Volvo S60: Road Test
One second it's a plush, safe family sedan; the other it's a roaring tarmac scorcher throwing you back in the seat. The Volvo S60 is the sort of a car that can be what you want it to be, all delivered in a sweet and sexy package. We return stumped
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As the new car rolls into the ZigWheels garage, its pretty, shiny orange paintjob complimenting the lithe, muscular and likeable lines of a sedan, one cannot help but letch. ‘Naughty but Nice’ is what Volvo has been aiming for with its new range of cars, attempting to ditch its serious, safe but somewhat staid image by adding a liberal sprinkling of style all-round, and the XC60 SUV managed to do hit the target, even if it still had a macho, masculine appeal to it. The S60 sedan however, is sweet, sexy, safe and startling – all at the same time. If the XC60 is a go-anywhere-but-still-look-hot Lara Croft, the S60 is Wonderwoman. And all this even before you have settled into the orthopedically designed driver’s seat. I have a good feeling about this.
The S60, now in its second reincarnation, was conceived when Volvo was still owned by Ford, and before the company was handed over to its Chinese owners Geely much more recently. This was still a time when the Swedish carmaker that has had ‘safe’ as its USP over the decades was trying to reinvent itself, go more upmarket and stylish to eat into the entry-level luxury sedan market, dominated by the Germans. As a carmaker Volvo has had its fundamentals right over all these years – in fact the world record for the highest mileage in a car is held by a 1966 Volvo P1800, which has run 45 lakh kilometers, and is still running. The S60 however was a part of the company’s plans to revitalize the image, and did manage to break away from its earlier, boxy design philosophy. But when the current version was shown off at the Geneva Motor Show last year, the world stood up and took notice. Read letched.
And why would it not. The latest S60 was penned by Brit designer Steve Mattin, who was the chief of Volvo design until recently, and had been making a career in designing cars since he was 15. What has come off the boards though is a car that easily has the most presence in its segment. Our pet grouse with European entry-level sedans has been that they often end up having fairly unremarkable design, while yet demanding high price tags, mostly for the badges. Not the S60 though, which appeals to conventional car design proportions and aesthetics, yet offering generous dollops of modernity and fresh ideas when it comes to the exteriors.
To start with, it has the aura of a four-door coupe which makes for an instantly appealing stance, only enhanced by the smart use of lines along the sides to impart a lithe, muscular aura to the package. The large Volvo badge that runs across the grille makes for a confident and proud statement of the company, but the real skill of the design team behind the S60 lies in making the whole fascia gel, with the swoopy headlamps and a friendly, smiling grille. The coupe-like rounded off roof meets the strong waistline, the flared-out rear fenders and the chunky rear bumper connection in a smart tail, with a rising swoop at the boot for enough silhouette entertainment to last a few years.
Under its skin, the S60 comes with impressive credentials. What is called the Volvo Y20 platform is actually Ford’s versatile and proven EUCD, which carries cars ranging from big brother S80, the Ford Mondeo, even the Land Rover Freelander 2. While the platform has been around for a while, the new S60 has sufficiently tightened up bits that shine once the car is put through its paces. Just for academic interest though, the car features a redesigned chassis that is 47 percent stiffer than its predecessor, tauter springs and bushes in the suspension, and a quickened up steering. Now to pop the hood.
Volvo India has played it smart when it comes to engines options for us, which happen to be the most powerful petrol and diesel units in the S60 range respectively. We got our hands on the T6 variant, which is powered by a hopping mad inline-6, turbocharged petrol engine which puts out 305PS of power and 440Nm of torque, the pushing power figure especially impressive given that this is a 3-litre petrol mill. Mated with a super-quick-slick 6-speed automatic transmission and put down on the road through a Haldex all-wheel drive system, the big push is not spewed out – it flows out more like a ribbon of thrust.
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