If this section were judged on looks alone, the S60 would walk away with a five-star endorsement. Alas, things aren’t quite that simple, but few testers could deny how well Volvo has translated its current design language onto the canvas of a fairly compact modern saloon car here.
As with almost every other car Volvo now makes (the XC40 is the sole exception), the firm’s Scalable Product Architecture – SPA – sits beneath the S60’s striking exterior. Diesel engines have been removed from the line-up, with Volvo instead choosing to focus on a range of turbocharged petrol (T5) and petrol-electric (T8 Twin Engine) powertrain options, all of which are based around a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder ‘Drive-E’ block and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
In standard T5 guise that engine makes a fairly modest 247bhp, which is sent to the front wheels. However, the further addition of a supercharger and some other special internals raises that figure to 299bhp in the T8 Twin Engine, while Polestar Engineered software and hardware tweaks see it pushed even further here, to 314bhp. With an entirely separate electric motor driving the rear axle, the combined system outputs of our test car are a fairly hefty 400bhp and 494lb ft. That said, with only four cylinders, it seems unlikely that the S60 will be able to match the six-cylinder performance character of the BMW M340i or Mercedes-AMG C43 – but we’ll see.
There is, of course, an associated weight penalty to consider: on our scales, the S60 came in at 2013kg, while a competitive figure for a modern sports saloon would be closer to 1700kg. The mass is accounted for by those batteries and the electric motor, along with all of its high-voltage electronics. The benefit is that, unlike the BMW or Mercedes, the Volvo can travel on electricity alone for a claimed 27 miles and has far better economy and CO2 figures.
More impressive than any software tweaks, however, are the mechanical modifications that have been introduced for this Polestar-branded range-topper. An aluminium strut brace has been installed in the engine bay to improve rigidity and sharpen front-end response, while larger Brembo brakes have also been fitted.
But it’s the adjustable dampers from Swedish suspension specialist Ohlins that are the most intriguing aspect of this car. They employ dual-flow valve technology, which allows the damping fluid to behave in the same way during rebound as it does during compression. The result, it’s claimed, is that the wheels maintain more consistent contact with the road, improving handling, traction and ride quality versus what you’d expect from a conventional strut. Each strut has 22 presets for damper rate, although you’ll need to make adjustments manually via a dial that protrudes from the top of the strut tower, which is easy enough to get at. To find the dials for the rears, however, you need to jack the car up and remove the back wheels.