During a break on the launch of the new Volvo S60 a colleague asked me if I’d found anything to dislike about it yet.
I told him I hadn’t and even now I’m still struggling to come up with much. Perhaps there’s a touch of road noise from the 20-inch alloys and maybe the engine note isn’t particularly evocative but those aside there’s very little wrong with this latest Swedish saloon.
The S60 marks the final chapter in Volvo’s wholesale reinvention of its model range, which began with the XC90 back in 2014 and has seen seven all-new models launched since.
It also marks the completion of the brand’s transformation from the maker of safe, worthy and dull machines into a manufacturer of stylish, desirable premium cars.
Volvo S60 T5 R-Design Edition
Price: £37,935 (£41,210 as tested)
Engine: 20-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 145mph
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
CO2 emissions: 155g/km
And make no mistake, this new model is all of those things.
As a sucker for an estate car I’ll always prefer the V60’s looks but the S60 is a handsome thing. The exterior, with its Thor’s hammer LED headlights, deep chin spoiler and flashes of chrome and gloss black aero trim is purposeful without veering into aggressive like its German rivals, and the optional 20s fill the arches perfectly.
The interior, though, is where the S60 steals the show. It’s minimalist, slick and achingly stylish. A metallic trim flows up and down from door to door, sweeping beneath the familiar nine-inch portrait touchscreen and around the squared off air vents. Physical controls are minimal – most things are taken care of via the Sensus touchscreen, steering wheel buttons or voice control – but every touch point feels a match for the quality of the German big three.
The R-Design Edition’s sports seats are very sculpted, with lots of folds and wings but they’re never uncomfortable. They support and grip in the right places without becoming too firm over long distances. Like much of the rest of the cabin they’re covered in leather as standard.
Also standard are dual-zone climate control, a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, nine-inch media/nav system, heated seats, adaptive LED headlights and the full suite of Volvo safety features including the ever improving Pilot Assist.
Not standard but so good you’ll think its £1,675 price is worth it is the astonishing Bowers & Wilkins stereo.
The first models on sale in the UK are R-Design Edition, ahead of the release of entry-level R-Design Plus and the more luxurious Inscription Plus. Later this year we’ll also get the higher-performance Polestar Engineered with exclusive Ohlins dampers and lightweight forged alloys as well as more powerful hybrid drivetrains.
R-Design models come with stiffer springs, faster dampers, thicker anti-roll bars and a lower ride height than Inscriptions, putting the focus on the S60’s sports saloon ambitions. Our test car was also fitted with adaptive dampers which helped enhance the drive on some challenging roads.
In this sportier guise, it feels fantastically balanced and composed. It maybe can’t match the imperious handling and engagement of the Jaguar XE but near-50:50 weight distribution and impressive damping and chassis setup mean there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had threading the S60 along winding roads. The body stays flat as you use the quick (but not too twitchy) steering to guide it but the suspension is supple enough to shrug off all but the worst potholes and despite its near two-tonne weight it changes direction willingly and rapidly.
At launch all S60s come with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 247bhp and badged T5. The S60 is the first Volvo not to be offered with a diesel, and the engine line-up will be bolstered with two Polestar T8 hybrid variants with 385bhp and 399bhp. Mild hybrid and T6 petrol versions may also join the line-up.
The engine is well matched to the chassis – muscular enough to push the S60 to 62mph in just 6.5 seconds and with plenty of impetus through the gears (an occasionally sluggish eight-speed auto with manual override). The engine note is pretty uninspiring (like most turbo fours) but is well hushed when you just want to cruise along, which it also handles ably.
It’s a mark of how far Volvo has come in recent years that as well its wafability, we can now talk about the S60’s entertaining driving and unparalleled style. It’s a fitting bookend to a remarkable transformation for the brand as well as pointing towards its future with the zero-diesel hybrid-heavy approach.