The Volvo S60 piles on the style, but lacks the extensive engine and trim line-up of the highly-rated V60 estate
If you want to opt for something different to the BMW, Mercedes and Audi trio that dominate the executive saloon class, the S60 is one of your best options, although it’s no better than those three. While Volvo has worked its magic with the V60 estate, the S60 boasts limited appeal purely because Volvo is concentrating on sporty petrol variants and the plug-in hybrid.
As a premium proposition it ticks all the boxes – this is a well executed, upmarket car capable of convincing you away from the German mainstream. The firm suspension setup is rather one-dimensional when compared to the BMW 3 Series, though, which is better to drive while still being more comfortable. We’d recommend looking beyond R-Design to the Inscription model as this should be a more rounded and appealing model, suitable for a broader number of buyers.
3 May, 2019 4.3
Marking the end of the Volvo line-up’s transition to the brand’s latest design language, the S60 cuts a sharp look inherited from the V60 and sits on Volvo’s CMA platform, shared with the S90, XC90 and XC60. The removal of the estate rear end has allowed Volvo’s designers to apply a totally new look around the back, with a small lip spoiler headlining a tailgate using a distinctive E-shaped set of LED tail-lights. Most S60s now boast a distinctly sporty appearance, owing to the R-Design bodykit, while the Inscription gets a bit more brightwork outside.
Alloy wheels in 18, 19 and 20-inch sizes are available, but just four metallic paint colours make up the total palette. Buyers can select optional faux twin-tailpipes and a colour co-ordinated exterior styling kit.
A number of helpful exterior accessories can be purchased and fitted from Volvo. On the S60’s options list you’ll find a bike carrier for three bikes, a 430 litre roof box, a ski rack and even a canoe holder.
Inside you’ll find an interior and dashboard wholly lifted from the V60 estate. Volvo’s interiors have impressed us as of late owing to their neat designs and high quality materials, and the S60 is no exception. R-Design models are slightly sportier with blue detailing, but customisation options are limited. For example, you can only have charcoal leather upholstery in the S60. If you want a lighter tone, the Inscription model comes with Nappa leather upholstery as standard. Sports seats are standard fit in the R-Design car, as is a fully digital instrument panel sizing up at 12.3-inches.
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Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Sitting in the middle of the dashboard and flanked by two large, vertical aligned vents is a nine-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, which like the digital dials, is standard fit on all S60s and complete with navigation, voice control, and smartphone linking apps. The portrait orientation is great for navigation purposes, and the display itself is very straightforward and slick to swipe through.
Elsewhere, you’ll find Volvo’s On Call connected services platform is also included as standard, as is a head-up display broadcast onto the windscreen, and an excellent 10-speaker surround sound system. Two USB ports can be accessed up front.
Optional tech available includes a rear-view camera and Volvo’s Pilot Assist driver assistance technology. A 14-speaker system developed by audio specialists Harmon Kardon is optional, and standard on the T8 Polestar Engineered model. You can even go one higher with a 15 speaker, 1,100 Watt setup developed by Bowers & Wilkins.
The S60’s estate bodied sibling, the V60, sells itself well. That’s a car renowned for its cruising ability, owing to its supple ride and hushed powertrains.
It’s not quite as straightforward in the S60. Volvo has left behind the principles that have carried the V60 far in search of creating something more exciting. If you want a comfort oriented S60, then your only option is the high-spec Inscription Plus model, while optional adaptive dampers will be offered at a later date. But for now, we can only cast light on the sportier S60 models we’ve had the chance to drive.
That’s said, Volvo predicts that the S60 T5 R-Design will be the biggest selling model by some margin, and could take up to 80 per cent of sales. Its turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine develops 248bhp and 350Nm of torque, sent to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
You have to select Dynamic on the drive-mode selector and push the accelerator into kickdown to really get the S60 T5 moving, but there’s more than enough performance for day-to-day driving, and just about enough to classify the S60 as a fast small saloon.
However, what immediately grabs you about the S60 T5 R-Design isn’t the powertrain – it’s the chassis, and there are positives and negatives to consider.
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The tauter underpinnings are felt immediately through the steering wheel. Feedback is still in short supply, but the large dead spot found either side of centre on other Volvos has been tightened up considerably with the R-Design chassis tweaks. The BMW 3 Series is a sweeter steer and more naturally weighted, but the S60’s wheel is something you can turn with a bit more confidence than you’d expect if you’ve sampled any other recent Volvos.
The suspension set-up is a little frustrating, however. On good road surfaces you’ll find little out of the ordinary about it, and it corners flat with little body roll. You’ll find that the front wheel-driven nose is fairly darty, and there’s plenty of grip to lean on, too. It’s certainly the most fun Volvo you can buy. But minor imperfections, pockmarks and potholes are all it takes to unearth a harsh edge to the S60. Rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class can imbue great control and grip while retaining a decent amount in reserve for less than perfect roads.
The R-Design setup gives into bumps all too easily. If you want an S60 that rides well, the Inscription Plus model is likely to be a better bet – we’d wager it will offer the suppleness of the V60 estate.
We’ve tried the T8 Twin-Engine Polestar Engineered, but this was on American tarmac. The added weight of its hybrid underpinnings can be felt in corners, while the trick Bilstein dampers it uses are very firm – you may find the ride to be choppy on flat motorways.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
With no grunty diesels to rely on, the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the T5 model needs to appeal to a wide audience of potential buyers. 0-62mph is dealt with in a fairly brisk 6.5 seconds, and while that figure feels accurate the S60 does it with little in the way of flair. It’s a fairly flat engine note, and its refined edge strikes you far more than its potency. The paddles behind the steering wheel are perfectly formed and placed well, but the S60’s eight speed transmission is a little slow to respond to inputs through them.
In regular comfort mode this petrol setup feels fine for cruising, while opting for Dynamic on the drive mode selector heightens throttle response and makes the eight-speed transmission hold onto ratios for longer. Eco mode dulls the responsiveness of the unit in a bid to be more fuel efficient.
The T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered develops 314bhp from its turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine alongside a maximum of 86bhp from the electric motor powering the rear axle. Peak power from the engine and battery is not delivered at the same time, maximum power output should stand at around 400bhp, enabling 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph. 430Nm of torque is on hand to deal with the performance plug-in S60’s considerable weight.
In comparison, the standard T8 Twin Engine manages 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, which still isn’t exactly slow.
Volvo takes safety very seriously and is on a mission to ensure that there are no deaths in its cars by 2020. The S60 takes the Swedish manufacturer one step closer to that goal with a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, with a fantastic 96 per cent score in the adult occupant category and 84 per cent for child occupants.
The S60 comes as standard with a comprehensive suite of active safety and driver assistance equipment, although Volvo’s Pilot Assist system with adaptive cruise control, plus cross-traffic alert, rear collision mitigation and a rear parking camera is only part of the Intellisafe Pro pack, which costs around £1,650. Pilot Assist stands as one of the most intuitive systems we’ve used – its combination of lane-keep assistance and stop-go adaptive cruise makes for a very relaxing long-distance motorway experience.
The S60 is too new to have featured in our Driver Power survey, but the closely related XC60 SUV achieved a strong 16th-place finish overall out of 100 in the 2019 poll. It received good results for reliability and interior quality, while a below-average 13.7 per cent of owners reported experiencing an issue with their car. Volvo itself finished 13th overall out of 30 manufacturers, which was ahead of the prestige German brands.
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As with all Volvo models, the S60 gets a three-year/60,000 mile warranty which is just about standard for the class. However, BMW's similar coverage has no mileage limit and Audi offers unlimited mileage in the first year. There’s a paint warranty for three years and a corrosion warranty that covers the S60 for 12 years.
Volvo dealers offer their own service plans, so prices vary and may not compare directly to country-wide offers from rivals. Twelve months of roadside assistance is included and there’s a free software update every time you book your car in for a service.
Those looking for outright space and practicality will be best served by the S60’s estate counterpart, the V60 – but that’s not to say the saloon isn’t capable of swallowing four or five adults.
Volvo has a reputation for making comfortable cars and the S60 carries on that trend; the seats are some of the best available anywhere, the driving position is excellent and refinement on the move is great. It’s just a shame the firm ride undoes some of this excellent work.
The S60 is marketed as the sportiest model in the range and as such comes as standard in R-Design Edition trim that brings 19-inch wheels and stiffer suspension as standard, with the option of moving up to 20 inches. Ride quality falls short of that in other Volvos as a result, proving uncomfortable over small bumps at lower speeds. High-speed motorway cruising is still a smooth experience and body control is very good, but the S60 can’t match the latest BMW 3 Series for ride and handling balance.
The S60 measures in at around the same size as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class – at 4.76m long and just over 2m wide including mirrors, it’s marginally bigger than the BMW all round, but not enough as to be noticeable on the road. In fact, the Volvo feels smaller to drive than its size would suggest.
The S60’s attractive, traditional saloon car proportions do away with the more hatchback-esque look of the old model, but still leave enough space inside for decent passenger space and a useable boot. It’s not quite as curvaceous or dynamic in its styling as the latest BMW 3 Series, but you won’t mistake it for anything else.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The S60 is a fine place to spend time as a passenger, front or rear. Six-footers can easily sit one behind the other with plenty of knee and headroom, but those consigned to the central seat will have to straddle a hefty tunnel in the car’s floor. As with the V60, foot room can get a little tight if the front seats are set to their lowest position, but otherwise there’s space to get comfortable on a longer trip. The are Isofix child seat points included in each outer rear seat.
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The S60 gets 442 litres of boot space versus the 529 litres in the V60 estate. There are more practical saloons out there and this falls a little short of the BMW 3 Series’ 480 litres, but the boot itself is well-shaped, just over one metre deep and boasts a wide opening with a relatively low lip for a saloon car. Optional 60/40 split rear seats are offered to expand the boot for larger loads. Storage space elsewhere is great; a sensibly sized central cubby, four large door bins and a decent glovebox all feature.
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A retractable towbar can be specified for around £1,000 and comes as standard with Volvo’s Trailer Stability Assist system. This can help prevent snaking at speeds over 31mph by manipulating the car’s brakes.
Volvo quotes a braked towing capacity of 1,800kg and an unbraked towing weight of 750kg. Volvo notes that unbraked towing weight must not exceed 50 per cent of kerb weight up to a maximum of 750kg.
There are no diesel S60 models. Instead you have the choice of the T5 turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol with 247bhp – not the first choice for those looking for a fuel-efficient executive saloon – and the T8 Twin Engine with the same petrol engine combined with an electric motor and battery pack for up to 399bhp.
When compared like-for-like with a direct rival like the BMW 330i, the S60 T5 holds its own but does not excel when it comes to running costs. Its CO2 emissions of 155g/km put it nearer the top of the company car Benefit-in-Kind range, but the 330i M Sport emits 134g/km and sits in a lower bracket, despite being marginally more powerful with 254bhp on tap.
The Volvo’s fuel economy compares favourably, however – the S60 T5 has WLTP tested returns of 35.3-39.8mpg, and when we road tested it we achieved a real-world figure close to the top of that range. The BMW 330i M Sport returns a claimed 38.7-41.5mpg, but our real-world test car only just crept past 31mpg in mixed driving.
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Volvo has yet to announce any official fuel economy figures for the T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered versions of the S60, but does quote emissions of 45g/km. The slightly less powerful T8 has an emissions quote of 39-42g/km, while fuel economy is in the range of 122.8-176.5mpg. How close you get to that figure will depend on how often you plug the T8 in, while the WLTP driving range on electric power alone is quoted between 30.4 to 36 miles.
The S60 saloon will sit in the same range as its V60 estate counterpart. A directly comparable V60 R-Design T5 sits in group 34 – four groups above an equivalent Audi A4 S line with a 45 TFSI engine.
Our experts don’t have figures for the S60 as yet, but have predicted that a V60 T5 estate in R Design trim will hold on to just over 48 per cent of its on-the-road value after three years and 36,000 miles come trade-in time.