Volvo is one of those companies that have changed dramatically in the not-so distant future and is now trying to be anything that it couldn't in the past. Fortunately, the Swedes, together with their Chinese owners, are on the right pathway. The cube-dominated design has been forgotten not only by company employees, but also by the public, who is ready to accept the new Volvo.
In fact, this is what the carmaker has managed to achieve so far - and it's not a small thing: Volvo has convinced the world that it has a new identity and that it shouldn't be judged by its past image. Now that the automaker has our attention, it needs to keep up the good work and start creating itself a place in our
Enter a Volvo showroom and you'll instantly realize that the company wants us to view the S60 as the devil on its shoulder. We've already tested the S60 and concluded that this is the naughtiest Volvo indeed, but we are now back behind the wheel for a different reason.
As you know, the entire automotive world is now focused on efficiency. This means that automotive company employees are more busy than ever. Designers have to mix beauty with a low drag coefficient more than ever, engineers need to keep upping the ante on the efficiency front and marketing people have to find a way of bringing this to our attention.
As a result of this last need, Volvo gathered around all its three-hugging cars and gave the "DRIVe" designation. We wanted to see how this works for the S60, so we took its DRIVe version for a test drive. Is it just a marketing trick or is it ready to fight eco
heroes such as EfficientDynamics or BlueMotion?
We got our hands on a range-topping SUMMUM equipment level, with our test car also being fitted with multiple optional goodies. Of course, all these ingredients, which have been added to Volvo's premium ambitions, have brought the price to EUR38,000 ($53,000). So, let's see what you get for the money.
When people say "saloon" these days, one of the first notions that comes to mind is "four-door coupe". This segment started out as a niche, but has now expanded so much that the traditional sedans are using it as in inspiration source. This is exactly what the second generation of the S60 has done, in an attempt to turn the Volvo badge into a head-turning one.
And it has really succeeded. Drive through the city or come to a halt at a traffic light and you'll see many crosshairs on the S60. The vehicle's silhouette is the one that draws attention, but once all eyes are on you, the details are the ones that shine, as the vehicle brings a pretty face and a sexy rear.
The front of the car somehow manages to mix the traditional Volvo volumes with an original layout that uses an interesting position for the LED daytime running lights and offers you the impression that you're dealing with a car that's ready to play at high speed anytime you like.
Like we said, the vehicle's profile reminds you of that of a coupe, even though not as much as Volvo wants us to believe. Even the design of the lightweight wheels stands out a bit - it's not so sporty, but nor is it dull, like the one that can be found on certain competitors. Of course you'd never actually mistake the car for a two-door one, but it brings enough sexiness to make you want to drive it.
The rear brings the kind of hips you usually see on a Grand Tourer and the story doesn't stop here. You also get a pair of taillights that use the Volvo identity, but bring it into the post-modern era.
To put it simply, this is one Volvo that can be put in the same sentence as the word "sexy".
We have to admit that, unlike in most cases, the first place we targeted when we entered the S60's cabin was the one... behind the driver. Yes, we really wanted to see what the swooping roofline means for the rear passengers. Fortunately, the shape hasn't taken any toll, so you get enough head room. Having sorted this out we moved to the front and we had a major deja-vu.
Why? well, simply because we found the usual Volvo interior treatment. The floating center console offers a pretty nice view, but it would be time for a change, especially since the aforementioned asset was its only one. And the story goes on with most parts of the interior.
We're not saying that we didn't like what we saw, but you can't be entirely satisfied if there's no surprise. But enough with the negative side of this chapter, let's move on to the good bits.
Volvo's premium ambitions are best shown in the interior, where the quality of the materials is excellent. And you don't just see pretty faces - the overall ergonomics are good. The vehicle we tested really knew how to offer you a nice state of mind, relying on a Soft-beige leather upholstery and on aluminum trimming to do this.
The seats are comfortable and also offer a bit of lateral support, so they're just finefor this 115 hp version. It's pretty easy to find a proper driving position, but there's one thing that will constantly keep you searching for a better one: the low front end of the car, which does take a bit of time to get used to (we're referring especially to parking maneuvers here).
However, the coupe-ish roofline has brought a downside. You see, Volvo has managed toleave the problem behind. Yes, behind, this is the right word, as the design has brought a luggage compartment that only offers 380 liters, a value way under the class' average.
All in all, the S60 has an interior that offers multiple assets, but doesn't raise up to the vehicle's "naughty" standard.
Last time we drove the S60 inside a city, we concluded that it had the genes to be a smart urban performer, but it would need a powertrain dedicated to this purpose. Well,here we are, driving a 1.6-liter diesel one. So, has the new downsized oil-burner done the trick? Yes.
After taking us on 100 km of urban roads, the S60 DRIVe asked for 8.5 liters of fuel in return (27.7 mpg). The 1.6-liter turbocharged unit delivers 115 hp at 3,600 rpm and a peak torque of 270 Nm between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm, an output that allows you to move decently through the city.
Together with the six-speed manual gearbox, it even allows you to take advantage of certain gaps in the busy traffic. Even though it was fitted with the "Comfort" chassis, the S60 was able to respond swiftly to our commands.
The suspension really managed to compensate for every road imperfection that the city had to throw at us, so we really felt good behind its wheel. Once we were done and we had to park it, we could rely on the front and rear parking sensors, which were calibrated just right, as well as on the steering, which really made the maneuvers "light".
Due to the fact that the city drive includes traffic light stops and relatively low speed, people will have time to observe the S60 and you will draw a lot of attention, even if your car is finished in "Black Stone Solid", as our test ride was.
The 380 liters of the luggage compartment might bring certain issue when going on shopping tips, but this might be a positive thing - you know you need every argument to convince your wife to keep things low in this area.
From the moment when Volvo announced that it would offer a 1.6-liter engine on the S60, we wondered if the DRIVe incarnation of the sedan would be underpowered. Fortunately, the answer is "no". But, and this is an important but, you do have to work to convince this car to meet your dynamic demands outside the city's borders.
The 1.6-liter turbocharged mill produces 115 hp and 270 Nm of torque and works together with a six-speed manual gearbox. The pair manages to offer decent dynamics, but you won't get anything more.
Volvo promises that the car gets from naught to 62 in 10.9 seconds and offers a top speed of 195 km/h (121 mph) and the car managed to keep this promise. However, don't try to bring it too close to its maximum speed - it will be stable, but it does take a while to get there.
The ratios are optimized for offering a good fuel efficiency, so you'll have to plan ahead when overtaking. No, the process isn't frustrating, but it isn't a pleasure either.
Fortunately, the other open-road sides of the car manage to bring a bit of extra spice. The vehicle we tested was fitted with the "Comfort" chassis, which really does a great job at creating a solid and at the same time smooth barrier between you and the road.
However, together with the pretty accurate steering, the vehicle invited you to torment the little diesel through the bends, offering you good times, even when things became rather tight. Of course, we can't talk about a sporty feeling, but we did have some good times on twisty roads.
As for the brakes, these offer the driver confidence, providing proper stopping power, as well as a balanced pedal feel that allows you to instantly get used to it.
The S60 DRIVe shows the world that the downsizing process is not a wonder: there are just a few engineering tweaks that work, if they're done properly, like in this case. If you're a driver that has no sporty ambitions, you'll get along with the car just fine and its outer-city fuel efficiency of 5.4 liters per 100 km (43.5 mpg) will reward you for that.