+ Generous standard kit
+ Sleek interior and exterior design
+ PHEV options offer great performance and economy
- No diesel option
- Fiddly infotainment system
- BMW 3 Series more fun to drive
Verdict: It might seem like a gamble to remove a diesel option from an executive saloon, after all this type of car is popular with high-milers, but the new Volvo S60 is as refined and premium as anything out of Germany, although perhaps doesn’t offer as much fun on the road as some rivals.
Volvo’s road to full electrification has begun with the gradual scrapping of those horrible, nasty, terrible, evil, deplorable diesel engines. Thank heavens someone is thinking of the children, right?
The first car to turn its back on the black pumps forever is the S60 saloon, a car which has quite the fight on its hands: this segment contains heavyweights like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3, as well as small volume but hard-hitting contenders like the Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia.
There’s no doubt the S60 is a Volvo, even from a cursory glance, and that’s because Volvo’s heavily refreshed line up all look very similar. They all get the “hammer of Thor’ headlight signatures, the simple but bold grille on the nose, and understated back end with the Volvo name embossed above the numberplate. It’s a handsome car, no question.
The interior, again, is like-for-like with the rest of Volvo’s roster. But that’s not a problem, because Volvo’s interior game is on-point right now. There’s plenty of squidgy material licking the dashboard, and even the metal-effect trim doesn’t feel scratchy or tacky. Like the exterior, the minimalist Scandi-design is executed beautifully.
The pursuit for minimalism does cause a problem though, and that’s the fact that just about all controls live in the infotainment system. The 9-inch Google-developed system itself is responsive and slick but it has just one shortcut button, which returns you to the home screen, and everything else needs swiping and scrolling. Even things like the lane keep assist deactivation are found within the portrait-style screen, and that can become distracting.
In the front there is plenty of storage, we especially like the generously-sized cubby in the centre console which can be covered up with a black gloss retracting lid to keep things looking tidy. Space for both front and back occupants is ample, it feels less cramped than the BMW 3 Series in the back. It still can’t beat the Skoda Superb for rear legroom though.
All three engines on offer are electrified, the entry B5 is a mild hybrid featuring a starter generator and 48v battery and offers a respectable 0-62mph time of 6.7-seconds, and prices start at £40,045. Two plug-in hybrids - the T8 and T8 Polestar Engineered - claim an electric range of 34 and 36 miles respectively. The Polestar Engineered offers a BMW M3-bothering 0-62mph time of 4.4-seconds.
Even the more powerful PHEV engines don’t feel as theatrical as a M3 or Mercedes-AMG C63, but both Volvos are much cheaper, with prices for the normal T8 starting at £46,075 and £51,350 for the Polestar Engineered. Volvo isn’t interested in that shouty end of the market anyway. Power delivery is certainly urgent and impressive, and it’s a lot of fun, but fun in a very grown up way. The fact that the S60 only comes in front wheel drive (B5) or AWD says a lot about who this car is being aimed at.
Damping can feel a little firm but the S60 is very stable at higher speeds, and the steering is direct responsive. All in all it’s a very comfortable and refined car which has more than enough to give the German Big Three something to think about.
In terms of build quality, the S60 leads the segment. Everything is solid and well screwed together, only the Audi A4 matches it for built quality. Volvo hasn’t skimped on materials either. Even places the fingers never touch are wrapped in soft-touch material, and the Nappa leather seats are plush and supportive. Nice touches include the metal-effect textured switchgear, found in places like the volume control and drive mode selector.
The Scandi minimalist design has been executed well: the S60 exudes class.
When it comes to the infotainment system it’s a bit of a mixed bag. While the 9-inch portrait-style screen looks pretty and boasts sharp graphics and responsiveness, it hosts just about every control for the car. That means any functions you want to perform require scrolling or swiping into the settings and can only safely be performed while stationary.
The system has just one shortcut button, and that returns the screen to the home page. Even the climate control is adjusted via the infotainment system, the only physical buttons are for the volume control and heated windows. Some controls on the steering wheel help a bit, but they still only adjust volume and radio station.
It is possible to be too minimalist.
The S60 offers more space than the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series in terms of legroom and headroom, it will seat four people very comfortably and there’s a foldable middle armrest with cup holders in the back on all trim levels.
There is also plenty of storage in the front and back, although the door bins in the front are a little shallow. The driver’s seat offers a very broad range of movement, as does the steering wheel, so you’ll always be able to find a comfortable setting.
With 442-litres of boot space the S60 falls short of the BMW 3 Series’ 480-litres, but the boot lip doesn’t get in the way of loading and unloading too much. It’s worth pointing out that if boot space is important to you, you might want to consider the V60, which is the estate version of the S60 and comes with 529-litres of boot space.
We’ve mentioned the S60 is no longer available with a diesel engine anymore about a thousand times already. While that might be off-putting to high mileage drivers the fact that the three petrol engines on offer are all electrified means each model offers reasonable economy.
The entry level mild hybrid B5 uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine good for 247bhp, and thanks to the 48v battery it returns up to 41.5mpg and produces 153g/km of CO2, which isn’t amazing but fairly average for the class. It does cover off 0-62mph in a spritely 6.7-seconds though.
The T8 PHEV version offers up to 34-miles of pure-electric driving and CO2 emissions drop to just 40g/km, which is very good in the tax man’s eyes.
Even the faster models of the S60 aren’t what you would describe as fun to drive, although the off-the-line shove is very impressive in all models. The S60 focuses on a stable and reliable performance. With no option of rear wheel drive it’s never going to corner as intuitively as the BMW 3 Series but it’s very sure-footed at the same time. As sure-footed as a Quattro-equipped Audi A4? Arguably not, but the AWD versions of the S60 will still be a great benefit to those who live in snow or heavy rain-blighted areas.
The ride is a little on the firm side but it never becomes a problem or distraction, and at high speeds things settle down into a very smooth and serene experience. This is a very relaxing car to chew up the miles in.
There is little body roll in corners but, again, there’s even less still in a 3 Series. All engines are prone to getting a little noisy under hard acceleration and occasionally the 8-speed automatic gearbox hesitates to drop a cog when asked to, but in general it handles the day-to-day driving without issue.