Volvo S60 long-term test review: report five

Volvo's answer to the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series sells in much smaller numbers, but are the masses overlooking a hidden gem?...

Volvo S60 2020 Grille detail

The car Volvo S60 T5 Inscription Plus Run by Jim Holder, editorial director

Why it’s here To discover if you can break away from the Germanic norm without any compromises

Needs to Be different without major compromises; beat rivals for comfort and space and still be good to drive

Mileage 2822 List price £38,835 Target Price £35,575 Price as tested £45,535 Test economy 27.2mpg Official economy 39.8mpg (combined) 

6 May 2020 – Lots to love, but some compromises

In the past few years I’ve driven diesels, downsized, economy-focused petrol engines and electric cars, so the Volvo S60’s punchy 247bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine is a bit of a treat.

It’s easy to forget how pleasing a powerful petrol engine is to drive, delivering its power smoothly, quietly and - if you feel the need - with an exhilarating punch. I’d hesitate to say if it is better or worse than other engine types, but it certainly has a unique appeal.

LT Volvo S60 drive by

However, enjoyable though it is, it’s important to keep a sense of comparison, because recent experience of the BMW 330i and Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce suggest that both are punchier again, delivering notably quicker acceleration. They also highlight that the Volvo’s eight-speed automatic gearbox, while great at smooth, steady shifts, can be a fraction too lazy in its operation when you are in a hurry, including pulling away from a standstill.

The question then comes to what your priorities are; when you buy a BMW or Alfa you probably expect it to have the ability to take your breath away, but does a Volvo really need to keep up to maintain its appeal? Perhaps not. Until I’d enjoyed the rivals, I always felt the smooth, serene engine suited the S60’s character just fine.

Alas, however, I am beholden to mention again its real-world fuel economy; months in, the average of around 27mpg remains something of a shock.

That impression of falling degrees short of the class leaders for fast thrills carries through to the manner in which the S60 rides and handles, too. Slink around in no particular hurry and you could think everything is just fine, but push even a little and a strange contradiction soon becomes apparent, the slight over-firmness of the suspension, which allows the odd bump or lump to upset the comfort of the ride, oddly not offering any payback in terms of engaging handling.

Again, many buyers may simply not care: I suspect few buy a Volvo for its outright performance, and the S60 does many other things excellently, but there is no question that these are compromises not only worth highlighting, but which don’t offer any apparent upside in return.

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