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Volvo S60 D5 SE Lux Geartronic

Click to view picture gallery“Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool
  fan or you
ve never considered one
  before, you
ll like the stylish looks
youll certainly find Volvos new
  S60 a real

AS YOU CAN SEE FROM THE LOOKS, they're about as far from 'boxy' as you can get and do far more than just hint at the S60's driveability. The crouched, hunkered-down body has a stylistic edginess about it that keeps your eye interested and coming back for more. And black becomes it our Ember Black test car really did look well-groomed, its coupe-like tail and sharply-raked C-pillars being particularly striking.

Comfort has long been a Volvo constant. Thankfully this is a core value that's been retained and refined through successive models and generations. Open the door and slide into one of the S60's welcoming leather seats the driver's, preferably and you immediately feel that all's well with the world. Shut the door; a gentle pull is all it takes and it latches with satisfying mechanical integrity.

The cabin is a bespoke-looking piece of work, with high-grade trim and detailing; a slim and graceful centre stack flows up to meet the uncluttered fascia below the recessed 7-inch SatNav screen a marked step-up over the previous 'pop-up' navigation units.

The cabin is a bespoke-
looking piece of work,
with high-grade trim and
detailing; the eye is
naturally drawn to
the slim and graceful
centre stack
Apart from the column stalks, the core switchgear is sited on the centre stack where, angled towards the driver, it's easily accessible. Sharply styled dials with satin alloy bezels are illuminated with a soft white light that's easy on the eyes, and many of the functions such as one-touch triple indicators, voice control settings and navigation buttons (to name just a few) can be personalised.

The steering wheel matches the centre stack for Swedish elegance and houses remote buttons for the audio and a number of other key functions. The leather rim is smooth and hard all the better to hold it and adjusts for reach and rake. The power seat adjusts eight ways and has the added benefit of three memory settings. The backrest features manually adjustable lumbar support. All this is really fine-tuning as the basic seat is already well shaped, well padded, supportive and immediately comfortable. Side bolstering is also fine and adds a sporty bucket-seat edge while the leather upholstery is soft and welcoming.

All drivers will definitely appreciate the fine view of the road ahead, framed by slim A-pillars. And when you need to use the door mirrors, they give a good view of what's going on behind the nearside one helpfully 'dips' for a view of the kerb when parking. If you don't want it, it's easily turned off. The three-stage seat heating is first rate, delivering an even wave of heat all the way from mid-thigh to middle-back.

An electronic parking brake frees up space between the driver and front passenger and a neatly-integrated centre front armrest makes good use of the extra room without cramping the driver's left elbow. Applying and releasing the parking brake is done using the button in the fascia to the right of the steering column. And so long as you're belted up, it disengages automatically as you drive off. Easy-peasy.

The S60 is well-specced when it comes to life's little luxuries. Standard equipment on the SE Lux includes cruise control, four one-shot up/down electric windows, Bluetooth, USB audio input, rain-sensing wipers, City Safety, electronic climate control, driver's information centre, multi-function steering wheel, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power-folding door mirrors (on demand and on locking and leaving), high-performance sound system, rear parking sensors (you'll definitely be glad of these!), 17-inch alloys, power driver's seat with memory, leather upholstery, active bending headlamps that 'see around corners' and headlamp washers.

Given the choice
between travelling in
the back or the front passenger slot,
you’ll be hard pushed
to choose
For a change, travelling in the back is not the banishment forced on rear passengers it is in many cars. Considering the sloping roofline, getting in and out of the rear passenger compartment is not a problem and there's good headroom once you're seated. Given the choice between travelling in the rear or the front passenger slot, you'll be hard pushed to choose.

The two outer rear chairs are as shapely and supportive as those in front, even down to the anti-whiplash headrests. Outer armrests are wide, knee room is helped by hollowed-out front seatbacks and there's room for parking your feet under the front seats. Overall it's pleasantly airy and the views out are pretty good. You can't do this in many of today's cars but in the S60 you can travel with the windows down and not be blown to the Land of Oz.

Two adults in the back can share the nicely padded centre armrest with built-in cupholders and enjoy that 'sitting in your favourite chair' feeling. If needed, the front armrest can be flipped back 180 degrees to act as a handy tray serving the rear pasengers. Outer armrests are padded and canted up at a relaxing angle. Three can be accommodated better, though, if the third is a youngster but even then adults using the outer seats will likely resent their cosy personal space being invaded.

With four aboard there's room for 339 litres of luggage in the easily accessible boot and for those occasions you need to carry more cargo and less passengers, the 60:40 split rear seats can be folded. The front passenger seatback also folds, should you need to transport longer items. No spare wheel but that's no surprise these days; you do, of course, get a can of 'temporary repair' goo. Storage space inside the cabin is pretty thorough with soft pockets on the front seat squabs, big sturdy door pockets, twin dual-usage cupholders, a box under the front armrest and a fair-sized glovebox.

The slim lozenge-shaped key slots into its own dock to the left of the steering wheel. Once it's in, just press the Start-Stop button above it the five-cylinder turbodiesel fires instantly, its mechanical soundtrack excluded from the interior. The 2.4-litre D5 packs a manly punch of power 202bhp but the key to its driveability is the strong torque: 309lb ft at a very exploitable 1,500-3,250rpm. Easy to see why nine out of ten S60s on UK roads fill up at the diesel pump.

If you plan to rack up
more miles than
‘Airmiles Andy’,
the D5 will be just
the job
Twin turbos help it zip to 62mph in 7.8 seconds (and on, where legal, to 143mph) while emitting 166g/km of CO2. Another reason why nine out of ten S60 customers 'go derv' is the official 44.8mpg average consumption (60.1 for the extra-urban cycle and 31mpg urban).

Our week-long test average worked out to 37.1mpg despite a week driving in snow and ice (see the picture gallery). Sitting in your plush seat with a full tank, it's gratifying to check the range-to-empty readout 616 miles when we first looked knowing you could better that cruising serenely on a long motorway run. So if you plan to rack up more miles than 'Airmiles Andy', the D5 will be just the job.

Given the purposeful looks you'd expect the S60 to be a dynamic handler. For that you need a sympathetic drivetrain and the D5's good showing of low-down and mid-range torque combined with the smooth-shifting six-speed Geartronic auto 'box makes light work of cut-and-thrust city driving.

For country roads, more hands-on control and responsiveness is available by using the manual mode. For the record, the winter mode setting proved its worth in the snowy test conditions; pulling away cleanly in third. Not everybody loves paddle-shifts on the steering wheel and in the S60 you don't get them anyway nothing wrong with using the selector 'stick' (flick it to the left side of the gate then nudge forwards for up-shifts and pull back for down) and it feels more 'natural', in particular when driving at night.

All of which is good news when you want to step on the gas. While not an out-and-out sports saloon, the front-wheel drive S60 is nevertheless a competent and predictable handler. Body movements are well controlled, grip is strong and it always feels firmly planted enough to partner you safely during those times you want to press on across country, where it can be as quick as you demand through corners. As Yogi Bear might say, it's sportier than the average Volvo.

Backing up the D5's reassuring character is a set of powerful brakes. Discs front and rear (ventilated at the front) deliver smooth and progressive slowing and stopping while the decently weighted steering is sharp enough to keep the handling tidy.

Pedestrian Detection
does exactly what it says.
If a pedestrian walks
into your path and you
don’t react immediately,
the S60 will apply
the brakes for you with
maximum force
The S60's real party trick, however, is in managing to ride so well while proving that Volvos can be about much more than just safety. The ride is especially composed; good over most surfaces and with none of that tedious and unwanted feedback that's usually the penalty for 'alloying-up' executive cars our test S60 was running on optional 18-inch alloys with 40-profile 'rubber band' tyres but inside the cabin you'd never have guessed it from the peaceful ride.

This is a Volvo so you just know it's going to be packed full of safety kit. And it is. Aside from the full set of airbags and the upgraded standard-fit stability and traction control, the S60 also comes with Volvo's City Safety anti-collision system.

This handy 'app' helps avoid shunts at speeds below 19mph. Using a laser sensor, it constantly scans the road ahead. If it calculates that the S60's driver is in danger of running into the back of another vehicle it automatically brakes the car.

Top billing, though, has to go to the Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake system part of the optional Driver Support Pack that also includes lane departure warning (alerts you if you stray out of a lane on the motorway without the indicators being used), a blind spot warning system and adaptive cruise control (keeps a set distance between you and the car in front; if they slow, you automatically slow too in order to maintain that essential safety gap). If you're not 'in the cruise' then there's always Distance Alert that warns you if you get too close to the vehicle in front.

As the name implies, Pedestrian Detection does exactly what it says. So if a pedestrian puts themself in harm's way by walking into your S60's path and you don't react immediately to the audible alarm and red lights flashing in the head-up display on the windscreen, then the system will act for you, automatically applying the brakes with maximum force if you're travelling below 20mph, be very thankful: you'll stop in time to avoid an impact. Obviously, at faster speeds the aim is to minimise any collateral damage.

The new S60 is undoubtedly the safest-ever Volvo. It's also the most dynamic to drive and makes a great all-rounder and anyone seeking a realistic alternative to the prestige German triumvirate should call in at their local Volvo showroom without delay.

Volvo S60 D5 SE Lux Geartronic | 32,130
Maximum speed: 143mph | 0-62mph: 7.8 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 37.1mpg
Power: 202bhp | Torque: 309lb ft | CO2 166g/km