Road Test: Volvo S60 D5 SE Lux Start/Stop
Sector: Compact executive Price: £31,845 Fuel: 62.8mpg CO2: 119g/km
Until recently, if you wanted a high-power, low-carbon compact executive car, your choices were fairly limited. BMW cast the mould with its EfficientDynamics technology, and rivals have since been steadily catching up with the lead this gave it.
Almost out of nowhere it’s Volvo that’s become, on paper, the model to beat. The latest revisions to the tried-and-tested D5 five-cylinder diesel mean that while it still offers 215bhp, CO2 emissions have now dropped to an entirely palatable 119g/km.
There’s a small drawback, though. If you want low CO2, you’re limited to a manual gearbox rather than Volvo’s lethargic automatics. Drivers wanting the car to swap cogs for them will find it adds a substantial 45g/km to the CO2 emissions. Volvo desperately needs a dual-clutch gearbox for its larger engines.
That said, you’d struggle to argue that this isn’t a tempting package. The S60 is a handsome saloon car that can look aggressive and sporty at one end of the scale or relaxed but purposeful at the other, like our test car. This potent diesel engine makes it a bit of a q-car, too. So popular are the DRIVe versions that most road users will be expecting it to be powered by the diminutive 1.6-litre D2 unit.
It’s a rather different experience to the BMWs, though. The S60 is a car that excels in comfort and refinement, save for the addictive angry Labrador growl from the engine when it’s under load. While the Volvo will reach 62mph in just 7.4 seconds, it’s something that delivers you to your destination quicker than you expected, rather than leaving you hanging onto the steering wheel for the entire journey.
So effortless is the 2.4-litre engine, that it’s barely working at legal motorway speeds. If you can keep it from running away with itself, the S60 happily averages high 40s to the gallon in its natural habitat. Gentle-footed drivers should be able to coax it into the 50s. Not quite up to the claimed 62.8mpg, but a considerable improvement for those used to this engine in older models.
Ultimately the choice comes down to usage. Drivers craving a long-legged eater of motorway miles will adore the effortless torque and power of the D5 engine and savour the tax advantages in exchange for swapping gears themselves. For those desperate to cut carbon and ditch the clutch pedal, the dual-clutch PowerShift is available on the 114g/km D2 to fill that niche.
The S60 sacrifices only the luxury of an automatic gearbox, retaining the long-legged motorway manners, high comfort and refinement enjoyed by previous models with the D5 engine. While it can’t match the directness or price of a BMW 320d, this at least gives Volvo a place at the table with the low-carbon, high-performance pack.