What is it?
Volvo needs this car to be good. More than good, in fact, because it doesn’t matter how many SUVs you can flog, if you choose to operate at the premium end of the mass market without a fighting-fit mid-size saloon, you’re headlining without a front man.
Autocar readers – people who care about driving – are also unlikely to lend your brand much affection if you can’t successfully engineer such a timeless formula as a sports saloon, but that’s something we’ll come onto in a moment.
So, the new S60. Despite the fact Volvo sold only 1276 examples of the outgoing model last year (more McLaren 720Ss left the showroom in 2017), it’s the most keenly anticipated car of its kind in recent memory. You might disagree with that, but there are several very good reasons why most won’t. Not least of which is that this – the first American-built Volvo – looks for all the world to finally provide us with a decent excuse to send money somewhere other than Stuttgart, Munich or Ingolstadt. Or, indeed, the Midlands.
In this class it’s fresh and exciting – and, let’s face it, instantly desirable to behold – but the third-generation S60 nevertheless feels familiar. Volvo builds this car on the same Scalable Product Architecture that already underpins the S90, that model’s V90 estate sibling, the XC60 and XC90 SUVs and also the V60 to which this new saloon is so closely related (and which we like very much).
As such it’s no surprise to find suspension consisting of double wishbones at the front and an integral link setup with a transverse, composite leaf spring at the rear. There are coil springs and adaptive dampers at each corner, and that’s your lot, because air suspension has yet to be democratised at this level.
Something else is missing, though, and that’s diesel power. In line with plans to electrify every new car it launches from 2019, the brand’s Scandi-pure aura is increasingly built on its ecological conscientiousness. It means the S60 is the first modern Volvo offered exclusively with petrol engines. None displaces more than two litres via anything other than four cylinders, either, and if that sounds a bit dry, perhaps that’s because it is.
So what are your options? For the T4 and T5 models most likely to reach the UK, power will come from turbocharging alone, with no less than about 190bhp on offer. Most likely we’ll also get ‘Twin Engine’ T6 and T8 models, which will have that first level of forced induction respectively supplemented by an Eaton-built supercharger and that same supercharger plus an electric motor. Is it any wonder Volvo's modular engine-building strategy is such an economic success when it can combine those three elements as it sees fit?
The range-topping T8 sounds particularly tasty. It makes 385bhp and hits 62mph in under five seconds, though there is a way to go even faster in T8 S60 if you’ve prepared to spend a bit more, and we’ll come onto that shortly. Either way, it’s a car nipping at the heels of BMW’s M3 and rest of the super-saloon cohort when it comes to on-paper performance.