Sexy Swede is voted top of the class
The Volvo S60 has set a new benchmark in terms of its segment, writes Mark Smyth
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.