VOLVO has taken a breather from its formidable and hugely successful assault on the SUV and estate car sectors and turned its attention to its mid-sized executive saloon, the S60.

In many ways, the S60 faces the toughest task of all the newcomers in the Volvo stable because it goes head to head with BMW’s bullet-proof 3 Series and it does so without a diesel engine option.

In fact the S60 is not only the first Volvo ever to be sold without a diesel unit - signalling the company’s commitment to electrification and a long-term future beyond the traditional combustion engine – it is also the first Volvo model to be built in the USA. Expect the first fully electric Volvo within the next two years.

Determined to disrupt a sector for so long dominated by the 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes Benz C-Class, Volvo boasts that this is its most dynamic car ever to drive and it has matched this to a technology fest, the expectd class-leading safety features and classy Scandinavian design.

It has been launched initially with only one engine and trim choice. For now, your S60 will be an R-Design Edition powered by a 250bhp 2.0-litre T5 petrol unit that will scoot from 0 to 62mph in an impressive 6.5 seconds.

There’s little to dislike about this engine, unless you prefer one that matches its power with some vocals, because it does the job with a hushed smoothness that is both relaxing and reassuring.

Trim levels to follow are the similarly specified R-Design Plus, luxurious Inscription Plus and performance-oriented Polestar Engineered (T8 twin engine only).

What’s more, there’s no manual transmission, and with good reason. Instead, you get an eight-speed automatic gearbox good enough to make you wonder why you would ever want to play around with a gearstick, plus comfort, eco and dynamic driving modes and a driving mode that can be set up to your individual preference.

Built on Volvo’s SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform, which also underpins the S90, V60, V90, XC60 and XC90, the four-door S60 comes with a trademark suite of collision-avoidance and occupant-protection systems.

These include automatic emergency braking, which can detect vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and large animals in front of the car and automatically apply maximum braking force and oncoming collision mitigation, which detects and reacts to vehicles travelling towards you, helping to avoid collisions with oncoming vehicles.

In addition, there’s an optional blind spot information system with steering support that automatically applies the steering to bring the car back into its own lane and away from any vehicles in your blind spot.

Away from the exceptional attention to safety, Volvo has also applied some eye-catching details to the clean Scandinavian lines.

From its distinctive headlights with their T-shaped daytime running lights and indicators to the tail-lights that help emphasise the car’s powerful rear haunches, the S60 looks modern and powerful on its 19-inch alloy wheels.

The S60 is just as elegant on the inside. It has the same Sensus touchscreen control system as Volvo’s other new models, which allows the cabin to be virtually free of buttons and switches.

Interior highlights include a 12.3-inch active digital driver’s information display, voice-activated control system, Sensus nine-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control and a top-notch audio system with ten speakers.

Every S60 is powered by a version of Volvo’s own 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Drive-E petrol unit. These all-aluminium engines are designed and built by Volvo.

The 250hp T5 petrol will be supplemented by a 390hp T8 Twin Engine and 405hp T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered petrol-electric plug-in hybrid versions. A T6 petrol and a T6 Twin Engine petrol-electric hybrid powertrain may join the line-up at some point in the S60’s lifecycle.

Petrol versions are front-wheel drive, whereas the hybrids are all-wheel drive, with the petrol engine driving the front wheels and the electric motor the rears.

The S60 has double wishbone front suspension and an integral link rear axle. It offers dynamic yet predictable handling and a smooth if firm ride.

Despite being Volvo’s smallest saloon, the S60’s long wheelbase - up nearly 10cm on that of the previous generation - means space is quite generous in the front and rear seats, and there’s the option of a panoramic glass roof for those who prefer a more airy feel to the cabin.

Hands-free boot opening is fitted as standard.. Simply put your foot beneath the rear bumper and the boot lid will open.

The boot offers 442 litres of luggage space, but Volvo is annoyingly asking customers to fork out an extra £400 for a so-called convenience pack that allows you to fold the rear seats down flat at the touch of a button. This enables cargo up to 1,797mm in length to be transported.

In the final analysis I am left asking myself how the S60 compares with the sector-leading BMW 3 Series 330i. The Beamer certainly has the edge in terms of a dynamic drive and acceleration, but the S60 wins out in terms of comfort behind the wheel and the quality of the interior.



Volvo S60 T5 FWD R-Design

Price: £37,935

Engine: Four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol producing 250bhp

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic driving front wheels

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 6.5 seconds; top speed 145mph

Economy: 39.8mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 155g/km



Performance: ***

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ***

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: *****

Value For Money: ****