The Volvo S60 looks good and it’s comfortable and refined to drive, but at launch there’s just one powertrain option, a 250hp petrol engine.
Volvo has revised its entire range over recent years with very successful results both in terms of the products and sales. However one of the core models – the S60 – has only just been replaced; so is it now a genuine BMW 3 Series rival?
There’s only one engine option for the S60 at launch and that’s the T5 petrol, which is a 4-cylinder, 2-litre unit mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, with front-wheel drive.
The now-familiar latest Volvo design language has been applied to the S60, and it looks good on the outside, and on the inside, where a large touchscreen is a key feature in the centre of the dashboard. The interior is a high quality environment.
We recently reviewed the Volvo V60 D4 diesel, which had very slow responses when setting off from standstill (a fairly common feature of many 4-cylinder, 2-litre diesel cars since the introduction of the new WLTP economy test). There’s good news to report with the petrol-engined S60 T5: the responses are much quicker overall, however this does depend on which drive mode you’ve selected. Dynamic mode gives you the best responses, whereas things can still feel a bit sluggish in Comfort, and life is very slow in Eco mode.
Performance is good from the 250hp engine but a downside to Dynamic mode is that the engine can get revvy and sound strained if you’re pushing on.
The 8-speed automatic transmission generally works well, and you can change manually using steering-wheel mounted paddles – a feature that hasn’t been present in all automatic Volvos that we’ve reviewed.
The S60’s steering feels sharp and well weighted, and the ride is generally comfortable, although it’s slightly on the firm side, which is likely to be a result of the R-Design Edition spec. As with most Volvos, the S60 is aimed more at the comfort rather than the sporty end of the market. And of course the S60 is front rather than rear-wheel drive. For a front-wheel drive car, the handling in normal driving is perfectly fine. However if you do want to enjoy some twisty B-roads then rear-wheel drive will be more rewarding, and the grip of the S60 has limits, especially through tight corners on wet roads, when the inherent understeer of the front-wheel drive chassis becomes evident.
Life on motorways is generally good, although there is some road noise on certain surfaces.
Apart from the modern design, the interior is also mostly functional. However you have to go into the touchscreen to change cabin temperature settings, which isn’t as easy as having separate controls on the dashboard, and things can get a little complex if you need to swipe left or right on the touchscreen to access the multitude of additional functions when you’re driving.
The official combined fuel economy for the Volvo S60 T5 is 35.3-39.8 mpg based on the new, more realistic WLTP test, with CO2 emissions of 155 g/km – which is a high figure compared to some other rivals. In real-world driving we managed 42.6mpg at motorway speeds, but this dropped to 33.0mpg around town. Overall after a week of mixed driving we averaged 35.6mpg – which matches the combined WLTP figure. The real-world driving range of just over 300 miles on a full tank isn’t great.
The 155 g/km CO2 emissions also translate to a Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability of 35%.
The Volvo S60 T5 FWD R-Design Edition costs £37,935. Including options such as metallic paint (£675) and tempa spare wheel (£150) the total price of our test car was £39,160.
In addition to only one powertrain option being available, there are only the trim levels of R-Design or R-Design Edition.
The Volvo S60 is what you would expect from Volvo today, a well-designed, comfortable and refined car, and the petrol powertrain has better responses compared to the diesel V60 that we tested recently. However a key rival, the latest BMW 3 Series, sets the bar very high; it has an excellent ride, but it also has rewarding rear-wheel drive handling – so it combines a comfortable and sporty driving experience more successfully than the Volvo.
However the big issue is that the S60 T5 only has one powertrain currently, the 250hp petrol engine, with its CO2 emissions of 155 g/km. This means that the S60 will be excluded from many company car schemes, as it exceeds the maximum CO2 thresholds. The relatively high CO2 emissions also translate to real-life economy that is worse than diesel equivalents (and it’s worth remembering that the very latest diesels have very low levels of the emissions that impact on local air quality).
One final consideration is that the S60 isn’t as practical – or arguably as desirable – as the V60 Estate.
The S60 will have more appeal when the petrol plug-in hybrid powertrain is available, which is very soon. In the meantime the Volvo S60 T5 FWD R-Design Edition gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.