The mid-size S60 was first introduced to the market in 2001 as a replacement for the S70 sedan, yet it represented much more than a mere replacement. Indeed, the S60 is a much sportier vehicle, yet it does not sacrifice any of the safety equipment for which its predecessor and the Volvo brand in general is well known.
S60 is a four-door sedan which was initially given the same P2 platform used in the S80 and V70, and while it would be true to say that neither of these cars are known for their sporty performance, Volvo has modified the P2 platform’s dimensions for a more nimble, agile feel in the S60. First-generation models came with a choice of a 5-speed automatic or 5-speed manual gearbox.
The S60 was given a facelift in 2005, with new models being given updated headlamps and bumpers were given chrome linings. In addition, new S60s were given new seats and an updated dashboard. A final facelift occurred in 2008 with the addition of a body-coloured bumper and door inserts before the introduction of the current second-generation models in 2010.
Second-generation models include more angular, aggressive-looking headlamps, a wider, rounder, more robust-looking body shape, larger spaced iron letters on the brand name attached to the rear, and a new safety feature in the form of Pedestrian Detection which automatically applies the brakes in the event that the driver does not react in time. In addition, both automatic and manual transmissions now came with 6 speeds as opposed to the previous 5.
All S60 models are reasonably quick. The base SE model from 2004 used a 2.4L 5-cylinder engine that produced a power output of 125kW and a torque of 230Nm, propelling the car from 0-100km/h in 9.6 seconds. In terms of fuel economy, the automatic version uses 9.5L/100km, whereas the manual version is more economical, using a combined 8.9L/100km.
The AWD model tested – a 2005 model – is significantly quicker and more powerful, using a turbo-cooled 2.5L engine with a power output of 154kW at 5000rpm, and a torque of 320Nm at 1500rpm, reaching 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds.
The fastest of all of the S60 models is the second-generation T6 Polestar, released in 2013. The T6 Is an all-wheel-drive model with a 3.0L 6-cylinder turbo-charged engine, producing 257kW of power output and more than 500Nm of torque, reaching 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds, making it the fastest car that Volvo has ever produced.
In terms of the ride, S60 models have firmly sprung suspension, lending all models a sportier feel than would have previously come from Volvo, and there is plenty of grip available when taking corners at speed. Steering is perhaps not so strong with an oddly vague feel.
A common misgiving of the S60 is the gearboxes, which have shown a tendency to be temperamental, with the automatic gearboxes being the main culprit.
Standard kit on early S60 models included 15-inch alloy wheels, traction control, ABS, cruise control, air-conditioning with climate control, EBD, dual driver and passenger airbags in the front and back, engine immobiliser, leather seats and steering wheel, power windows in the front and back, and electronic stability control. Options included metallic paint and an electric sunroof.
Second-generation models added an auxiliary input socket for mp3/CD players, leather gear knob, Bluetooth, brake emergency display, and a rain sensor. Options were increased to include a 12-speaker audio system, 18-inch alloy wheels, heat insulated windscreen, adaptive cruise and collision warning, and finally, pedestrian detection.
In terms of space, the S60 has a large enough boot, although the rear seats are little cramped. Volvo certainly makes more practical sedans, but that is perhaps of little concern to the type of performance-minded person who is likely to want to buy it.
Obvious competition comes in the shape of the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class, both of which arguably handle slightly better, producing less feedback through the steering wheel at speed. Yet to its credit, the S60 handles better than the Audi A4, which is another rival in the same class.
In addition, build quality of the S60 is first rate, and the styling is sharp and luxurious in all its variants. It is to the Swedish company’s credit that it has managed to achieve such head-swivelling style while maintaining its reputation for admirable attention to detail with regard to safety.