An old dog with some very new tricks.
While Swedish manufacturer Volvo has been getting a lot of recognition for its Series-90 cars, it’s easy to forget the smaller Series-60 models that make up a bulk of its lineup. The S60 is the saloon in the range, and maintains the more recognisable Volvo design language that we’re used to seeing, while housing brand-new engines under the bonnet.
A restyle of the S60 saw its face fall more in line with current offerings, and a revision to its drivetrain saw the inclusion of Volvo’s critically-acclaimed four-cylinder Drive-E powerplants. The S60 is now smarter, faster, more economical, and better packaged, and remains a strong contender in the ever-competitive compact-premium saloon segment.
We take a look at Volvo’s S60 saloon to see what’s what.
“The styling changes, clearly intended to give the car a bit more visual muscle next to fresher German opposition, consisted mainly of stronger horizontal body creases and larger features.” - Autocar
Looking at the S60, you wouldn’t guess that this car first came about in 2012. It may have undergone a refresh since then, but the bones of this car remain as they were when it first debuted. The strong shoulders, muscular lines, and coupe-roofline look as contemporary as can be, and the S60 remains one of the prettier options in this end of the market.
It helps that the S60 comes with large, tasteful alloys as standard, giving the compact Volvo saloon an athletic stance on the road. Cars like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class may look more modern and the Jaguar XE more imposing, but the S60 is not to be scoffed at. The Scandinavian flair is strong here, which is no bad thing.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The S60’s petrol four-cylinder bodes well for the future of Volvo drivetrains because it’s a little beauty.” - CarAdvice
Volvo’s biggest improvements have been in the powertrain department, and there’s every possibility that we’re going to run out of space. The Swedish firm has decided that it will no longer offer engines larger than four cylinders, measuring more than 2-litres. As a result, the S60 now sees use of a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol and a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, offered in various states of tune.
The petrol range kicks off with the T4, which offers 140kW/300Nm and a claimed fuel consumption of just 5.8L/100km. Moving up, the T5 will bag you a meatier 180kW & 350Nm, though fuel consumption takes a bit of a hit at 6.4L/100km. T6 petrols put out a punchy 228kW & 430Nm, which is considerable, with its fuel consumption at a relatively miserly 7L/100km.
There is a sole diesel in the range, a D4, which provides 140kW of power and 400Nm of twist. This model sips just 4.5L/100km, and is likely to be the engine of choice for high-milers who spend most of their time on motorways. All S60’s send power through an automatic gearbox, with eight-speeds on all models sans the entry-level T4 Kinetic, which uses a six-speed dual-clutch job.
“Volvo does make a lovely interior though, managing to remain quite unique in the way it styles its console and instrument binnacle.” - TopGear
The S60 puts the ‘compact’ in ‘compact premium saloon,’ and this is most obvious inside. It all looks great though, with typical Scandinavian design coming through loud and clear. The trademark floating centre console is present and correct, while fit and finish is par-excellence. While German rivals have adopted central-knobs to control their infotainment systems, the S60 relegates its controls to the steering wheel and one knob on that centre console (of four). It takes a little getting used to, but it isn’t impossible.
The seats in the S60, as in any Volvo, are easily the most comfortable in the segment, with plenty of lower-thigh and lateral support. Four adults will sit comfortably, though a fifth may struggle. The boot is of a decent size, though it does lose out to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class by a decent margin.
Behind the Wheel
“The S60 has assured and linear steering. It turns in eagerly and holds its cornering line with authority.” - WhichCar
Volvos may never have been known for driver involvement, but the S60 is nothing to be scoffed at. It offers a solid, assured sensation at the helm, feeling like a much larger car than its diminutive size might suggest. The base T4 packs decent performance, and is actually enough for most applications. Moving up to the T5 garners enough punch to rival a hot hatch, and gives the S60 a sporting character that you wouldn’t expect in a Volvo.
Refinement is top-notch, with only tyre roar intruding on cabin serenity, and even then only on models with bigger wheels. Models with adaptive cruise control make for effortless progress, as the system cooperates well with the drivetrain to offer smooth acceleration and deceleration. It even brakes all the way to a halt, making it a useful companion in stop-start traffic.
Safety & Technology
“Available with some very sophisticated driver aids.” - Telegraph UK
There hasn’t been a Volvo in recent memory that hasn’t come with an impressive level of active and passive safety technology, and the S60 is no exception. Six airbags come as standard, along with traction control, stability control, and autonomous emergency braking.
Spec up your S60 with the Driver Support Pack, and you gain thing like blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, active cruise control with full-brake support. Higher end models get active headlights with cornering function too. There’s rear cross-traffic alert and collision warning thrown in as well. The S60 maintains its 5-star ANCAP rating from 2012, as revisions since then have only added more safety features to the already impressive list of kit.
The Volvo S60 is one of the strongest alternatives to the German stalwarts. It packs strong engines, great refinement, excellent comfort, and decent practicality, in a svelte package that only few would dislike. The compact Volvo saloon is a truly well-rounded offering, and shouldn’t be written off as quickly as it often is by those shopping in this segment.
The T5 models are especially good value, packing decent performance and standard features, with plenty of grip on offer from just the front wheels. And despite what the badge might suggest, the S60 is a pretty good car to drive too. Whether or not it’ll be enough to see you taking the long road home, remains up for debate.
Edmunds - 4.8/5.0 - “Volvos are known for their exceptional safety, and the 2017 Volvo S60 is no exception. It also offers a nice ride and powerful engines.”
TopGear - 6.0/10 - “Another safe and sensible saloon from the Volvo team, which mixes Swedish style with good engines.”
Autocar - 4.0/5.0 - “Now better to drive, while retaining Volvo’s traditional strengths.”
Telegraph UK - 7.0/10 - “For all the talk of a newfound sportiness, the S60 remains very ordinary to drive compared with Audi’s A3 saloon or BMW’s 3-series. Instead, the S60 is a safe and stylish choice, and if you choose the D4 diesel engine, it’s a quiet, powerful and fuel-efficient one, too.”
CarBuyer - 3.7/5.0 - “The Volvo S60 is a handsome, comfortable and subtle alternative to conventional executive saloons from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.”
CarAdvice - 3.0/5.0 - “The Volvo S60 has been a more convincing alternative to the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, or even the Lexus IS, since the latest version was released in 2012. Volvo’s new 2.0-litre turbo not only makes it more competitive against direct rivals but also disperses any doubts there may have been about the Swedish company’s decision to commit to a future showroom full of only four-cylinder models.”
AutoExpress - 3.0/5.0 - “If you want something different in the compact exec class, the Volvo S60 makes an interesting choice.”
WhichCar - 4.0/5.0 - “The Volvo S60 is a crisp looking Scandinavian sedan from a brand with an enviable safety reputation and rising cool credentials. It has a comfortable, minimalist-look interior, handles well, and comes with punchy petrol and diesel engines.”