Slick Swedish compact XO arrives to have his courage tested as a daily driver
Why we are working on it: to find out if Volvo's magic touch with premium SUVs means this compact executive sedan
Month 1 — Specifications
Life with Volvo S60: 1 month
Welcoming S60 from T5 to fleet - May 23, 2019
Volvo in the last renaissance is no longer news - we now understand this Swedish success story as well as decades of musical exports from one country.
Much more of the firm's luck, as it was taken over by the Chinese giant Geely, can be attributed to its ever-expanding, and ever popular, XC SUV line-up. So far, more traditional sedans and estates have taken a backseat. Where our S60 comes from.
The compact executive class may not be as trendy as it used to be, but it's still a lucrative place, and as recently as December last year, the BMW 3 Series was the UK's top six seller. So a lot of hay should be made for the Volvo S60 and if up to scratch. Still, it can't do any worse than its aging predecessor, which barely racked up 1000 sales in 2018.
So we're going to spend a long period of time figuring out whether the handsome S60 has the talent to take up a good portion of the car's action saloon. Sure, it may not be as spicy to ride in a 3-row, but do some of the traditional Volvo virtues of comfort, refinement and, well, just a general sense of well-being make up for its dynamic nature? In the process, we'll be spending time with a number of options, including a novel plug-in hybrid T8, but before that, there's the T5, which is expected to be the most popular choice among buyers.
So what exactly do we have? After initial concerns about the stamina ride of early R-Design models, we decided to go for more modestly wheeled and gently suspended lettering, which is, in fact, a luxuriously flagship. However, well-equipped or not, when you start playing online configurator it's hard not to be tempted by, ahem, a few options.
As a result, our attractive Fusion red metallic (£675) example has extras such as a £750 active four with chassis (that's adaptive dampers for you and me) and a £1625 intellisafe pro system that adds automatic driving technology such as adaptive cruise control and steering.
Elsewhere, there's a £350 winter package (heated steering wheel, windshield and washer jets), plus heated rear seats (£200). A £375 reversing camera boosts the standard gauges, while a £1100 retractable towbar has been added so we can use the family bike. Perhaps the greatest delight is the addition of the Bowers & Wilkins hi-fi upgrade with 15 speakers and 1100 watts of power for eye-watering (or ear-bleeding?) £2500.
All in all - in one gulp - a hefty £46,940. But before we could appreciate the fruits of the extravagance, there was the small matter of getting our S60 platform built and shipped, although that's not easy given that this car is made in South Carolina and not Sweden.
While we waited, Volvo gave us a chance to try out their big tool S90 sedan. It's only been a few years, but it's built on the same spa-scalable architecture, and the T5 and R-Design form is proven in your same 247bhp turbocharged 2,0-liter four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. It's been a while since I had a spin in the big saloon, but I was pleasantly surprised by the performance from the engine and its refinement. It's not a strong-willed block to the ear, but in the S90 it's muted and provides a slight urge, especially in the mid-range. However, as someone who remembers the Volvo 850, I still feel a pang of disappointment that these days something with a T5 badge comes without the distinctive old car syncopated five-cylinder soundtrack.
The Spark's handling was in short supply in the S90, but it was, at least in composition, confident and precise, although the trade-off was the main resistance to the R-design's stiffer suspension. What can I say, the beautifully executed interior was exceptionally quiet, and the seats are among the most favorable there. If the S60 can put those specs into a more compact and less expensive package, then Volvo could be the winner.
And of course, that's what it feels like now the S60 has arrived. Only 500+ miles have been delivered, showing on its TFT display, so we're still in the break-in period, but it already feels like it's more of a quality car, but with an extra dollop of wieldiness and a bigger helping of comfort. Even when gently run, the engine is a rib performer and well insulated, while the gearbox swaps between relationships with quick smoothness. It looks great, too, with much neater lines in the metal than you'd think, while the rear treatment is much more effective than a lightly sliced S90 tool.
But it's the interior that's the real star, with its minimalist Scandi style and top-notch finishes. This light skin cream and driftwood inserts only add to the cool sophistication feel, although they are not suited to my two young children's on-the-go habits.
It's important to note that the front seats keep you supported in all the right places. As an oasis of calm in an increasingly hectic world, Volvo takes some beating. It's still very early, but I feel the S60 and I get along very well.
The minimal but stylish interior makes the S60 pleasant and relaxing in the morning, but will it be the car you take for the weekend? Its German rivals are short on driver appeal, so hopefully our time with Volvo will show it can deliver fun as well as Scandinavian good looks.
On the S60 T5 specification inscribed Volvo
Specifications: — Price new £39,185 price as tested £46,940 optionsBowers & Wilkins sound system £2500, intellisafe in Pro £1625, retractable tow bar £1100, active four with chassis £750, Fusion red metallic £675, reverse parking camera £375, winter package £350, heated rear seats £200, plastic luggage compartment mat £180
Test data: engine 4-cylinder, 1969cc, turbocharged petrol Power 247bhp at 5500rpm torque 261lb ft at 1800-4800rpm Curb weight 1686kg maximum speed 145mph 0-62 mph in 6,5 s, Fuel consumption 35.3 mpg CO2 emissions 155 g / km Disadvantages No costs no