Developed for British roads, Volvo’s S60 encapsulates Swedish style. Motoring Journalist DAVID HOOPER, editor of wheelworldreviews.co.uk, tests Volvo’s safest, most dynamic car to date.
SPENDING a lot of time on the road is an ever increasing feature of many people’s working lives, especially as the volume of traffic builds steadily and jams become longer and more frequent.
For those people, having a comfortable, safe car in which to travel is more important than ever as the likelihood of tiredness and fatigue at the wheel increases.
If you recognise yourself here, then I would suggest Volvo’s new S60 is worth a look. Not only is it a very stylish machine, but it is also something of a guardian – not only of the driver, but of other road users as well.
Volvo says it is the safest car it has ever built, and coming from a company which has built its reputation on safety, that’s quite a statement.
We’re not just talking about the inherent strength of the car, or the protection it affords should things go horribly wrong in the shape of airbags, crumple zones and the like either. Volvo has taken things much further with its latest safety features.
I tested the City Safety system on the XC60 when it was launched in Scotland, and was most impressed with how the system would recognise a stationary vehicle in front of the car, and stop if the driver failed to respond.
All very clever, but now, Volvo has found a way to detect pedestrians stepping into the road – accidents which account for 14 per cent of fatalities in Europe. Half of these happen at speeds below 25 km/h (15mph). Years in development and tested over many thousands of miles, Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake can avoid a collision with a pedestrian at speeds up to 35km/h (21mph) if the driver does not react in time. Above that speed, the emphasis is on reducing the car’s speed as much as possible before an impact.
Other clever features are the Driver Alert Control, which warns tired or distracted drivers, and a Lane Departure Warning, handy if you’re prone to straying out of your lane on a motorway, and of course, BLIS, which many Volvo drivers will be familiar with, the Blind Sport Information System, which warns of vehicles in your blind spot by putting on an orange light near the door mirror.
The safest Volvo ever made, it may be – but what about the rest of the S60 – the first new model to be launched since the company split with Ford and was bought by the Chinese.
Eminent British designer Peter Horbury is responsible for its coupe-like styling which I think looks superb. Classy and expensive looking, it offers an attractive alternative to its German rivals in the compact executive sector.
The S60’s interior is typically Volvo, modern, uncluttered and driver orientated, with the controls positioned intuitively, and the “floating” centre console still a prominent feature.
Trimmed with leather and wood, the car I tested looked superb, and the fit and finish was as good as you would expect.
In the back, there is more room for rear passengers, while the boot is big enough without being enormous.
Engine choice was initially limited to two diesel units, both with five cylinders – the 163 PS D3 which I tested, the 205PS D5, and the top of the range 304PS T6 petrol engine. More models are joining the line-up all the time and will eventually include the 115PS diesel DRIVe and three new petrol engines – the 240 PS T5, 180 PS T4 and 150 PS T3.
The petrol engines are new four-cylinder gasoline turbo direct injection GTDi units, with the 2.0-litre version the first in the world to use a sheet-steel rather than the more conventional cast-iron turbocharger. Steel is lighter and has lower heat radiation, improving efficiency.
The S60’s chassis has been completely re-engineered – the company says that, dynamically, this is the best Volvo they have ever built, with the emphasis on comfort, agility and responsiveness.
Having spent a few hours at the wheel, I have to say I was impressed. Volvo developed the car’s suspension set-up on the UK’s B-roads which are acknowledged as being among the most challenging in the world due to their bumps and camber changes. If a car’s suspension works well here, it will ride and handle well anywhere in the world.
It has certainly paid off in the S60’s case. I was impressed with the car’s handling on Lincolnshire’s back roads which I know well. This S60 inspires confidence, far more than its predecessor ever did. The smaller steering wheel, stiffer steering column and faster rack all help it to turn in accurately, soak up the bumps brilliantly, and take quick changes of direction in its stride. Even a particularly bad off-camber corner, which unsettles many cars I test, didn’t phase this one.
It’s just as impressive on the motorway too, cruising quietly at speed. Wind and road noise are kept to an absolute minimum, adding to this car’s luxury credentials.
I was genuinely impressed with this car. It was one of those I didn’t want to hand back – something buyers won’t have to do. And for them, there’s more good news. Industry experts CAP say that after three years/60,000 miles, it will retain 35% of its original price – the same as a BMW 320d or an Audi A4, and 4% more than a comparable Passat or Lexus, and way above the Vauxhall and Ford contenders.
Worth a look then? Definitely, in my book.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: S60 D3 (163 PS) SE Premium.
VOLVO S60 RANGE: From T3 (150ps) ES Start/Stop 4dr (£21,995) to T6 AWD R-DESIGN Premium Geartronic 4dr (£35,495).
ENGINE: 1984cc, 163PS five-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through 6-speed Geartronic gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 154g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 134mph. 0-62mph in 8.7 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 35.3mpg.
Fuel tank: 67.5 litres.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.
All data correct at time of publishing.