Viva la Volvo! The latest offering from the Swedish car maker hits the jackpot

Jul 15, 2019
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Having already sampled the 2019 Volvo S60 in T6 and T8 guise after Paul Maric drove them in the States last year, we were keen to test what will become the entry-level model when it lands in Australia later this year – the T5 variant.

Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, which delivers 184kW and 350Nm, we drove FWD models in Sweden, but keep in mind the variant we eventually get in Australia will be AWD. 

Volvo Australia is still thrashing out the pricing for the range that will be available, but with T6 and T8 already confirmed, the T5 as tested here will shape up as the price leader in the revised S60 range. We’ll see the T5 locally in Momentum, Inscription and R Design trim grades when the range is launched. Stand by for pricing details as soon as we have them. 

Volvo’s ‘Modular Scalable Product Architecture’ (SPA) platform might be designed to work across a variety of body styles, but there’s no argument the sleek S60 has real street presence in styling terms. In fact, after a few days in and around Volvo HQ outside Gothenburg, there’s no doubt the S60 works as a sedan or wagon, such is the stylish exterior detailing. 

Still very much a low-volume player in Australia, Volvo is hoping the S60 will add incremental growth to the real sales success of the XC40 and XC60 SUVs. While Volvo is adamant that the S60 is a mid-size sedan, and therefore competes with the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class for sales, there’s no doubt it’s a big sedan. It’s easy to think you’re watching an approaching S90 until you take a closer look. That’s no bad thing, though, with the amount of second-row space as we found out during our drive programme. 

You could argue that one reason for the rush to SUVs – especially in Australia – is the styling of the medium- and large-sedan segments, often accused of being dour, boring or devoid of flair. You couldn’t, however, level those claims at the Volvo S60, with its low roof line, distinctive light signatures and near-perfect tyre to wheel arch ratio adding up to a seriously good-looking sedan. Doesn’t matter where you’re standing, the S60 is an attractive design.

There’s no doubt Volvo’s cabins have an ongoing reputation for solidity and quality, and the new S60 is no different. Thud the door closed and it’s nicely insulated, while every surface feels solid and properly fitted into the cabin. No squeaks, rattles or strange noises, regardless of the trim surface, there’s a quality feel throughout. I appreciate the sense of minimalism without a multitude of buttons and controls. It’s a recurring theme for the brand from Sweden, but design minimalism, especially inside the cabin, is often overlooked by manufacturers. 

Volvo’s infotainment interface isn’t perfect, in that it takes a bit of getting used to the menu systems, but once you do, the gestures are very smartphone-like and don’t require an engineering degree to master. The onboard satellite navigation is accurate and fast, reacts well to a wrong turn or missed instruction, and the audio system itself is also excellent. Our test cars had an exceptionally clear head-up display as well, which is a feature we love to see on any new car. 

We tested Apple CarPlay briefly on the launch drive, and the interface was quick to activate as soon as the phone was plugged in, and stayed reliable. Audio streaming was easy, the smartphone mapping worked well, and the interface between driver and infotainment is a good one. 

While the average road in Sweden is undoubtedly better than most urban surfaces in Australia, we did manage to find some indicative coarse-chip B-roads about three hours outside Gothenburg, which allowed us to put the S60 T5 through its paces. In Eco or Comfort modes, the ride is exactly that – comfortable. In fact, the S60 could teach quite a few European SUVs a lesson with its unruffled ability to soak up bumps and ruts.

There’s a little bit of road/tyre noise above 110km/h on coarse-chip surfaces, but the insulation is otherwise exceptional. I thought the initial damping was beautiful, and the chassis settles quickly on rebound, too, making for a comfortable experience in the front row. When you’re riding in the second row, you’ll feel the bumps a little more, being closer to an axle than you are up front, but it’s never too hard. 

Switch over to Dynamic mode and you feel the auto kick down a few ratios, the steering tighten up at the wheel, and the ride firm up nicely as well. While the chassis does feel firmer all round, you’d never describe it as harsh, though, and it remains comfortable in either the first or second row. The gearshift, which is smooth in Comfort mode, sharpens up nicely, too, without ever being too rapid or jolty as some can be.

Read more: Everything Volvo

The auto doesn’t hunt through the eight ratios either, as some modern gearboxes can when they offer more than six ratios. The eight-speeder that Volvo has opted for is a good one. I liked the steering feel as well, which weighted up a little into Dynamic mode, but didn’t become too twitchy or reactive. 

The 2.0-litre engine is also well matched to the eight-speed gearbox, and while the case for the range-topping T8 is compelling (I drove that variant on a test track the day before for the first time), the T5 is never left wanting in the real world. That’s the key, too. If you like the styling of the S60, but can’t stretch to the most expensive variant, there’s no loss that comes from driving the volume-seller. In fact, I’d argue it’s all you really need, despite the undoubted appeal of the more technologically proficient T8. 

Roll-on overtaking – from 60–80km/h – is a cinch, and the engine has more than enough punch to get things cranking from either city speed or off the mark from a standstill. Our test example was FWD, as mentioned earlier, and we will get the AWD model in Oz, but there didn’t seem to be a tendency to spin the front tyres up or understeer during our road drive that included some rain – and snow. In short, the engine is punchy enough for buyers on a tighter budget or those not wanting the power on offer from the range-topper. 

We saw a live fuel reading below the 6.6L/100km claim on the open road, and slightly above that at lower speeds, as expected. That’s more than acceptable for what is now a large and comfortable sedan perfect for family duties.

On that note, plenty of SUV buyers should really be dropping the S60 into their consideration set. It’s a beautiful sedan, sure, but it’s competent and comfortable, too. Volvo rarely puts a foot wrong when it comes to execution, and the S60 in T5 trim is no different. That recent sales growth in Australia might be on the back of quality SUVs from Volvo, but their sedan, and indeed wagon, game remains as strong as it ever was.

Have you ever owned a Volvo? Would you like to have this car parked in your driveway?

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