Don’t worry: the introduction of an all-new Volvo S60 has not passed you by. The manufacturer’s business saloon is less of the story here than what powers it

Volvo’s decision to sweep away the eight engine configurations that it currently uses and replace them with a single four-cylinder architecture (sub-divided into diesel and petrol variants) is intriguing – and worthy, we think, of a closer look.

Road test editor
Some cars are instantly impressive. I can’t help thinking the Volvo will get more likeable over time

Strategically, it means that the comparatively small Swedish (and Chinese-owned) firm, which has always claimed to represent an alternative to the big premium German manufacturers, must now fight its corner without the prestige – and profit – derived from larger engines.

If Volvo did not have much of a stake there to lose, it has chosen to bet the farm on overcoming its rivals in an extraordinarily competitive class.

Volvo has a proud history of building petrol engines, but its experience with diesels — beyond the heavy-duty industrial kind built by Volvo Powertrain — is more recent.

For two decades before the millennium, it was content to licence Volkswagen Group engines for use in its cars — right up to the five-cylinder 2.5-litre TDI that was offered with early S80s.

This practice was halted in 2001 by the 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel developed by Volvo itself — one of the units now made obsolete by its four-cylinder replacement.

The four-cylinder turbodiesel is now the backbone of European sales, and the individual units that are its vertebrae are now fiendishly fast, refined and cheap to run. Volvo claims, in a stroke, to have advanced beyond any of them

There’s a wide range of other petrol and diesel engines, and manual and automatic versions of most derivatives of the S60 are available. Engine capacities range from 1.6- to 2.4-litres, but at the heart lies the aforementioned company car tax-friendly 2.0-litre D4 model.

Five trim levels feature, ranging from the Business Edition, through SE, SE Lux, R-Design and R-Design Lux models. R-Design designates a sportier version, with bigger wheels and bodywork addenda.

So, is Volvo's bold move to focus on a new diesel a masterstroke or megaflop? Read on to find the answer.