On test: Volvo S60 D3 SE Premium
This car is the replacement for the first S60 that was launched back in 2000 and sold over 600,000 in its nine year lifespan. Now we've got S60 MK2 and Volvo is very serious, with the new car's emphasis on its sporty design and dynamic drive. Has Volvo succeeded? We spent a week with this £29,845 D3 SE Premium to find out.
The S60 is the best looking Volvo for a while, but it couldn't be a car from any other manufacturer and there's still some obvious family features visible in the coupe-like design. There's still the characteristic family grille that dominates the S60's face, but it's much sleeker and looks attractively modern with the swept-back head and driving lamps, similar to the XC60 soft-roader.
From the side, apart from the slim roof line, the most interesting part of the design has to be the C-pillar which stretches all the way to the tail lamps. The most distinctive part of the S60's rear styling are the boomerang-shaped tail lamps that feature distinctive LED lighting, the sculpted boot design and bumper with rear diffuser fitted on models with the optional styling kit like our test car (£909.86) . The shape suits some colours better than others and perhaps the Caspian Blue metallic finish doesn't best suit the S60's curves.
Inside the S60 and the first thing you notice is the latest version of Volvo's attractive 'floating' centre console. Again tilted towards the driver, the biggest change has to be the launch of a new infotainment system for the car. One of my biggest bugbears of Volvo's interiors of the past was the separate 'pop-up' Satellite navigation system with its fiddly remote control. Thankfully, the new system works off just the one screen, features more modern mapping and is easy to operate. The quality of the plastics and metal inlays are at least as good as many rivals and the standard seats are a comfortable place to spend motorway time. Despite the sloping roof line rear head and legroom are excellent and there's even a practically shaped boot.
A new Volvo wouldn't be a Volvo without a new piece of safety kit and on the S60, the Swedes are debuting 'Pedestrian Detection with full auto brake'. Basically it works alongside other technologies such as the adaptive cruise control (ACC) by detecting pedestrians who walk into the road in front of the car, warn the driver and automatically apply the brakes if the driver doesn't respond in time. It was fitted to the test car as part of the optional £1,450 "Driver Support Pack" and although I didn't have cause to use it thankfully, the Adaptive Cruise Control is a brilliant feature for long distance driving.
The latest S60 is definitely a looker, but Volvo claims this is its most dynamic car it has ever produced. Sadly, after a week with this car I'm less convinced than I was when I drove the S60 on launch. There's no doubt that this car is underpinned by a really capable chassis and has accurate steering, but with three aboard, the ride on the standard 17-inch Njord alloys was at best wooden and at worst plain uncomfortable. The 163PS 2.0-litre D3 diesel engine is a gutsy, charismatic performer, but can feel annoyingly flat off-boost and when pulling away from junctions.
To sum up, the S60 is a strong class contender, it looks great, features an attractive, spacious well-made interior and is well-equipped. If the ride was better it could take class honours.