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Volvo S60 T5 R-Design

Click to view picture gallery“Its official Volvo is cool!
  In just a few short years the Swedish
  premium brand has morphed into
  the go-to label for svelte SUVs and
  stylish estates...”

AND IT JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER… Following on from the XC90, XC60, XC40, S90 and V90 there's now a new mid-sized four-door Volvo sports saloon that offers a joyful alternative to the prestige German offerings.

No doubt about it, Volvo's brand-new S60 saloon majors on kerb appeal. At a time when several of the German saloons have lost some of their visual shine, the handsomely proportioned S60 is a cracker in the looks department; even more so decked out in the fabulous metallic red paintwork of our press car.

The styling is refreshingly unfussy with an imperious gloss black mesh grille flanked by Volvo's distinctive trademark 'Thor's hammer' daytime running lights, while the coupe side profile is underscored by a steeply raked windscreen and sloping roofline that runs down to a spoiler-esque upturned lip along the bootlid's trailing edge. Tellingly, those attracted to the S60 are also most likely to be considering the likes of an Audi A4, 3 Series BMW, Jaguar XE or Mercedes C-Class and are willing and eager to spend around £40K on their chariot of choice.

As handsome as the S60
is on the outside, its
interior goes one better.
Few carmakers do seats
as well as Volvo does
— no matter how much
you pay.
And the R-Design’s
contoured sports seats
are flippin’ fab:
visually shapely and
anatomically supportive
in places you didn’t know
you had places...”
As handsome as the S60 is on the outside, its interior goes one better. Few carmakers do seats as well Volvo does them — no matter how much you pay. And the R-Design's contoured sports seats are flippin' fab: visually shapely and anatomically supportive in places you didn't know you had places.

Upholstered in soft Nappa leather with classy contrast piping and stitching plus grippy 3D-feel textile enhancing the just-right bolstering, the very comfortable 'chairs' also feature three-stage heating, extending under-knee front cushions, adjustable lumbar, and integrated anti-whiplash headrests. You also get a full fist of headroom and a perfect view over the long, broad bonnet.

A nifty touch is the miniature blue-and-yellow Swedish flag tagging the driver's backrest and who, incidentally, also gains multi-way power seat adjustment over the front passenger — who won't miss it as their seat adjusts smoothly and comes with plenty of leg, elbow and shoulder room.

And it's not just the seats that showcase panache — first-rate finishing and upscale materials, such as the real metal mesh underscoring the dash and garnishing the centre tunnel, knurled starter switch and Drive Mode thumbwheel, also inject elegance. Combined with the few controls still independent of the nine-inch touchscreen interface this is a cabin that blends a palpable sense of occasion with a cool and serene ambiance. Scandi-chic rules!

There's plenty of must-have kit fitted as standard on the R-Design, such as keyless entry and locking (on all four doors, not just the usual two), a two-setting driver's seat memory recall, frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, a stylish R-Design multifunction steering wheel (including a voice command button and paddle-shifters for manually overriding the autobox's shifting) with more soft leather wrapped round its meaty rim and which also features three-stage heating.

Two-zone climate control (with CleanZone air quality system and pollen filter) keeps the cabin as fresh as a daisy, especially in towns and cities, plus the powerfolding door mirrors (on demand and automatically on locking and leaving) are heated. The driver will also appreciate the electric parking brake (with auto hold) because it is applied for you automatically whenever the selector lever is moved to Park. To the long standard equipment list you can also add cruise control with speed limiter, hill start assist, and front and rear parking sensors.

Behind the scenes
the S60 deploys a hill of
tech and comms, all of
it easily accessible
via the nine-inch, tablet-
like touchscreen.
For those who are in two
minds about tap-tap-
tapping on a screen to
get things done, there’s
a comprehensive range
of voice commands
for applications from
navigation and climate to
media and phoning...”
Good, too, to see that Volvo have not forgotten common-sense touches — for instance, there's a clip on the screen pillar to hold your parking ticket and practical in-cabin storage with plenty of dual-use cupholders and long, very accommodating front door bins with room to stash a bottle.

The Volvo name is synonymous with automotive safety and every S60 comes with a raft of safety features and driver assists starting with autonomous braking triggered by a pedestrian, cyclist or large-animal unexpectedly crossing the S60's path, along with steering support plus a head-on collision warning with full auto-brake.

There's also a foretaste of what one will day be full-blown autopilot — Volvo's aptly-named Pilot Assist. This one-up cruise control system keeps you in-lane at a safe distance from any vehicles ahead as it steers, accelerates and brakes in traffic and on motorways. Banish any ideas of reading the paper, gaming online or I Robot indifference as you waft along because your hands still need to be on the wheel.

Naturally you get a full suite of airbags, active bending LED headlights incorporating daytime running lights, LED front fogs with cornering function, a headlight cleaning system, fast-reacting auto main/dip beam switching, tyre pressure monitoring, etc.

Behind the scenes the S60 deploys a hill of tech and comms, all of it easily accessible via the portrait-format and tablet-like central touchscreen. For those who are in two minds about tap-tap-tapping on a screen to get things done, there's a comprehensive range of voice commands for applications from navigation and climate to media and phoning. Even hardened technophobes will quickly warm to Volvo's Sensus Connect car-driver interface with its quick-to-master usability.

In among all the many on-screen functions (multimedia, navigation, connectivity, entertainment, climate, phone, etc) you'll find a swarm of apps such as Spotify and Yelp, as well as smartphone-enabling connectivity favourites such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A DAB radio, Bluetooth handsfree, Volvo On Call with App plus emergency and breakdown call functions flesh out the comms package.

While the default 10-speaker/170W sound system makes for happy listening, ardent audiophiles will jump at the chance to tick the options box for the 1,100W, 14-speaker Bowers & Wilkins HiFi that recreates the tone and timbre you'd experience sitting in prime seats at Gothenburg's Concert Hall.

The S60 is defiantly
on-trend with its engine
choices: petrol and
petrol-hybrids you can
have but there’s not
a whiff of diesel
in the line-up.
Tucked away in the
T5’s engine bay is
Volvo’s proven 247bhp
2.0-litre turboed petrol
engine; it’s got plenty of
kick and top speed is
a naughty-but-nice 145mph...”
A rear-view camera is slaved to the central display and more welcome tech comes in the shape of the customisable 12.3-inch digital instrument panel that allows you, for instance, to shrink the two dials and view the active mapping between them. Road sign information is present and correct and complemented by a head-up display in the windscreen.

In spite of the markedly sloping roofline, headroom for six-foot rear passengers is okay and with a nose-to-tail measurement a smidgen short of 4.8 metres, there's generous limo-grade knee and leg room — and more space overall than you'll find in a number of its rivals. More importantly, and unlike some other carmakers, comfort levels are high not just for the S60 pilot and front passenger but also for guests travelling in the back cabin.

With the seatbacks set at a restful angle, a nicely-padded centre armrest with pop-out cupholders and a lidded storage tray, dedicated rear cabin air-vents, viable door bins, stretchy net pouches and oodles of wiggle room in the wide cabin, even the most tiresome trips can't stop you feeling fresh and relaxed when you climb out at your destination. Isofix attachments on the outer rear seats ensure youngsters travel safely too.

The S60 is defiantly on-trend with its engine choices: petrol and petrol-hybrids you can have but there's not a whiff of diesel in the line-up. Tucked away in the engine bay is Volvo's proven 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turboed petrol engine. And it's got plenty of kick: 247bhp backstopped by 258lb ft of torque from 1,800rpm. Top speed is a naughty-but-nice 145mph; the more pertinent 0-62mph sprint is done and dusted in a sparkling 6.5 seconds. Muscular poke is always on the menu and served quickly!

A well-mannered eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox is standard-fit and transmits the T5's power to the blacktop through the front wheels. With peak torque holding out to 4,800rpm, the T5's easily accessible 'grunt' provides strong acceleration through a wide spread of revs. While the kickdown is strong, it feels more in keeping with the S60's sporting image to use the steering wheel paddleshifters for more focused overtaking. Not that leaving the eight-speeder to simply get on with the job is any hardship as responsive oomph is always on call. And you can, at any time, switch between four different driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, and Individual.

The recently introduced (and more realistic) WLTP fuel consumption tests indicate 35.3 to 39.8mpg for the combined cycle. In real-life conditions our S60 T5 came as close as makes no difference — a week's hard-charging and 'playful' driving saw 34.7mpg recorded. Not bad at all for a 247bhp turboed, petrol-drinking sports saloon with an autobox — less pressed owners will undoubtedly do better!

However you punt
the S60 it does
everything pretty well.
And while it sits
alongside rortier and
undeniably more
hardcore sporting
saloons, the T5’s
sportiness holds up
in their company

t turns in keenly and
grips confidently through
corners and its reactions
to the helm confirm
s a driver’s car
when the occasion
If you're enamoured of the T5 R-Design's rakish looks you'll find it hard not to upgrade the standard 18-inch items to the optional triple-spoke design, 19-inch, diamond-cut and satin black finish alloy wheels. But given the lowered sport chassis, is this — at least, as far as ride quality goes — a wheel size too far? Most of the time, over most roads, the answer is No, because while the ride on the 235/40 profile Continental rubber is on the firmer side, when running in Drive Mode's Comfort setting the S60 feels plush and well insulated while at the same time purposefully settled.

Sure you'll be aware of the harsher bumps but generally there are no real complaints, not even from those riding in the back who would be sure to feel any disturbances more keenly than the driver. Overall the ride is perfectly acceptable for a sporting machine and serves up a good compromise between ride and on-the-ball verve in what is a unquestionably a 'hard-charger'.

This S60 T5 is pitched in at the deep end of the sporting saloon class already occupied by the German trio of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz and home-grown combatants such as Jaguar's XE. But be assured that the S60 T5 competes manfully with the competition on challenging roads: helped by its double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link independent rear set-up with a transverse composite leaf spring, it gives a good account of itself.

So however you punt this sporty Volvo it does everything pretty well. And while it sits alongside rortier and undeniably more hardcore sporting saloons, it's satisfying to know that the T5's sportiness holds up in their company. It turns in keenly and grips confidently through corners and twisties, and its reactions to the helm confirm it's a driver's car when the occasion demands. Just as well then that scrubbing speed is as easy as ramping it up. All that noted, its true appeal, you'll quickly discover, is not that it's fun to drive with verve but that it doesn't trick you into thinking you have to.

Those with a lot of baggage (the physical kind!) may well plump for a 'V' in front of Volvo's '60' instead of an 'S'. However, if you're set on the saloon and not a dyed-in-the-metal estate then the S60's boot is tailored for the real world, swallowing 442 litres of luggage in a single gulp.

Making putting things in and getting them out again hassle-free is a boot lid that flips back over the rear screen — and you don't even need to use your hands to 'pop' it: jut waggle a foot under the bumper. The 60:40-split rear seatbacks fold down flat and thanks to a large bulkhead opening there's the added advantage of a seamless loadbay; for skis and the like there's a fair-sized load-through hatch. Plus in addition to the unexpectedly practical loadspace the T5 will happily tow a braked 1,800kg.

A bona-fide alternative to the more ubiquitous German sports saloons, Volvo's svelte and luxurious S60 T5 can be driven hard and fast. Gutsy performance aside, it's also very satisfying to own and will brighten up your road-time even if you don't want to burn rubber at every opportunity. And with driverless cars edging ever closer it won't be that long before owning such a go-for-it machine will be outlawed, so slip behind the cool Scandi R-Design wheel and enjoy some involving driving while you still can! ~ MotorBar
Volvo S60 T5 R-Design | £37,920
Maximum speed: 145mph | 0-62mph: 6.5 seconds | Test Average: 34.7mpg
Power: 247bhp | Torque: 258lb ft | CO2: 155g/km