Yet much of the firm’s good fortune since being taken over by Chinese giant Geely can be attributed to its ever-expanding, and ever-popular, XC SUV line-up. Until now, the more traditional saloons and estates have taken a back seat. Which is where our S60 comes in.
The compact executive class might not be as fashionable as it once was but it’s still a lucrative place to be, and as recently as December last year the BMW 3 Series was a top-six seller in the UK. So there’s plenty of hay to be made for Volvo if the S60 is up to scratch. Still, it can’t do any worse than its ageing predecessor, which barely notched up 1000 sales in 2018.
So we’re going to spend an extended period of time finding out whether the handsome S60 has the talent to take a sizeable piece of the saloon car action. Sure, it may not be as sharp to drive as a 3 Series, but will some of Volvo’s traditional virtues of comfort, refinement and, well, just a general sense of well-being offset its less dynamic nature? In the process, we will be spending time with a number of variants, including the novel plug-in hybrid T8, but before that there’s this T5, which is expected to be the most popular choice among buyers.
So what exactly have we got? After initial concerns about the firmness of the ride in early R-Design models, we decided to go for a more modestly wheeled and softly suspended Inscription, which is essentially the luxuriously appointed flagship. However, well equipped or not, when you start to play with the online configurator it’s hard not to be tempted by, ahem, a few options.
As a result, our eye-catching Fusion Red metallic (£675) example has extras such as the £750 Active Four-C Chassis (that’s adaptive dampers to you and me) and the £1625 Intellisafe Pro system, which adds some automated driving tech such as adaptive cruise control and steering.
Elsewhere, there’s a £350 Winter Pack (heated steering wheel, windscreen and washer jets), plus heated rear seats (£200). A £375 reversing camera augments the standard sensors, while the £1100 retractable towbar has been added so we can use the family’s bike rack. Arguably the greatest indulgence is the addition of the Bowers & Wilkins hi-fi upgrade, complete with its 15 speakers and 1100W output, for an eye-watering (or should that be ear-bleeding?) £2500.
All in, the total is a – gulp – hefty £46,940. Yet before we could get to assess the fruits of profligacy, there was the small matter of getting our S60 built and shipped, which is no small feat when you consider that this car is manufactured in South Carolina rather than Sweden.
While we waited, Volvo gave us the chance to try out its larger S90 saloon. It’s been around a few years now, but it’s built on the same SPA scalable architecture, and in the T5 R-Design form tested it features the same 247bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox. It had been a while since I’d had a spin in the big saloon, but I was pleasantly surprised by both the performance from the engine and its refinement. It’s not a characterful unit to the ear, but in the S90 it’s muted and delivers effortless urge, particularly in the mid-range. However, as someone who remembers the Volvo 850, I still feel a pang of disappointment that these days anything with a T5 badge goes without the old car’s distinctive syncopated five-cylinder soundtrack.