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  • Writer's pictureMitchell Weitzman

2023 Volvo V60 review: sad beautiful tragic

This pretty wagon has a few fundamental issues

2023 Volvo V60 Cross Country

2023 Volvo V60 review with The Road Beat

Words and pictures by Mitchell Weitzman

Beauty is sometimes not enough to make up for glaring detractors; Step forward Volvo's V60 to solidify this rather unfortunate point. As gorgeous as the classic wagon shape wears on the Swede, basic drivability issues hinder this luxury product and keep it from earning an recommendation. And yes, the drawbacks are unacceptable on this expensive machine, one that rings the register to the tune of $63,585.

I wish I loved the V60 because of how attractive it is inside and out. The black paint looks perfect to accentuate the texture of the wagon body while also exuding an aggression you normally don't associate with Volvo. The short front and rear overhangs, with wheel arches filled with large polished faces, further cement its runway style. Contrasting white leather interior is a lovely place to be, with a high quality Nappa hide and finishing details that punch above its price weight. Seats offer all kinds of adjustment and are among the best chairs in any new car. Even items like the headlights are industry-leading, not just class-leading, with the lights bending to the direction of each curve to dramatic effect to help light your way through turns. Once you experience a Volvo in the dark, it's only then that you realize how bad other cars' headlights can be. At first impression, you might even think the V60 is a bit of a bargain considering just how nice it all appears inside and out. And look at that shifter!

But, then you get to the infotainment and realize some of the graphics are hard-edged and in need of a dire graphic overhaul, like an early rendition of iOS. And then you notice the lags and occasional freezes that this car and other Volvo's all tend to do when it comes to the center display. While, despite all the luxury embedded into this cabin, you might notice how the large volume is constructed of what feels like hollow plastic and makes a horrid, audible click when it loosely turns in the same way the bezel of a cheap diving watch does; Like, did nobody try the volume knob before signing off on this car and realize it's rubbish? Also, there's a magnificent 360-degree camera onboard, but why the heck can't we view both the 360 and rear-view cameras at the same time? There's so much screen real estate to have both concurrently, yet we still can't. C'mon, Volvo, as this affects all their cars in the present.

The chassis underneath is secure and composed for normal driving, tracking straight on the highway and with nicely hushed interior volumes, making for a soothing and appropriately luxurious ride. There isn't much enthusiasm for corner carving here, but if you do decide to set some times on your local special stage, you can carry some alarming speed for a pedestrian vehicle, just you won't be having fun doing so. For example, when I did decide to up the pace on a local stretch of asphalt spaghetti, the soft suspension begins to easily flounder around in protest. The tradeoff, though, is an accomplished ride quality that is rarely unsettled by all but the worst of bumps and imperfections.

Volvo V60 Cross Country Ultimate

However, the glowing fault of the V60 lies in basic operation, in due part to a powertrain that belongs in the recycle bin. It's not that it's slow or uneconomical, as it's neither of those, but rather there's a profound lack of ability to drive seamlessly and smoothly. Similar to a beta release of an operating software, there are performance glitches to be found in daily tasks. Despite implementing a mild hybrid system that assists with transitions and startups, it's actually made both quite worse. Setting off from a stop sometimes feels like you're crawling or even left the parking brake on, as there's very little initial power to depart. Press the throttle too much, however, and you're greeted coldly by a surge and lurch procedure, likely a result of the turbocharging suddenly spooling up and dumping boost down your throat. This was more apparent on hills, where I really just learned overall that the best way to drive the V60 smoothly was to set off really (too) slowly to avoid such surges. With a gas pedal that acts too much like an on/off switch, this unresponsive engine combination is out of place in a brand new vehicle, let alone one costing upwards of $60,000.

But, the most noticeably irritable behavior comes when transitioning from coasting to reapplying throttle. Take for instance the scenario of when coasting towards a red light when it then turns green upon approach. Here in the Volvo, you can start to squeeze the throttle for multiple seconds before anything happens. If you get impatient and ask for too much, you get the same slow boost build followed by an abrupt surge that is anything but luxurious. Mild hybrids are supposed to make driving and power delivery more transparent, yet this is anything but, being a lethargic and then often lurching travesty that needs a rethink. For context, I drove a Lexus RX 500h immediately before the Volvo, which is a large hybrid SUV, and that car has literally zero of the same behavior this powertrain does, exhibiting an ease of throttle application that is almost impossible to muck up and cause discomfort. The fact that it takes even an ounce of concentration to avoid the problems here in this Volvo is reason for unacceptability in the present time. Their more potent T8 powertrain, and former supercharged and turbocharged inline-four engines did not suffer the same fate, so this weaker only-turbocharged engine does have issue in needs of resolution. At least I averaged 27 MPG during my week driving the Volvo. Even other non-hybrid turbocharged four-bangers from competitors don't have such poor response patterns.

Volvo V60 Cross Country Ultimate

It's the engine that kills it for me, as that hurts the actual application of the V60 as transportation. That an engine so naively uncalibrated is able to make it into production is a worrying sign, maybe one that points to Volvo being more (and only) focused on their all-electric future. I still like the brand and what they stand for from a design standpoint, and they do offer great value compared to the Germans because of their luxurious interiors, but it's also another Volvo that has issues that this dude cannot abide by.

2023 Volvo V60 Cross Country AWD Ultimate

As-tested price: $63,585

Pros: Pretty and refined interior

Cons: Uncultured and underdeveloped powertrain

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