With a softer and more rounded appearance, Volvo S60 is a new car for a new era. The saloon is more stylish, more entertaining and more intelligent on the road.
Volvo has never been a company to follow in the footsteps of BMW, Audi or Mercedes. The Swedish firm's larger cars might have been positioned there or thereabouts in the same affordable executive market sectors, but the similarities ended there.
With the German firms running away with the market share between them and the need for Volvo to be more than a minor player in the all-important premium market, everything about this new S60 has been shifted up a gear.
In typical Volvo style there was never any question of the S60 becoming another German executive class clone, however. What we have is a more stylish, more entertaining to drive and more intelligent car than its predecessor. For fans of the brand this will be important, as it's these attributes that will make the investment worthwhile.
A new car for a new era, then. With new owners and a changing market sector, it's fitting that this S60 saloon presents a different Volvo corporate 'face' to the world. A softer and more rounded appearance,
it's a policy that's already worked well on facelifted C30 and C70 models.
On the inside, the car's cabin displays a softer and more sophisticated look. It's also telling that the car's centre console is angled towards the driver - a clear sign that the S60 has been designed to appeal to the keen driver. Elsewhere it's a case of expanding on recent design themes, with the switchgear, ergonomics and seat comfort being that bit better than the competition. For all the S60's newness, some things never change.
You will notice more legroom in the back, though. A little better than its predecessor and some rivals, which does much to confirm the S60's position as a versatile choice for executives - there won't be an issue over adults feeling the pinch in the rear.
Staying with the sensible aspects of the car, it should come as no surprise to learn that Volvo has ratcheted up the active and passive safety elements of the car. Following on from the XC60, the S60 also comes as standard with City Safety, a system that detects obstacles when driving at low urban speeds and alerts the driver. If no action is taken the car will attempt to brake. We've all been in the situation when, crawling in traffic, a pedestrian steps out in front of you. Now you have a much better chance of avoiding a collision.
Select the optional Driver Support pack and you can add to this level of protection with pedestrian detection via front mounted cameras, plus adaptive cruise control and a plethora of driver warning devices and braking assistance that works together with all the active aids to bring the car to a stop (or at least apply maximum braking force at higher speeds) to minimise the consequences of driver inattention or the acts
of other road users. The camera and clever computer can even distinguish between adults, children and dogs running across the road.
Granted, you hope to never have to use such systems, but they've now reached a stage where they can be trusted, which is testament to Volvo's persistence in the field of car safety.
The engine has been improved to deliver more power and the seemingly impossible reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The result is a rounded package that is streets ahead of its predecessor on the road, yet delivers a refined, premium-level cabin ambience worthy of comparison with its German rivals.
Being a car positioned in the affordable executive sector, it's the S60's 161 horsepower 'D3' diesel that will steal the limelight. Punchy, refined and frugal, its flexible and willing nature compliments the S60's character. The turbo petrol and performance oriented V6 stretch the car's abilities but there's never any suggestion that the car struggles with the extra power. And if you want more performance plus decent economy, the D5 202 horsepower diesel should prove more than adequate.
With its high levels of standard equipment, stand-out styling, class-leading safety technology and levels of driver enjoyment and refinement not seen from a Volvo in some time, this second-generation S60 offers the Volvo faithful and new converts a credible alternative to a purchase from the 'Big Three' Germans firms.
Facts at a glance
Model: Volvo S60 D3 SE, from £25,295 on the road. Range from £23,295
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel unit developing 161bhp.
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the front
Performance: Maximum speed 137mph, 0-62mph 9.2 seconds.
CO2 Rating: 139g/km.