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First Drive

First Drive: Volvo S60

The story:
Volvo has added the saloon S60 to the estate V60 launched last year. Due to it being built in America, and saloon demand not being great in the S60’s major markets, it will be the first Volvo to launch with no diesel, just the petrol launch car and a plug-in hybrid to follow.
Category:Compact Executive
Key rival:BMW 3-Series
Volvo S60 T5 R-Design Edition
On sale:Now

Volvo has been on a real run of form with new products, and the current model range is as competitive and high-quality as the Swedish brand’s has ever been, especially its SUV line-up.

First Drive-June 2019-Volvo S60-Image 13The mid-sized saloon has always been the area where Volvo has most struggled for cut-through, with previous generations of its cars either being slightly out of kilter with the market or just not achieving traction against the excellent German prestige rivals.

But times they are changing. The new V60 estate was launched last summer and is up with the class best, and now there’s a saloon version to compete against the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class. The only problem is that it has been handicapped by circumstance and the geography of customer tastes (see panel), so is being launched only with a 250hp petrol engine, which isn’t the powertrain of choice for UK company car drivers, it’s fair to say. The S60 is the first modern Volvo to launch without a diesel engine, although there is a plug-in hybrid version coming late this year that will at least offer company car drivers a sensible option.

This T5’s 2.0-litre turbo engine is linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and has an emissions figure of 155g/km; this compares poorly with the new BMW 330i’s 134g/km, and is 7g/km higher than the Merc C300’s 148g/km, but is 5g/km better than the Jaguar XE.

The S60 adopts the looks of the large S90 saloon, and the familiar family face transfers well at the front, where it has a sporty and slightly aggressive stance, backed up by good-looking and hefty 19-inch alloy wheels. The C-shaped tail lights are a little fussy, however.

First Drive-June 2019-Volvo S60-Image 15Inside, the cabin has the kind of quality associated with modern Volvos, with plenty of high-class materials and an interior dominated by the 9.0-inch vertical centre screen that looks great but is occasionally clunky in operation. The seats are comfortable, another Volvo trait, and there’s a good level of standard safety equipment fitted to the car, again in accordance with Volvo’s reputation as a safety leader.

There’s also a surprising amount of rear space, given that’s not always a strong point for compact executive models, although the S60 is slightly longer than any of its rivals. That said, the 442-litre boot is a little down on most of those premium competition, but is still a very useful space.

Volvo claims the S60 is the “most dynamic-handling Volvo ever made”, and it does behave in an unflappable sort of way, but it’s still not up with the BMW 3-Series for entertainment. It’s also refined and quiet at a high-speed cruise.

Residual values are good, to the extent that the BMW is the only premium rival that’s cheaper for cost per mile, while the Mercedes and Jaguar are more expensive due to lower residuals, higher prices and in the case of the Jag, higher emissions.

Paul Barker

The verdict

A classy car that is forced to the periphery by the absence of diesel in a class that still gravitates in that direction.