Volvo S60 Saloon (2019 - ) review

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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0

The Volvo S60 is up against some very fierce (not to mention popular) competition in the form of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, but it certainly has the tools to compete. Sharp design inside and out gives the car its own unique character, while the impressive quality, cutting-edge technology, plentiful standard equipment and peerless safety record help make it even more appealing. Sure, it could be a wee bit more practical, but it’s a very good all-rounder nonetheless.

Pros

  • Looks sharp inside and out
  • Strong on quality
  • Should be good on safety

Cons

  • Could be more practical
  • Diesel fans will be disappointed
  • Up against some very good rivals

Interested in buying a Volvo S60?

How good does it look? 5/5

Visually, the S60 shares plenty with Volvo’s other models, most notably the now-trademark T-shaped ‘Thor’s Hammer’ signature in the headlamps. You’ll recognise the C-shaped rear light units from the larger S90 saloon, too. In fact, the S60 looks a lot like a shrunken-down S90, instantly elevating its prestige image, but sleeker lines on the back end make the S60 look even sharper than its bigger brethren. All models will come with smart alloy wheels, while R-Design models will have a sportier makeover, and range-topping Polestar Engineered cars will look even racier.

What's the interior like? 5/5

This is one of the S60’s biggest strengths. First off, the materials on display in the cabin are impressively high in quality, giving the car an effortlessly premium feel, and the slick switches also help on that score. The progressive, modern interior design gives the cabin a unique style, too, which makes it even more appealing. The enormous 9.0-inch touch-screen also adds a high-tech element, and not only does the system look great, it’s also reasonably easy to find your way around. Seats are a traditional Volvo strong point, and the S60’s don’t disappoint, with fabulous support and bags of adjustment. Your over-the-shoulder visibility could be a little clearer due to beefy rear pillars, but that’s the only slightly black mark in this area.

How practical is it? 3/5

The S60 does an adequate job in this area, rather than an exemplary one. As you’d expect, there’s bags of room up front, while the rear seats have enough legroom for two adults to travel comfortably. However, those much over six feet tall might find headroom in slightly short supply, and the cabin is a little narrow to comfortably accommodate a third occupant, so some rivals are more comfortable for multiple passengers. It’s a similar story in the boot: the 442-litre loadspace (392 litres if you don’t count the underfloor storage) is reasonable, but rivals from Audi and BMW do a lot better. It's also a bit mean that you have to pay extra if you want a split-folding rear seat.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

The R-Design trim has a lowered suspension to match its more racy looks, and that gives a good balance of abilities. It’s compliant enough to keep life comfy over most lumps and bumps, but it’s also well controlled enough to stop the body leaning over too much or feeling floaty or unsettled on undulating roads. The steering is responsive and well weighted, which also helps the S60 feel secure and civilised in equal measure. Be aware, though, that the hybrid versions weigh a lot more – about 200kg - than the petrols, and you can really feel this in the handling. The hybrids still feel sharp - mainly because the extra weight is located centrally within the car, helping with weight distribution – but direction changes still feel rather more laboured. The top-end trim, called Polestar Engineered, comes with a different suspension again, with more sophisticated adjustable dampers (though these are adjusted mechanically rather than electronically by the various driving modes, and adjusting the rear ones involves taking the back wheels off). It also has additional structural bracing on the front end, plus uprated brakes. With the suspension settings we tried, the car did feel a bit sharper than the other versions, but the ride was also a lot firmer, so be prepared to sacrifice some comfort in the pursuit of extra agility.

How powerful is it? 4/5

We’ve only tried one UK-spec engine so far, that being the T5, which has a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces 250 horsepower. It’s the entry-level engine, and the good news is that it’ll be fine for most people, because it feels reasonably strong from anywhere on the rev range, making the S60 both flexible and fast, and it works really well with the eight-speed automatic gearbox. The other engine we’ve tried is the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid, but we tried it in American-spec, which has a combined power output of 415 horsepower, where in the UK and Europe, it’ll come with either 390 horsepower (regular) or 405 horsepower (Polestar Engineered). These small discrepancies in power output aren’t likely to make a huge amount of difference, and we’d expect all versions to feel similar to the one we drove. Let’s face it, power isn’t in short supply with any of them, and strong performance is never very far away. Having said that, the slightly strangled power delivery does mean it never feels as fast as the numbers suggest, and the all-or-nothing action of the throttle and (more noticeably) the brakes means the car can be difficult to drive smoothly at times. The really interesting thing about the S60’s engine line-up, though, is that this is the first ever modern-day Volvo to be offered without the option of diesel power.

How much will it cost me? 3/5

The S60 will cost you – version-for-version – a wee bit less to buy than rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, but it’s not a game-changing amount less, so don’t go depending on the price to make your buying decision for you. That said, the Volvo matches its rivals every step of the way on the strength of its resale values, so its financial advantage remains at the end of your average three-year tenure. This will also help make monthly finance payments lower. The T5 is competitive with its petrol-powered rivals for fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, but some buyers might be put off by the lack of a diesel option in the Volvo, especially if they’re looking for a company car, or are a high-mileage user. The hybrids will be far more appealing with fleet customers, but while that was once a unique selling point for the Volvo, there are now plug-in hybrid variants offered by an increasing number of rivals. However, the efficiency figures are still very impressive nonetheless.

How reliable is it? 4/5

It’s rather early to make any accurate prediction about how reliable the S60 will be, but there are some positive signs. Volvo tends to do well on this score, possibly because any car designed for Swedish conditions would find UK weather and roads a bit of a breeze. In fact, Volvo as a brand often does as well as Toyota in reliability surveys and, as the V60 uses the same proven mechanical package as other Volvos, we wouldn’t expect any major issues. In the Warranty Direct Reliability Index – which takes into account all factors of a repair, the cost of parts, and frequency of failures – Volvo sits around mid-table.

How safe is it? 5/5

This is traditionally an area of great strength for Volvo. That means you get a number of systems designed to keep you safe in the event of a collision — airbags, side impact protection, and a system that automatically rings the emergency services if you have a crash — and also a whole bunch of sensors and technology that stop you having a crash in the first place. Those include a computer-controlled braking system that can stop the car entirely, or at least slow you down enough to reduce the impact with another vehicle, pedestrian, or even a large animal; steering that automatically tugs you back into your lane should you drift out of it; and a new head-on collision system that slams on the brakes should it detect that another car is going to drive into you.

Pilot Assist is also offered as an optional extra, which (as Volvo is at pains to point out) is not an autonomous driving system (you can’t sit back and read the paper), but a clever cruise control and steering setup that helps keep you in your lane and controls the car’s speed. You still have to pay attention, and keep your hands on the wheel, but it definitely reduces driver fatigue on long motorway journeys.

Like the V60 estate, the S60 has been crash tested by Euro NCAP, and both cars have achieved the full five-star rating. Not surprising, perhaps, when both share the same architecture as the S90, V90 and XC60, both of which are fellow five-starrers. Indeed, if the S60 hadn’t managed to ace the tests, it would’ve been the first Volvo since 2001 that hadn’t.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

Sporty R-Design Plus is the most basic trim in the S60 range (the V60 range has Momentum trim below that), which means an even more impressive slice of kit as standard. All cars come with goodies including cruise control, keyless go, front and rear parking assistance, two-zone climate control, four powered windows, heated front seats, powered driver’s seat, a head-up display and a touchscreen infotainment system with DAB, Bluetooth, navigation, voice control and high-output sound system. On top of the part-leather upholstery and sporty styling that R-Design trim gives you, Polestar Engineered cars get even sportier styling and various performance-enhancing bits like uprated suspension and brakes. Inscription Plus cars, meanwhile, focus more on luxury than sportiness, and give you full-leather and a powered front passenger seat.

Why buy? 4/5

You'll buy the S60 because you want your executive car to be a little bit different to the ones everyone else drives, and you want it to have its own style and identity. Also because you value quality, technology and generous equipment, along with the peace of mind that you’re probably driving one of the safest cars on the road.

Interested in buying a Volvo S60?