On Jersey there’s a blanket 40mph speed limit, which sounds frustrating until you realise that to drive much faster on the narrow and high-hedged roads would be lunacy. It certainly suited the laid-back Volvo, the buttery-smooth auto’s early upshifts and hushed engine’s low-speed muscle helping you settle into the more relaxed pace of local traffic.
Another incentive for taking it easy is that despite its ‘compact’ executive status, the Volvo only just squeezes between the dry stone walls and the white lines on most roads.
There are chances to be a little less circumspect, such as when powering up the stretch of road out of Bouley Bay that’s regularly closed off for hillclimb events. Here the Volvo confirmed earlier impressions that it’s precise, composed and grippy, but not a car that’s necessarily gagging for a good time. On the plus side, with more revolutions on its crankshaft, the forced-induction four is getting looser and more energetic. The T5 is a properly rapid device, particularly when overtaking opportunities arise.
Less impressive, away from motorways at least, is the ride. Early impressions had suggested that our Inscription, with its smaller wheels and adaptive dampers, would serve up some suppleness.
Yet while it’s better than R-Design machines, there’s still room for improvement. It’s over ragged surfaces (like you find on most of the UK’s – and Jersey’s – A- and B-roads) that it suffers most, the springs and dampers coming over all brittle, causing the car to patter over the surface rather than pummel it into submission. Over really bad stuff, there’s even some hollow bump-thump noise from the rear suspension. Not intrusive by any means, but loud enough for you to notice. And that’s in the dampers’ normal setting – switching to Sport makes it even more unyielding.
It’s a shame because the rest of this S60 is such a refreshing antidote to the normally thrusting ‘sportiness’ of cars in this class. For instance, the cabin is a masterclass in calming minimalism – just the thought of climbing aboard has my blood pressure dropping away. It’s well designed too, the touchscreen infotainment being one of the better systems for clarity and responsiveness, helping offset the fact that most of the car’s functions can only be accessed via the screen – although there is a good old-fashioned volume knob for the (very impressive) Bowers & Wilkins stereo.
There are other highlights too, such as the adaptive matrix LED headlights that never get wrong-footed by oncoming traffic, saving other drivers’ retinas by effectively masking them off from the impressive intensity of full beam.
Back on the mainland, the Volvo settled nicely into its familiar routine of hops to Heathrow and domestic duties. Yes, the tetchy ride still niggles and I’d like to see more than 30mpg overall (the best I’ve experienced so far is the 31.3mpg logged on the late night run back from Jersey), but in all other respects my initial warmth for the thoughtfully designed and easy-going S60 remains. It’s not necessarily better than the competition, but it is different – and for many that will be a good thing.
Sitting comfortably The seats are simply fantastic. Doesn’t matter how long you sit in them, you emerge at journey’s end ache-free.
Lens mucks up At this time of the year the reversing camera gets covered in crud quickly, making it pretty much useless.