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Car reviews - Volvo - S60 - range

Our Opinion

We like
Design, quality of cabin materials, supportive seats, T5 engine, overall ride and comfort
Room for improvement
Options can blow price out, spare wheel consumes cargo space


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17 Oct 2013

VOLVO’S appealing mid-size S60 and V60 has found some love since its launch in late 2010, but it has never sold in the kind of numbers that make it a threat to the big players in the segment.

The company pitches its offering as a rival for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi’s A4, but it’s also a competitor for semi-premium offerings such as the Citroen C5, Peugeot 508 and, until recently, the discontinued Alfa Romeo 159.

The revised 2014 S60/V60 range that includes a series of safety updates and cosmetic changes that should keep the model fresh for at least a few more years.

Now, Volvo got quite a few things right when it launched the second-generation versions in 2010, and the design was one of them.

Its relatively compact dimensions and the coupe-like sloping rear roofline of the sedan quickly won fans who praised the Swedish brand’s bold new design direction.

The designers in Gothenburg have now sharpened up the front-end styling and toyed with the tail-end a little. The stretched grille and redesigned headlights give the impression of a wider vehicle, and on the whole the new nose is appealing and a little more aggressive.

However, by replacing the outgoing model’s quirky twin-headlights, the S60 now looks a touch more generic-Euro than the original model.

A range of new alloy wheels tops off the refreshed look.

Inside, Volvo has made only minor changes with added chrome flourishes and more premium materials on higher spec variants.

New sports seats provide ample support and are some of the most impressive seats our derrieres have enjoyed of late.

The neat ‘floating’ console remains and Volvo has included some fine-looking wood grain on mid-spec variants, while the entry-level Kinetic features an aluminium finish.

The quality of the finish in the cabin is impressive and the overall interior design still remains modern and fresh three years after its release.

There is a surprising amount of head and leg room for front passengers, and despite the sloping roofline, rear-seat passengers of average height should not find anything to complain about either.

While the boot of the S60 sedan has capacity of 380 litres compared to the 480-litre capacity of the BMW 3 Series, the V60 wagon can pack in up to 692 litres of gear, while the BMW can manage just 495 litres.

However, if you opt for the space-saver spare wheel in either body-style, be prepared to lose a good chunk of your cargo space as it nudges above the boot floor.

Volvo has consolidated its S60/V60 line-up for 2014 leaving seven sedan and six wagon variants, down from the 20 combined variants of the superseded model.

Pricing has been realigned and the range now starts from $49,990 plus on-road costs for the base T4 Kinetic sedan before topping out at $78,140 for the hot six-cylinder turbocharged T6 R-Design wagon.

This price point places the S60 just shy of the BMW 3 Series that starts at $52,300 plus on-roads for the 316i sedan and ends up in the high 90s for the hybrid version.

Standard gear is as one would expect in this sort of company, with leather steering wheel, rear parking camera and sensors, leather seats, climate control with pollen filter, electric park-brake and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.

In keeping with other European brands, Volvo offers a smorgasbord of options, ranging from heated front seats at $375 a pop, gearshift paddles in T4 and T6 models for $250, an electric sunroof that costs $2650. Even a sunglasses holder is a $200 option.

It would be fairly easy to blow the recommended retail price out by thousands of dollars, if you weren’t careful.

Volvo’s history of introducing innovative safety technology is virtually unmatched, but we were a little surprised by how many of these life-saving features were merely options.

While Volvo’s City Safety autonomous braking system is standard across the S60/V60 range, the Driver Alert System with lane departure warning, lane-keep assist and a forward collision warning is a $2075 option, as is the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) at $1275.

A Driver Support Package that encompasses the above technology and also includes adaptive cruise control and front and rear parking sensors is a $5000 option, although Volvo says it adds up to $8000 worth of safety gear.

On the road, some of the active safety features were more subtle than systems we have experienced from other car-makers, while still managing to effectively communicate the warning. The lane departure chime in particular was more iPhone than alarming.

First up, we drove the $60,990 mid-spec S60 D4 Luxury powered by a 120kW/400Nm 2.0-litre five-cylinder diesel engine, matched with a six-speed torque converter auto. The oil-burner is a good unit and while it is not super punchy from a standing start, it becomes more entertaining the higher up the rev range you go.

Some have said the ride and handling of the S60 can’t match the big guns from Germany, but the D4 felt composed and the 18-inch wheels kept it planted for the most part. It skipped a little over corrugated surfaces at speed around bends and there was mild understeer when pushed.

Next up was the most affordable V60 wagon variant, the T5 Kinetic, which retails for $54,990 plus on-roads. Powering the family hauler is a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol that produces 177kW/320Nm that Volvo says can race to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds. This variant is matched with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The T5 was noticeably more sprightly than the diesel, and while it has less torque than the oiler, there is more power to play with, making for an entertaining drive.

Steering for both models was direct and decent off-centre, but there was a lighter feel to the steering in the petrol wagon when compared to the diesel.

This may be a result of the diesel’s heftier weight. Ultimately, neither have quite the preternatural sharpness of the Germans in this regard.

The diesel has official fuel consumption of 5.9 litres per 100 kilomteres and in our brief run we recorded 7.6L/100km. The petrol unit in the T5 can sip 8.6L/100km and we noted a figure of 10.6L/100km.

Our drive finished with a very quick spin in the 242kW/480Nm 3.0-litre 'Polestar-optimised' six-cylinder T6 R-Design that can do the 0-100km/h dash in 5.7 seconds. We have no reason to doubt this figure.

The all-wheel drive R-Design’s acceleration is impressive, the engine sounds terrific when pushed, and the sports seats are superb. But it’s more of a fast tourer than a honed racing machine.

But from $75,140 plus on-roads, it makes a solid argument against the more expensive 225kW/400Nm BMW 335i that retails for $93,400.

On the whole, both the diesel and the petrol models provided a quiet and assured ride on the open road, while offering an engaging, enjoyable driving experience.

While the Volvo can’t quite match the dynamism of the 3 Series or the C-Class, the updated S6/V60 range offers an assured drive with an attractive Swedish design and a competitive package that is a little different from its more mainstream European rivals.

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