Sunday, 30 June 2013

REVIEW - Volvo S60 R-Design

As you will be aware from previous reviews, I'm openly vocal about being a fan of Volvo's. I believe they offer sublime build quality and have come on immensely in the style department. So here is a model aimed at company car drivers. The S60 is an executive saloon car which is the same size as your Mondeo's and 3 Series' of this world. However, this one aims to keep the costs of having this as a company car, as it's fitted with a 1.6-litre diesel engine. Fear not though, because it came fitted with an R-Design package...

Looks - 9/10

Being an R-Design, this S60 encompasses a sporty image. This means you get a full bodykit, rear lip spoiler, 18-inch alloys, trademark silver mirrors and a lovely interior too. I really like how the S60 looks, because it offers some vibrancy on the stereotypical rep-mobile you see bombing up and down the M6. It does maintain an element of class; it never looks like a break-neck, hardcore sports car, but has enough subtle hints to pull off a sporty edge in this world of suits and sunglasses.

Moving on to the inside you get the familiar touches, from the R-Design logo on the seat, to the blue dials, and the usual high-grade leather and plastics. There's the floating centre console too, and the thick, grippy steering wheel and funky gear stick. There's not a lot else more to say really, the materials all look and feel of the highest quality. If I was being super critical the cabin was a bit dark, with the all-black leather not offering the same vibrancy as the ice white exterior.

Handling/Performance - 7/10

With this being a D2 you get a 1.6-litre diesel engine, which offers up an uninspiring115PS and 270Nm of torque. This makes for a 0-62mph dash in 12.3s and a top speed of 118mph. I accept that this isn't overly impressive, and the root cause of this is the engine itself. the 1.6-litre is a 4-cylinder engine, and it just doesn't have the same torquey, warbling nature of the 5-pots. This car also came with a Powershift automated manual geabox. It does have 6 speeds, but doesn't really act in the way a usual automatic does, and takes some getting used to. It still changes like a manual, which means there is no real adverse effect to economy, but you get the practicality of an automatic.

The D2 doesn't really ever feel like it surges unlike other Volvo diesel's I have experienced. And I think it was the surprise of this that led more to my disappointment. I would expect an executive saloon car to have some sort of grunt about it, in order for the rep to drive like a berk when he so desires. Maybe that's what Volvo are avoiding- they don't want berks driving their cars. In that respect the S60 is brilliant then.

As for the handling, there is little complaint here. The steering is nice and weighted and has a good turn-in. The ride is comfortable on the motorway but holds well on bumpier roads too. The smaller 1.6-litre engine makes this S60 less front heavy than the ones with a larger engine, and you can notice this when you chuck it round a few corners. Another criticism of the Powershift is the lack of paddles which can lead to an element of frustration on a fun twisty road. However the likelihood is that you aren't going to take your S60 rallying, so no big deal I guess.

Economy - 10/10

Now this is the sole purpose behind the D2 engine. Even with the 'Automatic' gearbox, it emits a mere 114g/ of CO2. That's practically cleaner air than goes into the engine and amounts to £30 road tax for 12 months. Couple this to a 65.7mpg combined and you start to see the sense in this car. Given also that this car is aimed at executives, you can certainly see the benefits of such low emissions on the taxable benefit and fuel charges from having an S60. And for non-business users, there's the simple advantage that the S60 will be cheap to run, and that's never a bad thing.

Practicality - 9/10

Another positive of the S60 is the amount of space it offers. The cabin is suited to adults in both the front and rear, and will provide a comfortable place to sit for any journey. The boot is a reasonable size too, although it does suffer somewhat from the same loading-space issue found in every saloon car.

There are a lot of gadgets and driver aids
available with a Volvo. Some are standard and others optional. It's really up to you whether you think the optional ones are worth it, but features such as the radar cruise control, Volvo Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), and heated seats are a pick of the best that will be used a lot. There's also a claim from parking sensors (front and rear) and the reversing camera to be quite useful, and there's the junction camera up front which shows you left and right at tricky junctions. That one got used less often, but was still very novel.

Fun - 6/10

Certainly the styling of the S60 makes it great fun. You catch a glimpse of the contrasting wheels and bright paint in a shop window, and it puts a smile on your face. And my test car had enough gadgets to keep me entertained on a long journey. In particular I commend the iPod interface, which worked brilliantly in being able to search by letter using the keypad in car. With may thousands of songs on my iPod this was much better than having to scroll down for 20 minutes.

Sadly in the driving department the D2 left a lot to be desired. It never had the urgency of other Volvo diesels owing to the 4-cylinder engine, and because of the Powershift gearbox it didn't make up for this by being much fun on a twisty road too; I think paddle shift would have helped this immensely.

Concluding Remarks

Overall the D2 did good. It was a comfortable cruiser and offers an executive package that's cheap to run. Be wary of the options list though or this car may empty your wallet there instead. For me the bigger diesel engines are still the ones to go for, and the D3 (136PS), D4 (163PS) and even the best of the lot- the D5 (215PS)- are all in the same road tax band. Personally I'd look at a D5, but then the D3 and D4 would also be good choices. The styling of this car is brilliant, I just wasn't overly struck on the engine/gearbox combination in this particular S60. So to conclude, the S60 R-Design, a car for the businessman who wants to rebel against the stereotypical blandness of executive cars.

Total Score - 41/50

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