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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

The Volvo S60 had once a rather bewildering array of engines but now it has been condensed down to four units, which illustrates perfectly why the firm wants to streamline its range. In time, buyers will be offered one petrol or one diesel engine in a variety of power outputs. Simple.

Until then, there are currently one petrol and three diesel models to choose from. The petrols use a ‘T’ prefix, and the diesels use ‘D’. Just don’t be fooled into thinking the numerical suffix relates to the number of cylinders.

Volvos always brake well, and the S60 is no exception

Kicking off the petrol range is the T4, which uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine to make 188bhp and 221lb ft and overall it is quiet, refined and smooth.

The diesel range starts with the 2.0-litre D2, which takes a leisurely 11.2sec to reach 62mph or 11.4sec if you choose the auto. Next up is the D3 which is a modest performer, with a headline 0-62mph figure of 9.0sec. It’s quicker than it appears on paper, but can become a little loud at speed.

Next up is the star of the show: Volvo’s in-house developed D4 DRIVe engine which uses some clever technology to drive down emissions and boost performance.

This is where the S60 faces its biggest test. Hitherto, the stand-out powertrain in this class has lived in the nose of BMW’s 320d, and has been recently joined by the reinvigorated Audi A4 and Jaguar XE versions.

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The BMW recorded a 0-60mph sprint of 7.7sec, its engine intruded into the cabin to the tune of 48dB at idle and 68dB at 70mph, and it returned 56.8mpg on an extended touring run, and 41.6mpg overall.

The D4 motor in the S60 betters the BMW not just in part, but in every single respect. Here is a car that can reach 60mph in 7.6sec despite average conditions and being hampered by the not insignificant fact that it is front-driven.

Meanwhile, it idles more quietly (47dB) and rolls along a motorway more quietly (64dB), not all of which will be down to the engine, of course, but it’s of significance. This Volvo also backed up its 99g/km and 74.3mpg official figure (which few cars get close to in the real world) by returning near as damnit 60mpg on our motorway-replicating touring route and an overall test average comfortably in the mid-40s. Driven carefully, and mainly on motorways, typically you’d see more than 50mpg.

Added to this, response is fine. There’s a little lag at low revs but it’s no more severe than any rivals’ and it spins cleanly and smoothly through to 5000rpm – although, as is typical for a turbodiesel, the last 1000rpm is barely worth bothering with.

Mated to this excellent engine here is a six-speed manual transmission, whose ratios are tall but whose shift action is acceptably easy. It doesn’t snick through with precision but is plenty good enough to slip into the background without you noticing it, which is all you can ask of gearshifts in a car such as this.

Less impressive was the braking performance of our test car – unusual because we’ve never encountered an issue before with the way Volvos stop.

However, the ambient temperature was a moderate 12deg C and the S60 arrived shod with winter tyres, which, operating above their comfort zone, probably explains why they wanted 71m to stop the S60 from 70mph in the wet and a (slightly more competitive) 53m in the dry.

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The result, we suspect, says more about the fitting of winter tyres than it does about the S60 in general.