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First Drive: Volvo S60 T5 R-Design Edition

Martyn Collins reckons there’s much more to the all-new S60 than just being the saloon version of the V60.

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SECTOR Compact executive   PRICE £37,920   FUEL 35.3-39.9mpg*   CO2 152g/km**

To those not in the know, the S60 appears to just be the saloon version of Volvo’s mid-size estate, the very likeable V60. Dig deeper and the S60 is in fact a landmark Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class rival. Why landmark, I hear you ask? Well, essentially it’s the first Volvo to be built at its US manufacturing plant in Charleston, South Carolina.

It is also the first Volvo model not to be offered with a diesel engine, with the Swedish company instead focusing on petrol and petrol-hybrid power. However, until the hybrid version arrives later this year, we will have to make do with the distinctly un-fleety, 250hp, 2.0 litre T5 petrol, here in first R-Design Edition trim. Still, in its current form, Volvo reckon this V60 will appeal to the fleet driver that perhaps doesn’t have to drive so far for the company, so motorway warriors need not apply!

Outside, think scaled down S90 with added aggression thanks to the sharp exterior detailing of the S60’s design. It’s another great looking Volvo. Inside, it’s more of the same minimalist interior design that Volvo has become known for since the rebirth of its range. This also equals, in my opinion, some of the most comfortable and supportive sports seats in the class, a multi-adjustable driving position and adequate space in the back for two passengers. Plus, a generous and practically-shaped 442-litre boot.

Does the US-built S60 feel as well-put together as our Swedish made V60 long-termer? Annoying dashboard rattle on our launch car aside, I couldn’t spot or feel any difference.

In £37,920 R-Design Edition trim you’re not left wanting for more kit, as on top of the already generous standard specification this launch trim adds a rear view camera, smartphone integration, Pilot Assist driver assistance technology and adaptive cruise control. Volvo predicts the R-Design Plus trim, upon which this model is based, to make up to 80% of all UK sales.

On the road, in expected best-selling T5 petrol turbo form, the S60 isn’t short of performance. Acceleration to 62mph takes just 6.5 seconds, yet despite its pace it has CO2 emissions of 152g/km and WLTP combined economy figures of 35.3-39.8mpg. To make the most of the performance, even in Dynamic mode, I found it best to wake this 2.0-litre turbo engine by engaging manual mode and flicking the small and subtle steering wheel mounted paddles.

Volvo is also making great claims for the improved dynamics of the S60, and it’s definitely the sharpest new Volvo in the toolbox. It’s no BMW 3 Series, but body control and grip is excellent, plus the steering is well-weighted with a reasonable amount of feel.

Ride-wise, those standard 19-inch alloys might look the part but they probably add a firmer edge to what is a generally comfortable drive.

THE VERDICT
The most dynamic Volvo yet isn’t quite up to BMW levels of involvement, but it looks great and drives well. Will the lack of engine choice count against it?

THE LOWDOWN

KEY FLEET MODEL: S60 T5 R-DESIGN EDITION
STRENGTHS: KEEN DRIVE, DESIGN, TECHNOLOGY
WEAKNESSES: ONLY THE T5 PETROL AVAILABLE FOR NOW, NO DIESEL OPTION

STAR RATING
4/5

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Martyn Collins

Martyn has 18 years experience as a motoring journalist, working across a wide selection of B2B and consumer titles. A car enthusiast since his early years, Martyn has a particular interest in the latest models and technology and in his spare time enjoys driving his own Minis.