keen to have as soon as possible.

“We regard the 360c as a conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come as we learn more.”

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2018 Volvo S60

Volvo reveals its first diesel-free car in decades

2018 Volvo S60The new Volvo S60 has been revealed at the firm’s first U.S. manufacturing plant in Charleston, South Carolina – and it’s not only the first American-built Volvo, it’s also the firm’s first car in decades not to feature a diesel engine.

It’s a bold move by Volvo, because the S60 is competing in the same sector as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. This is a marketplace dominated by diesel.

It’s also one dominated by sales to company car fleets, though, and Volvo will be hoping the ultra-low emissions of its S60 diesel alternative, the S60 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid, will easily sway them.

2018 Volvo S60

BMW has already seen demand exceed supply for its 330e iPerformance plug-in hybrid, suggesting the sector is primed to switch from diesel by reputation-conscious companies who want to be seen to do the right thing.

The diesel-free S60 range, which goes on sale in the UK from early 2019, is part of Volvo’s commitment to completely phase diesel out: it’s already said it will not develop another range of diesel engines, and from 2019, every new car it introduces will, like the S60, be electrified.

Exciting S60

2018 Volvo S60

“The new S60 is one of the most exciting Volvo cars we’ve ever made,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars. “It is a true driver’s car that gives us a strong position in the U.S. and China saloon markets, creating more growth opportunities for Volvo Cars.”

The saloon version of the new Volvo V60 estate, it will be offered with regular T5 and T6 petrol turbo engines, but the star powerplants will be the two turbocharged and supercharged plug-in hybrids. The T6 Twin Engine AWD produces 340hp, and the T8 Twin Engine AWD puts out 400hp – which can be tweaked further, to 415hp, by a Polestar Engineered engine upgrade.

Polestar will also do over the wheels, brakes and suspension to ensure the S60 can handle the extra power…

2018 Volvo S60

All S60s should drive well, though. The car uses Volvo’s acclaimed Scalable Product Architecture, or SPA, which helps make cars such as the V90, XC60 and XC90 so impressive.

Volvo R&D senior vice president Henrik Green reckons it will be “one of the best sports saloons on the market… the active chassis and drive modes deliver excellent control and an engaged performance that makes this a driver’s car”.

Needless to say, it will be one of the safest cars in its sector too – if not THE safest.

2018 Volvo S60

Volvo will even let you subscribe to it, if you don’t want to buy it. The Care by Volvo offer provides a car for no down payment, with the flat-fee monthly subscription taking care of everything apart from fuel. It “makes having a car as transparent, easy and hassle-free as having a phone,” reckons Volvo.

Volvo 480 ES side

Volvo 480: the Euro wedge that wasn’t sensible or square

Volvo 480 ES side

There’s something wonderfully Swedish about the Volvo 480, and yet its development was a truly international affair. Built in the Netherlands, penned by a Dutchman, interior designed by a Brit, mechanicals supplied by the French – and with a thoroughly Swedish badge tucked away below the front bumper.

With its pop-up headlights and wedge-like styling, it’s as though the 480 came out of nowhere, but it borrowed from the past while laying the foundations for Volvos of the future. Today, the Swedish oddball is a bit of a cult classic and a retro bargain to boot.

Volvo rejected proposals submitted by two Italian styling houses before designing the 480 in-house at Volvo Car BV (Holland). It was a product of the Galaxy project, which began in 1978 when the company started considering replacements for the 240, 340/360 and 740/760.

Internally, Volvo had accepted that its future would be driven through the front wheels, but externally the message was entirely different. Just a couple of years before the front-wheel-drive 480 went on sale, Volvo was extolling the virtues of rear-wheel-drive to its American audience.

‘The greatest thing ever to come down the pike’

“In an era when just about everyone seems to be touting front-wheel-drive as the greatest thing ever to come down the pike, there’s one thing you should know. Virtually every car in the world today that’s famous for performance and handling uses rear-wheel-drive”, proclaimed a press advert.

“Of course, a Ferrari or Formula 1 car may not exactly fit your family’s driving needs. So why not consider a Volvo Turbo? When it comes to handling and performance, you’ll find it leaves a lot of front-wheel-drive cars bringing up the rear.”

To ram home its message, Volvo positioned its car alongside a Ferrari, Corvette, 911 and a couple of race cars.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Volvos weren’t exactly known for their whippet-like pace and apex-kissing cornering capabilities. Its smallest cars, the 340 hatch and 360 saloon, were more geriatric than a packet of Werther’s Originals wrapped in a knitted toilet roll holder.

Volvo 480

Unveiled at the Geneva motor show in 1986, the 480 didn’t so much send jaws dropping to the floor as leave onlookers scratching their heads. The shooting brake design, penned by John de Vries, tipped its hat to the 1800ES, most notably the all-glass tailgate, but the pop-up headlights were straight out of an Amsterdam coffee shop.

It’s perhaps a little generous to reference the Ferrari Daytona when considering the front end styling, but if you see it, you’ll get it. It’s also worth remembering the two-door coupe segment of the time: you could still buy a new Ford Capri, for goodness sake, while the cool kids drove around in Sciroccos and Celicas.

But let’s not give the 480 ideas above its station – this was no sports coupe. It was a proper four-seater, albeit with the inconvenience of entering the rear seats via the front. In fact, its closest rival was the cheaper and remarkably similarly styled Honda Accord Aerodeck. In profile, it’s as though the pair were separated at birth.

Volvo 480 ES interior

The interior was the work of Peter Horbury, who managed to create a roomy cabin, complete with a dashboard layout that, by today’s standards, would be considered cluttered. On the plus side, the two-spoke steering wheel of the early cars was a nod to Swedish eccentricity.

It’s easy to focus on the pop-up headlights and glass tailgate when gawping at the 480, but more in-depth scrutiny will reveal a host of neat touches. Take the ‘hockey stick’ rear lights, which combine to create a single strip running along the back of the car. Above it is a grab handle, which looks entirely at odds with the clean design.

Also, note the pillar-mounted door locks and the side markers situated at the edge of that long rear section. It has been suggested that the Volvo grille was a last-minute addition at the request of the board, but regardless of whether or not this is true, it became one of the 480’s hallmark features.

Volvo 480 ES

Other nods to Volvo’s safe and dependable heritage include the impact-absorbing front and rear bumpers and the stone-resistant plastic bonnet and front end. As you’d expect, the 480 far exceeded the safety standards of the time.

That’s not to say that cars rolling out of the Nedcar factory were built to the same high standards of Gothenburg. By Volvo’s own admission, the Renix (Renault and Bendix) engine management system was a particular weak point. “Volvo 480 was very well equipped in standard version, filled with practical and personal solutions. A lot of them were electronically controlled which in turn caused its fair bit of reliability problems.”

Even allowing for what is perhaps a slightly clunky translation from Swedish, that’s hardly a glowing endorsement.

Initially, all 480s were powered by the same Renault-sourced 1.7-litre engine, which provided adequate performance at best. With 109hp available, the 480 could top 118mph (eventually), crawling to 60mph in, well, how long have you got?

But did anyone genuinely arrive at a Volvo showroom expecting sports car levels of performance? Given Volvo’s image and audience, it’s unlikely. Besides, the 480 had other qualities.

Volvo 480 ES rear

Cleverly, Volvo turned to Lotus for help with the suspension, which resulted in a car with excellent driving manners. Motor Sport commented on the “absolutely superb handling” before praising the ride quality.

“The 480 ES rides almost as well as a heavier 700 series saloon, taking high-speed bumps without flinching. It also handles as well as most pedigree sports cars, flicking through tight turns and hairpin bends like a rally-tuned Mini of yesteryear. But it would not understeer. Volvo’s first FWD model truly feels like a rear-drive, which is exactly what the engineers intended.”

If that doesn’t result in you turning to the pages of Car & Classic in search of some Swedish wedge, nothing will.

Things got even better in 1988 when Volvo added a turbocharger to the mix. A blown version had been promised from the outset, with Porsche called in for help with its development. It increased the output to 120hp, giving it the performance to match the chassis.

In 1993, a hugely improved 110hp 2.0-litre version was introduced, although this was never treated to a turbocharger. Volvo even toyed with the idea of convertible and Targa versions, but these never progressed beyond the concept stage. Shame.

Volvo 480 Turbo

There had never been a Volvo so unlike a Volvo

Production ended in 1995, by which time 76,375 480s had rolled out of the Dutch factory. With 22,000 sold over here, the UK was its biggest market, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of all global sales.

Unfortunately, neglect and general apathy towards the 480 during its banger years means that Volvo’s oddball is living on borrowed time. Although How Many Left isn’t entirely accurate, there are thought to be fewer than 300 on the road, with a more substantial number listed as SORN, presumably in varying states of decay.

Buying a cheap one is fraught with risk. Build quality was patchy when new, so up to three decades of use will have only made things worse. And while servicing parts are easy to source, others are either obsolete or hideously expensive.

Better to spend a little extra on a good example, ideally one owned by a Volvo Owners Club or Volvo 480 Club Europe member. You could even buy a ‘brand new’ 480 ES, although you might want to check the price first.

More than just a turning point in Volvo’s history, the 480 is a quirky, oddball classic, with styling that seems to get better with the passing of time. Until its arrival, all Volvos built since 1927 had been rear-wheel drive, while all vehicles manufactured from 1998 have been front- or four-wheel drive.

To borrow a line of copy from a press advert for the 480 Turbo, not since the 1800ES had there been a Volvo so unlike a Volvo. Unfortunately, there’s unlikely to be anything like it ever again.

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Click the images to see more of the Volvo 480