WHEN Volvo launched its second generation V60 model last year it was a fitting reminder to the motoring world that estate car-practicality can be just as appealing as high-sided SUVs are.
Now, the Swedish manufacturer has added extra interest to the line-up with the introduction of a dynamic R-Design version along with a rugged Cross Country model.
Each car has its own individual charm and they fit neatly into the V60 line-up between the entry-level Momentum and range-topping Inscription models.
The R-Design, which Volvo is confident will be the most popular V60 accounting for about 40 per cent of sales, is priced from £35,410 and powered by a choice of two diesel (D3 and D4) and one petrol (T5) engines.
Other petrol and hybrid options will be added to the mix later this year, but Volvo has announced that the V60 will be its last ever car to feature a diesel powertrain.
The V60 R-Design boasts a sportier design with high-gloss black exterior detailing, heavily bolstered sports seats, sports pedals and smart alloy wheels.
It features a sports tuned suspension, a lowered ride height and cars with an automatic transmission have paddles for manual gear changing.
The interior is clutter-free, yet feature rich with a 12.3-inch driver's information display, an excellent nine-inch Sensus touchscreen with navigation, part-leather sports seats, plus the option of upgrading to a premium Bowers and Wilkins sound system with 15 speakers.
We tried the V60 R-Design on a road route that incorporated plenty of winding country lines with lots of twists and turns, fast-moving dual carriageways and busy town centres and it was certainly up for the challenge.
Our car was driven by the 2.0-litre 250hp T5 petrol engine mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Priced at £37,770 (£45,145 with options), it could power its way to 62mph from a standing start in 6.7 seconds, maxed out at 145mph and offered WLTP combined fuel economy of 34.0-38.7mpg with carbon emissions of 157g/km.
The V60 R-Design boasts a lowered sports suspension and delivers a performance to match its dynamic styling.
The acceleration through the gears is swift and the paddles are there for extra control. There are different driving modes called Comfort, Eco, Dynamic and Individual that alter the way the car responds and the Driver's Information display also adjusts accordingly.
The car felt well balanced with no sign of any body sway into tight bends. And the cabin was well insulated against any road, engine or wind noise even at higher speeds.
Comfort levels are very high as one would expect from Volvo and there is ample room for a trio of back seat passengers to stretch out in comfort without feeling cramped.
Next up was the opportunity to take the all-wheel-drive Cross Country model with its additional Off Road driving mode around a challenging course with boggy tracks, steep grass bank climbs and slippery ascents where the hill descent control system could be tested.
The V60 Cross Country car features charcoal protective bodywork which is not only practical but adds to the car's rugged styling. It also has a raised ride height.
Our car started life costing £38,270 but a raft of optional extras such as a Xenium pack that added a panoramic roof and Park Assist Pilot, Intellisafe Pro for lots of additional safety features, a winter pack plus the premium sound system saw the final price tip the £50k mark at £50,915.
This car was powered by the 190hp D4 diesel engine and was matched to an eight-speed auto box. It could complete the 0-62mph dash in 8.2 seconds, topped out at 130mph and delivered WLTP combined fuel efficiency of 42.8-47.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 143g/km.
The hour-long off-road course certainly put the V60 Cross Country through its paces and it was never fazed in the least. The grip was good and I should add that we were driving standard showroom-ready cars so there was no added trickery.
It powered its way across the grass tracks and hill climbs posed no problems at all. The hill decent control system was also impressive when dropping down steep muddy slopes. Then when we moved back onto the Tarmac roads, the car was just as rewarding to drive with excellent road holding, plenty of acceleration and impressive all-round handling.
Being an estate car, practicality is key to the V60's appeal and it has all bases covered with a boot capacity that ranges from 529 to a whopping 1,441 litres with the split-folding rear seats dropped flat. A power-operated tailgate is fitted as standard and there's a whole host of storage compartments scattered throughout the car.
Volvo is a company renowned for developing safe vehicles and the V60 is packed with features to protect occupants and pedestrians alike along with a number of driver assist systems to help prevent accidents from happening in the first place.
For example, there is the City Safety suite of collision avoidance aids such as autonomous emergency braking - this works day or night and detects vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and large animals up ahead. The driver is alerted to the danger and, if necessary, the car will automatically brake to help prevent a collision. This is just one of the long list of safety kit fitted as standard to every V60 model.
With the V60, Volvo has certainly proven that estate cars needn't be dull and can be practical while still delivering great styling cues, all the creature comforts we demand these days, plus fabulous driving dynamics or off-road capabilities along the way.