Road test: Volvo S60
VOLVO's designers have been hard at work in recent years. The boxy look of older Volvo's has long gone, replaced by sleeker aerodynamic lines.
This new approach is clear in the 2.0-litre diesel sports version of the S60 D3 saloon I tested here – it's shaped like a dart, starting high at the back and its lines dragged down to the front.
I gave it a long motorway drive to Surrey, and some work around Plymouth. Very quickly it became clear where this car was most at home – cruising on a big road, hours ahead of it.
Go for the range-topping R-Design's firmer suspension and sports alloys and you'll feel the speed bumps and potholes. It's not uncomfortable in this urban setting, but it won't feel natural. However, unleash it on a motorway and the car settles, the hefty torque kicks in, and it becomes a virtually effortless thing to drive.
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I say drive, but with a Volvo that's almost an overstatement. There are so many safety features, it practically drives itself. It became my guardian angel. My model was fitted with a sophisticated driver assist system which beeps at you if you unexpectedly move across a lane, and brakes gently when it "sees" another car ahead when you have it on cruise control.
There's lights by the wing mirrors which flash if there's something lurking in your blind spot, and if the car believes you are in imminent danger of a collision, a big red light flashes on the dashboard and sounds an alarm. You'll also find front and rear parking sensors, a multitude of airbags and ISOFIX child seat mounts. There is plenty of other helpful technology. The press-button electronic parking brake frees up room for two drinks holders and an armrest, while this model had Sat Nav, Bluetooth compatibility, USB port, CD and digital radio, TV, remote entry and boot opening, and auto climate control. Its economy is improved thanks to six gears and Start/Stop engine shut off.
The interior furnishings are pure Scandanavian – clean, restrained, sensuous. The R-Design has leather and chrome, with a classy centre console housing most functions. It's beautifully built, no question.
The driver seat could have been more supportive around the shoulders, but it is fully electronically adjustable. There is plenty of room for three adults in the back, although the boot is cut low so getting in heavy bags is a little awkward.
On the road, it's a hushed and relaxed drive, even with the diesel growl, and the relaxation is increased if you choose automatic. Its acceleration (0-60mph in 8.7 seconds) is decent and overtaking is a breeze. It may not excite you because the power here is more controlled and reassuring. But what it lacks in fun, it makes up for by being smart, refined, comfortable, strong value and a very, very safe bet for a family/executive saloon.