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Volvo S60 D3 SE

Click to view picture gallery“First drive of the all-new S60 —
  Volvo’s handsome coupe-styled,
  four-door compact executive
  saloon that’s sure to win a lot of
  conquest sales for the Swedish

SALES MAY WELL BE ON THE UP FOR VOLVO (UK sales have increased by 54% over the same period last year) but the brand still has a recognition issue with younger customers — Volvo's new target audience.

In a recent survey of target customers, out of the 10 model ranges they have on offer only an average of 2.4 model ranges were recognised as a Volvo. The revised C30 Coupe and the XC60 together with their DRIVe and R-Drive variants have undoubtedly raised the brand's profile but there is still much more to be done.

The S60 is a handsome and stylish addition to the line-up and, like the previous S60 models introduced in 2000, will be Volvo's best-selling range. Around 2,400 will be available to UK customers this year and 9,700 in 2011.

It is expected that 86% of S60 models will be diesel powered with fleet and business user-choosers taking 70% of UK sales. Prices start from 23,295 and range up to 36,745. The main competitors will be the German premium brand models of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. There will also be strong competition from mainstream rivals such as the much improved Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Toyota Avensis, Honda Accord and the Volkswagen Passat.

Chris Wailes, Volvo's European product and pricing manager, thinks that 65% of customers for the new S60 will come from what he calls mainstream upgrades — drivers moving up and away from the volume sellers.

The all-new S60
is comfortable and agile
with trustworthy road
manners. It also has
a nice growling exhaust
These people are attracted by style, quality and, increasingly, by driving dynamics. As importantly, the brand's well-known core features of safety technologies and DRIVEe lower CO2 emissions also add appeal to the new way forward for the Scandinavian brand.

Volvo might be moving away from Ford's ownership (the transfer of the Volvo worldwide car business from Ford to the Chinese conglomerate of Geely Holdings should be completed by the end of September 2010) but these days component sharing between competing brands is the normal way forward to reduced design and manufacturing costs.

Therefore the S60 will use the same platform as underpins Ford's latest Mondeo, Kuga and S-Max and which is also used for the Jaguar XF. Ford and Volvo will continue their engine partnerships: Volvo talking engines and the latest twin-clutch auto transmissions from Ford as well as developing their own; and Ford taking Volvo's well respected five-cylinder power units.

Volvo says that their all-new S60 is the most dynamic and safest Volvo ever. The S60 also pioneers a major safety innovation — Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake. A digital camera and radar are used to scan the road ahead. If they sense a pedestrian moving into the path of the car, and the driver fails to respond to warnings, the car will brake itself. Yes it really works — I tried it using a full-sized dummy on a closed circuit. But treat it as a last resort action; the worry is that some motorists could become less aware while driving, taking it for granted that collisions with a pedestrian are a thing of the past. Around 25% of S60 customers are expected to take the Pedestrian Detection extras-cost option.

The S60 is also fitted as standard with Volvo's City Safety system (as used with the XC60 SUV) which can eliminate rear-end impacts at speeds of up to 9mph and reduce the severity of other impacts of up to 18mph. Safety still being a core feature of the Volvo brand, S60 customers also have the option of specifying Driver Alert Control, Blind Spot information, active Bi-Xenon headlights and Lane Departure warning.

Much detailed work has taken place in the UK by Volvo design engineers using our poor road surfaces for setting the final performance for the suspension and handling, and the result is the best handling Volvo ever.

The S60 cabin
is designed around the
driver with a premium
yet tastefully simple style
— all very Swedish
Certainly the company is on target to make this newcomer appeal to younger new-to-Volvo customers. The grip during cornering for a front-wheel drive car of this size is first rate; the steering sharp and precise and the ride comfort firm but acceptable. The rear-end does tend to side-step at times, causing the car to fidget but not on all models. The heavier 2.4-litre turbodiesel unit with 18-inch wheels strangely being better than the 2.0-litre TD version with 17-inch wheels.

This model was also marginally the better one to drive because of the extra power and torque, but both diesel engines were impressive and fuel-frugal. Driven really quite hard on traffic-free northern Scottish roads during the test drives, the D3 returned 35.3mpg and the D5 34.5mpg.

Advanced electronic controls further improve handling and the driving experience. These include Corner Traction Control, which boosts agility by automatically braking the inner driven wheel as extra power is applied to the outer wheel. This 'torque vectoring' improves turn-in, thus reducing understeer.

Two five-cylinder diesel models — the new 2.0-litre 163bhp D3 and the 2.4-litre 205bhp D5 — and the range-topping T6 petrol (all-wheel drive 304bhp 3.0-litre V6) are offered at UK launch. D3 and D5 versions are available with ES, SE and SE Lux levels of specification; the T6 with SE and SE Lux. The most popular model, based on fleet and business users being the biggest buying audience, will be the D3 with SE trim priced at 25,295.

Within the first year the model range will grow to include 1.6-litre 115bhp diesel DRIVe and three new petrol models — the 2.0-litre 240bhp T5, the 1.6-litre 180bhp T4 and 1.6-litre 150bhp T3. The forthcoming petrol engines are new four-cylinder GTDi (gasoline turbo direct injection) units. The GTDi engines will be available with a six-speed Powershift dual-clutch semi-automatic gearbox as well as a six-speed manual transmission.

Inside the S60 the cabin is designed around the driver with a premium yet tastefully simple style — all very Scandinavian. Sophisticated materials, including leather and wood, are used and the trim quality and fit-and-finish are, I would say, the best-ever for Volvo.

Based on the normal
three years/60,000-mile
the new S60 will retain
35% of its original
purchase price
Having a coupe roofline does not offer the greatest of headroom, especially in the rear, but rear legroom is better than the old S60's and the boot aperture is bigger, making loading easier. Forget the old but best-selling S60 — the new one for a new generation of buyers is much better.

And those who determine residual values, the all-important figures that now control the contract hire and leasing costs, reckon that based on the normal three years/60,000-mile yardstick, the new S60 will retain 35% of its original purchase price. This is exactly the same residual value as the Audi A4 2.0 TDI 143 and 170, and also the same as the BMW 320d SE. It is substantially better than the 30% quoted for the Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Highline and 31% for the Lexus 220d SE-I. It is also well above the mid-to-late 20% predictions for the volume Vauxhall and Ford models in the segment.

Retained values aside, there's much to like about the all-new S60 including its distinctive new-age design and handsome looks, classy interior, high quality fit-and-finish, lots of specification as standard (and even more if you pay for it) and plenty of safety features. Okay, so the headroom is not plentiful and ride control can become unsettled at times but that doesn't stop the S60 being comfortable and agile with trustworthy road manners. It also has a nice growling exhaust note. — David Mile

Volvo S60 D3 SE 4-door
| 25,295
Maximum speed: 137mph | 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 35.3mpg
Power: 163bhp | Torque: 295lb ft | CO2 139g/km