Volvo S60 R-Design - 2

2013 Volvo S60 Review

Rating: 7.0
$49,990 $75,140 Mrlp
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Volvo S60 and V60 get a fresh nose, but the brand's new engines don't yet feature behind it.
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Sweden’s last remaining medium car, the Volvo S60 sedan – and its Volvo V60 wagon sibling – has been updated for 2014 with new looks, new technologies and a simplified range from 11 variants down to eight.

The Volvo S60 and Volvo V60 don't, however, yet get the new breed of Volvo-designed Drive-E four-cylinder engines, as the drivetrains carry-over unchanged; the 132kW/240Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder $49,990 S60 T4 Kinetic being the entry-level petrol, and the 120kW/400Nm 2.0-litre five-cylinder S60 D4 Kinetic being the single diesel option which is $5000 more expensive at $54,990.

Teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission as standard, the T4 claims 9.0sec 0-100km/h and 7.4L/100km; the D5 claims 9.2sec 0-100km/h and 5.9L/100km.

Both are cheaper than the entry-level Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class models, while the S60 T4 offers more power than the equivalent petrols, and the S60 D5 provides more torque. The diesel does, however, fall short of the claimed 4.8L/100km A4 2.0TDI and 4.5L/100km 320d and C200 CDI consumption figures 5.4L/100km.

Gone are the previous unnamed base and Technik specifications, leaving the Kinetic to include new LED daytime running lights, leather seats, cruise control, Volvo’s three-mode (Elegance, Eco, Performance) adaptive digital instrument display first seen in the new V40, illuminated gear selector, rain-sensing wipers, folding and heated mirrors, rear parking sensors with parking camera, push-button start and an eight-speaker audio system with a seven-inch screen and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Luxury models that add $5000 to both the front-wheel-drive variants include one-inch larger 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome accented front side air intakes, active bending lights, satellite navigation with voice control and keyless entry with power driver’s seat memory recall function. An electrically adjustable passenger seat and wood grain centre console and door trim inserts are also added, as are metal inlays for the standard three-spoke leather steering wheel and a vehicle alarm.

The third front-wheel-drive model, the S60 T5, is limited to only the Luxury specification for $58,990 (up $1500 from the outgoing Teknik model) or R-Design guise for $60,190 (unchanged). Partnered with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the mid-spec T5 is propelled by a 177kW/320Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder and claims to reach 100km/h in 7.5sec with 8.6L/100km combined consumption.

This gives the Volvo a power and price advantage over its equivalent Audi and BMW competitors and the turbocharged 1.8-litre Mercedes-Benz C250. The Swedish sedan does again lose out on fuel consumption, however, missing the mark by an average of 2.1L/100km. Acceleration for the challenger too is shy of its benchmark performers with the other three claiming sprints of 6.4, 7.3 and 7.4sec respectively.

Adding unique exterior add-ons including a body kit, rear spoiler, silver mirror caps and 18-inch alloy wheels, R-Design models also sit on a sports chassis that comprises a 10mm-lower ride height and stiffer springs and dampers. Exclusive sports seats, sports pedals, floor mats and centre console inlays further boost cabin specifications along with a charcoal black headliner and 10-speaker premium audio system.

Sitting atop the Volvo S60 range is the 242kW/480Nm T6, available in R-Design only. Attached to a $75,140 price tag, the flagship is the only variant of the 2014 line-up to come standard with speed sensitive steering and model-first steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters (a $250 option on T4 models and unavailable on T5 and D4).

Sending power from its turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder to all four wheels via a Haldex system, the Swedish sports sedan eclipses 100km/h in 5.7sec – 0.1sec faster than its predecessor – while claiming an identical 10.2L/100km.

Despite offering more power and torque than the dearer Audi A4 3.0-litre TSFI quattro, BMW 335i and Mercedes-Benz C300, on our near-200km road loop from Orange to Mudgee, in the New South Wales central west, it was the T6 R-Design hero car that most disappointed.

Fitted with optional ($1725) 19-inch R-Design alloy wheels wrapped in low-profile Bridgestone Potenza rubber, the flagship S60 struggles to stay composed and settled over bumpy and undulating blacktop with poor body control present.

High levels of wind and tyre noise become equally difficult to ignore – the latter particularly, penetrating the cabin when traversing rough and coarse-chipped roads. On smoother surfaces the ride does settle, however, it remains accompanied by road noise.

The steering offers little in the way of front-end feedback, though bumps and vibrations are still transmitted through the steering wheel and into the cabin. Consistent but very light regardless of road curvature, the steering’s accuracy is sharpened slightly in the T6 when Sport mode is selected – as is throttle response – without adding weight.

Through more challenging bends the car’s propensity to understeer is noticeable. More obvious when pushed, confidence isn’t helped by a soft and slow brake pedal and the all-wheel drive model’s 1684kg – the heftiest model by 105kg. Sharp changes in direction are also hindered by a slow 2.58-turns lock-to-lock steering ratio and an 11.9-metre turning circle.

Although requiring deeper, firmer applications before getting the desired affect, once engaged, the brakes do a reasonable job of stopping the car but highlight the intended performance model’s need for a more serious brake package. The R-Design’s ventilated 336mm front/302mm rear discs are only 20mm larger up front than the rest of the range’s solid items.

Located under the S60’s newly resculptured and washer jet-less bonnet, the sensational turbocharged powerplant is at the heart of all smiles.

A strong and smooth unit that delivers ample power and torque at just about any revs and in almost any gear, the 3.0-litre six makes overtaking manoeuvres at highway speeds a breeze – whether employing the new paddle shifters or not.

Comfortably the top-spec model’s best attribute, the engine also managed a commendable 11.2L/100km average fuel consumption figure for the day.

Inside the revised cabin things are more mixed. Comfortable and spacious, upmarket touches such as the illuminated gearshift lever, silver air vent and centre stack accents and smooth black plastic door trims are offset by the aging dash, cheap-feeling perforated leather steering wheel and new but basic charcoal black headliner. All three rival German brands have the edge over the Swedes here.

Only briefly sampled, the T5 R-Design again treats drivers to a truly lovely engine that encourages throttle applications with its willingness to accelerate and its accompanying turbo-driven induction noises. Effortless pulling power partners well with the car’s measured, if not sharp, turn-in aided by its lighter 1542kg kerb weight. The T5’s 2.0-litre turbo-four also averaged 9.7L/100km on test.

The base S60 T4 Kinetic delivers a supple and forgiving ride thanks no doubt partially to its smaller wheels and taller Michelin tyres and combines with a responsive and solidly punchy turbocharged 1.6-litre engine to make for a comfortable cruiser.

With less road noise penetrating the cabin – wind noise remains common – the entry model is a far more composed, comfortable and pleasurable experience compared with the flagship T6 R-Design. It returned an average on-test fuel figure of 8.5L/100km.

All S60 variants come standard with stability control, emergency brake assist, front, side and curtain airbags and the latest version of the brand’s City Safe auto-braking technology, now active at speeds up to 50km/h.

Further, all models bar the base Kinetic, are able to be optioned with Volvo’s new Driver Support pack.

Comprising lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning with full auto brake, queue assist and pedestrian and cyclist detection, the pack also includes adaptive cruise control, road sign recognition, cross traffic alert and active high beam control.

Somewhat oddly given Volvo’s well-publicised long-time safety focus, safety-conscious buyers keen on the technologies – even those purchasing high-spec R-Design models – are required to fork over an additional $5000 for the package.

Another strange packaging phenomenon on the Volvo S60 concerns its spare wheel. Originally launched in 2011 supplied only with puncture repair goo – as per European-spec cars – Volvo Cars Australia responded to calls from local motoring media soon after by replacing the goo with a no-cost strap-in ‘tempa spare’. Possibly reducing buyers’ potential nerves, the strap-in spare significantly reduces the 380-litre boot’s practicality.

For 2014, these two options remain available at no cost, but are now joined by a $345 alternative that sees the ‘tempa spare’ fitted as part of a false floor arrangement.

Volvo Cars Australia says it expects the T5 and T6 R-Design models to make up 20-25 per cent of local S60 sales with the Luxury variants to claim 30 per cent.

While the higher-end Volvo S60 models may still fall short of the high standards set by the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class segment benchmarks, the lower-specced models continue to provide compelling alternatives to high-end Japanese medium cars.