2020 Volvo S60 T5
– Handsome styling
– Good cabin space
– Comfortable daily-driver
– Basic functions require touchscreen
– Bit less boot space than rivals
– Many rivals are more exciting
In the battle of premium sports sedans, the long-forgotten entrant is the Volvo S60. It’s the car we voted for in the 2011 Middle East Car Of The Year awards because it really was that impressive, but the competition moved on in the decade since and the S60 stagnated as Volvo’s focus shifted to SUVs. There is an all-new S60 now though, and it’s undergone a serious overhaul.
For starters, the new model takes all the pretty design cues from recent Volvos and plugs them onto a well-proportioned sedan body that hides its front-wheel-drive platform well. Pushing the front wheels further forward, the compact sedan has a long bonnet with a shorter front overhang as well as a longer rear overlang, with a wheelbase that finally adds some much-needed cabin space. The overall car is larger than before, and all the better for it. It looks even better in the R Design trim as seen here.
Inside, the cabin follows the Scandinavian template set by earlier models, keeping clutter to a minimum by moving most functions to the sizeable touchscreen on the dash. The simple layers on the dash and doors are largely made up of soft-touch materials, with pleasing textures broken up with some metal trim and piano-black plastic, while the upholstery is a nice mix of leather and patterned fabric. Even the sliding metallic cover for the front cup-holders looks like a work of machined art, while the engine is started with a unique fluted twist-knob rather than a button.
While the previous-gen S60 was a cramped little car, the new one offers very good rear legroom, aside from the wide well-bolstered seats up front. The boot space is good as well, with a split-folding rear bench and pass-through middle seat, but its direct rivals from Germany offer more cargo volume. There is a good amount of hidden-away storage spaces, cubbies and cup-holders as well. Unfortunately the S60 does not get the cool built-in child seats that’s available in Volvo SUVs.
There is a generous dollop of tech features such as a heads-up display, turn-as-you-steer LED headlights, panoramic glass roof, great stereo, Apply Carplay/Android Auto support, smart key and a good climate control a/c, among other items. Available safety features include the usual airbags and electronic nannies as well as adaptive cruise with stop-and-go, pedestrian braking, parking camera and sensors, blind-spot monitor and more.
All the tech isn’t successful though. The shiny upright 10-inch touchscreen has a simple look and clear icons, but it collects fingerprints and even basic functions such as a/c fan speed are buried within the interface. The full-LCD 12.3-inch gauge cluster offers limited customisation options, and there is no wireless phone charger, at least in our test car.
The T5 gets a 2.0-litre turbo four making 250 hp at 5500 rpm and 350 Nm of torque spread over 1500-4500 rpm. With a redline of 6000 rpm, it’s not a particularly exciting unit, but the 8-speed automatic makes the most of it, sending power to all four wheels.
The American-built Swede is a bit hefty at 2055 kg, and at the more docile end of the sports-sedan spectrum compared to its rear-driver rivals, forgoing even paddle shifters, although it does have a selection of drive modes to cycle through. However, the throttle response is great, there’s barely any turbo lag and the initial kick on take-off is good, although when already moving, downshifts are a bit lazy on kickdown and the acceleration linearly builds up at mid-range and higher speeds, so it doesn’t feel urgent enough when overtaking. The T6 would be a speedier car, but it’s not offered here.
In our own testing, the T5 is good for 6.8 seconds in the 0-100 kph run, and it burns petrol at a rate of 12 litres/100 km (8.3 km/litre) in the real world, although this is with a lot of hammering on the throttle. The numbers are perfectly adequate for an entertaining daily driver.
Like many other new Volvos, the S60 rides on double-wishbone suspension up front and something called an “integral axle with transverse composite leaf spring” in the back, the latter of their own design that they claim improves ride quality as well as reduces weight and size. We can confirm that the S60 rides comfortably, with wind noise kept well at bay, although that makes the road noise more prominent at highway speeds.
Armed with 235/45 tyres on 18-inch wheels and all-wheel-drive, the T5 has very good body control, with great grip and very neutral handling. Beyond that, it understeers cleanly at the limit, and the chassis doesn’t like to be playful. The steering is well-weighted and responsive, but offers little feedback. The brakes are very good, with linear pedal feel.
The real question is whether the S60 T5 does enough to be classed as a sports sedan. Ignoring glaring omissions such as paddle-shifters, we think it can be called a sports sedan. It’s fairly fun to drive, has enough power and is generally unflappable in its demeanour. But as an “upcoming” luxury brand rather than an established one, it faces stiff competition from second-tier premium brands such as Infiniti, Jaguar and Genesis.
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