In 2003 Volvo’s staid S60 saloon found itself thrown into an entirely new light.
Thanks to a hike in firepower plus the addition of a four-wheel drive system and electronically controlled dampers, the dependable Swede morphed into a potential BMW M3 rival.
A series of tweaks to its turbocharged five-cylinder engine, including a hike in displacement from 2318cc to 2521cc, netted it 300bhp and 295lb ft. Those numbers resulted in an Autocar-tested 0-62mph time of 6.3sec and a 157mph top speed.
Today, however, depreciation has taken its toll and you can pick up a decent example for £3500. For a car that offers a charismatic five-cylinder warble, a comfortable cabin and a decent turn of speed, it suddenly appears worthy of consideration.
“They were good when they were right, but lots of things fail,” he adds. “Even though they’re a Volvo, they’re quite a specialist sort of car and can have a multitude of problems.”
A frequent fault in the S60 R is with the four-wheel drive system. The transfer case itself, or the splined sleeve for the propshaft that drives the rear wheels, can fail, so a lot of four-wheel-drive S60 Rs end up being front-wheel drive only.
“Owners don’t necessarily realise,” says Thompson. “Get under the car and turn the propshaft. If you can rotate it then it’s not connected.” Alternatively, if you have access to a suitable lift, you can run the car in gear with the wheels off the ground and see if they all turn.
The Volvo’s electronically controlled suspension dampers can also be troublesome. Original-equipment items will set you back £500 apiece from Volvo, but you can find the same dampers through aftermarket channels for less than half that.
“There probably isn’t an S60 on the road that hasn’t had several sets of them,” says Thompson.
Other parts that are prone to grief include the wishbone arms, but replacement items come with uprated bushes and last much longer.
When it comes to assessing a used example, it’s vital that you see it started from cold. If you find that the car in question suffers from a lumpy idle, it could be indicative of cracked cylinder liners.
“They can split their liners at the top of the bore when they get overheated,” reveals Thompson, although it’s an affliction that’s more common on tuned engines.
A further sign of cracked liners is the mysterious disappearance of coolant without any evidence of leaks or excessive exhaust smoke. Many owners overlook the problem, assuming that the car is simply leaking coolant from somewhere they can’t see it and that the offbeat idle is just due to the engine’s five-cylinder nature.