Volvo proves 5 into 3 does go!

Last updated 05:00 22/12/2011

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About the same time I was sulking about the Volvo S60 failing to make the cut for the Luxury COTY award, two new engines, a petrol and a diesel, were introduced to benefit the S60 and V60 (wagon variant).

We have had a D3 five-door to drive recently. Volvo has subtly changed the way it describes its models but essentially the smaller the number, the smaller the power output. The D3 is therefore the least powerful engine in a line-up that includes T4, T5 and T6 turbopetrol alternatives.

The new turbodiesel is a bit unusual in that it is an inline five-cylinder - not that five-potters are odd for Volvo. An example of displacement downsizing, the D3 has a total cylinder volume of 2.0 litres, compared to the D5, which was a 2.4-litre. With peak power of 120kW created at a low 3500rpm, and maximum torque of 400Nm available from a useful 1500 to 2750rpm, it hits highway speeds in 9.3 seconds and produces an overtaking time of 6.5. Fuel economy is rated at 6.0L/100km overall. We recorded 6.5L/100km without really trying, though on a motorway jaunt with cruise control setting the pace, the fuel-use readout indicated a figure in the fours.

The 2.0-litre engine suits this 1650kg machine just fine, hooked up, as it is, to a six-speed automatic. Sure, there's some hesitation between throttle application and full turbo-assisted boost, but on the go, this is no problem, just something to remember when you've stopped at an intersection.

The front-driver handles as expected of a vehicle with three-fifths of its weight over the front axle, gently widening the line when the oar is pushed out. The brakes are sound, and progress is even, without the ride being too firm or floppy. Thanks to SportContact3 rubber, only the worst of our river-rock roads proved overly noisy, with sound levels at times exceeding 76dB at 100km/h.

There's a quite reasonable level of specification in the D3, including the City Safety anti-prang feature, Side Impact and Whiplash protection, a powered driver's seat, 17-inch alloys and leather-covered pews. While there's neither seat heaters nor sat nav, expect dual-zone climate air, a trip computer, audio and cruise controls on the wheel, Bluetooth and iPod recognition, and a pair of two-position integrated booster seats in the back. Park assist is to the rear only; optioning the system at the front adds $355 to the $69,990 bottom line.

There are plenty of cost options, plus a whole mess of expensive safety items, some of which come in packages: Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure, and Driver Alert. If you're a sensible, vigilant driver, these are surplus to needs.

Finally, we feel duty bound to mention a few faults encountered while driving the D3. We'd travelled for an hour across the Waikato and were heading back towards Matamata when a warning message appeared: 'Urgent engine service required'. Naturally, we stopped, turned off the engine, and on the slim chance there'd be anything we could fix, raised the hood. No fires, and no vital fluids had been sprayed about. I also nosed around for a dipstick but failed to find one; evidently, a sensor looks after such things. At this point, sensing passenger panic, I hit the control-alt-delete button to reboot the machine - which persisted in telling us to pop forthwith to the local Volvo dealer. Well, the message hadn't read, 'Turn off engine instantly and drive no further', so we opted to amble to the nearest town, Morrinsville, and keep a close watch on the bonnet outline for new piston-shaped indents. No warning lights were showing, and after another fruitless recheck under the hood, we hit the go button and, unsurprisingly, the warning disappeared. Best of all, the car got us home, with no pushing, hitching or overnighting involved.

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The experience made us wonder about the increasing reliance on sensors and the nuisance that false positives can cause. There were also other minor problems in evidence: the adjustor for the front-passenger seatback came off in my hand (though reattached easily) and the left rear door wouldn't open from the inside (the childproof locks were off).

Two other points. The V60 D3 will tow a load of up to 1600kg, provided the trailer is self-braked. And while there are no paddles for the six-speed automatic transmission, the transmission is generally responsive; use the manual sequential gate and shift at 3500rpm, and the car will go hard.

We thought the wagon a smarter-looking choice than the sedan, and the ergonomics are excellent. German car makers could learn a thing or two from the sensible Swedes in the latter department. And perhaps the Swedes could learn a thing or two from the Japanese about detailed quality control. 

MODEL: Volvo V60 D3.
PRICE: 
$69,990.
ON SALE IN NZ: Nov 2011.
ENGINE: 
1984kg, IL5, 120kW@2900rpm, 400Nm@1400-2900rpm.
TRANSMISSION: 
6-speed auto, front-wheel drive.
VITALS: 
9.31sec 0-100 km/h, 6.0L/100km, 160g/km, 1665kg.
RATING:
 7/10.

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