It wouldn’t matter if Brad and Angelie bought a garagefull or they became the centrepoint of a new Tate Modern display – Volvos have always struggled with their image. But the eye-catching new XC60 shows they’re nearly there and this (deep breath) Volvo V50 2.0D R-Design SE Sport (and exhale) has a certain rugged Nordic charm.
Yeah, we know it’s rugged and Nordic, but so is Bjorn Borg. What’s special about this Volvo V50? Aren’t they getting on a bit now?
Well, if five-and-a-bit years is ‘getting on a bit’, then it certainly is. But the truth is that this estate version of the S40 saloon is still a fine-looking motor car. R-Design, Volvo’s milder take on BMW’s M Sport kit, has already sprinkled its automotive pixie dust across some of Volvo’s range. And now it’s made its way to the V50. But more of that later, because the real headline news here is that you can opt for the Ford Group’s much-vaunted 2.0-litre turbodiesel Powershift powertrain for your new 2.0D.
Powershift? Sounds like a wrestling move. What is it?
Not unlike VW’s Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). In other words, it’s a twin-clutch auto box that aims to marry the ease of use of a fully automatic transmission with the qualities of a manual gearbox. The 2.0-litre Powershift is also currently seen in the Volvo S60 as well the Ford Focus, C-Max and Mondeo, where it has been greeted with some acclaim. It’s more of the same here, with a slight caveat.
The gearbox is creamier than a tub of Häagen-Dazs, with smooth gearchanges up and down the 'box at an almost imperceptible rate. Without getting out the blackboard and donning the cape and mortar for a physics lesson, the aim of the Powershift unit is to get rid of the torque loss that normal auto boxes suffer from.
That said, while the V50 2.0D Powershift is adept at both urban pootling and motorway cruising, there’s a slight lack of oomph in the mid range. The sprint to 60mph from standstill takes 9.2 seconds. Merely brisk, but more than enough for most. It’s highly unlikely that many of this car’s customers will flick the gear lever across and use it as an up and down shift, but it helps show off the diesel's macho engine rumble.
Powershift costs £1400, a not inconsiderable sum, meaning this car, as driven, will cost you £24,055. And no, it doesn’t have flappy paddles. Sorry about that.
>> Click 'Next' below to read our verdict on the Volvo V50 Powershift
So it’s another car to save the planet, is it? Own up!
Not quite. Opt for the Powershift 2.0D and emissions are 6g/km more, at 159 g/km CO2, than the manual box’s 153 g/km. But that’s still below the UK average rating of 179 g/km CO2.
All the usual Volvo safety gear is present and correct, including DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control), the amusingly named WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System) and our car was BLIS-ful. That’s Blind Spot Information System, a little orange light by both wing mirrors that blinks on and off when you overtake or are overtaken. Other colleagues find it ultra-annoying, but I found it surprisingly unobtrusive and rather comforting to have.
But does it LTB (that’s Look The Business)?
We think so. Clad in R-Design, the already smart-looking V50 becomes even more charming. Rivals, like the BMW 320d Touring, aren’t nearly as arresting visually. It doesn’t feel as big as the 320d, however. When it comes to boot capacity, it’s just 417 litres, seats up. Compare that with the 320d’s 450 litres and the Audi A4 Avant’s 490 litres. That’s about half a set of golf clubs, isn’t it?
You mentioned R-Design earlier. Can you really mention it in the same breath as BMW’s M Sport embellishments?
In so much as they both serve to add some sporty spice (no, not that kind) across their respective ranges, then yes. R-Design particularly works well on the V50; you might call it a compact family estate, but Volvo describe it as a ‘sportwagon’. It means inside there’s an aluminium finish and embossed R-Design logos on the seats and on the steering wheel. The thick five-spoke alloys look larger than their 17 inches. Talking of which, there’s one thing R-Design does share with M Sport… the steering wheel’s too big. It’s the girth of a Polish sausage.
Righto. Before you go, is there an ‘And finally…’?
And finally, we can confirm that despite the pleasant aesthetics of the sinuous curve of Volvo’s trademark floating console, we still have not found anything remotely practical to store behind it. If you have any creative suggestions, we’d like to hear from you.
Rival 2.0-litre diesel estates will always outbox the V50 2.0D R-Design, but the Powershift auto box gives it power and punch. You’ll either like the R-Design treatment or you won’t, but the V50 has enough panache to pull it off. This is a car that ticks the right boxes and is further proof that Volvo’s finding its mojo.
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