By Wayne Gorrett
The 2013 Volvo S60 is a well-balanced and stylish sedan.
As such, it makes a tempting alternative to the ubiquitous German luxury sedans.
* Torquey turbo-diesel * Comfortable and attractive interior * Good build quality *
* Spacious front cabin * Excellent safety kit – it’s a Volvo *
We didn’t like
* Chatty and thirsty five-cylinder diesel * Lacklustre driving dynamics *
* Limited rear foot and headroom * Steering a tad remote *
☀ ☀ ☀
This week’s test car is quite a cultural homologation. Volvo is headquartered in Sweden. The car maker is owned by Geely Holding Group of China. The S60 is built in Belgium.
If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a look at a Volvo, now is a good time to do so. The 2013 Volvo S60 may not be an obvious choice for an entry-level luxury sedan, but this attractive car provides the expected qualities demanded in the segment while also maintaining the other endearing characteristics of this Swedish car maker, including cutting-edge safety features, comfortable front seats and willing engines.
Overall, we’re pretty impressed with the new Volvo S60. In addition to being a well-rounded entry in a tough segment, it’s also priced to attract not only private buyers but offers that and more to the fleet manager. While it isn’t as dynamic to drive as a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4, the Volvo S60 fits right in against more comfort-tuned, entry-level luxury sedans like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and VW’s CC.
With its 215bhp, delivering 420Nm of torque, the 2.4-litre, 5-cylinder D5 has more than enough power for all driving situations. Turbo lag is slight and power comes on strongly when the boost engages. Throttle response is lively from stop, and overtaking burst is excellent. Top speed is a healthy 143mph and 0-62mph is accomplished in a none-too-shabby 6.9 seconds. The standard manual gearbox is a six-speed which has positive, if not particularly slick shifts.
Ride & Handling
The S60 is nimble and balanced in quick direction changes. The brakes feel strong and operate smoothly. It balances the needs of driver appeal and on-board comfort pretty well. It handles crisply and has plenty of grip, and although the suspension is rather firm, it’s not uncomfortable and contains body movement adequately. The steering reacts very quickly, which is fun on a twisty road but not so welcome on the motorway. It also lacks the weight and feedback offered by other cars in its class; most noticeably the BMW 3 Series, but for relaxing, high speed cruises this is more than adequate.
By gearing the car towards enthusiastic drivers, the firmer suspension means bumps in the road are transmitted into the cabin. While this is detectable at low speeds, the suspension copes better as the pace increases, soaking up the worst imperfections in the road surface.
Space & Practicality
Adults will find ample headroom and legroom in the front, but the rear provides a greater challenge for taller passengers. The comfortable front seats have side bolsters that provide lateral support without being restrictive. An extensive range of seat adjustments help find a comfortable driving position. Entry and exit are straightforward. Visibility is good in all directions. Rear entry and exit are easy, but adults might want more head and foot room, which diminishes rapidly as the front seats are moved rearward.
Boot-space is a little below average for its class at only 339 litres and the boot lid is short. Sickle-shaped hinges intrude into trunk space, but are covered so that cargo is protected. The interior has average small-items storage. A concealed storage cubby behind the now common floating center console is an unusual feature, but it’s not as useful as a more-traditional storage area. There is adequate storage within reach of the driver, including a large glove box.
Quality & Reliability
While the S60’s cabin is smart, it isn’t flashy. The materials used give the car a quality ambiance and most of the fabrics, plastics and controls have a satisfying feel about them. Most of the engines in the S60 range have been proven in other models and Volvo’s reputation for reliability is very good. The S60 we tested felt very well-built, and we experienced no quality or reliability issues during our time with the car.
Five trim levels – Business Edition, SE, SE Lux, R-Design and R-Design Lux – are available, with all variants getting alloy wheels, cruise control, climate control. SE adds smarter trim and Bluetooth. SE Lux (as tested) brings leather upholstery, front electrically-adjustable seats, integrated remote-controlled ICE, enhanced speakers, cornering headlamps and Bluetooth connectivity. It’s well-equipped, but we’d expect Bluetooth to appear as standard lower in the range in an executive car.
Comfort & Refinement
The S60 has a good driving position with a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake and a multi-adjustable seat. Build quality is excellent with a robust feel to all the controls and switches. The front seats deserve a special mention – they’re supportive, but also accommodating and comfortable. All-round visibility is fine, but the dashboard layout could be a little simpler.
Interior materials are on par with rivals. The heavier graining on the dash and doors won’t suit everyone, but there’s no denying that the interior leather, vinyl and plastic are quality materials. Volvo’s unique take on wood and metal accents also gives the S60’s cabin more personality than most rivals.
Volvo’s angled, ‘floating’ centre console remains a triumph of design, but with 41 controls of varying types, it is a bit busy. Rivals are integrating previously-direct controls into dash-mounted, touch-screen ‘command centres’.
While the front seats have duly been given special mention, the same cannot be given to the rear seat. Not as accommodating as the front, the seats themselves are supportive, but legroom and foot room are tight for adults taller than 5’ 8”. Competitors like the C-Class and 3-Series are similarly sized, but both are more welcoming for taller passengers.
The boot’s 380-litre capacity is a bit small for the class, but a low lift-over height making it easier to access the space, is some redemption. Both rear seats fold down and there’s a separate ski pass-through accessible behind the rear armrest.
Road and suspension noise become noticeable on coarse roads and wind noise via the mirrors and A-pillars intrudes at motorway speeds.
Safety & Security
Upholding Volvo’s sterling reputation for passenger protection, the 2013 S60 comes loaded with standard safety features that include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, whiplash-reducing front head restraints and City Safety. The latter helps the driver avoid rear-ending other vehicles or a stationary object at speeds from 2mph to 31mph by automatically applying the brakes if he doesn’t react in time.
Other safety options include front and rear parking sensors and a side blind-spot alert and lane-departure warning are also available. Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake is optional. This accident-avoidance feature uses sensors to detect pedestrians who might step in front of the vehicle. If this happens, the system can apply full braking force at speeds up to 22mph.
The 2013 S60 has yet to be crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but anything less than a five-star rating will be a significant surprise.
The S60 D5 Lux Nav has an official fuel economy of 62.8mpg. During our 310 mile test over mixed roads, traffic conditions and with no discernible effort at frugality, we achieved a disappointing 44.4mpg. Official emissions fare better at 119g/km, making the S60 one of the cleanest 2.4 litre diesels in its class. VED costs zero in the first year and £30 per year thereafter.
* BMW 3-Series * Audi A4 * Mercedes-Benz C-Class *
The Volvo S60 D5 Lux Nav at a glance
Volvo S60 price range ☀ From £20,745 to £33,045
RRP of model tested ☀ £33,045
Options fitted ☀ None
Power / Torque ☀ 215bhp @ 4,000rpm / 420Nm @ 1,500-3,250rpm
Top speed ☀ 143mph
Acceleration ☀ 0-62mph in 6,9 seconds
Fuel tank ☀ 67.5 litres (14.8 gallons)
Fuel economy (combined) ☀ Official 62.8mpg / Tested: 44.4mpg (310 miles)
CO2 Emissions ☀ Class Euro V: 119g/km (BIK 17%)
Luggage capacity ☀ 339 litres
Suspension Front / Rear ☀ McPherson struts / fully independent
VED Band / Cost ☀ C / £ 0 first year, £ 30 thereafter
Insurance group model tested ☀ 33E T1
Warranty ☀ 3-year / 60,000 mile
Few cars can match the all-round quality offered by German sedans, but the Volvo S60 comes mighty close and doesn’t cost silly money. There’s nothing revolutionary about it – it’s a straightforward three-part sedan, but it’s robustly constructed, comfortable on the move and has a neatly styled and easy to use cabin.
However, one area it can’t compete with its German rivals is in the handling department. The steering feels remote and body roll isn’t as well contained. Other notable gripes are limited rear legroom and a boot with tight access. But generous equipment levels across the S60 range and affordable prices make amends and there’s a good choice of engines with any one of the diesels being the smarter choice.
Volvo’s perceived image still trails BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. The reality, however, is very different and the Swedes have never been so close.