From £36,750
Slick Swedish compact exec had its mettle tested as a daily driver over the course of half a year
29 October 2020

Why we ran it: To find out if the magic touch Volvo has with its premium SUVs translates to this compact executive saloon

Month 6 Month 5Month 4 - Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Prices and specs

Life with a Volvo S60: Month 6

Over the past year we’ve sampled two slightly different takes on Volvo’s compact executive theme. Which did we prefer? - 14 October 2020

You can’t say we didn’t really get under the skin of the Volvo S60. Over the course of nearly a year we sampled two examples of the sleek Swedish saloon, each one featuring a very different drivetrain and trim specification, which in turn allowed us to enjoy the full S60 experience.

In that time we racked up a fair few thousand miles in the BMW 3 Series-baiting machine, plus we were given an unexpected chance to fully test out the Volvo customer care experience. So what have we learned after our extended exposure to this compact executive saloon?

Well, for starters the S60 has more than enough appeal for it to make a fine alternative to the usual suspects, particularly in the style, substance and sybaritic stakes. That was especially true of the T5 we sampled first. Supplied in flagship Inscription guise and fitted with a lusty 247bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, the Fusion Red machine’s laid-back character was in many respects a welcome antithesis to the thrusting and sporty mien of many of its rivals.

Climbing into the T5 after a long day was always a pleasure. Sure, you knew you weren’t going to have your synapses snapped and spirits raised by an involving drive, but often that’s not what’s required. Instead you wanted an incredibly inviting interior, hugely supportive seats and a driving experience that melded composure with comfort. In this respect the S60 aced the competition.

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Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered 2020 road test review - hero front

Volvo attempts to combine the super-saloon and PHEV with its flagship S60 - but is it more a rival for the Mercedes-AMG C43 or the hardcore BMW M3?

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It was at its best on long-haul trips, something that was keenly highlighted on one long morning that started in pre-dawn Hertfordshire and ended in the Cairngorms, Scotland, in time for lunch. Few other cars would have been as refined and relaxing, or left me as refreshed at journey’s end. That trip also saw a best brim-to-brim fuel figure of 37.4mpg, although overall the T5 would only manage 29.9mpg.

We hoped for better returns and more driver engagement with the T8 that swapped places with the T5. Not only was it in racier R-Design trim (more focused suspension settings and all) but it also featured Volvo’s 385bhp plug-in hybrid powertrain that mixes a 299bhp turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with an 86bhp electric motor for the back axle, making the car four-wheel drive.

In truth there wasn’t any real increase in thrills. Yes, it was quick off the line thanks in no small part to the extra electrical assistance, but the limited increase in sharpness from the R-Design chassis was offset by the T8’s two-tonne-plus kerb weight. Strangely, this car’s passively damped suspension was an improvement, its greater consistency over all surfaces counteracting a slight increase in stiffness.

No, the T8’s real appeal lay in the high-tech hybrid gubbins lurking beneath its handsome bodywork (I lost count of the number of positive comments the car received, but it did look good in Bursting Blue). Volvo claims just over 30 miles of electric range, but we never saw more than 25 on a full charge. Even so, that was enough for most local errands – the smooth and silent, if slightly sluggish, delivery making the T8 even more relaxing than the T5.

While back-road high jinks were in short supply, there was genuine enjoyment to be had by maximising the clean energy at your disposal through anticipation and plenty of use of the more aggressive regenerative braking setting. In fact, the whole drivetrain is well integrated, with pleasingly few drive modes and a smooth transition between the electric and internal combustion motors. That said, 57.5mpg overall is some 100mpg shy of Volvo’s claim. Fewer long journeys would improve this, but those who prioritise miles per gallon over all else remain better served by diesel.

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It was the hybrid system that also caused the Volvo to blot its copybook, a defective cell in the lithium ion battery pack causing the car to go into a reduced power mode. The fix wasn’t easy and the parts took a little while to arrive, but my local dealer, Volvo Cars Watford, was exemplary.

The car was quickly recovered and a replacement sent in its place, while I was kept up to date with progress on the repair, which they completed sooner than anticipated. Sure, nobody wants their car to break down, but service like that makes it bearable and could create a repeat customer if it’s your own money you’re spending.

Speaking of which, would I splash my own cash on the Volvo? It would certainly be tempting, and I’d go for the T5 over the T8, but ultimately the extra driver engagement and dynamic polish of a 3 Series would be too much to resist. But I’m glad the Volvo exists and I really enjoyed its refreshingly cool Scandinavian take on this otherwise buttoned-down and sombre corner of the market.

And it’s telling that just a little bit of me still misses the stylish and sophisticated S60 now that it’s gone.

Second Opinion

I had limited experience with the S60, but its laid-back attitude is undeniably appealing. Maybe chalk it up to the minimalist Scandinavian interior, but few other compact execs proved quite as relaxing to drive. Yes, a 3 Series has more dynamic flair, but I’d rather get behind the wheel of the Volvo for those epic motorway journeys.


Tom Morgan

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Love it:

Seats The Volvo’s seats are superb. Supportive in all the right places and you can sit in them for hours.

Interior The S60’s spacious interior and big boot swallowed everything my young family threw at it.

Styling It’s a handsome thing, particularly R-Design’s gloss black accents and slightly more aggressive bumpers

Loathe it:

Infotainment Good overall but Apple CarPlay went AWOL at times and the touchscreen climate controls were a pain.

It doesn’t come cheap Our contract hire monthly payment topped £700, around £200 more than a plug-in BMW 330e xDrive.

Final mileage: 3402

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New car develops fault shock! But what happens next is what really counts - 30 September 2020

An amber tortoise (or turtle – I’m not that hot on reptile taxonomy): that’s what first alerted me to the fact that our S60 was having a hybrid hiccup. That and the ‘reduced power message’ that flashed up next to our low-speed orange friend. At almost the same moment, there was a small shudder through the driveline as the electric motor shut down and the petrol engine fired into life.

Up until this point, I had been quietly cruising around the M25 on a wave of pure electricity at a gantry-controlled 60mph, still with a comfortable 11 miles of battery range and not a care in the world. Now, anything more than half throttle resulted in a near complete reduction in power until you lifted off again. Still, even that left more than enough urge to keep up with the flow of traffic and exit the motorway safely to investigate.

Given that most modern cars are effectively large computers on wheels, I went for the time-honoured ‘switch it off and on again’ remedy once I was able to stop. And it worked. For about 90 seconds. I tried again and again, but each time that tortoise reappeared.

Once home, I called Volvo Assist, who decided the best bet was to get the car to my local dealer, Volvo Cars Watford. And because high-voltage electrics were involved, they’d send a low-loader rather than risk any further damage by driving. So within an hour, the S60 was gone and a loan car was left on my drive.

First thing the next morning, service advisor Jordan Palmer was on the phone explaining that one of the cells in the lithium ion battery had packed up. It wasn’t a common fault (they’d maybe seen one or two go the same since the T8s were introduced) and the good news was that it could be fixed (although the job involved dropping the rear axle drive and suspension to get at the battery in the transmission tunnel). The bad news was that the parts were three weeks away. Still, I had a wafty V90 T4 courtesy car, so I sat tight and waited.

A week ahead of schedule, I received the call to say the T8 was once again fit and healthy. Not only that, when I picked it up, it had been valeted to within an inch of its life, tyre shine and all.

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So has this blot on the copy book cooled my ardour for the Volvo? Surprisingly not. Yes, technically the car never actually left me stranded, but it was largely thanks to Volvo’s efficient and courteous customer service that I never saw red as a result of that orange tortoise.

Love it:

Dealer’s response I can only speak of Volvo Cars Watford, but if all dealerships behave as brilliantly, it’s easy to see why Volvo is doing so well.

Loathe it:

Button it Slick touchscreen looks great, but life would be easier and safer if functions like the climate control had permanent buttons instead.

Mileage: 3041

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Life with a Volvo S60 T8 hybrid: Month 5

The stats say 0-62mph in 4.6sec and 166.2mpg. Can one car be suited to both? - 9 September 2020

The more miles that pass, the more it becomes clear our super Swede has a bit of an identity crisis.

On the one hand, it’s a near-400bhp sports saloon. On the other, it’s a zero-emissions eco-warrior that’s theoretically capable of triple-figure fuel economy. So what is it: the road burner or the tree hugger?

Well, if I’m honest, in my hands it spends most of its time being the eco-warrior. That’s partly because a lot of my journeys are short hops that can be completed using the 25 miles of electric range, but partly because being an EV suits the sybaritic S60’s character. With just 87bhp, the electric motor’s performance is best described as ‘adequate’, but its smooth and silent delivery is in keeping with the rest of the car’s hushed refinement and easy-going comfort. There’s also genuine driving pleasure (no, really) to be had in tweaking your style to maximise energy use and boost overall fuel efficiency.

But then there’s Dynamic mode, which musters every available horsepower for some, ahem, electrifying acceleration. And the S60 is quick, the electric motor adding a big dollop of low-end torque fill and all-wheel-drive traction for whip-crack emergency starts, but the integration of the two power sources isn’t totally seamless and the gearbox throws in a few wrong-footed and jerky shifts for good measure. Plus, in roll-on acceleration, it doesn’t feel much faster than the T5.

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There’s the mass, too. Body control is actually very good and the steering has a slick consistency to it, but ultimately the Volvo’s two-tonne kerb weight tells. You’re aware the brakes are working harder to slow you for a corner and the tyres start howling in complaint at lower speeds than our old T5’s ever did.

You feel that the S60 needs to either use its electric motor for performance enhancement alone (with a dollop of active torque vectoring, mass-masking agility thrown in for good measure) or park the sporting pretentiousness and flip the current division of labour on its head by having a powerful electric motor and big batteries for everyday electric use, with a smaller petrol engine as a range-extending generator.

In fairness, this split-personality riddle hasn’t yet been solved by most high-performance plug-ins, so it’s maybe unfair to single out the otherwise very likeable S60. Moreover, the mechanically not dissimilar Polestar 1 proves that Volvo is closer than many to squaring this particular circle.

Love it:

Sports seats R Design’s sports seats are superb. They hold you tightly when pressing on and support you in all the right places on a long motorway haul.

Loathe it:

Touchscreen dominance I’d rather the minimalist dash was made a little messier by adding physical air-con controls. The touchscreen is fiddly on the move.

Mileage: 2880

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Plug and play - 19 August 2020

My S60 T8 proved the ideal car for a recent family holiday to Jersey. With a maximum speed limit of 40mph, there was no chance of deploying its near-400bhp performance, but its electric-only range of 25 miles was enough for most trips on an island that measures just nine by five miles, while its smooth and silent power delivery perfectly suited the easygoing flow of local traffic.

Mileage: 2557

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Life with a Volvo S60 T8 hybrid: Month 4

Lighting up the way - 22 July 2020

A recent late-night return home gave our S60 the chance to reveal a ‘surprise and delight’ feature. With my driveway in darkness, I was prepared for the process of plugging in to be akin to a game of pin the tail on the donkey. Yet thanks to the bright puddle lights in the door handles and the backlit charging socket, the volts were flowing within seconds.

Mileage: 1547

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A small touch is a boon for shopping - 15 July 2020

I don’t care who knows it: I love our S60’s fold-out bag hooks. There are two in the boot and they’re the sturdiest I’ve seen, well up to keeping even the fullest bag for life from spilling its contents. Drives from the supermarket are now tackled with enthusiasm, rather than in a manner that suggests you’ve got an unsecured Fabergé egg in the car.

Mileage: 1400

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Long-awaited plug-in hybrid presents a nice change of pace - 8 July 2020

It took a while, but at long last our Volvo S60 T8 is here. With the lead time needed to build and ship the car from Volvo’s US factory in South Carolina, plus the months of national lockdown curtailing deliveries, it’s been over six months since I finalised the spec on the configurator and hit send. So it’s worth a refresher on what we’ve got.

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After a few months with the luxurious Inscription flagship, we have swapped into the rather racier R Design and, crucially, abandoned pure petrol power in favour of a plugin hybrid. When we finalised our order all those months ago, this hightech unit was known as the T8 Twin Engine, but some subtle tweaking to the line-up means it’s now called the Recharge T8. So there you go.

Happily, almost everything else remains as before, including the powertrain, which is the bit we’re really interested in. Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that gets its induction air compressed by both a turbocharger and supercharger (like a Lancia Delta S4, which is, you know, really rather cool) to deliver 299bhp and a healthy 295lb ft, all sent to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The rear axle gets a Siemens-designed 86bhp electric motor that drives the wheels through its own single-speed transmission. Running up the spine of the car is a 11.6kWh lithium ion battery, which can be charged in five hours using a domestic plug or three hours with any kind of rapid charger. The resulting numbers make for impressive reading. Despite tipping the scales at 2048kg (that’s a biscuit less than an entry-level Range Rover), the S60 is claimed to dust off the 0-62mph dash in just 4.6sec, yet it’s capable of up to 166.2mpg, emits as little as 38g/km of CO2 and will travel up to 35 miles using just electricity. Too good to be true? Well, that’s what we’re hoping to find out.

What about the rest of the car? R-Design trim means subtly reprofiled bumpers, a lack of chrome trim and simpler five-spoke 18in alloy wheels – to these eyes, it looks more cohesive than the slightly fussy, chrome-tinselled Inscription. Our car’s visuals are further enhanced by the particularly smart-looking £975 Bursting Blue metallic paint job. Speaking of options, there’s also a tilting and sliding glass roof, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon hi-fi upgrade and a Climate pack that adds heated rear seats, steering wheel and front screen. Oh, and there’s a retractable towbar.

All in, that takes the £45,105 asking price to an eye-watering £51,750. That’s rather a lot, even for a business user, who can take advantage of the low CO2 emissions for lower benefit-in-kind bills.

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Still, the initial impressions are positive. Only a handful of miles have passed under the T8’s wheels, but it feels quick, capable, comfortable (the car seems to ride better on its passive dampers than the Inscription did on its adaptive items) and refined, especially when running on electricity alone. I have yet to see more than an indicated 25 miles of electric range from a full charge and the current fuel figure of 65.4mpg is good rather than spectacular, but I’m looking forward to learning how to get the best out of this intriguing powertrain over the coming months.

Love it:

Sliding glass roof It’s a bit of a throwback in the era of climate-controlled cabins, but I’ve enjoyed being able to slide open the roof in the recent hot weather.

Loathe it:

Intrusive battery Squeezing the large battery pack in the transmission tunnel means the centre armrest cubby is now so shallow as to be almost useless.

Mileage: 1042

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Another kind of charging for rear passengers - 17 June 2020

A three-pin electrical socket? That’s a bit of an odd addition to a compact executive saloon. I mean, I’m sure someone must find that useful, but… That was what crossed my mind when the S60 arrived five months ago and I gazed at the domestic plug socket located between the front seats. Obviously, what I hadn’t envisaged was a national lockdown and school closures that would require the immobile Volvo to occasionally double as an office when the chaos in the house got too much. Not only is the S60’s interior extremely comfortable, but I can also charge my laptop without having to run an extension cable from the house. Neat.

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Mileage: 5014

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Life with a Volvo S60: Month 3

Enough home-schooling: time to enjoy the S60’s £2500 hi-fi - 13 May 2020

With nowhere to go during lockdown, the S60 has been fairly sedentary of late. Yet not being able to go anywhere has allowed me to revel in some of its more static delights, such as the Bowers & Wilkins hi-fi upgrade.

I’ve touched on the system in previous reports, but the current situation has allowed me some time to simply sit in the car and have a proper listen. (At least, that was my excuse. Taking some time out from the nerve-shredding experience of home-schooling the kids was merely a happy by-product.)

Dotted around the cabin are 15 speakers, including that eye-catching dome tweeter set on top of the dashboard, all driven by an amplifier capable of a 1100W output. There’s no CD player for a true lossless source quality, but B&W’s clever surround-sound software and processing aims to make up for that. It certainly seems to work in practice. Even music streamed through Spotify (other online providers are available) has an immersive quality that’s rich in detail and backed by tightly controlled bass, while that centre speaker helps draw out vocal performances. Distortion is non-existent, even at volumes that will destroy eardrums and neighbourly relations.

Then there’s the way it looks. I love those yellow Kevlar speaker cones peeking out from behind the stainless steel (used because it reduces vibration and interference) mesh grilles set into the doors.

Is it good enough to justify its £2500 price? It’s one of the best factory in-car set-ups I’ve listened to, both with the car moving and at a standstill, but the acid test will be how it measures up to the firm’s less frighteningly priced £850 Harman Kardon system. Hopefully we’ll soon find out, because I’ve conveniently specced that option for the S60 T8 that’s soon set to replace the T5.

Mileage: 4998

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Where the Volvo works best - 6 May 2020

Before lockdown, one of the Volvo’s last duties was as family transport on a trip to Staffordshire. The distinctive chimneys of the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent made an eye-catching backdrop for the stylish S60 and the dash north from Hertfordshire played to the car’s strengths – and not for the usual reasons. This time, it was the S60’s ability to soothe during M6 snarl-ups that was most welcome. It reduced stress by smoothly taking over in the stop-start conditions and the slow speeds allowed the Bowers & Wilkins hi-fi to do its supreme sonic thing with minimal intrusion from wind, road and engine noise.

Mileage: 4998

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There’s not much wrong with the stress-busting S60 that 400bhp couldn’t sort - 22 April 2020

You’ve probably heard of the term hygge by now – you know, the Danish one that has been a bit of a buzzword with lifestyle types over the past few years. It describes the sort of cosy and comfortable way of life that Danes adopt when weathering their long winters; the sort of existence that gives you a warm and fuzzy sense of well-being in a world that’s otherwise just a bit too steeped in stress.

Yet while Denmark has essentially trademarked the term, its essence spreads further than that and can be found in all parts of Scandinavia. How do I know? Well, having spent some time with our Volvo, I’m pretty sure that design studios, offices and corridors at the Swedish firm’s headquarters are heavy with hygge – and the S60 is four-wheeled proof.

Few cars I’ve driven in recent memory are imbued with such a significant sense of well-being, from the comfortable and beautifully executed interior to a suite of safety aids that have helped make the modern-day Volvo virtually uncrashable – and hugely survivable if the worst does happen. Best of all, these systems work brilliantly, intervening only as an absolute last resort, further helping to keep the driver calm.

However, it’s the way the S60 makes you feel as you climb aboard that’s really snared my affections, the stresses of the day simply slipping away as I settle into the superlatively supportive seat and drink in an interior that’s as stylishly minimalist as an Ikea sitting room. It helps that our car has light leather trim and wood inlays, which give it a real Scandi feel that’s a far cry from the oppressive coal-hole cabin that’s the usual calling card of the executive set.

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I’ve really come to appreciate the car’s welcoming embrace when – pre-lockdown, naturally – returning to it from a far-flung car launch that has required a couple of early starts, plenty of shuttle bus transfers, the odd airport queue and a long flight home. It doesn’t matter how frazzled I am: the Volvo always restores my equilibrium. Long motorway schleps also play to the S60’s strengths, its unruffled composure often fooling you into thinking a journey is at least half as short as it actually is.

If there’s a downside, it’s that while the Volvo is very effective at lowering your heart rate, it’s less successful at quickening the pulse when you’re up for some fun. It’s quick and capable, but behind the best of its rivals for driver engagement. Yet the potential is there, because a few forays in the Polestar 1 (similar architecture and engine) provide proof that there is scope to engineer in some entertainment.

Still, my disappointment won’t last forever, because news has reached me that an S60 T8 will at some point after the lockdown be winging its way towards the Autocar car park – and 400bhp should be enough to get the blood pumping. Until then, and once the lockdown is lifted, I’m going to savour the warm embrace (the hygge, if you will) of the T5.

Love it:

The inside story The interior continues to impress. It’s aesthetically pleasing, hugely comfortable and packed with tech that’s easy to use.

Loathe it:

The CD audio book story There’s no CD player, meaning my kid’s audio books are redundant – the only flaw in the car’s impeccable long-haul credentials.

Mileage: 4921

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We’ve come a long way, baby - 8 April 2020

We’ve become so used to Volvo’s sleek design language that it comes as a bit of a shock when you’re confronted with its earlier Etch-a-Sketch efforts, such as this near 25-year-old V70. Yet while the Swedish firm’s approach to style has changed massively, its colour palette clearly hasn’t. That’s no bad thing, because I rather like the Fusion Red of our car, and I on the whole prefer curves to its predecessor’s straight edges. One part of the older car I do hanker after is its five-cylinder engine. Our car’s blown 2.0-litre is a mightily smooth and effective performer, but a T5 should really have a properly warbly five-pot soundtrack.

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Mileage: 4543

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Life with a Volvo S60: Month 2

We discover if our car is as entertaining and engaging as it is family-friendly - 1 April 2020

After a busy few weeks criss-crossing the UK, the Volvo has been in desperate need of some TLC, its once resplendent Fusion Red paint becoming hidden below a deep layer of road grime. Most of the dirt was accumulated during thousands of miles of motorway drudgery, but some of the muck was picked up on a blast over Scotland’s Old Military Road, in particular the epic stretch from Glenshee to Braemar.

Now I’m aware we’ve talked a lot about the S60’s family-friendliness and its ability to soothe away long distances, but there’s not been much mention of its ability to entertain. Well, this rollicking stretch of Tarmac was the perfect test of the car’s dynamic prowess and, on the whole, it acquitted itself well.

Performance certainly isn’t an issue, the turbocharged four punching hard from as little as 1500rpm and the car happily pulling fifth gear out of bends that would have had others asking for third. The only frustration is that Inscription models go without steering wheel paddles, so manual shifts can only be achieved using the lever, which is of course the ‘wrong’ way around (pull towards you for down changes and push away for upshifts).

Dive into a corner and you’ll find plentiful grip, while body control is tight even when the adaptive dampers are left to their own devices. In fact, for most give-and-take UK roads, the stiffer Dynamic setting is best left alone, the reduction in ride comfort not being offset by a usefully large improvement in mass management. The steering is slick and has a good rate of response, while, with some meaningful cornering load, the front and rear axles begin to take an equal share of the work as the S60 loses its initial nose-led attitude. In short, it’s agile, quick and composed when pushing on, and it refuses to get flustered.

Is it fun, though? No, not really. It’s too smooth and sybaritic for that, its lack of feedback and adjustability betraying Volvo’s commitment to safety over scintillation.

Yet while it isn’t a car you’ll ever drive just for the hell of it, neither is it hopeless – far from it. And such are its other virtues that you’re willing to cut the car some slack when it comes to the chassis. What’s more, few in the class look better, particularly when it’s had a good wash.

Love it:

Sound system The Bowers & Wikins hi-fi ain’t cheap, but it sounds great. Even stripped-back MP3 source material sounds rich and detailed.

Loathe it:

smartphone connection The wired smartphone connection has become a bit hit and miss, telling you there’s no device connected when there clearly is.

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Final mileage: 4832

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A comfortable cruise with impressive vistas - 18th March 2020

A dash from Hertfordshire to the Cairngorms allowed the Volvo to play to its strengths, with its superb seats and hushed motorway refinement leaving me feeling as fresh as when I’d set off some eight hours and 500 miles earlier. Better still, the steady cruise yielded a best-ever brim-to-brim figure of 37.4mpg. And, of course, the views were stunning. J

Mileage: 4448

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Can our S60 muster any appeal when saloons are out of fashion? - 11 March 2020

Fashion is a fickle business. Take family cars. Not so long ago the three-box saloon was the default choice, with almost every self-respecting driveway up and down the land featuring a variation on the theme. SUVs were the niche option.

Today the roles are reversed, and choosing a four-door puts you among the few, not the many. This point was neatly highlighted on a recent long weekend away, when our S60 was joined by a Land Rover Discovery Sport, which is arguably the standard bearer for the family-friendly SUV.

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It’s not hard to see why cars like the Landie have become such a hit. On paper these bigger, taller machines appear far more amenable to the demands of family life. However, spend time with these cars back to back and you quickly realise that there’s little between them when it comes to family friendliness.

Okay, so the Disco has seven seats, but this aside there’s little in it for interior accommodation, with the Volvo’s less upright rear seats actually scoring more highly for comfort. The lower-slung S60 means loading kids in is a little less straightforward, but the rear doors are long and open more than wide enough.

And the lack of a hatchback doesn’t hurt as much as you’d think, with the Volvo’s boot being more than big enough for most occasions. There are numerous handy shopping bag hooks, too, and our car’s wipe-clean boot liner is perfect for the messy realities of family life. Even loading a bike in the back is a doddle, once you’ve found the folding rear seat release buttons (they’re in the back shelf behind one of the headrests).

Some will miss the high-set driving position of an SUV, but the ground-hugging Volvo brings its own rewards, not least a greater sense of connection with the road and the fact that passengers don’t get thrown about so much in the corners.

Ultimately, the Land Rover’s appeal doesn’t really stem from any extra usefulness (yes, it’s brilliant off road, but how many owners will honestly test those credentials?) but rather the image it projects of an active, up-for-anything lifestyle. But be honest with yourself and a traditional saloon will do everything you need, and in a more compact, better-driving and more efficient package. As three-box saloons go, the Volvo is proving to be one of the better ones.

Love it:

Heated screen Heated windscreens have been around a while now, but I still marvel at the Volvo’s ability to melt a thick layer of ice in minutes.

Loathe it:

Hyperactive alerts The rear cross-traffic alert is jumpier than most, often chiming a warning and applying the brakes when there’s nothing there.

Mileage: 3780

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Relaxed ride makes for a welcome return - 26 February 2020

While I enjoyed every minute behind the wheel of a Porsche 718 Cayman T I tested recently (flatulent engine aside), I was still pleased to slide back into the Volvo. The slightly detached S60 is the antithesis of the Cayman to drive but, when facing a long drag around a clogged-up M25, the soothing Swede’s refinement and superb cabin are hard to resist.

Mileage: 2775

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Life with a Volvo S60: Month 1

A family trip to Jersey was the perfect chance to explore the saloon’s versatility - 19 February 2020

Since arriving at Autocar, the S60 has spent most of its time shuttling to airports or on short local trips to and from my Hertfordshire home. It was enough to give a glimpse of its character, but I felt I needed an extended spell in the Volvo to really get under its skin, not to mention properly run in that turbocharged 2.0-litre engine. Fortunately, the opportunity to properly stretch soon arose when I needed to spend a few days away visiting family in Jersey.

The early morning drag south for the ferry from Poole certainly played to the S60’s strengths. With the kids snoozing in the back and the boot full to bursting, the sybaritic Swede soothed us all the way. For starters, the seats are superb, supporting in all the right places – the adjustable thigh support a real highlight. It’s quiet too, with little wind noise and the engine barely at tickover even at motorway speeds. And on good roads the ride is compliant, adaptive dampers helping you slip serenely along.

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On Jersey there’s a blanket 40mph speed limit, which sounds frustrating until you realise that to drive much faster on the narrow and high-hedged roads would be lunacy. It certainly suited the laid-back Volvo, the buttery-smooth auto’s early upshifts and hushed engine’s low-speed muscle helping you settle into the more relaxed pace of local traffic.

Another incentive for taking it easy is that despite its ‘compact’ executive status, the Volvo only just squeezes between the dry stone walls and the white lines on most roads.

There are chances to be a little less circumspect, such as when powering up the stretch of road out of Bouley Bay that’s regularly closed off for hillclimb events. Here the Volvo confirmed earlier impressions that it’s precise, composed and grippy, but not a car that’s necessarily gagging for a good time. On the plus side, with more revolutions on its crankshaft, the forced-induction four is getting looser and more energetic. The T5 is a properly rapid device, particularly when overtaking opportunities arise.

Less impressive, away from motorways at least, is the ride. Early impressions had suggested that our Inscription, with its smaller wheels and adaptive dampers, would serve up some suppleness.

Yet while it’s better than R-Design machines, there’s still room for improvement. It’s over ragged surfaces (like you find on most of the UK’s – and Jersey’s – A- and B-roads) that it suffers most, the springs and dampers coming over all brittle, causing the car to patter over the surface rather than pummel it into submission. Over really bad stuff, there’s even some hollow bump-thump noise from the rear suspension. Not intrusive by any means, but loud enough for you to notice. And that’s in the dampers’ normal setting – switching to Sport makes it even more unyielding.

It’s a shame because the rest of this S60 is such a refreshing antidote to the normally thrusting ‘sportiness’ of cars in this class. For instance, the cabin is a masterclass in calming minimalism – just the thought of climbing aboard has my blood pressure dropping away. It’s well designed too, the touchscreen infotainment being one of the better systems for clarity and responsiveness, helping offset the fact that most of the car’s functions can only be accessed via the screen – although there is a good old-fashioned volume knob for the (very impressive) Bowers & Wilkins stereo.

There are other highlights too, such as the adaptive matrix LED headlights that never get wrong-footed by oncoming traffic, saving other drivers’ retinas by effectively masking them off from the impressive intensity of full beam.

Back on the mainland, the Volvo settled nicely into its familiar routine of hops to Heathrow and domestic duties. Yes, the tetchy ride still niggles and I’d like to see more than 30mpg overall (the best I’ve experienced so far is the 31.3mpg logged on the late night run back from Jersey), but in all other respects my initial warmth for the thoughtfully designed and easy-going S60 remains. It’s not necessarily better than the competition, but it is different – and for many that will be a good thing.

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Love it:

Sitting comfortably The seats are simply fantastic. Doesn’t matter how long you sit in them, you emerge at journey’s end ache-free.

Loathe it:

Lens mucks up At this time of the year the reversing camera gets covered in crud quickly, making it pretty much useless.

Mileage: 2114

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Cruise control is smart, but gives you the choice - 29 January 2020

One of the most useful of the S60’s many features is the ability to switch between adaptive and passive cruise control. The former is perfect for slow traffic, but I prefer the latter on freer-flowing motorways, because it removes your right leg from a stress position. It’s smoother, too, because you never suffer that sudden braking when the sensors detect the rear of the vehicle you’re overtaking.

Mileage: 1803

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Welcoming the S60 T5 to the fleet - 22nd January 2020

Volvo’s recent renaissance is no longer news – we’re now as well versed in this Swedish success story as the decades-old musical export from the same country.

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Yet much of the firm’s good fortune since being taken over by Chinese giant Geely can be attributed to its ever-expanding, and ever-popular, XC SUV line-up. Until now, the more traditional saloons and estates have taken a back seat. Which is where our S60 comes in.

The compact executive class might not be as fashionable as it once was but it’s still a lucrative place to be, and as recently as December last year the BMW 3 Series was a top-six seller in the UK. So there’s plenty of hay to be made for Volvo if the S60 is up to scratch. Still, it can’t do any worse than its ageing predecessor, which barely notched up 1000 sales in 2018.

So we’re going to spend an extended period of time finding out whether the handsome S60 has the talent to take a sizeable piece of the saloon car action. Sure, it may not be as sharp to drive as a 3 Series, but will some of Volvo’s traditional virtues of comfort, refinement and, well, just a general sense of well-being offset its less dynamic nature? In the process, we will be spending time with a number of variants, including the novel plug-in hybrid T8, but before that there’s this T5, which is expected to be the most popular choice among buyers.

So what exactly have we got? After initial concerns about the firmness of the ride in early R-Design models, we decided to go for a more modestly wheeled and softly suspended Inscription, which is essentially the luxuriously appointed flagship. However, well equipped or not, when you start to play with the online configurator it’s hard not to be tempted by, ahem, a few options.

As a result, our eye-catching Fusion Red metallic (£675) example has extras such as the £750 Active Four-C Chassis (that’s adaptive dampers to you and me) and the £1625 Intellisafe Pro system, which adds some automated driving tech such as adaptive cruise control and steering.

Elsewhere, there’s a £350 Winter Pack (heated steering wheel, windscreen and washer jets), plus heated rear seats (£200). A £375 reversing camera augments the standard sensors, while the £1100 retractable towbar has been added so we can use the family’s bike rack. Arguably the greatest indulgence is the addition of the Bowers & Wilkins hi-fi upgrade, complete with its 15 speakers and 1100W output, for an eye-watering (or should that be ear-bleeding?) £2500.

All in, the total is a – gulp – hefty £46,940. Yet before we could get to assess the fruits of profligacy, there was the small matter of getting our S60 built and shipped, which is no small feat when you consider that this car is manufactured in South Carolina rather than Sweden.

While we waited, Volvo gave us the chance to try out its larger S90 saloon. It’s been around a few years now, but it’s built on the same SPA scalable architecture, and in the T5 R-Design form tested it features the same 247bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox. It had been a while since I’d had a spin in the big saloon, but I was pleasantly surprised by both the performance from the engine and its refinement. It’s not a characterful unit to the ear, but in the S90 it’s muted and delivers effortless urge, particularly in the mid-range. However, as someone who remembers the Volvo 850, I still feel a pang of disappointment that these days anything with a T5 badge goes without the old car’s distinctive syncopated five-cylinder soundtrack.

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Handling sparkle was in short supply in the S90, but it was at least composed, sure-footed and precise, although the trade-off was an underlying firmness to the R-Design’s stiffer suspension. That said, the beautifully executed interior was supremely quiet and the seats are among the most supportive there are. If the S60 can deliver these traits in a more compact and less pricey package, then Volvo could be onto a winner.

And certainly that’s what it feels like now the S60 has arrived. It was delivered with just 500-odd miles showing on its TFT display, so we’re still in the running-in period, but already there’s a sense that it has all of the larger car’s qualities but with an extra dollop of wieldiness and a larger helping of ride comfort. Even when gently worked, the engine is a lusty performer and nicely isolated, while the gearbox swaps between ratios with speedy smoothness. It looks great, too, with far tauter lines in the metal than you’d think, while the rear-end treatment is much more effective than that of the slightly blobby S90.

Yet it’s the interior that’s the real star, with its minimalist Scandi style and top-notch finish. The light cream leather and driftwood inlays only enhance the feeling of cool sophistication – although they’re not best suited to the on-the-go dietary habits of my two young children.

Crucially, the front seats keep you supported in all the right places. As an oasis of calm in an increasingly frenetic world, the Volvo takes some beating. It’s still very early days, but I sense the S60 and I are going to get along very well.

Second Opinion

The minimal yet stylish interior makes the S60 pleasant and relaxing on the morning commute, but will this be a car you take out for weekend fun? Its German rivals aren’t short on driver appeal, so hopefully our time with the Volvo will show that it can deliver entertainment as well as Scandinavian good looks.

Tom Morgan

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Volvo S60 T8 R Design specification

Prices: List price new £45,105 List price now £45,230 Price as tested £51,750 Dealer value now £38,000 Private value now £36,250 Trade value now £30,750 (part exchange)

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Options: Retractable towbar £1520, panoramic roof £1200, Bursting Blue premium metallic paint £975, Harman Kardon Tech Pack £850, head-up display £750, Intellisafe Surround £625, Climate Pack £450, Versatility Pack £275

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 156.2-166.9mpg Fuel tank 60 litres Test average 57.5mpg Test best 62.5mpg Test worst 51.5mpg Real-world range 425 miles petrol, plus 25 miles battery

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 4.6sec Top speed 155mph Engine 4 cyls, 1969cc, supercharged and turbocharged, petrol, plus electric motor Max power 385bhp Max torque 295 lb ft Transmission 8-spd automatic Boot capacity 390 litres Wheels 8Jx18in, alloy Tyres 235/45 ZR18 Kerb weight 2048kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £716 CO2 40g/km Service costs None Other costs None Fuel costs £221.75 petrol, £105.20 electricity Running costs inc fuel £326.95 Cost per mile 12 pence Depreciation £14,355 Cost per mile inc dep’n £5.22 Faults Battery cell failure (repaired under warranty)

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John Rotante 14 September 2020

2018 S60L T5 Inscription vs, 2021 S60T5 Inscription or Momentum

As an 18+ year Volvo sales veteran with three models under my belt since 2013, you have written a concise and well thought out review of the great S60. I'm excited about getting the US model next May and giving up the AWD since living in NYC affords public transport if necessary and little snowy weather. The T5 engine suffices here and I am totally happy with the sound system and leatherette seats. How does the new design compare to my current model?

WinstonAlexanderson 31 July 2020

One of the poorest cars ever made

Volvos quality has gone to the shitter under chinese ownership.Wouldnt touch one of these with a 10ft pole... the repairs are enormous after 15k miles. 

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