Sexy Swede is voted top of the class

The Volvo S60 has set a new bench­mark in terms of its seg­ment, writes Mark Smyth

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

VOLVOS have def­i­nitely come a long way from the days when we could com­pare them to a shoe box. Think back to the old 240 mod­els which were renowned for their safety mainly be­cause in a head-on with a Chief­tain tank, the tank would be sent cry­ing back to its army base. They were al­ways driven by peo­ple who thought golf cloth­ing was the first line in fash­ion, beige was the only colour to have and whose idea of fun was com­plet­ing a spread­sheet in record time. A Volvo of old was not what one would call ex­cit­ing.

Then along came the 750 — more specif­i­cally the 850R — a car which even to this day is highly sought-af­ter. Ad­mit­tedly it was still rather boxy, but you could have it in yel­low with tinted win­dows and an­thracite wheels and it had a tur­bocharger that gave it per­for­mance that made many a BMW driv­ing sales rep long to be an ac­coun­tant.

The ic­ing on the cake came when Tom Walkin­shaw got hold of a cou­ple of these Swedish es­tates and suc­cess­fully en­tered them in the Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship. Sud­denly Volvos were ex­cit­ing and ev­ery­one wanted one.

The next step was to do some­thing about the styling. One of the ear­li­est at­tempts was the 480ES, a wedge-shaped sporty num­ber that was more about show­ing in­tent than ac­tu­ally pro­duc­ing a good car. Then the S40 came along with its curvy lines and so be­gan a whole new era for the com­pany.

This re­gen­er­a­tion has con­tin­ued and while most Volvo mod­els are still reg­u­larly com­pared to the likes of Honda and Mazda, in many cases their per­for­mance and qual­ity are right up there with BMW, Audi and Mercedes.

For once we can ac­tu­ally say a car com­pany has gone through a revo­lu­tion rather than just an evo­lu­tion, which leads me to the lat­est model, the S60; more specif­i­cally, the car we had on test, the T6.

I first saw this car at the Geneva show last year where its coupe­like lines were grab­bing a great deal of at­ten­tion. It re­ally is a sexy car, not quite along the lines of An­gelina Jolie, but more Eva Lon­go­ria, per­haps. In fact that may be an ap­pro­pri­ate com­par­i­son be­cause you could eas­ily imag­ine the S60 oc­cu­py­ing the sub­urbs with their white picket fences and smil­ing neigh­bours.

The S60 ticks the style box in terms of its ex­te­rior lines but it also hits the right note on the in­side. You get all that Ikea-like Swedish de­sign which blends sim­plic­ity, prac­ti­cal­ity and tech­nol­ogy. Granted, some of the plas­tics are a lit­tle cheap in their look and feel and some of the switchgear is a lit­tle fid­dly, but over­all it is a job well done. The er­gonomics are good and there has been plenty of at­ten­tion to de­tail in terms of de­sign and com­fort.

This be­ing the cur­rent range­top­ping model, it also has to have some­thing to shout about in terms of per­for­mance and abil­ity. Again it scores well with a po­tent petrolpow­ered V6 and all-wheel drive. The steer­ing even gives fairly good feed­back and it has a smooth sixspeed au­to­matic box that pro­vides a semi-man­ual op­tion via the gear­stick. Up here in Joburg the com­bi­na­tion showed no sign of lag and it proved to be a sur­pris­ingly strong per­former both in terms of out­right speed and han­dling.

It is one of those cars that you can have fun with but then push that grin back in­side as you head back into town to pick up the kids at school.

Talk­ing of be­ing re­spon­si­ble, the S60 still comes with all those safety fea­tures for which the com- pany is known. You get City Safe which can de­tect pedes­tri­ans or ob­struc­tions at lower speeds and stop the car faster than you could ever re­act. You have more airbags than the ANC Youth League and more elec­tronic gad­gets than an Ap­ple store. The ve­hi­cle has gone from sim­ply be­ing a func­tional and safe ve­hi­cle to be­ing a down­right sexy Swede.

Ok, Volvo is now owned by Geely so that should be a Si­noSwede or some­thing but still, this is a re­ally great car and by far one of the best ve­hi­cles I have driven this year.

Ler­ato says: The Volvo S60 might be con­sid­ered some­what of a left field com­peti­tor in the com­pany of its Teu­tonic ri­vals. The Audi A4, BMW 3 Se­ries and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class are de­fault choices in the seg­ment. In my books the Volvo S60 and, to some ex­tent, the Lexus IS 250 would ap­peal to a sim­i­lar buyer pro­file. Sim­ply put, these buy­ers pre­fer to stand out from the crowd but are still dis­cern­ing in their ve­hi­cle choice.

This anal­ogy came to mind re­cently while be­hind the wheel of the Volvo S60 2.0T. It cer­tainly is one of those ve­hi­cles that can truly be ap­pre­ci­ated once driven. In my launch ar­ti­cle, I men­tioned how the car now feels more dy­namic than its pre­de­ces­sor — cer­tainly the case by Volvo stan­dards. Even so, the en­gi­neers have man­aged to pol­ish the ride qual­ity, which is one of the best in the seg­ment.

The 2.0l tur­bocharged en­gine, al­though it suffers from ini­tial turbo lag on pull off, is a smooth op­er­a­tor, par­tic­u­larly when al­lied to the six-speed Geartronic trans­mis­sion. Fuel con­sump­tion hov­ered in the high 10l-11l/100km marks, which were ac­cept­able but not out­stand­ing. What was out­stand­ing, though, is the over­all fuss-free in­te­rior de­sign that even techno­phobes would find a breeze to ac­cli­ma­tise to. An­other feather in the cap has to be the solid build qual­ity — not once was there a squeak or a rat­tle.

On those mer­its, I would rec­om­mend the new Volvo S60, if for lit­tle else.

The S60 has quite a strong pres­ence.

The coupe-like pro­file and tra­di­tional horse­shoe lights dom­i­nate the rear.

The in­te­rior is sim­ple and el­e­gant but there are a few cheap plas­tics.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.