Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Time-honoured design is still estate of the art

Time-honoured design is still estate of the art

WHOEVER invented the estate car had to be a genius. This type of vehicle in its purest form provides every conceivable requirement a motorist might wish for in a car.

One of the prime movers in the development of the estate car over many decades has been the Swedish carmaker, Volvo.

There was a time when Volvo drivers had a certain reputation — grumpy old fellows should cover it — but that perception has changed beyond all recognition in modern times.

One thing I have learned in many years of writing about cars is that each carmaker has a deeply ingrained company culture all of its own that hardly changes.

Volvos passim, it is true, did lack a certain lightness of being. But Volvo — along with a few other top car producers — has demonstrated today that it can change and turn out first-class cars fit for a new motoring age.

I count this week’s drive, the all-new Volvo V60 D3 Momentum Pro Automatic estate, among this new group of Volvo cars that demonstrate excellence in design and manufacture.

And yet, interestingly, this impressive car is not an SUV (sport utility vehicle) or a crossover or whatever other jargon is applied to new models today, but takes its basic form from that tried and tested vehicle, the humble estate car.

But that does not mean that the new V60 estate is dull. Far from it: all the technical connectivity you could want is there, along with the expected interior space (the fabled handy estate car bit on the back).

Volvo’s avowed intention to consider everyone in the car — not just the driver — shines through in the V60 on the comfort and safety fronts.

And, personally, I discovered this car was just about the right size for me. Recently I drove the excellent new V90 estate to North Wales and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. But the V60 medium-sized estate car somehow suited my style of driving and my requirements from a car to a tee.

And yet I was basically aboard a car that has not changed its “form” in more than a century.

The first so-called “station wagons” were produced in America around 1910. This was a wood-bodied conversion of a passenger car. By the Thirties, British and French carmakers were producing what became known as estate cars.

So this form of car — which is defined as a car with a large cargo area and a rear tailgate that is hinged at roof level — has not changed much in that time.

But, and I cannot emphasis this enough, the V60 estate car is also a perfect fit for the 21st century, however much its DNA harks back to the early days of motoring.

Yet here was another surprise for me. Out of all the new Volvos now available and ones I have driven — from the SUV family to the new saloons and estates — I have to say this new V60 estate came out on top.

I liked its rakish new design — that is a key feature that sets it apart. And I liked too the levels of equipment in the V60 that put you on a par with just about anything technology-wise on the road today.

Unveiled last February, the new V60 features Volvo’s latest Drive-E family of petrol and diesel engines.

There are three equipment grades, including R-Design versions, all featuring the latest Volvo connectivity, safety, comfort and convenience features. A V60 Cross Country variant will join the UK model line-up next year.

Volvo’s connectivity and infotainment system is called Sensus. It delivers a touchscreen interface that combines car functions, navigation, connected services and in-car entertainment applications such as Spotify, Pandora, Baidu and TuneIn.

The portrait-oriented touchscreen enables easy and quick access to functions and features. As in the 90 Series cars, smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is also available.

The V60 is also available with two plug-in hybrid options: the new T6 Twin Engine AWD petrol plug-in hybrid that generates a combined 340hp or the T8 Twin Engine AWD petrol plug-in that delivers 390hp.

Volvo’s City Safety technology, standard on all models, combines automatic braking functionality and collision avoidance systems to cover a range of potential accident scenarios and help keep you safe. City Safety is the only system on the market that detects pedestrians, cyclists and large animals.

The V60 estate has already picked up a number of awards. Most revealing of all, I think, was being named family car of the year by the Sunday Times.

Still got it, then: for the estate car “format” proves to be enduring. I wonder if other types of cars will last as long.

• For selected motoring reviews by Nigel Wigmore, visit www.browsingimpala.co.uk

Factfile

Volvo V60 D3 Momentum Pro Automatic estate

Price of model as tested, including options: £40,810

Combined fuel economy: 60.3mpg

CO2 emissions: 123 g/km

Engine: D3 (diesel) — 150hp

Packs: Intellisafe Pro Pack (£1,625) and Convenience Pack (£500)

Single options include:

18in 5-Y Spoke (Diamond Cut/Black) wheels with 235/45 Tyres (£775)

Rear Park Assist Camera (£375)

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