Volvo S60 T5 R-Design Edition 07 | 05 | 2019Scotcars rating

    Volvo aims to become a disruptor as it targets German establishment with new S60

    IT COMES AS something of a shock to label Volvo — always seen as a safe, reliable, cuddly Scandinavian company — as a disruptor. But that’s exactly what it’s become with the launch of its US-built S60 saloon. (Related: Roadtest — Volvo V60 D4 Momentum)

    Thankfully, in this case, being disruptive is actually a positive. The Swedish carmaker is ready to rock the premium saloon car establishment by pinching sales away from the class-leading German trio — the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series — and other rivals, including he Alfa Romeo Giulia, Jaguar XE and Lexus ES.

    The big question, of course, is does the Volvo have what it takes to mix it with the best? (Related: UK dealers get Volvo Online sales)

    There’s no denying, both externally and internally, the US-built S60 — it’s built at Volvo’s facility in Charleston, South Carolina — is something of a headturner. Volvo’s stylists have nailed the design of its latest generation of cars, including the V60, XC60 and XC40; and that good work continues into the S60.

    The sharp V60-like front end, which combines with flowing flanks and almost Jaguar-like haunches, continues the family look, while at the rear there’s a truncated boot which delivers a sporty profile. And as you’d expect, there’s the well-honed, established headlight signatures, grille and rear lights seen elsewhere across the Volvo range.


    The cabin will be instantly identifiable to anyone who has driven a V60 or XC60; that means quality materials, plus a light and airy design with the easy-peasy to operate large, portrait-format infotainment screen taking pride of place in the centre of the fascia.

    Certainly for the moment at least, the trim level choice appears streamlined and simple: Inscription Plus (T5 only), R-Design Plus and Polestar Engineered (T8 only). (Related: Roadtest — Volvo XC90)

    As you would expect, safety remains paramount in any Volvo, and the S60 is no exception. Worth highlighting here that as of 2020, that  safety regime will see the S60's top speed limited to 112mph. The new initiative is part of Volvo's Vision 2020 scheme; the aim of which is to not have an occupant of a Volvo car to be seriously injured or killed. Related: Volvo to impose 122mph speed limit


    Volvo has taken the high ground when it comes to powerplants. There will be no diesel model in the S60 range. Currently the car is only available to order in high-spec guises. That means a 250bhp T5 petrol, and a T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid. the latter delivers an impressive 405hp from its petrol/electric with a potential electric-only range of 30 miles. That, of course, is provided you don't maximise its pacy performance. (Related: Roadtest — Volvo XC40)

    Next year will see the range increased with the addition of an entry-level T4, delivering 190hp. There’s also likely to be a further addition to the plug-in hybrid range, in the shape of the 320hp T6 Twin Engine. Rather disappointingly, Volvo has yet to confirm if, or when, that engine will make its way to the UK.


    While we’re talking engines, let’s clarify the diesel stance. Officially, Volvo says it's because diesel not a popular option in the USA where the S60 is built. Ok, we get that. But in direct contrast, the European V60, which sells better here than the saloon, is available here with diesel engines.

    Of course, we all know sales of diesel-engined cars are falling right across Europe as emissions legislation tightens, and Governments and climate activists continue to brand diesel drivers as something akin to devil worshippers. As the cost of electrified powertrains become cheaper, battery range increases and entry costs slowly begin to become more affordable to the average car user, the demand for diesel will disappear.


    Currently though, that means there’s a cost to be paid at the pumps. The 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol fitted to the test S60 T5 R-Design Edition test car returns — officially — 35.3mpg. In real world driving, that equated to low 30s.

    I took the new Volvo — priced at £37,920,  and available on a PCP from £299/month — on a leisurely drive on a number of Scotland’s best roads through some spectacular scenery, starting in Pitlochry, through Aberfeldy and Kenmore, then along the north road overlooking Loch Tay, on via Crianlarich and Tyndrum before continuing west to Connel. Then it was north to Ballachulish and through the always dramatic Glencoe. A stop for lunch at the Kingshouse Hotel, then back to Edinburgh via Callander, Doune and Stirling.


    I have to admit, it was the perfect car for a scenic tour through the route. Always hushed inside the cabin, removed from any wind, road or engine noise, it glided effortlessly through the majestic scenery aided by its smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic ‘box.

    But it’s also fair to highlight the fact that, even though it has close to 250bhp, it’s not one to excite driver and certainly not sporty. In fairness, I doubt many of the people who will buy the S60 will do so with the sole aim of hustling it through the countryside. And that’s exactly how it should be. I’ve always believed in horses for courses.

    In any case, taking your time allows you and/or passengers to enjoy the sizeable cabin, which boasts more space than rivals such as the Jaguar XE. In addition to a couple of decently-sized cup holders, under the armrest there’s a well-sized storage area including USB connections, and a 12-volt socket.


    And when it comes to luggage, the S60’s 442 litres of bootspace puts it right up there with the likes of the XE (450 litres), Audi A4 (480 litres) and BMW 3 Series (480 litres). It also romps ahead of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (335 litres).

    Not only does the Volvo have a low loading height and wide boot opening, but the rear seats fold (optionally), which significantly increases the length of the boot. Standard on every S60 is hands-free boot opening; you simply kick your foot beneath the rear bumper and the bootlid will open. Also standard are rear parking sensors, though a 360-degree camera system is optional.


    When it comes to safety, as you would expect the S60 has it in spades. Volvo’s City Safety suite of collision-avoidance aids — which includes Automatic Emergency Braking, and which warns you if a collision is likely and will automatically apply maximum braking force if necessary — is fitted to the S60.

    So too is Oncoming Collision Mitigation. This detects and reacts to vehicles travelling towards you, helping to avoid collisions with oncoming vehicles. Run-off Road Mitigation and Run-off Road Protection — which help prevent the car inadvertently running off the road and protect the car’s occupants should this be unavoidable — is also fitted across the board to S60 models.


    And should the car inadvertently move from its lane into the path of an oncoming vehicle, you’ll be grateful for Steering Support. This advanced safety aid operates between 37-87mph and will help steer the car safely back onto its side of the road.

    Plus, of course, there’s the latest version of Volvo’s semi-autonomous Pilot Assist system that steers, brakes and accelerates in-lane for you for short periods of time.


    So, the burning question is, should you buy a Volvo S60? If you're looking to move away from the established premium set and don't want to compromise, then jump right in; head straight for your nearest Volvo dealership, sharpen your pen and sign on the dotted line.

    Get used to the Sensus infotainment system; enjoy the beautifully handsome styling both inside and outside; be comforted by the impressive crash-avoidance and safety technology; and as long as you’re not aiming to cover significant mileage, which would be better-suited to a diesel, the S60 will be a fine choice.

    Related: New Volvo V60 Cross Country on sale

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    Jim McGill


    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £37,935 / £37,935
    Engine / Power: 1969cc four-cylinder petrol turbo, 8spd auto / 247bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 6.5secs / Max 145mph
    How big/heavy?: L4761mm W2040mm H1437 / 1616kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 35.5mpg (WLTP) / 155g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / £530 first year
    Alternatives: Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE and Lexus ES

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