DOWNSIZING. It’s all the rage in real estate circles as baby boomers desert the suburbs and the Aussie dream of a family home on a quarter-acre block in favour of townhouses and apartments that are closer to the beating, cappuccino-infused hearts of our cities.
The idea isn’t entirely new to the automotive world, either; generations of mums and dads have woken to find their little darlings have flown the nest and taken to the roads on L- and P-plates. Often, this particular coming-of-age event sparks the realisation that the real estate afforded by the family sedan, wagon or SUV is no longer necessary, and something smaller and more sensible follows.
In our case, a downsize was recently imposed on the Bulmer brood by two extraneous factors: first, Mercedes-Benz wanted its ML350 BlueTec back after a not unreasonable 6000km loan; and second, Volvo had simultaneously (and serendipitously) suggested its V60 D4 wagon with new ‘Drive-E’ technology might make an interesting addition to the Wheels fleet.
Trouble is, my little birds are still a long way from flying the coop, and my vertically challenged wife had grown enamoured of the burly Benz SUV’s commanding seating position, not to mention the inferred prestige of idling up to the school gates with a threepointed star on the bonnet.
So it came to pass that for my sins I had to walk a mile in the shoes of a Volvo car salesman, convincing my wife and our offspring that the V60 D4 Luxury now inhabiting the driveway made so much sense on so many levels.
Cue affirmations about reduced fuel consumption, ease of parking, superior dynamics and even polar bears. That’s right, girls, it’s smaller, lighter, uses less materials to manufacture and sips less fuel; ipso facto, it’s kinder on the environment. Okay, so it’s rough science, but it seemed to do the trick.
Sensing a chink in their defences, I parried on with a dissertation on the Drive-E engine tech’s impressive fuel-efficiency improvements. Each and every time you engage the ECO+ switch (sited just below the air recirculation button, ladies), a penguin applauds you. Thus enabled, the V60’s 2.0-litre four-pot turbo-diesel switches to hyper-miler mode, shutting the engine down at 7km/h as you brake silently towards traffic lights, dodging servos and making oil barons weep.
But wait, there’s more! (I’m really on a roll with this sales caper now). Drive-E also features Eco Coast mode that, contrary to what its name implies, doesn’t turn you into a bleach-haired, Hawaiian shirt-wearing long-boarder but instead helps maintain the car’s kinetic energy by deactivating engine braking and dropping engine revs to idle speed under certain conditions (ECO+ button activated; accelerator pedal fully released; auto transmission in D, not Sport; cruise control off; road not steeper than six percent gradient, etc).
I contemplated going on about the V60’s safety features – it’s a Volvo after all – the acronyms for which stretch around the block and back, but their eyes had glazed over a little. “To hell with the steak knives,” I thought, “I’m going in for the kill.”
“If you could just sign here, Mrs Bulmer, we’ll have your V60, with complimentary cushion for your derriere, ready to go in just a few minutes. Would you care for paint and fabric protection with that?”
What are my options?
THE seven-variant V60 range starts at $57,890 for the D4 Kinetic, stretching all the way to the $102,990 Polestar.
In this mid-spec ‘Luxury’ grade, the Swedish wagon comes laden with plenty of standard kit, but like all good press cars, this example is further enhanced with options that raise its list price from $62,890 to $70,015. The extra coin buys heated front seats ($375), metallic paint ($1750) and the Driver Support Pack ($5000). The latter comprises a bundle of useful features
We may not reach the official 4.5L/100km, but expect much better economy once we get fair dinkum with the ECO+ option including (deep breath): Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert; Driver Alert System (Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Active High Beam Control, Forward Collision Warning and Road Sign Information); Adaptive Cruise Control with Full Autobrake; front and rear parking sensors; auto-dimming interior and side mirrors. This is in addition to the V60 Luxury’s navigation with voice control, cornering headlights with washers and 18-inch alloys.
Date acquired: December 2014 Price as tested: $70,015 This month: 773km @7.2L/100km Overall: 773km @ 7.2L/100km Pric Ove