What is it?
This is the all-new replacement for the first S60, which was launched back in 2000 and sold 600,000 units over its nine-year life span. Volvo says the new S60 ‘is the most dynamic Volvo ever …the emphasis is on emotional stance, sporty design and dynamic driving properties.’.
Although the car is based on the Ford Group EUCD platform (like the Mondeo, V70 and S80), Volvo engineers say that the changes made to the S60’s chassis are so extensive and far-reaching they could not, for example, be retro fitted to today’s V70 without considerable expense.
The S60’s emphasis on sporting performance is much more than the stock ‘lowered and stiffened’ formula. Indeed, Volvo’s chassis engineers spent nearly 20 weeks in Britain tuning the damping of the new S60. They were convinced that the UK’s roads posed the greatest challenge in the world. ‘Get it right in the UK, and the car will work anywhere’ they said at the launch.
Other highlights include a stiffer front subframe, stiffer strut top mounts, stiffer bushes, 10 percent quicker steering rack and a new steering column that’s twice as rigid as the unit used on other current models. The rods in the front dampers have been upsized from 22mm to 25mm for greater rigidity and the front end is lower than is the case for its existing sister models.
This T6 AWD is the range-topping model. The 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged engine is familiar, but this unit has been updated to produce 300bhp and benefits from lower internal friction. Driving a six-speed auto it returns a claimed 28.5mpg on the combined cycle.
In the flesh, the S60 looks much better than it does in PR photos. It’s clearly the son of the original, which is no bad thing. The interior is, again, tilted towards the driver and the TV screen is now embedded in the dash. Chunks of the cockpit, though, such as the centre console layout and door trim and switchgear design seemed not to have changed. Which is all to the good.
Under the swooping roofline, rear legroom is much improved. The boot is a decent size, but there’s no spare wheel under the floor. Indeed, the car doesn’t even have a wheel well.
What’s it like?
There’s no doubt that this T6 is a giant leap over the old V70 T6 AWD that Autocar ran for a year on long term test. Perhaps the best aspect of the car is the engine. At normal speeds, it’s unobtrusively swift, but when stoked up the engine is very responsive and shifts the S60 will remarkable ease. It’s also turbine smooth when extended.
The T6’s AWD system uses the latest Haldex 4 combined rear diff and clutch, which is very quick to react to front wheel slippage, driving torque rearwards. The upshot is a car that feels well balanced, rather than just a nose-heavy front-driver.
The six-speed autobox has the option of normal and sports setting, and the option of a sequential manual shifting. Although the sports mode is preferable, the car tends to snatch away even when the driver accelerates gently.
And all that effort on the S60’s chassis tuning? Pretty convincing, actually. While it’s clear that this is a big, transverse-engined car and the underlying messages through the driver’s seat are of Swedish solidity and long-striding ease, the S60’s damping and steering accuracy are of a different order than any Volvo before it.