Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Test Drive - Volvo V60 1.6D review

I've just tested the brand new V60 from Volvo. Did I had an already made opinion? yup. Still I was extremely surprised.
First I only concluded it was a 1.6 unit after going into 4th gear. Until then it just looked like a dammed 2.0 diesel with a torque limiter for lower gears.
having owned a volvo s40 mk2 2.0 diesel and a s60 mk1 2.4 d5 diesel, I got used to either have a normal diesel masked as a brute one with a distinct under boost power surge from the 2.0 diesel, and the much more powerfull d5 looking as a dammed kitten with a very linear power delivery.
Having sad that, I'll add that the 2.0 is peugeot's hdi 136ps -340nm unit... just like this one is the peugeot sourced 1.6 110ps hdi. And I've driven the 207 1.6hdi 110ps and it's a smaller car and it sure feels like a 1.6 diesel. This 1.6 volvo however feels a lot different.
I don't know if volvo is electronically boosting the 1.6 unit under lower revs (opposite to cutting the torque curve like they do in the d5)... but certain feels like that. The gears seam quite normal, so it probably isn't a gear ratio tweak, leaving the engine management and over-boost as the next logical explanation.
The car feels as alive as it feels soft on the power delivery through most of the engine's usable rev range. The sound tuning is also very nice... under power it roars gently, making it look like a v8 engine cruising sound. Very very good for a diesel and even better for such a small one.

Driving position and seats are, as usual with volvo, very good and it's easy to adjust the seat to find your driving position. Steering weight is good and feedback is also high enough to make it sporty. The tires on this unit were thin-walled-comfort-oriented and that probably ruined the feedback. However, although inferior to the volvo s40 steering feedback I was used to (hard compound, thick-wall sport tires on 17inch rims) it does feel a lot (A LOOOOT) better than the old S60. It doesn't feel excessively soft.
Both brake and gas pedals are well sorted out and have a good feeling, however the clutch is very over servo'd and a bit too long.
Gear knob is ergonomically well designed and placed, but the rubber joints on the knob axle should be harder... it's just to soft and if cornering hard while changing gear, it's easy to miss the correct one.

Driving the car is an excellent experience. The chassis is good and competent allowing for either under-steer if you accelerate while turning harder and harder, but does so with plenty warning and control. The best thing about the chassis is the over-steer and turn-in. It allows you to lift-off and turn a bit sharper in the middle of the bends without recurring to inertia flips and chassis de-compensation... and being like that as a natural feature, makes it easier to use it in a more efficient way. You just grab the bend, use the lift-off and sharp blow turn-in, let it slide gently and power it thought the apex.
I can clearly understand why the commercial has a V60 instead of the saloon s60 and a driver making it slide aground an empty warehouse lot. This thing feels more agile than an megane... and it's a lot bigger and heavier. The car feels more light than my old mk2 S40 and that is a huge improvement over the first s60. The old one felt heavy and too much comfort oriented to allow a decent drive... driving the old one let-me as disappointed as the 5series bmw did.
This new one however IS very agile. The car doesn't feel big or heavy and it certainly doesn't feel like a van.

The center console is a bit too bloated for my like and the new buttons, thow pleasant to touch and in lighting, are not as elegant as the ones I remember from the S40. Honestly... I liked the old one better. The displays (console displays and speedometer/rev displays) are better than the old ones.

However I like the central console display, I think that the speedometer and rev-counter center-less needle is a bit to copy-of-mercedesbenz....and i don't like-it. For the cost that unit provably takes building, volvo could have fit an amoled 14x9 inch full digital display and go the lexus lfa way :S
Space is very generous like every volvo station-wagon has been since forever.
Overall I strongly recommend a test-drive with some serious cornering on some serious B-roads, if you want to find out just how good that car really is. If you stick to the standard go-around-the-parking-lot test-drive, you'll never ever going to get the best thing from that's agility.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Having a DNA base is no warranty of success

1%. That's the difference between human DNA and Chimp's DNA. That's the difference between Claudia Shiffer and a hairy smelly dumb human lookalike. Ok , they have better strength, but they don't have the brains to cope.
Some cars suffer the same problem.
I knew I hated the new mini jeep-a-like. I hated so immediately after watching it the first time, that I never ever took time to look at it again.
The other day however, I was staring right across the street and I had an epiphany.
The design is still there, the mini beautiful curves and lines still manage to survive the otherwise qualifiable as a brute rape. And the it hit me! It's that 1% thing. Same DNA, same base lines spoiled by horrible 1% DNA rape.
Is it good? probably! It's has BMW DNA... is it beautiful? Hell no... it's that 1% thing, you know?
1% that transforms this...

into this...

even the kids with their (arguably) bad taste in cars seem to faint in agony!

The only good news is that Hollywood will have an easier job next time they throw some down the subway stairs...these should overcome the down-way easier, and if they crash, no one will ever be bothered with the looks....maybe they get even better.

On the other hand the same DNA without the 1% chimp mutation will allow for some beautiful cars...
...and some gloriously gorgeous ones, like the roadster: