We were on hand in Sweden recently as Volvo unveiled its newest offering, the 2019 Volvo V60. While there, we took in as much as we could about Volvo’s new midsize wagon while learning more about the brand’s future along the way. Here’s what we found out:
- The V60’s T8 engine option is impressive
Take a look at the spec sheets and it quickly becomes clear that Volvo is not messing around with the V60. The turbocharged, supercharged, and electrified powertrain available for the top-spec T8 puts out an impressive 390 horsepower, 303 of which comes from its 2.0-liter gasoline inline-four.
Pairing a turbocharger with a supercharger overcomes the downsides of each. The supercharger cancels out turbo lag at low rpms, while the turbo compensates for the blower’s reduced performance at high rpms. Combine this twin-charged system with an electric motor and you have a particularly potent driveline.
A case can be made that the supercharger is unnecessary as the electric motor can provide the necessary low-end torque—or that an electric supercharger would be far more beneficial than a mechanically driven one. We asked Volvo’s senior vice president of R&D Henrik Green why Volvo chose to the configuration it did. He told us that the current setup provides an “extra bonus” but that future systems may dispense with the compressor.
Pushed on the potential use of a different battery type, Green said that he sees lithium-ion as the primary tech for the time being, though he sees emerging technologies such as solid-state batteries having potential in the distant future.
- The car was launched in a luxury villa in Stockholm
Instead of unveiling the 2019 V60 at an auto show, Volvo sent a group of journalists to the classy suburbs of Stockholm. The setting was an up-market villa adjacent to another one previously inhabited by a member of famed Swedish pop group ABBA.
The reveal was strategic move intended to showcase the V60 as a functional all-rounder for the family. Lex Kerssemakers, Volvo’s senior vice president for the Europe, Middle East, Asia region, drove the V60 up the villa’s snow-covered driveway as photographers and journalists alike pressed their frozen digits on the shutter buttons of their cameras and smartphones.
Kerssemakers spoke of the V60 being the answer for people who want a functional all-rounder, but not the high up driving position of an SUV or crossover. The launch set had props such as a bicycle and surfboard to illustrate that the wagon can be used for road trips and outdoor activities.
- The V60 has a more dynamic chassis
Volvo’s vehicle dynamics team was hard at work during the development of the 2019 V90, creating a vehicle that it believes behaves differently from the larger V90. The powertrain was developed to constantly monitor and swap torque distribution between the front and rear, and the suspension setup was changed from the V90 series.
Top-mounts, dampers, and anti-roll bars are all different. Roll balance was shifted to the front to provide more movement over the front suspension geometry in order to give the car a sharper turn-in, as the tires have more freedom to adjust to the surface and bite in to the asphalt.
The suspension has been lowered, and bump, rebound, and ultimate stiffness have been recalibrated in an effort to create a more dynamic profile. Volvo engineers said the change that has had the most dramatic impact is the damper tune, with help from a subtle update to the EPAS configuration.
The team went as far as to say that they developed the car to make the driver want to take another loop of a back road on the way home. Without getting behind the wheel, we can’t comment on this, but the hardware improvements and the team’s determination to deliver a sportier ride certainly gave us the impression that the V60 will be a pretty capable machine from a dynamic perspective.
- The V60’s design team went to town on the styling
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the V60 looks similar to previous models. But upon closer examination, you’ll see that a lot has changed to segregate the V60 from the existing lineup.
“The V60 really is the central point of the Volvo brand. It’s refined, has a beautiful proportion and stance, yet delivers on practicality and versatility,” said Robin Page, senior vice president design at Volvo Cars.
The V60 is the smallest and lightest vehicle to use Volvo’s successful SPA platform and the design team tried to accentuate the car’s sportier intentions through key features. The grille is sharper in shape than the V90, with a steeper angled intake that gives a lower and wider look to the front end.
It has a longer rear overhang than the V90, too, which not only changes the look of the rear but also adds trunk space. The uprights at the most rearward position of the V60 have been increased more to the vertical, giving it a stance closer to the ‘boxy’ shape of the much loved ’80s and ’90s Volvo wagons, and are tied in with aggressive angles at the front.
The design team was also keen to explore the use of a “coke bottle” curve to the door profile on the V60, but came across a manufacturing issue: the upper door hinge was in the exact location where the designers wanted to pull in the bodywork. This meant that the hinge had to be moved down, which also meant that the rigs in the manufacturing factory had to be remade. Each rack in the factory that holds the doors was remade to hold the new doors—a significant financial outlay for a design tweak, hats off to Volvo for making the decision.
- Volvo’s future is electrified
Volvo has made no secret of its desire to electrify its lineup, and has been pushing hard to make that happen. There’s also excitement building around its emerging Polestar electric vehicle branch. We sat down with Global CEO of Volvo Håkan Samuelsson to see what the future holds for the Swedes.
From the outset, Samuelsson made it clear that Volvo is 100 percent behind the electric revolution. He told us that after 2019 every new Volvo will have a hybrid variant, and sees that the electric section of the powertrain is only going to grow. Volvo is forecasting that 25 percent of all Volvo sales will be electrified in some way by 2020.
He doesn’t believe that the company will go fully electric anytime soon, stating that it’s the job of Polestar to offer EVs. However, he sees that the internal combustion engine will slowly be squeezed in size to make room for larger electric components.
Samuelsson also told us that Volvo’s interest in diesel powertrains is slipping, but will remain as long as customers want it as an option. The ultimate phase-out of diesel engines is not a huge issue for Volvo, as its engine architecture is modular and many components are shared between gasoline and diesel variants, meaning there would be little disruption to its manufacturing if it decides to chop oil burners from its powertrain offerings.
Developing autonomous assistance technologies is another area where Volvo is making a strong push, and Samuelsson said the brand’s work with Uber has been promising in that area.
- Chinese models are available without a front passenger seat
The U.S. is currently Volvo’s second largest market behind China, but that will no doubt grow after the completion of its manufacturing plant in South Carolina. China has seen a recent boom in refined and luxury automotive sales, with wealthy businessmen purchasing high-end Volvos for their drivers to chauffeur.
Those wealthy Chinese businessmen are also offered the option of a large infotainment display unit in place of the front passenger seat. These ‘Excellence by Sweden’ products allow rear-seat passengers to browse the news and check stock prices while being driven to their next meeting, making use of the previously unused passenger seat.
There is a version available in the U.S., but the passenger seat remains, with a large screen grafted to the back of the seat in place of the Chinese setup.
- Volvo is partnering with Google for future infotainment systems
The new V60 uses Volvo’s the existing Sensus system. The hardware is largely the same as the rest of the Volvo lineup, but the software has been tweaked to increase system speed.
Future Volvos will benefit from the recently announced partnership with Google. An Android-based system with far more functionality, including capacitive feedback, is slated to roll out in 2019 with new features such as “Wash my car,” where a mobile valet is sent to clean your vehicle, and even “Fuel my car” where a remote fueling vehicle will come to your location and fill up your Volvo. No more getting caught out with no gas in the middle of nowhere!
The fuel and wash features are currently being tested in California with select clients and Volvo is planning to roll them out nationwide along with the new Android system.
- We can’t wait for the V60 Polestar
Considering that the top-spec T8 powertrain already produces close to 400 hp, we can envision that an ‘Engineered by Polestar’ variant would be a backroad beast, especially given Volvo’s strong relationship with automotive race parts manufacturers like Öhlins. It’s a good bet that if produced, a Polestar variant of the V60 would be able to bring the fight to the German rivals.
While our chat with Samuelsson didn’t yield a date for a Polestarized V60, we were left with the impression that it was more than likely in the cards.