The Volvo S60 never needs too much incentivisation but coupling it with minuscule running costs can't fail to appeal. Jonathan Crouch reports on the entry-level D2 diesel variant.
Ten Second Review
Whether or not you buy into the science of anthropogenic climate change, you can't fail to warm to a Volvo S60 that offers the running costs of a supermini hatchback. Powered by a 'Drive-E' 120bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, the S60 D2 emits a mere 99g/km and will return a fuel consumption figure of 74.3mpg.
Truth be told, I'm getting a little tired of being beaten over the head with the eco stick. I recently drove a hybrid and I was so transfixed by the power meter that it took all the enjoyment out of driving what was actually a very pleasant stretch of road. Volvo, being the responsible manufacturer it is, hasn't been slow to introduce an eco range of cars. Nevertheless, the S60 D2 is a car after my own heart largely because it offers all the cost benefits and eco advantages of driving a low emission, high economy car without feeling as if you need to don a hair shirt every time you get behind the wheel. In fact, the S60 D2 doesn't look any different to the other S60 models. You won't be labelled a Birkenstock-wearing, muesli-munching eco warrior, nor will you appear a skinflint. It's all agreeably subtle.
With a 120bhp 2.0-litre diesel to propel 1643kg of Swedish premium product down the road, it's hardly surprising that the S60 D2 offers rather modest performance. Sacrifices have got to come from somewhere after all, so the sprint to 62mph takes fairly leisurely 11.2 seconds. While far from ponderous, you'll need to get used to the reality of being pipped from the lights by some shopping hatchbacks. If your ego can handle that crushing setback, you'll find the rest of the S60 D2's dynamic make up rather pleasant. The diesel engine's 280Nm of torque arrives early on in the rev range, so you'll not need to trouble the sweet-shifting gearbox unduly on motorways, while the high gearing means that 121mph is possible where conditions allow. Engine refinement is excellent and a 67.5 litre tank gives the S60 D2 a theoretical motorway range of over 1,000 miles. Most customers will choose the sporty looking R-Design model but the comparatively compliant suspension of the base version makes it a more cosseting and enjoyable drive. The modest power output going to the front wheels doesn't corrupt steering feel particularly and the S60's stability control system remains one of the industry's finest.
Design and Build
This is one of the best looking Volvos we've seen for a good few decades, so few aesthetic improvements have been necessary with this current version. What Volvo describes as 'more focused and determined-looking headlamps' have been added in recent times to create what's intended to be a more 'expressive' front end. The S60's horizontal lines have been emphasised at both the front and rear. Together with details such as a wider grille and daylight running lights, they give the car a more striking, squat presence. The cabin has also been lightly redesigned in the last few years, with smarter materials and silk metal frames around the air vents and light controls. You now get the Adaptive Digital Display we first saw in the smaller V40 hatch: this lets you change the look and feel of the instrument dials via three 'themes' - 'Elegance', 'Eco' and 'Performance'. Plus there's also the option of a 'Sensus' infotainment system that allows you to add connectivity and internet access into the car. This set-up turns the 7-inch infotainment display into a state-of-the-art infrared, beam-scanned touch screen that can be used even when wearing gloves - a world first in cars.The driver can go online either via a car-mounted 3G/4G dongle or a personal mobile phone and features include the industry's first in-dash, fully integrated, voice search Spotify application. The voice-activation system works on all music sources connected to the Connected Touch. It is also possible to share a WiFi network with everyone in the car.
Market and Model
The S60 D2 line-up is priced from around £22,000 and comprises basic 'Business Edition', then 'SE' and sportier 'R-Design' trim levels. Equipment across the range runs to 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control, Volvo's clever City Safe technology, cruise control and a thumping stereo system. The SE receives graphite aluminium interior trim, better quality upholstery, 17-inch alloys and Bluetooth. R-Design trim beefs the steering feel and suspension up while also featuring sports seats, aluminium interior trim, a sports steering wheel and some 'more mouth than trousers' exhaust pipes. A Premium pack is also offered to R-Design customers that features a satellite navigation system and DAB radio. Pricing is realistic and undercuts the key German rivals. If economy and environment are higher on your priority list than outright performance, the D2 will make a lot of sense.
Cost of Ownership
Yes, there will be some that question the wisdom of paying in the £22,000 to £27,000 bracket for a medium-sized car that offers little in the way of tangible benefit over a Skoda Octavia that costs significantly less. But that argument could be extended to any of the S60's rivals. If you do want an upmarket badge, reaping the residual value benefits that this affords, the S60 D2's balance sheet stacks up very well. It's hard to argue with its 99g/km emissions and the 74.3mpg combined cycle fuel economy figure seems scarcely credible in a vehicle that feels quite so substantial and well finished.
There's something refreshingly nonsense-free about the Volvo S60 D2. It's largely a gimmick-free zone and it doesn't trumpet its eco credentials in a sanctimonious fashion. It merely gets on with the job of serving up supreme fuel economy coupled with excellent emissions performance. It's worth bearing in mind that 74.3mpg and 99g/km aren't bad figures for a shopping hatchback instead of a solidly built junior executive car with space for five. Somewhat bafflingly, most customers opt for the sporty-looking R-Design. From this all we can really deduce is that there's no shortage of people who want a sheep in wolf's clothing. The best of the S60 D2 models resides at the opposite end of the range in the less ostentatious shape of the base version. Its more compliant suspension and higher profile tyres give a far superior ride quality and a lower tax bill as an additional sweetener. It's an honest car that deserves to do extremely well.