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Want a fast executive saloon but don't want to shout about it? Volvo's new S60 T8 could be for you. We try it in the UK for the first time
18 September 2019
Volvo S60 T8 Twin Engine 2019 UK

What is it?

Volvo’s very modernist approach to the performance saloon format. And it will be a direction that the established elite in that segment have to follow as the electrification ramp-up marches on.

This is Volvo’s fastest-accelerating production car, but it does things a little differently to the Germans. That’s why this T8-badged S60 gets no big wing, no flared arches, no giant air intakes and no shouty, quad-tipped exhaust to announce its presence. 

That may cause some to lose interest already. And probably for the best: Volvo isn’t aiming to beat the BMW M340i at its own game here - it’s aiming for a more reserved customer less inclined to make a big song and dance about their car's power and pace.

We’re plenty familiar with the concept of Volvo’s ‘Twin Engine’ T8 system, which has proven its worth in the 90 series models and the XC60 to date. But for the uninitiated, here goes: it’s got a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged, but it’s also a plug-in hybrid, supplemented by an 86bhp electric motor driving the rear axle for all-wheel drive. It funnels all the propulsion sources through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.  

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If that all sounds terribly complicated, well, it kind of is. For 2019, the T8 powertrain gets a slightly bigger 11.8kWh lithium ion battery pack, with Volvo claiming up to 30 miles is possible on electric power alone.

What's it like?

A darn sight easier to get on with than its complicated powertrain suggests. Like most PHEVs these days, there’s no need to ensure you’re in the right mode - just fire it up, off you go and the systems deal with the fine art of juggling the power sources as efficiently as possible. 

Of course, there are modes if you want them: one that locks the electric motor on for permanent four-wheel drive, an Eco mode for extra fuel-sipping at the expense of responses, and a Power mode that does exactly the opposite. You can also charge up the battery by shutting down the electric motors entirely, if you need to. But we found the standard Hybrid mode to be the most balanced for most situations.

Volvo has had several years of (under Geely ownership) well-funded development time for its plug-in powertrains, and it shows. In town or country pootling, it’s as delightfully smooth and serene as a pure EV, and when the engine is fired up, it does so almost imperceptibly unless you stomp inelegantly on the throttle. It’ll shoot up to 78mph in pure-EV mode, but that requires precision with the right foot as it’s easier to wake the engine in the S60 T8 than it is in the new BMW 330e

“But I thought you said this was a performance saloon?” I hear you cry. Oh, it is, on paper at least. Volvo’s T8 system still has a clear edge over (admittedly cheaper) rivals like the 330e and Mercedes C300e for straight-line pace, and in the S60 that means 0-62mph is dealt with in 4.6sec. It feels quick pretty much everywhere, but it doesn’t always respond with the satisfying surge exactly when you want it to: mashing the throttle without warning in Hybrid mode can mean a crucial second or so before the system wakes from its eco-friendly slumber. 

When you do, the motor’s four-cylinder note is pleasingly distant up until the final 1500rpm of the rev counter, where a slightly industrial but not entirely unwelcome intrusion makes itself heard. None of this will be news to anyone who’s driven a Volvo T8 before, but what makes this S60 unique is that it has a chassis more capable of dealing with the performance. 

Volvo claims that the S60’s suspension tune is distinctly different from that of its V60 sibling because those buying into the shrinking saloon segment are increasingly enthusiasts put off by SUVs. Happily, the sportier set-up provides a good (if not outstanding) balance between dynamism and comfort. 

Where an S90 T8 might pitch, wobble and generally feel out of step with the road surface in spirited driving, the S60’s trade in outright softness results in greater composure and confidence-boosting precision. The steering seems quicker and more positive than other Volvos, too, without becoming too darty under gentle cruising. 

It not perfect: there’s still an artificial feel to the helm that never really goes away and, while the T8’s cornering balance is entirely neutral, don’t mistake composure for fun, as there isn’t a huge amount. There is a modest trade in ride comfort, with effortless absorption making way for a feeling of being a little more connected to the Tarmac, but on our car with 19in wheels it’s entirely acceptable and doesn’t impact on the S60’s everyday abilities in the way the set-up of true performance saloons often does. 

Should I buy one?

That depends on what you want. A BMW M or Mercedes-AMG killer this isn’t: despite Volvo’s efforts, it’s still too soft and hamstrung by the considerable weight of all the hybrid gubbins. 

That’s where the clever Öhlins dampers of the soon-to-come Polestar Engineered model will come in. For now, the S60 is refined, quick, composed and comfortable but doesn’t set out to be a rewarding driver’s car in the traditional sense.

The powertrain, too, is versatile and effective rather than thrill-a-minute. But there’s no questioning its capability - someone with the ability to keep the car’s charge topped up at home or at work can benefit from vastly better fuel consumption and smoothness than pure-petrol equivalents but still rely on serious pace when called upon. 

And, being a Volvo, you get an impeccably finished and elegantly laid-out cabin and space for four large adults to sit without much complaint. Plus, it’s arguably a looker - even more so than its larger siblings, we reckon. A closer test of plug-in equivalents will give us a better idea of where the S60 sits, but first impressions are certainly positive. 

Where Oxfordshire On sale Now Price £49,805 Engine 4 cyls, 1969cc, turbocharged and supercharged, petrol, plus electric motor Power 299bhp at 5700rpm (petrol), 86bhp (electric) Torque 295lb ft at 1800-4800rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1960kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 4.6sec Economy 122.8-176.5mpg CO2 39g/km Rivals BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class

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Comments
15

18 September 2019
It's a handsome looking car, that it hasn't got the ability to entertain in the same way as an M or AMG is no more a hindrance than an Audi RS's lack in the same area. I'm sure there are a lot of buyers looking for subtle and comfortable with a massive turn of pace. This is after all where high performance Audi's have been for years and they've always sold well.

18 September 2019

The Volvo has almost identical power and torque numbers to my old 928 (4.6L V8). It weighs about 300kgs more and yet the 0-60 dash is quoted at 4.6s while the old 928 took 6.2. My wife's 350 SLK (3.5L V6) enjoyed very similar power and a little less tourque. A modern 7-speed as well, yet it still took 5.2s to cover the 0-60 dash despite being 500 kg lighter than the Volvo.

Given the weight (just shy of two tonnes) and power and torque numbers, I just don't believe 4.6s nor anything like it.

18 September 2019
James Dene wrote:

The Volvo has almost identical power and torque numbers to my old 928 (4.6L V8). It weighs about 300kgs more and yet the 0-60 dash is quoted at 4.6s while the old 928 took 6.2. My wife's 350 SLK (3.5L V6) enjoyed very similar power and a little less tourque. A modern 7-speed as well, yet it still took 5.2s to cover the 0-60 dash despite being 500 kg lighter than the Volvo.

Given the weight (just shy of two tonnes) and power and torque numbers, I just don't believe 4.6s nor anything like it.

But the Volvo is 4 wheel drive which always favours standing start times, the 2 cars you mention are not.

18 September 2019
James Dene wrote:

The Volvo has almost identical power and torque numbers to my old 928 (4.6L V8). It weighs about 300kgs more and yet the 0-60 dash is quoted at 4.6s while the old 928 took 6.2. My wife's 350 SLK (3.5L V6) enjoyed very similar power and a little less tourque. A modern 7-speed as well, yet it still took 5.2s to cover the 0-60 dash despite being 500 kg lighter than the Volvo.

Given the weight (just shy of two tonnes) and power and torque numbers, I just don't believe 4.6s nor anything like it.

Those cars were both automatic I assume, they wont have the same off the line ability and shift speeds. 4.6 may well be slightly off, but remember it has a modern 8 speed auto, not a long geared slush box.

18 September 2019
James Dene wrote:

Given the weight (just shy of two tonnes) and power and torque numbers, I just don't believe 4.6s nor anything like it.

I reckon with a fully charged battery it'll manage it, think I'd be more wary of that JLR Discovery 'beating' weight of 1960kg round the corners!

18 September 2019

Tturbocharged, supercharged 4 pot, electric motor, 4WD, 12kw battery - 'Wheeler Dealers' will have fun with that in 10 years time.  £50k 4 pot 2.0 Saloon nah

18 September 2019
xxxx wrote:

Tturbocharged, supercharged 4 pot, electric motor, 4WD, 12kw battery - 'Wheeler Dealers' will have fun with that in 10 years time.  £50k 4 pot 2.0 Saloon nah

 

You seem to parade (mainly negative) opnions regarding cars reviewed here, so what did you put your own money into, just to give context and to by definition, recommend a car to those who are swayed by your posts?.

18 September 2019
Takeitslowly wrote:

xxxx wrote:

Tturbocharged, supercharged 4 pot, electric motor, 4WD, 12kw battery - 'Wheeler Dealers' will have fun with that in 10 years time.  £50k 4 pot 2.0 Saloon nah

You seem to parade (mainly negative) opnions regarding cars reviewed here, so what did you put your own money into, just to give context and to by definition, recommend a car to those who are swayed by your posts?.

That's rich coming from you.  You seem to think you know it all why don't start your car website.

18 September 2019

 I think the Volvo has gone all Germanic, the exterior has Audi, BMW design looks, the interior is dominated by those large air Vents, they seem to take up a lot of the Dash, but, I agree, some will like how it goes.

18 September 2019
Peter Cavellini wrote:

 I think the Volvo has gone all Germanic

Or rather the Germans have gone all un-Germanic.

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