With the proliferation of hatchbacks available these days it is hard to see the appeal of saloon cars, like the Volvo S60 D3 SE Lux Nav featured here, in the family car market. Certainly, it is family-sized with a roomy interior and a deep boot that will swallow 380L of luggage but without the wide-open aspect of, say, the V60 hatch models and I would hazard a guess that sales will be limited. The appeal of this car lies in my view firmly in the executive business car bracket.
The Business Suit
The car certainly has some kerb appeal. Handsome might be the word. The styling changes of the most recent update consist mainly of stronger horizontal body creases and larger features which are clearly intended to give the car a bit more visual flair when competing with smart modern German opposition.
The front design increases the S60’s road presence. The determined-looking headlights help enhance the modern Volvo ‘face’ and the horizontal lines are emphasised at both front and rear. Together with revisions such as the wide grille and daylight running lights, all the updates work together to give the Volvo S60 a striking, planted presence. SE specified models – as tested here – are not perhaps as bold as the R-Design models, which get an even more altered look but overall the Swedish saloon impresses.
Inside, it’s all typically Volvo; that is to say it is beautifully made with a driver-focused dashboard. Always a highlight for me is the sweeping brushed aluminium centre column with its ‘telephone pad’ selection of buttons that feature all the usual in-car tech. The digital instrument display is clear and features Elegance, Eco and Performance display modes to suit.
The Volvo S60 interior is characterised by simple, effective design, such as the sweep of chrome trim which makes a highlight of the interior door handles. The front seats in the standard SE models are large, comfortable and adjustable (powered on the driver’s side). The emphasis is on comfort and ease of use throughout. Rear seat passengers are well cosseted with the possible exception of taller folk who could perhaps use a little more headroom, but it’s a minor issue.
Taking Care Of Business
The Volvo S60 utilises a new 2.0L four-cylinder all-aluminium twin-turbocharged common-rail diesel engine which forms the bedrock of Volvo’s engine range (alongside the petrol version) and it is so much better than the engines of old, using some clever technology to drive down emissions and boost performance.
This diesel unit can be adapted for different power outputs and in the case of this D3 version produces 150hp and 236lb.ft of torque. This delivers performance that gives progressive, if not startling, acceleration reaching the benchmark 62mph in nine seconds. Volvo reckon that in this car around 70mpg is possible. I didn’t see that in mixed use but over 50mpg wasn’t at all bad, aided by Stop/Start. Long distance motorway cruising could well improve on that.
The Volvo S60 comes with either a six-speed manual gearbox or, as tested here, a ‘Geartronic’ eight-speed automatic which worked better than I remembered it from previous vehicles. It is however bound and determined to make sure you save fuel by rushing to get into the highest gear in the shortest possible time resulting in a shortage of momentum, often at inappropriate times. There’s a Sport mode which livens up proceedings and probably explains why I didn’t come close to the official figure for mpg. The manual option shifts to paddles but they didn’t add to the driving experience so it was Sport/Auto all the way for yours truly.
It’s a very comfortable car, the Volvo, and the ride is refined. Conversely of course this means that handling is not a strong suit, despite the ‘lowered sport chassis’, being a bit too soft for lively cornering and, for me and as usual, the steering was too light and lacking in feel. On the plus side, these are the very attributes that would appeal to long distance business users. I guess you can’t have it all ways.
CO² emissions of 102g/km make this car an attractive business user proposition with company car tax (BIK) at 15% at the time of writing. Inevitably, at the start of the new financial year, this will rise to 17% unless the Chancellor has a change of heart in the meantime. (He won’t).
The Swedish car maker is on a mission to ensure that by 2020 nobody will die or be seriously injured in a Volvo. It’s a bold claim but there is no arguing with the amount of safety technology on board their cars. The S60 was bristling with the stuff and rather than list it all here I have added a specification sheet below to read at your leisure. Suffice to say you’re about as safe as you could be on the road, short of driving a Challenger tank.
But Is It The Business?
Yes and no. The Volvo S60 has the legendary build quality and state-of-the-art safety tech that we have come to expect from the brand. Some features are options however which bumped up the price of our test car to just over £40k which puts it into the territory of the prestige German motors. There’s also a ton of accessories on offer too.
On balance, I’d have to say that this car doesn’t have the sort of vibe that family or enthusiastic motorists crave but it does have all the qualities needed for the hard-pressed business user. It is smooth, economical, very comfortable, easy to drive and, crucially, safe. It is not a drivers’ car but it is a fine car that fills a niche in the Volvo catalogue. However, if you like the Volvo S60 but desire more pizzazz then you will be pleased to note that Volvo now offer their sporting Polestar range of accessories for this car. With this you get an enhanced driving experience during active driving, unaffected certified fuel consumption and emissions, quick and easy installation and still get to keep the original Volvo warranty intact. In short, you can now have your business lunch and get to eat cake as well. Splendid. Geoff Maxted