What is it?
Think of a compact executive model, and the models that more than likely come to mind are the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class. Others have constantly tried to battle that supreme trio, though often unsuccessfully, and one of those such firms is Volvo. Its S60 might have been comfortable, well-built and safe, but it often failed to win over buyers.
Volvo will be hoping to achieve the seemingly impossible with the all-new S60, which successfully adopts the cool styling of the latest breed of Volvos in a far classier package. Is it time for the S60 to overtake the accomplished German execs? We find out…
Put the new S60 next to the old one and you’d struggle to even tell that they share the same name. With a focus on uncluttered styling, the new model has a minimalist design both inside and out – each adopting the familiar cues expected from modern Volvos – the Thor’s Hammer LED lights and iPad-like touchscreen being key examples.
It’s also the first Volvo that’s been produced in the States, which no doubt has a part in the S60 not being available with any diesel engines – something that’s pretty big news in this market where oil burners still continue to dominate.
Very impressed by this S60 T5. Comfortable, luxurious and looks amazing. Also averaged 41mpg, which I think is pretty good for a 246bhp 2.0-litre petrol. pic.twitter.com/BnDOf0UJev
— Ted Welford (@TedWelford) October 5, 2019
What’s under the bonnet?
As we’ve just mentioned, you won’t be finding any diesel engines under this sleek bonnet. Instead, there is the option of a sedate petrol unit or an efficient and punchy plug-in hybrid, though the latter will require a much healthier bank balance to buy in the first place.
But it’s the entry-level petrol engine that we’re trying here, which Volvo calls the T5. It produces 246bhp and 350Nm of torque, which is delivered to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
No doubt the lack of diesel option will make the S60 a no-go option for some, though it strikes a surprisingly good balance between performance and efficiency. The 0-60mph sprint only takes 6.3 seconds, and it will reach a claimed top speed of 145mph. But for a powerful petrol engine, it’s surprisingly easy to get it to return 40mpg, while CO2 emissions of 149g/km are not too excessive.
What’s it like to drive?
While models like the BMW 3 Series cater towards those wanting a little more driving enjoyment behind the wheel, the S60 is a car that impresses most on the comfort and refinement fronts.
Even with our Inscription Plus test car’s larger alloy wheels, it never feels uncomfortable – quite the opposite in fact. A supple ride soaks up potholes well, while the combination of a silky-smooth engine and minimal road noise makes this one of the most effortless long-distance cruisers around.
While performance is plentiful in a straight line, it’s not a model that feels at home through the corners, with light steering not inspiring confidence, though you can flick through various driving modes to marginally tweak the car’s setup.
What does it look like?
A car’s looks are always set to divide opinion, though we reckon few will have anything negative to say about how the S60 looks.
Among a stunning line-up of models, it’s perhaps the more compact S60 that suits Volvo’s latest corporate design best. From the distinctive LED front and rear lights to the perfect proportions of the S60 shape, it’s a car that looks the part from every angle.
R-Design grade is the one to go for if you looks, though, with its sportier bodykit, gloss black detailing and large alloy wheels.
What’s it like inside?
The striking design also extends to the cabin, and even though the S60 is the oldest Volvo to feature this new minimalist design, this interior layout hasn’t aged a day since it was first rolled out onto the XC90 back in 2015.
It’s headed up by a large nine-inch portrait touchscreen that slots in the dash perfectly, and doesn’t feel like some that look as if a tablet has been glued to the dashboard. Digital dials also help to give it a modern feel.
While overall quality is good, if you look a bit closer there are a few flimsy plastics, which really shouldn’t be found on a car in this segment.
What’s the spec like?
Standard equipment on the S60 is excellent, with all models gaining LED headlights, heated front seats, an electric gesture-controlled boot and a whole suite of safety kit that continues to be Volvo’s USP.
Starting prices for the S60 start from higher than its rivals, with the range being available from £38,235.
A few select options, however, can easily make the S60 quite pricey, with our test car having nearly £7,000 of options on it (a Harman Kardon sound system, park assist and as panoramic sunroof being key ones) which increases the price to a costly £45,535.
At first the absence of a diesel engine in the S60 might be a bizarre move from Volvo, but this is part of a wider aim for the Scandinavian firm to move its models away from that fuel. It undoubtedly pays off, with this petrol T5 version offering engine refinement and smooth performance that you could only dream of getting from a diesel.
It might not be the most rewarding model to drive, but the S60 offers a far more serene and relaxing drive. Coupled with the largely faultless interior and stunning exterior, it makes one of the best cars in its class, and comfortably in the territory of Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
- Model: Volvo S60 T5 Inscription Plus
- Price: £39,285
- Price (as tested): £45,535
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol
- Power: 247bhp
- Torque: 350Nm
- Max speed: 150mph
- 0-60mph: 6.3 seconds
- MPG: 35.3-39.8mpg
- Emissions: 149g/km