20 September 2017


Volvo S60 T3 R-Design Premium road test report

T3 R-Design Premium

Volvo’s S60 combines safety, style and performance all in one car. The 2011 model is even better than the 2009 version, thanks to the addition of extra safety innovations and improved driving performance, with a T6 petrol engine joining the line-up for the first time. Well equipped as standard and keenly priced, it should make some of its German rivals in the compact executive saloon segment feel quite nervous. Worth checking, as an altogether impressive alternative to the usual choices.

Road Test Reports Says4 star rating
A front-facing image of the Volvo S60

Image number 2 of the Volvo S60Image number 3 of the Volvo S60

Performance Performance - 4 stars

There are six different horse power variants available in the S60 range, of which we drove the least powerful, 1.6 litre petrol 150bhp model. Sensibly, Volvo has devoted many of the variants available to diesel power as this will undoubtedly make up the majority of sales in the UK. The most powerful S60 available in the range is the 304PS T6 which operates with a 3.0 litre supercharged engine. If our car, the T3 petrol with 150PS, is anything to go, the T6 should be a very entertaining drive indeed. However, despite test driving the lowest engine choice available, it took this driver at least a couple of days to come around to the fact that the car was a 1.6 litre petrol model as the performance suggested at least a 2.0 litre engine was underneath the bonnet, such was acceleration and cruising ability. Volvo has squeezed admirable amounts of power out of this little engine, which delivers 177 lb of torque between 1600 and 4000 revs and arrives at 62mph in a reasonable 9.5 seconds. This small engine is light, so that actually benefits the ride and handling of the car, of which I will explain more.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

The car we drove was a top spec R-Design Premium model which came fitted with a costly extras to boot. The high-end 18” alloys, available on the R-Design models and above, didn’t punish the ride too much and although the drive was firm and sporty, it didn’t sacrifice comfort. This will be heavily influenced by the very supportive seats, which are included as a wise move by the car maker, allowing the S60 to meet dual customer requirements for a responsive and yet comfy ride, which will help boost the car’s appeal among demanding company car drivers. Volvo says the chassis has been tuned to the UK’s uneven roads and it shows, even the worst craters are barely felt in the cabin and the car’s low profile helps the S60 feel well tacked to the roads at all times.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

Legendary build quality is one of Volvo’s benchmarks and whilst the S60 departs from traditional Volvo styling, it showed no signs of departing from the manufacturer’s philosophy of building vehicles to last. The interior was smart and full of quality soft touch materials. While the dash was fairly minimalist compared to some manufacturers, we feel this actually added a touch of class to the S60 rather than being a negative point. The new 2011 model S60 is designed to be ‘faster, more involving to drive, more stylish and more economical than the previous [2009 model] Volvo S60’, according to Volvo’s press pack and there is nothing in this statement we can argue with.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

Another area where Volvo excels. Even the base model ES trim comes with the car maker’s City Safety technology (designed to reduce the risk of a low-speed, rear-end collision), DSTC (Dynamic Stability Traction Control), dynamic chassis, Headlight Levelling System, IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System) and Volvo’s famous Whiplash Protection system. The Blind Spot detection system featured on our car, is a huge leap forward in road safety and is available for an extra £460 across the model range. Other optional safety extras are available including Pedestrian Detection with full Auto-Brake or you can buy many of the additional safety features in packs, such as the Driver Support Pack for £1,485 (includes Pedestrian Detection with Adaptive Cruise Control, Distance Alert, Queue Assist and Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Lane Departure Warning, Driver Alert Control and Blind Spot Information System) or Winter Pack and Active Bending Headlights for £1,025 (includes Heated Front Seats, Headlight Cleaning System and Active Bending Xenon Headlights). Volvo has a safety gadget for almost every danger you could ever encounter, plus the S60 is protected against thieves too, with Anti-theft Alarm including Immobiliser, Volume Sensor and Level Sensor included as standard.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 5 stars

The boot of the S60 is generous with a capacity 339 litres, and the car is ergonomically very well designed internally, to maximise driver and passenger foot and head room without compromising the stylish exterior lines. There is no doubting that the car is geared more towards the driver than the passengers, but as a premium compact executive saloon, it is likely that many of its drivers will be solo-travelling business people.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

Despite being the lowest grade engine, the Volvo press car we drove came in the top-of-the-range trim plus a host of costly extras, which pushed the price from £26,380 for a standard T3 R-Design Premium model to a whopping £31,035. With the S60 range starting at a keen price of £22,495, you can see how Volvo has catered for every pocket. But beware, while the options list is extensive, it could be easy to get carried away ticking those boxes. Engine efficiency varies from a woeful 28.5 mpg for the T6 petrol models to 65.7 for the greenest DRIVe diesel model. The T3 petrol tested here achieves a respectable 42.8 mpg according to its official combined mileage and this was reflected in the real-world driving, where we achieved 40mpg. Deals available on the S60 range at the moment are around £299 per month on a PCP and for a car of this class that represents great value. We also predict that the residual values of this car should be strong, especially in the diesel variants, so all round it is a solid buy.

Performance Performance - 4 stars

The Volvo S60 is available with a choice of 10 engine/gearbox combinations, with pretty much something for everyone covered by the Swedish carmaker. Petrol offerings outweigh diesel 6 to 4, and the car on test being the least powerful engine available with the car – the T3 Manual. The quick revving T3 is a 1.6-litre petrol unit with a top speed of 130mph and a 0-60mph time of 9 seconds and life behind the wheel is pretty exhilarating for a 1.6. It may lack a little punch at the top end in comparison to other engines available on the S60, but the car has enough power and torque for swift acceleration allowing for confident overtaking. It’s actually a newly developed engine with GTDi (Gasoline Turbocharged Direct Injection) technology, which helps keep the size of the engine small, improving fuel economy, yet gives the performance expected in a sporty saloon. The Euro 5 compliant unit has a combined fuel economy figure of 42.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 152g/km, placing it in VED band G. Volvo has also included a Start/Stop system to help conserve fuel when stationary, which can be switched on and off using the small DRIVe button located on the dash, although why you’d switch it off is anyone’s guess though. Coupled to the engine is a quality six-speed manual gearbox which is a nice, firm unit which means it’s difficult to stick it into the wrong notch.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

While it might have the least powerful engine available under the bonnet, the car on test is a top spec R-Design Premium variant, now this popular variant has seen Volvo actually tweak the suspension and bumper design to help provide a truly sporty drive. Couple this work to the gorgeous 18” Ixion alloys and you’ve got a firm, sporty ride, however even on the UK’s increasing battered roads it never becomes harsh. The lower ride and wide wheel base ensures that the car can confidently corner, with the car’s active safety systems on call to ensure you stick to the road like chewing gum.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

The Volvo style revolution continues so it seems, and while the Volvo C30 coupe pointed the way to a more contemporary design language, it is the S60 which is guaranteed to turn heads. It is one beautiful car, and while it still bears the hallmarks of a Volvo it is a thing of much loveliness – it’s almost an event each turn you get into the car. Inside the cabin the high quality materials jump out at you, with the front seats particularly pleasing. The dashboard, unlike some manufacturers, is refreshingly clean and sparse, with a minimal number of buttons to confuse and befuddle.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

It goes without saying that when you climb into a Volvo you’re entering one of the safest cars you can possibly drive. The company over the years has been a pioneer in making driving a safer experience, and the Volvo S60 is packed to the gills with passive and active safety equipment including the world’s first pedestrian detection with full auto brake system. As the name suggests the system utilises both radar and cameras to detect pedestrians in front of the car and warn the driver, and it can even automatically activate full brake force if the driver fails to act. Volvo has also included an advanced Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), which uses the radar to monitor the vehicle in front and automatically alters the speed depending on driver preference settings. Volvo is that pleased with the level of safety systems they’ve stuck into the car that a senior safety advisor at the company has remarked that it is the safest Volvo yet seen.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

Not being the biggest fan of the saloon body style, the boot opening is always an issue in comparison to a similar sized hatchback; the same affliction is present on the S60. However, in its defence the opening is a decent size, and the actual volume of the boot is a good 339 litres – its just never going to be as practical as a hatchback, although if its practicality you’re really after then the V60 estate is the model for you! Front and rear passengers will find plenty of space to get comfy, with the tapering roofline not impinging on rear headspace as there’s only a 22mm difference in vertical height between the front and back seats.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

Volvo S60 prices start from £22,495 for the entry-level T3 ES Start/Stop, rising to £36,315 for the powerful T6 R-Design (early 2011 prices). For motorists after a premium saloon that isn’t an identikit German-built car then the Volvo S60 is a great option. Well built, exceptionally pleasing to the eye, economical, and a good drive to boot, the S60 doesn’t have a weakness to speak of. It doesn’t quite match up in the value-for-money stakes when comparing it to a BMW 3 Series, for example, but if you want something a little different then take the S60 for a test drive, you’ll be glad you did.

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