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Rating 8 8

2011 Volvo S60

4th May 2011 7:00 am

There's no doubt that the Volvo has bent over backwards to entice coustomers with its new saloon


  • Make : Volvo
  • Model : S60

Like all modern Volvos, the S60 is designed with a very aggressive, almost rakish profile. Almost no design cues are carried over from boxy Volvos of old, and there is a lot in common with the design language of the carmaker’s more recent cars like the XC60. Yes, the strong shoulder line and the chrome diagonal on the grille are still there, and the S80’s coupé-like roofline is retained as well. But this is clearly a new design direction and it works superbly. We also like the way the nose of the car is tipped slightly forward too, giving it an aggressive stance.

The S60 was engineered when Volvo was part of Ford and, as a result, the car is built on the same EUCD platform as the Mondeo. The steel monocoque chassis uses MacPherson struts up front and multiple links at the rear, and the engines are located transversely, placed well back in the engine bay for better weight distribution. Using a Ford platform is no bad thing, especially if you want a car to ride and handle well. And Volvo claims this is its best driving car ever, its engineers having made a number of improvements to the S60’s chassis. These include a stiffer front sub-frame, stiffer strut mount tops, stiffer bushes, a 10 percent quicker steering rack and a new steering column that’s twice as rigid.

The petrol T6 also gets a Haldex four-wheel-drive system, which has a combined rear differential and clutch. Incorporated into this system is a unique ‘torque vectoring’ system, which works in conjunction with the yaw and roll sensors of the ESP or stability control program.

As soon as some understeer is detected, the torque vectoring system sends more power to the rear wheels so that the car can be pointed into the corner more easily. The idea is to use power rather than brakes to bring the car back in line. Weight distribution on the diesel front-wheel drive, however, is more skewed to the front, upto 62 percent of the weight resting on the front wheels.

Volvo, in all probability, makes the safest cars in the world and while this car is its entry saloon in India, the S60 comes with a suite of safety features, some of them unique to this car, which could shame even a Merc S-class (see box). And all that safety kit at this price
is phenomenal.

A shocking omission, however, is the lack of a spare tyre or run-flat tyres. At least BMW’s run-flats allow you to get to your destination at a reduced speed. Volvo only provides a puncture repair kit, not much use if you get a slashed tyre wall, something that’s quite common in India.

Sweden is famous for its classy and minimalist interior design, and the S60 reflects its heritage. For Indian tastes, the straight lines and simple form of the cabin maybe a bit too boring but there’s an appealing blend of high quality and robustness that makes it special. Swathes of brushed metal, especially on the doorpads and steering wheel, look really good and the ‘floating’ central console – a Volvo signature – stands out. The Cyclops’ eye vent at the top of the central console is also unique. What also add to the funky appeal of the cabin are the two-tone seats, with their tall anti-whiplash headrests.

As on all Volvos, the seats are among the best around, and thigh support and bolstering are very good. The seats, again feel a half- size larger than competitors and we found the front seats to be extremely comfortable even after a long day spent behind the wheel. Rear seat comfort is also very impressive. You sit slightly lower than say in a Mercedes C-class,but legroom, thigh support and especially lower back support are better. And the central transmission tunnel isn’t as obtrusive as on other rear-wheel-drive competitors; better for the fifth passenger.

The quality of the leather, plastics and metal bits is also very impressive, and we were hardpressed to find even a few cheap-looking bits on this car. However, some ergonomic oddities do exist. You can’t point the air-con vents as effectively as you’d imagine, the mass of buttons on the central console can be confusing, and the cream-coloured leather on the steering wheel is certainly a big mistake in India. It will get soiled in weeks. You do get a pair of large- size cupholders in the elbow box and the S60 has a front parking camera as well, which is unique. This video screen-based parking system also has a fantastic graphic overlay that tells you exactly how close you can park; a really nice feature for our congested cities.

The safety systems do their job but also feel like an overkill. While the BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) works well, flashing away to warn you about bikers darting down the left, the Lane Departure Warning is largely useless (as lane markings are far and few between!) and the Collision Warning is a bit too trigger-happy and beeps at the slightest provocation.

Power is nothing without control. Volvo seems to know this better than most and as a result has done a stellar job of harnessing and channeling powerful motors in the S60 effectively. The stiffened chassis of the car is more than up to the task, the torque vectoring on the four-wheel-drive system works like a charm and both the suspension and the steering are well resolved too. As a result the T6 feels well balanced when you corner it hard in ‘Sport’ mode, and the car points into corners very nicely, even holding onto the line on application of the throttle. There is no front engine, front-wheel-drive nose heaviness or understeer and this is most evident when powering out of a corner.

The S60’s electro-hydraulic steering lacks the fluid feel of the C-class or the pin-sharp accuracy of a hydraulically powered 3-series rack but with only 2.6 turns lock-to-lock it’s pretty quick. The high-geared steering gives the baby Volvo amazing agility and you can string it through a series of corners with ease.
The T6 also comes with different suspension settings. In Comfort mode, it feels particularly supple and is ideal for normal driving. In Sport mode, the S60 hunkers down with little suspension movement and feels glued to the road, but it feels a little jiggly on an uneven surface and doesn’t have the flat poise of a C-class. Also, at lower speeds, the S60’s suspension can be quite jarring and sharp ruts and expansion joints can jolt the passengers. The lack of sufficient rebound damping and the 215/50 low profile tyres are the most likely culprits.

Also unimpressive were the brakes, especially at higher speeds. They do a fair job but feel a bit soggy and lack bite. Without the adjustable damping and the four-wheel-drive system, the D5 diesel feels like a different animal. The suspension is quite pliant and it cushions passengers well but if you jump into the D5 after the T6, you’re in for a huge disappointment. The ride quality is nowhere as well resolved and the D5 feels lumpy on bad roads. The steering feels lethargic, which accentuates the nose-heavy handling. Unlike its rear-wheel-drive competition, the front-wheel-drive S60 diesel doesn’t feel as well balanced and there’s a fair amount of torque steer too.

2011 Volvo S60
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