If the brand’s relatively meager-slice of the premium automotive pie is any criteria to judge, you quite probably don’t love Volvo, but that doesn’t stop them from loving you...
Safety is the driving force behind some of the most advanced technology in the automotive field, and Volvo’s latest S60 is at the absolute cutting edge of such revelations, and the benefits aren’t just for owners.
In addition to all the expected safety equipment like front, side and curtain airbags and stability control, all models (starting with a $63,990 front-drive T5 model) are equipped with the brand’s excellent ‘city safe’ system which detects when the car in front stops and will apply full braking force if required and bring the S60 to a complete stop as a nose-to-tail avoidance tactic. The system works at speeds up to 35km/h, or put another way, when statistically most urban accidents occur.
Yes, there are similar systems in other brands, but none have the confidence in technology to completely stop the vehicle like the S60, and that does make a big difference. This full-stop ability also enables the car to offer the world’s first pedestrian detection system capable of bringing the vehicle to a complete halt. Remember that old perception of “bloody Volvo drivers” being a bit oblivious to what’s going on around them? Well now they really can be, even if the driver is inattentive, the car isn’t.
The pedestrian recognition is a cost optional add-on to the city safe functionality, along with a lane departure and driver alert system which can determine – from steering / acceleration inputs among other minute observations – if you’re a fatigued driver. There is also a blind-spot warning system and the best adaptive cruise control I’ve ever used. Individually these are expensive options, but Volvo offers the lot as a $5490 ‘Driver Support’ package deal (or $8635 with a Teknik combo package which throws in premium audio / DVD / reverse camera and active headlights).
The good news is that all this technology works. Seamlessly. It’s not overt in its presence, so you can still get on with driving, but should you have a lapse of concentration the vehicle will alert you visually and audibly to a potential hazard. Do nothing and it will control the speed. There are the obvious immediate safety advantages, but Volvo has a holistic view to safety and their mission statement is that by 2020 no-one will be critically injured or killed in a new Volvo. Factor in that Volvo is now owned by one of the largest Chinese automakers and the filter-down technology sharing will have huge impacts on the global market.
All this is great news, but right now it’s not worth a bean if the S60 isn’t a suitable alternative to the default 3 series and C classes. Thankfully, the interior décor is every bit as appealing, with a typical Scandinavian flair, performance is comparable to the Germans, and there’s all-wheel drive in the range-topping diesel D5 and 224kW / 440Nm 3.0 litre petrol T6 as a point of difference. This is clearly the pick of the bunch and is well-priced for the segment at $79,990.
It’s more refined than any of the Germans in both noise suppression and ride compliance. On the handling front it’s not as crisp and agile as the Merc and Beemer product. The regenerative braking system robs the pedal of some feel and you’re also aware of the weighty all-wheel drive system and the transversely-mounted straight six, which resists snappy changes in direction, but despite this it truly surprised with competent, flat corning behaviour and grip. I also left the vehicle after a pretty enthusiastic 500km Tasmania drive still feeling fresh, such is the cosseting, ergonomic nature of the seats.
The 224kW / 440Nm turbo six hits 100km/h from standstill in 6.1 seconds, definitely quick enough to keep you interested and it’s aurally pleasing with plenty of throaty intake noise.
It really is a pleasing all-rounder, but locally the brand faces an uphill battle to change perceptions – Volvo remains a bit of an ‘out there’ buying choice, which is a shame. Despite all the S60’s class-leading technology, Audi, BMW and Mercedes are still seen as the safe premium options for Kiwi families.
See the Volvo S60 for sale.
Volvo S60 T6 AWD
Engine Transverse turbocharged straight six
Power 224kW @ 5600 rpm
Torque 440Nm @ 2100 rpm
Transmission Six speed auto, AWD
Fuel Economy 10.2 l/100km
Front Suspension MacPherson strut
Rear Suspension Multi link