Even with big 17-inch alloy wheels and a sports-tuned chassis, the S60 is a supremely comfortable and quiet car to drive on all but the worst road surfaces.
The Volvo S60 is the Swedish company's rival to executive car class leaders; the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E Class a hard act to follow. So Volvo needs to make up ground where the others can't; by building on the bits the company is known for.
Although not as radical as the Focus-rivaling C30, the Volvo S60 is a handsome car. It shares Volvo's obvious DNA, with big angular shoulders which run along the car's length, and the famous square grille with a diagonal slash through it. The rear, likewise, is immediately identifiable, with a pair of teardrop-shaped taillights. There's a restraint about the S60's appearance which is a lot like the Audi A6; rather than the outrageous looks of the BMW 5 Series.
The cabin isn't the most radical, but there's a logic about the way the controls are laid out which makes everything easy to use. The dials are clear, with Volvo's traditional green glow and trademark lettering. The dash sweeps across the instrument binnacle and the centre console is angled towards the driver, giving a 'driver-focused' feeling. Our test car also featured Volvo's unintuitive and clumsy £1,850 sat-nav which pops out of the centre of the dash. Annoyingly there was no screen adjustment, which meant it was angled forward and tricky to see.
The Volvo S60 is a wide car, which means a good amount of interior space. There's enough room for three adults to sit in the back in relative comfort and the front seat occupants won't be left wanting either. The boot isn't the largest, offering a shade under 400 litres of room, but it’s a sensible shape, even if the saloon car tailgate doesn’t offer as much access as it would if the car had a rear hatch. The centre console has a twin cup-holder with a pull-across cover and a split-opening storage bin between the seats which can be opened by one of two buttons on the side of the lid. However, the button for the main compartment (which housed the £700 optional 'hardwired' phone on a lead) is on the passenger side, making access tricky.
The Volvo S60's ride quality is its real star turn. Even with big 17-inch alloy wheels and a sports-tuned chassis, the S60 is a supremely comfortable and quiet car to drive on all but the worst road surfaces. At motorway speeds, road and wind noise was virtually non-existent, making it one of the most refined cars in its class. But that's not at the expense of driving excitement – the big Volvo is capable of carving its way through bends without drama, and has nicely weighted steering which increases confidence on the move.
Six engines are on offer in the Volvo S60 - 2-litre, 2.5 and hot 2.4 T5 petrol power plants, producing 180, 210 and 260bhp respectively. Two 2.4-litre diesels are also available, producing 163 or 185bhp. Additionally Volvo offers a 140bhp 2.4-litre compressed natural gas (CNG) engine. All engines are smooth and lend themselves well to this big cruiser. The larger engined petrol models return a 0-62mph time of around 6.5 seconds and a top speed of around 145mph. The 2-litre we tested offers up an 8.2 second 0-62mph dash, which is similar to both diesel options. The CNG-fuelled unit is the slowest, reaching 62mph in 9.9 seconds. Those wanting outright performance may want to seek out the S60 R, which packs a 300bhp punch, generating a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds and a 155mph top speed.
The Volvo S60 is significantly cheaper than the majority of its rivals, particularly those from Germany. And the S60 comes with more kit than its competitors too. The flip side is its used values aren't as strong as if the car was from Audi or BMW. If fuel economy is at the top of your wishlist, then the diesel versions are really the only choice, as the petrol units return around 30mpg. Insurance groups 15-17 are competitive in this type of car – especially the hot T5 model – but are still likely to be costly for high-risk drivers. Emissions ranging from 174-234g/km place the S60 in tax bands E-G, which currently cost £165 to £300 (Band G will increase to £400 in April 2008) but its worth noting choosing an automatic gearbox immediately jumps the car up a band.
Shouldn't be too many worries here. The materials used feel high quality and the doors and boot shut with a reassuring thud. Volvo's engines and gearboxes can put up with high mileages without fuss – just ask the police who are big Volvo fans.
Traditionally a Volvo strongpoint, the S60 marked a slight fall from grace in the EuroNCAP crash test programme. Although it scored four out of five stars; by no means a disgrace, it was short of the full five star rating expected. There's nothing to choose from when deciding on which trim level to opt for – only water repellent side windows appear higher up the range. That means dual-stage driver and passenger airbags join curtain and side 'bags, anti-whiplash front seats, ABS with electronic brake force distribution, stability and traction control and ISOFIX child seat mounting points as standard features on all models.
The Volvo S60 comes with an impressive amount of kit, even in the base models. All models feature climate control air conditioning, cruise control, a trip computer, stability and traction control, brake assist and a security system. The Sport spec adds racy front and rear spoilers, side skirts, 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel and gearstick, speed-dependant power steering, half leather upholstery and aluminium trim. Step up to the SE and you'll find an electrically-operated driver's seat, electric mirrors, full leather upholstery, a 'High Performance; sound system with a six-CD auto-changer and chrome inserts in the front and rear bumpers. The SE Sport is a combination of the SE and Sport trim.
The range-topping SE Lux includes a 13 speaker audio system, folding door mirrors, rear park sensors, bright bi-xenon headlights and electrically-operated heated front seats.
The Volvo S60 might not be able to compete with some of its rivals on Volvo's brand alone, but there's still plenty to love about it. Its fantastic ride quality and impressive equipment levels alone are enough to drive plenty of buyers to the local showroom.