6.5.2019Volvo S60 first drive
Volvo has completed its 60-Series line-up with this launch of the S60 saloon. Coming after the well received estate and SUV, and entering the fiercely competitive compact executive saloon market, Volvo might be riding the crest of a wave, but the S60 is arguably its toughest challenge in recent history. NGC heads to Scotland to test the S60 it the car's UK launch.
Review by Chris Lilly
Volvo's not taking on too much too soon with the S60, and has launched the saloon with only one engine option - the T5. This punchy petrol unit is a 2.0 litre four-cylinder engine, producing 250 hp and 350 Nm of torque. Those figures are good for a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds, which although not performance saloon fast, is only one rung down really. The performance on paper translates well to the road too, with the engine eager to rev, and responsive even when mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The standard Volvo transmission seems up for the task of cracking through the gears when required, and again, it's no performance model, but the pace available will be plenty for most buyers. it's an interesting way to kick off the range, but one that will grab the attention of buyers, and sets the tone for what is intended to be a sportier model. Other engines will come along, but remember that the S60 is the first Volvo for decades to be launched without a diesel engine. Instead, we'll get not one but two plug-in hybrid models.
As mentioned above, there is an intention from Volvo to present the S60 as its sportiest model on sale today, and the handling will play a big part in this. In my opinion, the Swedish firm has done a fine job, with a stiffer set-up than you will find in its V60 estate stablemate for example, but not one that will shake your teeth out over the slightest road imperfection. There is a clear sense that the S60 is more driver focused, and the driving dynamics are the most focused in the range to date. On some superb driving roads in Scotland, the Volvo tackled corners with enthusiasm, and gave the driver confidence in a series of bends that the S60 will hold a line, allowing those behind the wheel to get into a nice rhythm. There os still enough suppleness in the suspension to deal with day to day life comfortably, though the S60 will jar over pot holes and the like more than any other Volvo on sale. It's pitched in a similar sense to Jaguar's XE - it's a good all-rounder; unable to match the outright dynamism of a BMW 3 Series or the comfort of a Mercedes C Class, but performing well across the board.
Whereas I prefer the look of the V90 estate over the S90 saloon in the class above, I'm not sure which of the S60 and V60 I prefer. They both look great, and launched in R-Design trim only, the S60 has that sporty stance and style to it that gives it real presence. Clearly the estate is the more spacious machine, but the S60 isn't impractical, though it’s not as roomy in terms of boot space as many of its rivals. Rear passengers have a decent amount of leg and head room to play with, while those up front can get very comfy - particularly the driver where it's easy to create an excellent driving position.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The interior is the same as the V60's, and features in a number of other Volvo models too, but since it looks good and works well, there can be no complaints at all. The cleanly designed dashboard is dominated by a large portrait touchscreen system, with only a handful of other buttons around. The materials covering the surfaces feel of high quality, as you would expect from a car in this class, and the Swedish company's distinct approach to design works well and stands out from its rivals.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The D4 powered version of the V60 has an official fuel economy figure of 62.9 MPG, and this isn't at all unrealistic to achieve by my reckoning. After more than 670 miles in the V60, the trip computer was reading an astonishingly good 66.9 MPG. This did include a long motorway-based stint towards the end of the test of about a third of the total distance. However, even before that, on a greater mixture of roads, the average was reading 57.4 MPG. This is a good reflection of what drivers can expect to find when covering routes along a variety of roads, including driving in built up areas, A- and B-roads, and motorways. Those racking up the motorway miles should have no problems in exceeding the official figure. To tax, the V60 will cost £205 for the first year (included in the OTR cost) and then £140 thereafter as it comes in beneath the £40,000 Premium Rate limit.
There hasn’t been much focus on green elements beyond what is found on almost all Volvo models, with the Twin Engine models due to cover that aspect of the S60’s line-up. Instead, the S60 is built on the SPA platform which is strong, lightweight, and built with electrification in mind. The engine and transmission were designed to work together and provide improved efficiency over many other powertrains in the market. There’s a drive mode selector with Eco setting to improve economy, thanks to changed throttle response and gear changes, and auto stop/start fitted as standard. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 40.
The launch R-Design edition comes very well equipped, tempting potential buyers in. Volvo’s excellent suite of safety systems is present on the S60. as with many other models in the range. Fitted as standard are 19-inch alloys, R-Design trim inside and out, sports suspension, heated front sports seats, leather trim, head-up display, Harmon Kardon stereo, parking sensors front & rear, rear camera, heated steering wheel, the Sensus touchscreen system with Bluetooth, USB, DAB, and Apply CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.
The S60 enters a tough market, with the German models those that most think of when considering a compact executive saloon. However, those ignoring the Volvo will be missing out on what is an excellent option. The engine offers performance but not at the cost of efficiency, and the handling is responsive but comfortable enough for day to day life. It’s fairly practical, and looks great, proving a top package for those in the market for an executive saloon.
Model tested: Volvo S60 R-Design Edition T5
Body-style: Compact executive saloon
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre petrol / 152 g/km
Trim grades: R-Design Edition
On-road price: From £37,920.
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars