Volvo S60 review

Our Rating: 
3
3.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The stylish Volvo S60 is a classy alternative to German models in the highly competitive compact executive saloon sector

For: 
Spacious and comfortable cabin, responsive drive, hi-tech safety options
Against: 
Small load bay, numb steering, uncomfortable ride

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The Volvo S60 is the Swedish maker's offering in the big selling compact executive class. It faces very tough competition from the Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class and the driver-orientated BMW 3 Series. The first model to appear since the firm was taken over by Chinese giant Geely, bosses claim it’s the sportiest and sharpest-looking car to wear the Volvo badge, yet the core brand values of safety and comfort haven’t been forgotten in the push for driving dynamics and desirability. The line-up includes four petrol and three diesel engines - with four trim levels. Facelifted for 2013 the sharp new front end and stylish 'R Design' models have real charisma, and the S60 is among the first models in the range to benefit from the brand's new Drive-E engines - which all share the same 2.0-litre capacity but thanks to turbocharging technology can either emit less than 99g/km or produce over 300bhp depending which version you choose.

Our choice: S60 2.0 D4 R Design

Video: Watch CarBuyer's video review of the S60

Styling

4.2

With svelte, coupe-like lines and bold detailing, the Volvo S60 is a good-looking car. The boomerang-style rear lights and square-edged exhaust are neat touches. This upmarket feel continues inside where the minimalist and attractive cabin uses light-coloured materials and clever design to deliver a bright and airy feel. From SE models upward the cabin gets aluminium trim, while the SE Lux has leather-faced upholstery. Racy R-Design models top the line up and add some muscle to the sleek design with 18-inch wheels, matt-silver mirrors and more aggressive detailing. The recent facelift bought in even smarter materials and the optional TFT digital dials from the smaller Volvo V40 - which help give the cabin a more modern feel in keeping with its upmarket image.

Driving

3.2

With a model line-up that extends from a 113bhp four-cylinder diesel to a 304bhp all-wheel drive six-cylinder petrol, there’s a huge range of performance on offer. The pair of five-cylinder - 2.0 and 2.4-litre - diesels, are smooth and characterful, and offer strong in-gear pace. Alternatively, the 1.6-litre 112bhp DRIVe diesel is the cleanest choice. Whatever engine you choose the S60 responds sharply to driver inputs thanks to its direct steering, while front-end grip is strong. But there’s little feedback through the controls, and broken surfaces severely upset the ride with potholes and steady bumps sending unpleasant jarring through the steering wheel and the seats into the cabin. On the motorway, low noise levels make for relaxed long-distance journeys. The new 2.0-litre D4 diesel is the most effcient in its class - with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km and a healthy power output of 181bhp. However while its a strong performer considering the power available this engine is also rather noisy and inflexible when compared with the best powerplants from German rivals like BMW and Audi.

Reliability

4.8

Acknowledged as a class leader in safety, the Volvo S60 is packed with gadgetry. There’s electronic stability control and a full complement of airbags, plus the City Safety feature, too. This aims to prevent low-speed collisions by applying the brakes automatically if the on-board computer senses an impact is imminent. On the options list are further hi-tech safety features such as pedestrian detection, which promises to automatically stop the car from speeds under 20mph, in the event of a pedestrian obstructing the car's path. You can also choose lane departure warning; blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and driver alert warning.

Practicality

3.9

Some of the switchgear in the Volvo S60 is confusingly laid out, but comfortable seats and an airy driving environment give a sense of space up front. Better still, passengers in the back get slightly less space than in either an Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series. Unfortunately, matters take a turn for the worse when you open the tailgate, as the load bay is awkwardly shaped and cramped. Its 339-litre capacity trails the Audi A4 by a massive 141 litres, although a standard split-fold rear bench and forward folding front passenger seat helps to enhance practicality a little. Even so cheaper cars from the class below like the Ford Mondeo and Skoda Octavia offer significantly more practicality as family transport.

Running Costs

3.9

With such a wide range of engines, there’s a sizeable price spread across the range. So running costs vary wildly - especially when it comes to fuel consumption. All manual cars except the 237bhp T5 petrol get stop/start, but it’s the groundbreaking DRIVe models that offer the best in value motoring. Available in ES, SE and SE Lux trim, the 113bhp diesel emits 114g/km and has a combined economy of 65.7mpg - making it an attractive proposition for company and private buyers. Residuals are closely matched to key rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 however there are so many different trims and options available that it's actually quite easy to get carried away and spend more than you planned to. Servicing from main dealers is also quite pricy and Volvo is not known for doing fixed price offers like some of its main rivals.

Disqus - noscript

I am sorry AE test team (yeah so wrong they wouldn't say who wrote this load of guff!) I have found the switch gear highly logical. Press a button on the centre console and it appears larger on the screen so that you know what you’ve pressed. However, as I German biased journo maybe it is slightly different the German trio, but definitely not confusing. I had a test drive in a 3 series M sport the other day and I am sorry but on 99.5% of driving you cannot feel a difference. And the 0.5% will probably cost you your license. Small boot is also incorrect (small opening aperture yes). The equipment, looks, safety and running costs are all in a different league to the German Marques. Audi’s old VW sourced TDI oil burner is ancient and everything is an option! Where as the Volvo has a 181bhp engine with only 99grams of C02 and auto braking,DAB, Bluetooth, Air quality, dual climate, digital dash, 17" alloy wheels, powerfolding mirrors and unlike the Audi free cupholders!

Why wouldn't you mention that the D4 engine is more powerful and efficient than its German rivals? The ride is uncomfortable in a S60? The D4 engine is noisy and inflexible? Have you really drive one? That's really a damn prejudice.

Over the last couple of months I have had an Audi A3 saloon 150TDi, BMW 320d ED and a Volvo S60 RDesign With the new D4 engine for extended test drives. All manual. I currently have a 2010 BMW 320d ED which is due for replacement this summer. My conclusion:

BMW 320d ED 2014: still drives well, is quieter and slightly smoother to drive than my 2010 model. But the interior is a mess and the plastics are definitely of a lower quality than my model. The drivers seat is uncomfortable and still difficult to adjust. Great fuel consumption as it returned over 60mpg for the 5 days I had it.

Audio A3 150 diesel saloon: nice car again but didn't feel special - a bit like my old Passat from 2001. Handling and ride good, engine smooth and quiet for a diesel. Even with leather interior it didn't really do anything for me though. terrible fuel consumption in the mid 40s.

Volvo S60 D4: from the moment I got in it felt special. The interior is superb, gorgeous comfortable seats, quality materials and for me, a logical layout and not at all confusing. The engine is quieter and much smoother than the BMW, it also pulls more strongly. Handling and ride excellent. Broken surfaces did not upset the ride, infact it was much better over our crappy pot-holed roads than the BM. Ok so the gear change was not as sharp but overall I thought the car was great. much better value for money also.

Conclusion, I will be ordering an S60 with the new D4 engine in R Design trim

Last updated: 7 Oct, 2013

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