The face-lifted Volvo S60 is one of the first models to be offered with the company's new 178bhp D4 diesel engine.
When equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, it has CO2 emissions of just 99g/km, significantly less than any rival from Audi, BMW or Mercedes, and on a par with the Lexus IS300h petrol hybrid.
Those low CO2 emissions mean seriously low company car tax bills, but does the S60 do enough in other key areas to trump its rivals?
What’s the 2014 Volvo S60 D4 like to drive?
If you’ve driven only the entry-level diesels or grumbly five-cylinder units in recent Volvos, the new D4 will come as a pleasant surprise.
We tried it with the six-speed manual as well as the new eight-speed automatic, and there’s plenty to like about both gearboxes. The manual’s tax-busting CO2 emissions and brisk 6.9-second 0-62mph time beat the BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics (on paper, at least) and on the road, the Volvo feels every bit as keen as the numbers suggest.
The D4 unit revs smoothly, and while the manual gearshift is a little vague, there’s enough torque to tackle steep inclines without changing down a gear, and the engine remains hushed on fast A-roads.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox works better than it does in other Volvo models, too. The 'box shifts up promptly in the S60, with little of the dithering or hanging on to ratios that blights automatic versions of the V70. The automatic gearbox in the BMW 3 Series is smoother still, though.
When you do put your foot down, the diesel dirge is muted by a decent level of soundproofing between the cabin and engine bay. The S60 D4 is certainly quieter than a BMW 320d under full throttle, although not as smooth as the diesel engine in the Audi A3 Saloon.
When cruising though, the S60 feels very refined. There’s some wind noise around the mirrors on the motorway, but that’s about it.
Choosing 16- or 17-inch wheels means that the car sticks to its 99g/km CO2 rating, but it also keeps the ride comfortable enough and the road noise to a minimum. On undulating country roads, the Volvo isn't quite as composed as the best executive cars, but it never bounces around in an uncontrolled fashion
Just don't expect any fun. The S60 sways around quite a bit through corners, and its steering a slow and disconcertingly vague around the straight ahead. An Audi A3 Saloon is much more fun.
What’s the 2014 Volvo S60 D4 like inside?
The S60’s cabin is classy, but understated. Up front are a pair of comfortable, cosseting seats with plenty of adjustment and standard-fit adjustable lumbar support.
The materials across the dashboard aren’t especially flashy, but everything feels high quality and built to last. The control layout isn't especially intuitive, but all the buttons and switches look and feel well made.
There’s easily enough space for four adults in the S60, even on longer journeys. The middle rear passenger has to deal with a slightly narrow, curved seat, though. If you’re a family of five, we’d recommend taking all of the kids along on the test drive.
The S60's 339-litre boot is substantially smaller than what's on offer in its main rivals, but it does at least get 60/40-split folding rear seats as standard, plus a front passenger seat that folds flat to accommodate longer loads.
The entry-level Business Edition comes with a generous amount of kit, including alloy wheels, climate control, sat-nav, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and cruise control. The safety features are also as comprehensive as you’d expect, and includes Volvo’s City Safety system that can automatically apply the brakes to prevent low-speed impacts if it senses an object in front.
SE specification adds classier plastics, automatic lights and wipers, plus an auto-dimming rear view mirror. Step up to SE Lux and you get electric leather seats, which R-Design trim adds stiffer suspension and larger wheels, although these do push CO2 emissions up to 103g/km.
Should I buy one?
We’ve previously criticised the S60’s diesel engines for being too inflexible, too noisy and too expensive. The new D4 engine has none of these flaws, though, so it deserves a place on the shortlist of anyone looking for an efficient, classy and comfortable executive saloon.
For company car users, the new S60 D4 is as cheap as premium saloons get. Plump for the entry-level Business Edition with a manual gearbox and your monthly tax bill will be on a par with a Lexus IS300h. With the exception of low-speed refinement and boot space, the Volvo has the edge over its Japanese rival in every area that matters.
Our 2014 Executive Car of the Year, the Audi A3 Saloon, is a better all-rounder than the S60, but will cost you an extra £250 a year in company car tax, while choosing the cheapest version of the BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics will mean shelling out an extra £500 a year.
The Volvo's low starting price should also be enough to tempt private buyers, too – it’s thousands of pounds cheaper than most of its rivals, and should also hold its value reasonably well.
What Car? says…
Volvo S60 D4
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £23,195
Torque 295lb ft
0-62mph 6.9 seconds
Top speed 143mph
Fuel economy 74.3mpg