Volvo shapes up for a new year
Clean up for the big Swede. Frederic Manby tries some new Volvos.
VOLVO moves into 2011 with a clutch of new engines – most of them courtesy of its erstwhile owners, Ford, who sold the Swedes to the Chinese last year.
One of the headline makers is a Ford-Peugeot-Citroën 1.6 diesel that, in eco-tailored versions of the Volvo C30 coupé, S40 saloon and V50 estate, emits just 99 grams per kilometre travelled of carbon dioxide.
In Britain, this means that the owner pays no annual road tax. The 99g/km also makes these Volvos exempt from the weekday charge of £10 in London’s congestion zone. It also qualifies for the entry-level 13 per cent benefit in kind tax for company drivers.
The V50 is a reasonably large vehicle. Well, OK, it’s based on the chassis of the outgoing Ford Focus. Yet with 113.4bhp and 199 lb ft of low-speed torque, the V50 DRIVe (sic) feels pacey enough. Its top speed is a respectable (and usually illegal) 121 miles an hour and it will do the 0-60mph sprint inside 11 seconds. Ergo, it will keep up with the average National Express coach, but with much greater refinement. Indeed, this handsome upmarket station wagon is quiet and smooth running and would suit my needs.
The official economy is a massive 65.7mpg in town, an almost unlikely 80.7mpg out of town, and 74.3mpg overall. These are heady figures but I did coax it to an average of 63mpg on gentle driving on slightly undulating roads around Hampshire, where Volvo was holding court at the Wellington Inn, Baughurst, which champions low-food miles though gets it soap, salt and chef from Australia. He has just become pub chef of the year, so we ate well.
Sadly, the V50 is no longer “cheap”. The 1.6 petrol model has been dropped (low demand). The entry price is £19,495 for the 143bhp 2-litre petrol model which returns an average of 37mpg and 176gkm.
So the high-economy V50 DRIVe is the answer?
Well, the entry ES version is £22,425 and my test sample in SE trim cost a resounding £24,240 and then had extras that included silver paint at a giddy £795, and sat nav at £1,535. The V50 is, by the way, Volvo’s No 2 seller in Britain. Their best seller is the XC90, a car that is eight years old and, apparently, unlikely to be replaced soon.
No other volume car maker has its most expensive model as its best-seller. The reason it is doing so well, says Duncan Forrester, who moved from BMW to be Volvo’s PR chief in Britain, is partly because in the planning it was aimed at the American woman. She wanted a big all-roader which did not look too big or threatening and would carry seven people. So the face is
Sadly, the V50 is no longer “cheap”. The entry price is £19,495 for the 143bhp 2-litre petrol model.
low and the bonnet slopes down, and Mrs America and, by association, Mrs Britain does not feel out of kilter.
For 2011, the five-cylinder Swedish-built 2.4-litre diesel engine is boosted to 196.6bhp. With a six-speed automatic gearbox, it returns 34mpg and 219g/km CO2. The 0-60 time is 9.7 seconds. Prices start at £34,795.
At 189 inches long, it is not too tough to park. Smart car and best-seller though it is, its refinement does not match its newer rivals. The diesel is slightly coarse at low revs and there is some body vibration. Trish and Jill and the thousands of Home Counties mums with an XC90, will never notice.
That original design, by Peter Horbury, still looks fresh and attractive, better, I think, than the shorter XC60 which followed it.
That model, along with the S60, V60, V70 and S80, is now offered with Ford’s Spanish 236.6bhp 2-litre petrol engine and twin-clutch automatic gears, but at 31mpg and 211g/ km (in the V60) I don’t see the appeal of this version for high mileages, other than a 0-60 time of 6.8 seconds. Who pays for the fuel?
Volvo has personalised the ancillaries, giving it a patented sheet-steel manifold and turbocharger housing for improved efficiency but you are still going to have a fairly thirsty car with high benefit in kind tax for company drivers. I think employers are beginning to wake up to the amount of petrol and diesel frittered away by their drivers. Business miles and average speeds could be reduced.
Stop-start ignition is fitted to the new direct-injection 1.6 petrol engine from Ford’s Bridgend works on the S60 and V60 but not on the larger V70 and S80 with the same engine. Surely these bigger cars need it even more? Volvo will also make use of the platform under the all-new Ford Focus for its S40 and V50 replacements.
The S60 and V60 motor into 2011 with the new option of the popular R-Design, more than just cosmetic, bringing a lowered ride with a stiffer suspension, 18in glitzy wheels, part leather seats, etc, plus a choice of any engine in the series, from the green DRIVe to the 299bhp 3-litre six-cylinder T6 with allwheel-drive: thirsty but a real performance model capable of 0-60 in 5.9 seconds.
Volvo sales reached 373,525 in 2010, a big surge on 2009, and 10 per cent of them were in Britain, its third largest market.
However, it is still small compared with the sevenfigure sales of its German peers. No reason, then, to have 250 different steering wheel designs on its books.
They will be rationalised, along with many other items and the innovative straightfive petrol engine will be phased out in favour of more efficient petrol fours, which in the immediate future will be sourced from Ford. Many of its cars are actually made in Belgium.
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TWO FOR THE ROAD: Volvo’s V50 and, below, its best-selling – and most expensive car –the XC90.