FLOW WITH THE CUR­RENT

With hy­brid and twin-charge power, Volvo‘s S60 will be a new bench­mark AT A GLANCE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - CRAIG DUFF

Volvo knows which way the global mo­tor­ing cur­rent is flow­ing and the com­pany renowned for safety is now look­ing to safe­guard its fu­ture with elec­tri­fied ve­hi­cles. Full bat­tery elec­tric cars will start ar­riv­ing from next year in the shape of the XC40 com­pact SUV but, for now, the S60 sedan spear­heads the com­pany’s move to petrol­elec­tric hy­brids over diesel en­gines.

Diesel Volvos aren’t dis­ap­pear­ing just yet but the com­pany isn’t in­vest­ing in any fu­ture de­vel­op­ment, cit­ing fall­ing global sales for piv­ot­ing away from oil­burn­ers.

That makes the S60 a land­mark car. The mid­size sedan is al­most a year away from go­ing on sale in Aus­tralia and Volvo spokesman Greg Bos­nich says it will be a key ve­hi­cle, although it won’t sell in huge num­bers.

“The S60 will be an im­por­tant car for us purely be­cause it com­petes against other bench­mark ve­hi­cles,” Bos­nich says. “We’ve al­ways led the way on safety and this car can more than hold its own on looks, han­dling and per­for­mance.”

The in­ter­na­tional launch was in Santa Mon­ica, renowned for bronzed bod­ies flex­ing their physiques on the beach­side gym equip­ment. The S60 was in its el­e­ment, draw­ing cov­etous looks from driv­ers of Ger­man-badged cars and in­evitable “how does it go?” queries.

The an­swer is “re­ally quickly”. The top-spec S60 T8 Polestar En­gi­neered vari­ant adds a lithium-ion bat­tery and 65kW/240Nm elec­tric mo­tor to power the rear wheels. Its 2.0-litre tur­bocharged and su­per­charged four-cylin­der sends 233kW/430Nm the front axle.

The com­bi­na­tion de­liv­ers per­for­mance to match an Audi S5, clock­ing 4.7 sec­onds for the 0-100km/h trip — yet, with more con­ser­va­tive driv­ing, Volvo says the S60 can cover up to 45km on the elec­tric­ity stored in the 10.4kW/h bat­tery, am­ple for the typ­i­cal daily com­mute

Volvo Aus­tralia has yet to de­cide which S60s it will take but the en­try grade is ex­pected to be the T5 with 2.0-litre turbo (184kW/350Nm) and front-wheel drive.

The all-wheel drive T6 — prob­a­bly in RDe­sign guise with a 12mm lower chas­sis, leather and cloth seat trim and a be­spoke grille and twin tailpipes — uses a 228kW/400Nm su­per­charged and tur­bocharged 2.0 to drive all four wheels.

The Polestar-tweaked T8 is ex­pected to top the lo­cal range and, beyond the hy­brid set-up, adds Brembo brakes with gold-painted calipers, yel­low seat belts and Oh­lins dampers with man­u­ally ad­justable re­bound via a set of di­als un­der the bon­net. All ver­sions use an eight­speed au­to­matic.

Brake en­ergy re­cu­per­a­tion is used to recharge the T8 when driv­ing, though try as we might we couldn’t get the bat­tery to go beyond three-quar­ter charge.

The al­ter­na­tives: it can be plugged into a do­mes­tic power point and will recharge in about four hours, or own­ers can de­feat the pur­pose of buy­ing the car and use the en­gine to recharge the bat­tery.

The T8’s thirst is rated at 2.1L-2.5L/100km ac­cord­ing to the new and more re­al­is­tic stan­dard, known as WLTP. Drain the bat­tery and drive it hard and that will blow out to a still­re­spectable 10L/100km.

ON THE ROAD

Twist the square “dial” mounted be­low the trans­mis­sion lever and the T8 whis­pers into life.

The hy­brid drive mode is the de­fault set­ting and pro­ceeds un­der elec­tric power un­til the ac­cel­er­a­tor is de­pressed beyond the half­way mark, at which point the en­gine kicks in. Switch to Pure mode and it’s an elec­tric-only af­fair.

The AWD mode is in­tended to help on low­grip sur­faces such as snow and ice.

The elec­tric steer­ing is ac­cu­rate but quite light in the de­fault mode and lacks feed­back. Switch­ing to a sportier set­ting adds heft without de­liv­er­ing much ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what the front tyres are do­ing.

The test cars were pre-pro­duc­tion ex­am­ples and Volvo says it is still cal­i­brat­ing the PRICE SAFETY EN­GINES THIRST VOLVO S60 in­ter­ac­tion be­tween re­gen­er­a­tive and me­chan­i­cal brak­ing on the T8, which can feel grabby as pedal pres­sure starts to en­gage the Brem­bos. Once ac­ti­vated, they’re great but the tran­si­tion takes some mod­u­lat­ing.

The T8 is de­cep­tively quick, largely be­cause there’s not a lot of au­ral theatre to ac­com­pany the ac­cel­er­a­tion. The T6 isn’t far be­hind and sounds marginally sportier as you tap into per­for­mance that pro­pels it from rest to 100km/h in 5.6 sec­onds.

It tack­les turns as well, if not bet­ter than the T8, largely due to not hav­ing to carry around 200kg of bat­ter­ies and mo­tor. Both cars still hook in, not just by Volvo stan­dards, but in com­par­i­son to the pres­tige op­po­si­tion.

Sus­pen­sion on both ver­sions is firm, as ex­pected in a sporty Euro­pean sedan, without be­ing harsh — at least on rel­a­tively smooth sur­faces.

PRES­TIGE

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