by Nigel Wigmore
WITH my adopted team — the French, of course — faring much better than us in the World Cup I thought I would show my allegiance not by warbling France’s national anthem, La Marseillaise, but by driving around this week in a suitably liveried car.
True, the Volvo V60 is not French made. Volvos are still determinedly Swedish though owned by the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China.
And the hue known as “French Blue” is a distinctive colour probably coveted by the French as resolutely as any other part of their great culture.
However, I was pleased to learn that Volvo describes the colour of this week’s drive — the dashing Volvo V60 R-Design 8-Speed GT — as Rebel Blue.
So there you have it: one erstwhile “rebel” English football fan not flying the flag of St George from the windows of an ancient Mondeo but flying around in a car painted in a colour that has a fetching resemblance to the famous French Blue.
Flying is the operative word here: for this 2014 V60 with Volvo’s new two-litre, four cylinder Drive-E engine ripping up the miles from under the bonnet (0 to 62mph in 7.2 seconds, a top speed of 140mph) is nothing less than a delight to drive.
Its eight-speed Geartronic transmission was a joy especially when using the paddle gears.
But here we touch on a bit of a dilemma for the driver. For although this car is capable of going like a rocket, everything about the ethos behind its design and creation actually shouts care, economy, and safety-first at all times.
You might be surprised to know this engine produces CO2 emissions of just 112g/km and combined cycle economy of 65.7mpg.
What all this means is that when you buy a modern Volvo such as this quick V60 R-Design you buy into a way of driving that actually encourages above all responsibility.
Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a good thing. No scratch that, I think this is a great thing.
Driving on the world’s roads these days is so potentially hazardous, whether you are on a motorway, A-road, B-road or in a town or city, that I firmly believe motorists need all the help they can get from manufacturers.
And in this department Volvo will never short-change you. You pay a premium of course but you are then confronted by the old adage, “What price safety?” How do you put a monetary value on your own life as a motorist or that of your passengers who are your responsibility while travelling in your car?
By producing a car such as the V60 — in particular this top spec version, the V60 R-Design — Volvo is saying you can have effortless access to high speed and performance but you also are equipped to drive as safely and economically as possible.
Indeed, if you flip through the menu on the car’s onboard computer, you come to a section marked “My V60”. Here Volvo suggests (I say “suggests” because none of this is rammed down your throat) ways of showing maximum responsibility as a driver.
So you get here many tips on “greener” driving. There are also aids such as Active Bi-Xenon lights, — headlights that follow steering movements of the car; City Safety, which reduces collision risk at low speeds; Distance alert, which will tell you when you are too close to the car in front; and my old friend BLIS, which warns the driver of vehicles passing within the car’s “blind spot”.
To anyone who believes that these aids to drivers are over-fussy or nanny-induced I would say this: you are not living in the real (motoring) world. Volvo has always taken a safety-first approach to producing its cars and has an almost obsessive policy of putting people in the car first. To my mind, the way our roads are today, Volvo has been completely vindicated in its historic campaign to make things safer for drivers and is being copied now by other car makers.
But Volvo is no killjoy: on the V60 there was also something called DSTC (an acronym of course, cars are equipped with little else). It stands for Dynamic Stability and Traction. When you engage Sport mode, the car “relaxes” its hold on the car’s grip enough to allow you to enjoy yourself.
You can really have some fun in the right circumstances (for example controlled skidding): this is what is known as “driver involvement”. But with safety paramount DSTC remains constantly on watch to help stop you making an ass of yourself.
Owning a new Volvo may prove beyond the pocket of some people — this excellent test car, with options, comes in at just over £40,000. Yet increasingly, motorists are realising that if they can go the extra mile in shelling out for the initial cost of a good car, it will pay off in the long run by providing peace of mind.
Car tested: V60 D4 R-Design 8-Speed GT
• Price for this car (including options) £40,455
• Options include:
Rebel Blue Paint: £330
Auto folding mirrors and ground lights: £225
Gear shift paddles: £150
Heated steering wheel: £200
Park Assist Pilot: £850
• 0 to 62mph in 7.2 seconds
• Top speed 140mph
• CO2 emissions of 112g/km
• 65.7mpg on the combined cycle
• Safety features include:
Active Bi-Xenon lights
BLIS or blind spot alert