Chris Miller road tests and reviews the 2014 Volvo S60.
Volvo’s have come a long way in the last 20 years and if the latest edition of the Volvo S60 is any indication of what is still to come from iconic Chinese owned Swedish carmaker, the future looks bright.
You may have seen the Volvo S60 tearing up the racetracks on the V8 Supercar circuit in 2014 and giving the Holden and Ford boys a bit of a lesson while they’re at it.
While the S60 available in Volvo dealerships looks the same as the racecar, that is where the similarities end. In race spec it is driven through the rear wheels and powered by a V8.
The garden variety S60’s however are primarily driven through the front wheels and are powered by a range of four cylinder turbo charged petrol and diesel power plants while the range topping S60 T6 is an all wheel drive six cylinder affair.
Pricing for the S60 kicks off at $49,990 for the four-cylinder T4. My test cars came in at $62,990 for the T5 R-Design and $71,990 for the T6 R-Design, and the difference between the two cars couldn’t be more remarkable.
The T5 is a front wheel drive turbo charged 2.0 litre 4 cylinder developing 177 kW and 320Nm. It’s a reasonably fast car with all that power, 0-100kmh flashes up in 7.5 seconds.
It has a healthy thirst for premium-unleaded fuel too.
While it’s not a particularly heavy car, tipping the scales with a kerb weight of 1542kg, the engine needs to be higher up in the rev range to get the best out of it, which might go some way to explaining the 11.7 litres per 100km it consumed over a week of mixed driving, and a far cry from the claimed 8.6 litres per 100km.
The T6 is an all-wheel drive weapon with a 3.0 litre turbo-charged V6 that pumps out 242kW and 480Nm. It’s blisteringly quick: 0-100km/h happens in just 5.8 seconds.
It too has a thirst, albeit not quite as insatiable as the T5, but 11.3 litres of 98 unleaded per 100km was consumed in similar driving conditions to the T5; the official Volvo figure is 10.2 litres per 100km.
It is a little more portly than the T5 (about 140kg heavier), but the engine is effortless.
At low revs the available torque provides a real urgency and as the revs climb the 3.0 litre develops a very satisfying note (and an accompanying turbo-whistle), along with a forceful punch that will pin you to the back of your seat.
The T5 has a dual-clutch 6-Speed gearbox while the more powerful T6 employs a more old school 6-Speed automatic.
Both transmissions are intuitive; the automatic in the T6 is sedate and gentle when pottering around, and fast and aggressive when the right foot is planted, while the lightning fast dual-clutch gearbox in the T5 is as good as any other DSG transmission you’ll find, typically though it has a bit of a shudder at low speeds.
Paddle shifters behind the steering wheel let you take manual control of both for even more fun.
The biggest difference in the character of the two cars is the way the power is delivered. The front wheel drive T5 has an abundance of torque steer, meaning the steering wheel tugs in your hands as the Volvo tries to get the power to the ground.
The T5 has tendency to under steer (when you turn the steering wheel either left or right but the car wants to continue in a straight line), and the more pace you apply, the more apparent it becomes. Grip levels are good but there is a definite limit.
The T6 on the other hand seems to have endless grip. There is a hint of under steer at first, but when the rear wheels start getting the power to the ground they squirrel the car back into shape. The steering is communicative and weighted to inspire confidence.
To look at, all of the S60’s are exactly the same both inside and out. The R-Design package on both cars is identical, and if it wasn’t for the badge on the back, you literally couldn’t pick one from the other.
18-inch alloys wrapped in low profile 235/40 tyres mean that the ride can be a little harsh over poor road surfaces, but on the smooth stuff the ride is as good as any other premium European car.
From the drivers seat all S60’s provide good all round vision, parking sensors and a high-resolution rear view camera are standard. The R-Design seats are a lesson in comfort and support…they look fantastic too.
The driving position is comfortable, the multi-function steering wheel is thick and chunky and there is plenty of space up front. Rear legroom however is limited as is headroom in the back with the sloping rear window.
The build quality is first class and the cabin is attractive and elegant. High quality materials are used and it’s everything you’d expect from a premium European saloon.
My biggest bugbear would have to be the complexity of the menus for the vehicle set-up, audio and sat-nav. They seem overly complicated and were a real challenge to navigate through.
An intense lesson from your Volvo dealer is a must before driving away in one.
The climate controls however are unique and easy to use with an unusual array of buttons that are configured in the shape of the seat ensuring you’ve got air blowing on you where you want it.
The T6 is fully endowed with pretty much everything you could want; leather steering wheel, an adaptive digital display, cruise control, rain sensing wipers, xenon headlights with a cornering feature, electric parking brake and electrically-adjustable driver’s seat with memory.
The S60 comes with a five-star safety rating and comes equipped with features including Volvo’s City Safety package, as well as two full-length Inflatable Curtain air-bags and Volvo’s whiplash protection system.
The S60 range is a credit to Volvo. The question must be then, is it as good as the other premium European sporting saloons such as the 3-Series BMW, C-Class Mercedes Benz and Audi’s A4? The answer? Well almost.
The chassis isn’t quite as well sorted; the steering probably not quite as sharp, and the economy is quite a way off. But the price more than makes up for it.
To get the performance available in the T6, the others require you to spend in excess of six figures, and unless you plan to hit the racetrack in one you’ll probably never notice the engineering shortcomings.
All of that makes the Volvo S60 a great alternative. You’ll spend less, have a hell of a lot fun and you’ll end up with a car that is more unique and suggests you can think outside of the box.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engines: T5 2.0 litre turbo developing 177kW and 320Nm and T6 3.0 litre turbo developing 242kW and 480Nm
Transmission: 6 Speed Dual Clutch and 6-Speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Warranty: Three years
Price: From $49,990
For further information, please see Recalls and faults: Volvo Mk.2 S60.