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Volvo S60 D3 R-Design Lux Nav

Click to view picture gallery“Driven the latest Volvo S60 yet?
  If you’re considering an Audi A4,
  BMW 3 Series or C-Class Mercedes
  then you really should check it out
  because the Swede packs an equally
  premium cabin and in R-Design guise
  is as well-dressed as the German
  opposition. It goes well, too...”

FINISHED IN PASSION RED our R-Design S60 certainly oozed road presence steeply raked front screen beyond a lightly sculpted bonnet and wide hi-gloss black grille flanked by cut-in headlamps above daytime running lights reinforce the low, road-hugging stance.

A rising waistline and tapering side windows run down to a sloping rear screen that terminates in a short bootlid above a diffuser and a pair of round, chromed R-Design tailpipes. Stand-out, titanium-coloured, five-arm, R-Design 19-inch wheels complete the 'look'.

Under the bonnet is where it gets interesting. Volvo has recently introduced its own in-house designed and built new Drive-E engines across the range. These Euro 6-compliant powerplants deliver high-performance with lower emissions and improved fuel consumption.

“The 147bhp D3
hits 62mph in 9 seconds
and will run to 134mph.
And in real-life returns
48mpg — that was the
worst we could get from
it during a week’s pretty
enthusiastic driving...
The 147bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder D3 turbodiesel is one of this new engine family and with a six-speed manual 'box emits just 102g/km of CO2 and returns 72.4mpg (official Combined cycle). On the road it will reach 62mph in 9 seconds and, given its head, will run on to 134mph.

And in real-life returns 48mpg (Okay, actually 47.9!) that was the worst we could get from it during a week's pretty enthusiastic driving. No doubt that average drivers should regularly see the green side of 50mpg. Impressive for a substantial, premium-built and bountifully-equipped, five-seater saloon.

This new D3 engine is a fine partner to the S60's overall refinement it's quiet at tickover, responds readily to your right foot, and pulls cleanly through to the red-line although, thanks to the 236lb ft 'wave' of torque that carries you forward, you never need to push it that far to get the best from it. In normal driving it plays without any shouting and the only thing you really notice is how quickly the scenery is passing you by.

Paired with this willing four-pot engine is a six-speed manual gearbox; its gearlever has a lovely clean change action that lets you switch ratios without hardly being aware that you're doing it. Exactly how it should be.

Of course, the cabin has much to do with the overall feel-good the driver enjoys from behind the wheel itself a very tactile R-Design item with a thick grippy rim that's smooth on its inner side and covered in perforated leather on its outer face.

All Volvos are well kitted out with core safety equipment and driving aids: City Safety, for instance, is active up to 31mph and automatically brakes if the driver fails to react in time when the vehicle in front slows down or stops or if the car is approaching a stationary vehicle too fast. Stability control and a full set of airbags are also all standard across the range.

However, you can always add more our test car was fitted with several add-on 'bundles' including the Driver Support Pack (£1,900) that provides Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Adaptive Cruise Control and Distance Alert, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Lane Keeping Aid, Driver Alert Control with Active High Beam, Road Sign Information Display and Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert.

“Drivers who ‘don’t do
parking’ will love the
Park Assist Pilot —
it makes parallel parking
easy and precise by
checking the available
space before steering in
the car for you;
you just control the
speed and brake.
Using Active High Beam Control eliminates the need to keep switching between low and high beam just leave them on main and the system does it for you, shading out only as much of the beam as necessary to prevent dazzling other drivers.

The Blind Spot Information System monitors rapidly approaching vehicles up to 70m behind as well as warning about vehicles in the blind spots on both sides especially handy for alerting you to bikes (of the power or pedal variety) coming down your inside!

The Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with full auto brake uses an advanced sensor system to scan the area ahead for walkers and riders. So if a cyclist in front of you suddenly swerves out and a collision is imminent, there is an instant warning and full braking power is applied. Likewise if a pedestrian walks out into the road unexpectedly and the driver does not respond in time, the system can warn and automatically activate the brakes.

Cross Traffic Alert 'covers your back' by alerting you to traffic crossing behind you from the sides when reversing out of a parking space.

With speed cameras frequently misused as cash cows, having an extra 'eye' checking road signs is not just sensible but essential Road Sign Information not only displays them in the instrument display but can also warn the driver if the speed limit is exceeded.

Drivers who 'don't do parking' will be glad of their Volvo's Park Assist Pilot it makes parallel parking easy and precise by checking the available space before steering in the car for you; you just control the speed and brake. Easy-peasy!

With the Met Office already warning of a 'Big Freeze' this winter (thank you, El Nino) the £675 Winter Pack is a no-brainer for driving in wet, icy or snowy weather, adding, as it does, heated front seats, heated front windscreen, active bending Xenon headlights, headlight cleaning system, heated washer nozzles, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, rear theatre lights, as well as front door pocket, side step and front cupholder illumination.

Open the door and park your body into the R-Design sports seat… Brilliant seats have been a Volvo 'strength' for decades, and these are no different. Generously proportioned, they're upholstered in a blend of black Nubuck textile and perforated leather that's cossetingly soft.

“Supportively comfy, the
sports seats ensure you
arrive daisy-fresh at your
destination after even
the longest, most dreary
journey — they’re
the kind of ‘chairs’ you
want to rip out and take
The headrests, inclined forward to minimise whiplash in an impact, are equally soft, imperceptibly cradling the back of your head and fitting to the contour of your neck. Well-judged bolstering clinches but never pinches, providing side support all the way from the thighs to the shoulders to keep you firmly in place when cornering at speed for that 'in-command' experience.

Supportively comfy, the sports seats ensure you arrive daisy-fresh at your destination after even the longest, most dreary journey they're the kind of 'chairs' you want to rip out and take indoors…

Another popular attribute of Volvo cabins is that there's no kowtowing to the latest interior look trending at the design stage rather, they stick to what cabin architecture they know makes driving and travelling in a Volvo a better experience.

The S60's cockpit is defined by fluent Scandinavian design tastefully combined with high-end materials. So while some carmakers are ditching all physical switchgear and moving to full touchscreen operation for everything, Volvo have retained a multi-switch 'keypad' and four elegantly-crafted rotary knobs on the 'floating' centre stack that's angled towards the driver.

Not only do they feel good to the touch but they are straightforward to use indeed, many drivers prefer them as a physical switch is easier, and often faster, to use than a hovering fingertip, particularly at night or while driving along a bumpy road.

Not that there aren't plenty of up-to-the-minute digital features for a start there's the Sensus adaptive display 'instrument cluster' that replaces all the analogue dials with an active TFT crystal display that mimics them perfectly and also shows customised driving information. Any one of the three superbly clear themes can be selected: red-hued Performance; Elegance (calming blue); Eco (planet-saving green). Each brings different information but all have a gear shift indicator.

In fact our very first action on getting into a Volvo we're testing is to select the Performance screen as this provides a large central rev-counter with a large, crisp white digital speed readout at its centre and you can gleam all you really need to know in the swiftest glance.

“Those travelling in the
S60’s rear cabin are
equally spoilt.
Access is fine — even a
kilt-wearer can get out
And the relaxed backrest
angle is perfect for a
stolen forty winks...
Incorporated in the infotainment system are a number of innovative functions offering drivers a fully connected experience. Briefly, these cloud-based services allow the driver to find and pay for parking from the car, discover new restaurants at the destination, stream favourite music seamlessly and much more.

The Bluetooth mobile service also allows hands-free phone conversations as well as music streaming and, in addition, text messages can be read out loud while your hands stay firmly on the wheel.

If that's not enough, there's voice-control for the phone, media, audio and navigation. The SatNav uses a first-class, seven-inch multimedia display set in the fascia; the screen size is fine, with logical and quickly scrolled menus, foolproof full postcode destination entry and 3D mapping.

One of the most appreciated features is Volvo On Call, which allows drivers to communicate directly with their car via a smartphone application to locate, lock, unlock, check fuel levels, and check mileage.

You don't lack for anything kit-wise; main items include superb 3-stage heated sports seats, leather and Nubuck upholstery, 8-way powered driver's seat with lumbar and memory, a multifunction wheel, dual-zone climate control, stop-start, keyless entry (all four doors and the boot), engine start button, infotainment and navigation system, four one-touch up/down windows, cruise control and speed limiter, heated steering wheel, front and rear (and side, too) parking sensors, rear-view camera, alloy pedal set, Bluetooth, auto wipes and lights, electric door mirrors (powerfold on demand and automatically on locking), DAB radio, a premium sound system (even if you don't tick the Harman Kardon box), electric parking brake, tyre pressure monitoring, cornering lights, active bending headlights, and elegant 18-inch alloy wheels.

Those travelling in the S60's rear cabin are equally spoilt. Access is fine even a kilt-wearer can get out elegantly. Headroom, legroom, and foot room is good while the relaxed backrest angle is perfect for a stolen forty winks. If you enjoy watching the world go by then the big long side windows are definitely 'fit for purpose'. Two is the prime number for adults very comfortably divided by a drop-down armrest with built-in cupholders.

“S60 customers have the
choice of three chassis
types — Dynamic,
Four-C (Continuously
Controlled Chassis
Concept) and R-Design
Sport Chassis.
Whichever you go for,
when you need to press-
on, well then,
the game’s afoot!
Luggage is easily loaded courtesy of a bootlid that flips back over the rear screen for maximum access; it also lets you park very close to another vehicle (or wall) and still be able to empty or load the boot. Convenient release levers in the boot make it a two-second pull-job to drop the flat-folding rear seatbacks ready for carrying items heavier and larger than travel cases. A load-thru hatch adds extra cargo options.

The S60 certainly looks like it can handle, so does it tango? Yes. And, in a word, it's 'chuckable'. While its default is to provide you with a personal haven from automotive hell, it's equally up for some rock 'n' roll. Underscoring this is the fact that Volvo gives S60 customers the choice of three chassis types Dynamic, Four-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) and the R-Design Sport Chassis.

The power steering lets you choose from three levels of assistance. On its meatiest setting there's more than enough feedback for keen drivers; it's also precise and accurate and fast enough to keep up with the chassis whichever one you have gone for. It's also a tidy handler and can safely be pushed hard.

On smoother, straighter blacktop such as motorways, it tracks true and feels rock solid. Motorways are also where the 'set and forget' Adaptive Cruise Control struts its stuff dial-up the speed and the ACC manages the accelerator and brakes and compensates for pretty much anything on the road ahead of you.

The S60's other prized quality is its ride even rolling on 18-inch R-Design alloys wearing low-pro 235/40 rubber, the S60 covers all kinds of road surfaces compliantly and noticeably less harshly than some of its big-wheeled German rivals.

Few cars, whatever their price tag, have cabins as relaxing and whisk you along as soothingly as the S60; very long drives nearly always tiresome in many cars are almost therapeutic in this Volvo. And when you need to press-on, well then, the game's afoot!

Volvo S60 D3 R-Design Lux Nav | £30,095
Maximum speed: 134mph | 0-62mph: 9 seconds | Test Average: 47.9mpg
Power: 147bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 102g/km