Not sporting behaviour

Sport. A word that should bring joy to an enthusiast when emblazoned on a car. Yet all too often it fills me with dread. ‘Sporting up’ a model seems to owe more to the marketing department’s knowledge that ‘sport sells’, than anything ratified by the engineering department.

After all, 10mm less suspension travel and bigger wheels rarely turn a dynamic also-ran into a ride and handling benchmark. So all you end up with is a comfortable and refined car spoiled by a corrupted ride and addenda no one really needs.

Plenty of car-makers can be named and shamed for plotting this route to extra sales, and Volvo can hang its head with the rest of them. Which doesn’t bode well for the new S60 Sport you see here, especially when previous go-faster versions have brought little joy, and the cars with standard suspension are a sound bet.

So which one will this be? The Sport pack adds special seats, unique 17-inch alloys, splashes of aluminium, and a discreet boot spoiler. These can be added to the 2.0 or 2.5-litre light pressure turbos or the diesel, for between £900 and £1400 over the base S. For another £1500 you can stoke the fire further with lowered sports suspension and 18-inch alloys.

Thankfully, this final flourish wasn’t fitted to our diesel test car because the ride is restless enough in standard trim. Here it constantly fidgets at motorway speeds, and it gets even more unpleasant over uneven surfaces. The perfectly competent remainder is hardly sporty either, due to inert steering and understeer. It’s a shame, because the rest is good; the most comfortable cabin in its class, a quiet and economical diesel, and it’s good value.

All fine virtues, as long as you’re not seduced by sportiness.

Chas Hallett

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dotty 18 November 2007

Re: Volvo S60 D5 Sport

Dear Autocar. Your review was not accurate about the Volvo S60. I have had the model for two years now and it's been a pleasure to drive. The NCAP is wrong it is the safest car on the road. It is the only car that I know that has the WHIP and SIPS which is why I bought one from new. If you know of any other car that has these built into them I would be interested. Please let me know. Regards