An Amble On Akeman Street When The Sun Is Low

The 2018 Geneva auto show produced a fair number of thought-provoking cars. The new Volvo V60 is one of them.

New Volvo V60 exterior: autoblog

Automotive News has a list of hits and misses. They like the Volvo. I do as well. Volvo have made it look sufficiently like the S90 to make sense and have made it look sufficiently different so that you don’t mix the two cars up. Here is the S90 in case you have forgotten:

2018 Volvo S90: car magazine

The two photos give you a chance to see how the front graphics have evolved. On the smaller car the lamps bite a little into the body-colour area adjacent to the grille. The fog-lamp and air intake sculpting on the V60 seems more massive, with the diagonal spars gaining more heft relative to the big sister. It isn’t too busy as is sometimes the case with this area of the car. The bumper to body panel gap is now horizontal (different) and the wheel arch moulding is grooved (the same) which is the one baroque touch on both cars.

2019 Volvo V60: autoblog

While the rear lamps are of a kind with previous Volvo estates, I notice they have retreated somewhat from the D-pillar. And the DLO now has a squarer shape which is more in keeping with my idea of Volvo aesthetics.

2018 Volvo V60: momentum cars

The outgoing car’s DLO is almost but not quite bullet-shaped at the rear (not so good) but the tail-gate is far neater by means of the black panel blending optically with the rear screen. It was a good place to put the marque’s nameplate. The 2019 car looks as if it is supposed to be seen as wider and squarer but the body-coloured panel over the license plate depression is untidy. So, at the rear, gains and losses and it’s probably a draw as to which one is the more appealing.

On a more general level, I was thinking about the outgoing 60 and the fact that it is a car that has just not made an impression on me. It has been on sale since 2008 and in all that time the only thing I thought about it was that its styling was not authentic Volvo. The 2000-2009 car did the job, being one of the period’s smarter saloons and even if it was a bit cramped, I though it met my requirements for what a Volvo should look like.

2001 Volvo S60 is sleek and cramped:

Eighteen years later, the Mk 1 S60 still works very well indeed. The new car rejoins the Volvo design mainstream whereas the last car will stand out as an unhappy attempt to de-Volvo Volvo.

You can read a sensible summary of the new V60 here. And you can get ANE’s view here. The technical part I like is this: “Like other models on the SPA platform, the V60 runs a quirky, Corvette style transverse leaf spring rear suspension setup” (Autoblog).

We do like our saloons at DTW and I have to say the V60 is the most handsome even if it’s not actually a saloon yet. Volvo have been producing a very consistent line-up (for the most part) and I fully expect the saloon will not feature the blips and wierdnesses that are marring recent arrivals to this vexed class (step forward Insignia and 508). We have given the A6 a kicking and if you compare the two cars, it makes Audi’s fall from grace all the more unsettling.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

15 thoughts on “An Amble On Akeman Street When The Sun Is Low”

  1. I’m not sure if for my taste it’s still a bit close to the V90. From the front, I’d have difficulties to tell them apart from some distance. But today there seems to be no way around this strong family resemblance, and Volvo has always done it this way (the 2001 S60 you showed here and its contemporary S80 brother also looked very similar).
    That said, it’s not meant to diminish the merits of this design. I agree with you that it looks more Volvo than the outgoing car, and probably has more interior space and an airier feel as well. And it has a very good stance, a long looking wheelbase and not too RWD looking proportions. I might prefer this over the S/V90’s more conservative layout.

    I wonder what they will do with the saloon. The S90 already looks almost like a hatchback, so with the S60 which probably will have an even shorter relic of a boot, they should take the logical step, as Peugeot has done for example.

  2. I think this V60 is a triumph. Confident and assertive without being aggressive, and definitely a Volvo.

    I am fond of estate cars, and interested in the semantics of estate car design. It really isn’t that hard – the template was established some decades ago and hasn’t changed much. Nowadays, with the prevalence of SUVs, people who want an estate car are making a decisive choice, and so quite understandably will seek out models that look like an estate.

    Volvo have nailed the brief here, more so even than the V90, which falls for the conceit of a fast rear screen angle for reasons that aren’t readily apparent.

    A good example of a failed estate car design is the current Insignia Sports Tourer, which for some inexplicable reason has a needlessly fat D pillar and chrome trim inspired by a 1970s Cadillac hearse. It’s a mess, and the market will punish it accordingly.

    1. There´s room in my affections for both this Volvo and the Insignia. If the market punishes the Insignia it´s because GM abandoned the brand and PSA aren´t going to be the best guardian.
      The S90 can “afford” a sloping tailgate: the amount of luggge volume lost is marginal. It´s a pretty handsome car whichever way you examine it. The door surfaces are exquisite.

    2. I still have to look at an Insignia estate by daylight in order to judge if I like it. The first one I saw recently, but I was passing it on the highway by night, so there wasn’t a lot to see.
      The pillar with its trim is also my biggest sorrow, although it seems to be a huge improvement over the Astra.

  3. Is the market punishing the Insignia? On the face of things, yes. I say that insofar as there is noticeably fewer of what used to be a very popular model on UK (and RoI) roads. But that’s a purely unscientific deduction and therefore not very intellectually robust. However, if it is indeed the case, one reason could well be linked to PSA’s acquisition. In a bid to slash costs, it’s likely that the incentives which had in the past ‘massaged’ Insignia sales have been removed, meaning those who now drive them, do so because they actively chose to do so, rather than the fact that their fleet manager (or their bank balance) chose for them. And that means fewer Insignia drivers no matter which way you slice it.

    On a more subjective level, I also feel the new car is considerably less appealing to behold than its more substantial looking predecessor. The mid-life facelift didn’t do it many favours I grant you, but the outgoing Insignia was a handsome car with a much better, more planted stance by comparison to the new model. (And I have to say this; that rear three quarter blanking panel is not only unforgivable, but is the most egregious of its ilk by some margin).

    Returning to the subject of the article, it does appear as though with the V60, Volvo have absolutely nailed it. Spy shots of the forthcoming S60 saloon however suggest this is not necessarily the case…

  4. I like the new V60, too – it’s squarer shape looks more integrated and less ‘droopy’ than the previous version (which I still think looks pretty good). Volvo really seem to have got their mojo back.

    I agree re the tailgate detail; however, speaking from experience, the gloss black finish looks dirty quickly, not helped by the fact that it’s directly below the rear wiper. That may explain the change to body colour.

    The ‘leaf spring’ reference made me smile. I suppose it is one, really, although I’m sure there’s a posher description for it. Here’s a video of how it works; I suspect that Volvo would prefer to emphasise the multi-link aspect of it:

    Finally, I’ve found a spy shot of the S60; it probably doesn’t do the car justice (I hope)

    1. In the first picture, the DLO shape looks like it’s from a Ghibli – not to the Volvo’s advantage.

    2. The video is quite helpful, a little lesson in non-verbal communication. Hallowed shal be the firms who bother with complex rear suspension. I still see it as a leaf-spring albeit advanced. Like the Lancia Lybra and 406, it adds to the appeal of the car. I want that and not €2000 worth of gadgets and digital. Someome please make a “suspension and steering car” again. I’d pay not to have the other features.

    3. Or, the new BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe concept …. (DLO, that is). There is something a bit contrived and truncated about that S60 from the rear pillar backwards (sorry, that’s very awkwardly put).

    4. Is Nu-Cactus any nearer to being a ‘suspension and steering car’? Has anyone here driven one yet? I’m hoping to buy something about 12 months old in about 12 months time, so I really am hoping for some good news.

    5. Adrian: I haven’t seen or driven a Cactus 2.0 yet, but I certainly want to when I get the opportunity.
      It will probably not be much of a ‘steering’ car. Suspension: I guess it’s a mixed picture. As in sophisticated: no. As in good results for softness and comfort: rather yes, apparently. As in combining comfort, roadholding and safety like old-style hydropneumatics in a CX or an active one like in the C6: I’d be rather (pleasantly) surprised if that’s possible with the Cactus’ still simple layout.

      SV: I know what you want to say. The short rear overhang and the necessity (?) for a steeply raked rear windscreen leads to a cut rear door and a very short bootlid. Hence my question if they shouldn’t rather have turned to a hatchback layout.

    6. The detail on the S60 that caught my eye was the way the door aperture cuts across the DLO brightwork twice. When the rear door is opened some of the brightwork of the DLO stays attached to the C-pillar and the rest moves with the door. I presume Volvo did not do that for fun but because of some other priorities and I can´t tell what they may have been. Apart from that the car looks pretty okay to me.
      At this stage the optimum nice principle design for DLO, brightwork and door apertures is known. The compromises we see on the Insignia, this S60 and Mazda 6 (at the C-pillar end) and on the Mercedes B-class and Opel Adam and Citroen C3 (I think) result from the reasonable wish to make the cars look different from existing cars. Sometimes this works well enough but sometimes what one notices is not that the car looks different/distinctive but that there is an annoying detail. The Insignia´s black “DLO” panel, the Saab 9-5 Dame Edna chrome trime and the little tab of metal on the Peugeot 308´s rear lamp are examples where trying to be different didn´t pan out.

  5. I am glad to see someone agrees in their retrospective praise for the 2001 S60. I still think it is one of Volvo’s better designs and sadly quite forgotten today.

    1. Yes, this S60 is very good. It marries a compact and sporty layout (inclined rear windscreen) with classical Volvo solidity (broad shoulders, wide tracks) in a unique way. It’s also one of the examples where a FWD layout leads to very pleasant proportions.
      Having sat on the rear bench in one example however, I remember the interior as rather austere, clad in plastic that doesn’t look cheap, but still rather uninviting. Maybe there were more cheerful options available.
      The press photos of the new V60 show an utterly pleasant light-coloured fabric version, by the way.

    2. One of these rolled past me today. It looks totally believable – a genuinely and incontrovertibly handsome car, just like the S80 of the same time (and its successor). The only real giveaway of its age is the lack of fussy detailing and the lack of a brightwork option for the DLO. I have also been in one of these and yes, they aren´t very spacious in the back but not so small as to cause much suffering.

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