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Volvo's mid range cruiser. The S60 is only available in a saloon four door guise. Manufactured from 2000, the S60 is making good sales and proving to be a great second hand purchase.
The S60 comes with a variety of engines and two basic spec levels. The engine's range from the 2.0T and 2.4T petrol, along with the great fun and totally mad 2.3 T5. This car tested has the new 2.5 TDi lump under the bonnet with common rail diesel technology.
The spec levels are relatively high - this is the "S" spec and a more expensive SE model with leather trim as standard is also available. Lots of options are available, the most common being the winter pack with heated seats for cold winter mornings. A multitude of other gadgets are available including sat nav, upgraded stereos, etc.
In appearance the S60 is very similar to its bigger brother the S80 which has been around for a few years more. The S60 does not carry the same muscle bound body appearance, being slightly slimmer and shorter. It is still, however, very much unmistakably a Volvo. Must say, though, that with every passing model, Volvo are losing the old man or box-like image of the eighties and marching very sure-footedly into the UK and American market places with modern, attractive cars.
The S60 is considerably like the S80 and nothing at all like it's baby brother, the S40, which uses a very different style along with engines. This car is very much higher quality than the smaller Volvo ranges but, that said, the smaller Volvos still carry a high level of spec and are highly respected in the motor trade generally.
The first impression of the car is its deceptive size - it looks far bigger than it actually is. Indeed, the driver's cockpit area is quite tight due to the centre console and seating position, making rear leg room OK but not plentiful. The car will carry four people with ease, five is getting crowded and would be quite uncomfortable for the poor beggar in the middle unless they happen to be a child or as petite as Kylie.
Like Saab, Volvo offer many features in the cars for their home market. The specification is very influenced by the Swedish weather and safety levels. Having driven the older Volvos with the crude and plain interiors and plastic dashes, it's a pleasure to sit inside the S60 and watch Volvo evolve into the next millenium. Modern features include a sound system which in some way reminds me of a bespoke British hi-fi unit. At first it appears very boring but does grow on you and its design is really quite charming It lacks flashing lights and LEDs, etc but it works with great simplicity and produces a great sound through its speakers which are front and rear with adjustments available for everyone's individual taste. Not so sure about the remote though, I question why it is necessary. If the cruise was fitted to the other side of the steering wheel you could almost touch the stereo with your left hand whilst holding the steering wheel. Market forces I guess. I think I would prefer the investment to be in the engineering and not features such as this but then that is simply my opinion and there must be many who prefer to use the remote instead of the stereo itself. I wonder if they are twice my weight as a result?
The cruise control is quite unobtrusive and extremely easy to use. Diesel technology has advanced so much that it is now probably as easy to fit cruise to a diesel as a petrol. Volvo generally do not fit sunroofs to their cars so we get air-conditioning as standard. It works extremely well with the superior ventilation system in the car. Vents are even in the rear for the passengers to enjoy.
The S60 comes with many goodies for driver comfort. The seating is mainly hardwearing fabric with leather trimmings, I prefer this combination to full leather as it wears very well and does not overheat you or indeed freeze you on cold days. Electric windows and mirrors are standard fitment, again Volvo have been sensible with the placement for easy use as they are on the driver's door panel, making them highly visible and accessible. Seat comfort for those with poor posture or bad backs is as good as it gets. The front seats are very supportive and are typical of Volvo's approach to seating. The most important factor is the effect that the seating has on you and not the appearance. They look good as well as being very comfortable on long journeys.
Volvo's diesels have never been comparable to Audis, BMWs or Mercedes. Older 7 and 9 series used an outdated Audi 2.5 unit which was very noisy and poor in performing. Smaller Volvo's are currently using the Renault 1.9 engine which is good but not comparable to this 2.5 straight 5 unit. It is all lightweight alloy, water-cooled, inter-cooled and oil-cooled, making it a pretty cool unit.
First impression at looking at this engine and I am reminded of the Audi unit of old, indeed it may be an upgraded version. Who knows?
It is very long and narrow. I imagined it would be very erratic and lumpy because the crankshaft was almost as long as the car's width. Not the case at all, turn the ignition on and keep the key moving, no pre heat system is required. The engine jumps into life and settles at about 700 rpm with moderate diesel knock and no vibration - very smooth indeed. A five cylinder unit with 162 bhp on paper which reads well and suggests a good drive then. I am a great fan of five cylinder engines and rarely get disappointed with them. I have driven the 2.4 Alfa with 5 pots and it is impressive for a diesel so I considered that as a benchmark.
Depress the very light clutch and select the first gear which is slick and easy,
then depress the accelerator and instantly you realise the engine is more
responsive than you would expect. Once the car is moving the engine will rev to 3,000
rpm in an instance, pushing the tyres to their limits for its front wheel drive
and even wheel spinning if the pedal is floored. Quickly select second, yes I said
"quickly" I know its a diesel but with its power output you are
encouraged not to be the weak link in the drive train. 2nd gear selected and it revs
as quickly as 1st gear but this time it produces even more torque, thrusting you
backwards into your seat. Excitedly you select 3rd gear and again the car lunges
forward with even more torque and is steaming towards the 60 mph mark without
getting out of breath or even having to work hard at all. With two more gears to
try, off I went to the nearest motorway to preserve my clean driving licence.
This time I applied the power to the car's limit, accelerating hard and the
red line at every gear change up to 4th gear and then selected 5th. Up to 70mph
and only about 2,300 rpm in top gear, very lazy and smooth, quiet and poised.
You just think 'A DIESEL!'. You would have to drive one to appreciate it. It
is not like any older generation Volvo diesel. On the motorway it is in a class of
it's own. Instant power with ample torque and capable of very high speed without
noise or roughness. I can't help but wonder why anybody would buy this car in
its petrol guise. This S60 TDi is very fast and reliable and you can even average
50mpg which is one huge plus point with crude oil prices making diesel over £1.00 per
Common rail fueling and high pressure injectors are the technology behind its performance and economy. Electronics add the rest. No problems with any of it that I know of. Reliability is outstanding and service costs are low. The only complaint I have is that you need a specialist tool to reset the service light when it comes on the dash. I find this very irritating and unnecessary.
Transmissions for the S60 are predominantly 5 speed manuals with the odd Auto knocking about in the petrol versions. I haven't seen any Auto diesel units yet but it would be a great plus if Volvo added them to the S60 TDi because I am sure it would be an instant hit. The drive in all Volvos (with exception to their 4x4 models) is to the front wheels which I agree is better for the average driver in adverse conditions. Rear wheel drive is better in most other conditions and does help balance the car front to rear with weight distribution.
The S60 range has modern dynamics and fully
independent suspension. It weighs in at 000kg, giving a solid feel to the
cabin and door operation. With such a large and heavy engine over the front
wheels the weight distribution is front end heavy. This gives the front
suspension a hard time when driving this car in a sporty manner. It is a real
credit that it can be driven 'sporty'. In normal conditions the car is very
steady and corners very well. Body roll is minimal due to the anti roll bars
front and rear and the front strut brace under the bonnet. It is only when the
car is thrown around adversely that it loses some of it's composure and then
steering. This is not too detrimental as there are only a few cars which would
be any better than the Volvo and then only by a small amount.
Critics tend to suggest severe problems in the car and motor bike trade with regard to the handling. I have the opinion that, for most of us, the effects of the tyres far outweigh any suspension inadequacies.
To suggest a theory: if you compared a BMW 525 TD against this Volvo, the BMW would be the winner on a race track. It is better balanced and fitted with rear wheel drive. This accepted, put a white collar rep in the BMW on a wet road and see if he can control the back end when it steps out. I think the car and driver would soon be in a ditch. The Volvo would simply slide with under-steer which is very easily corrected by an average driver. Thus, the Volvo would be a better average driver's car. Critics say that it is not as good as the BMW but, generally, the critics are ex professional drivers who can drive. Most of Joe Public out there are not. I personally find rear wheel drive excellent but also restrictive, you cannot step the back end out of your car on a roundabout any more as you would take out the car next to you. On today's roads there is always a car next to you.
The steering itself is (of course) power assisted and gives very good feedback. Again, the front wheel drive restricts the turning lock a little when in tight spaces but nothing excessive. Combined with the low profile and very large tyres, the overall drive is relaxing and unflustered.
Of course, in the unfortunate event of crashing one of these cars you would be thinking, just before any impact, that you were glad to be driving a Volvo, I'm sure!
This car is one of the market leaders in safety. I know the new top class Mercs and Beemers have the same safety aids but you cannot dismiss Volvo's safety record. I am sure this car would go faster if you removed just the airbags - they are in front of you, beside you, below you and even in the back for the rear passengers.
And then there is the SIPS system and reinforced sill sections adding to the robust body shell.
The seat belts are intelligent with pre-tensioners and even
the seats are strengthened for support in the event of impact. Boring, I know,
but you would be delighted if you were accidentally crashed into at speed and left
with a wrecked car but personally intact. I know. I have done it. It is very sobering.
Car security is outstanding. An anti theft immobiliser is fitted along with an audible alarm. The door locks are very high quality and reinforced from inside the door so a screwdriver would be of no use to a thief. A down side to such good security is that you need to lock yourself inside when driving and hide the keys in your home when you go to bed. I accept that not many thieves would make an effort to steal this diesel but the T5 is fitted with exactly the same features and they are desirable.
Having driven many of the Volvo range, the high powered S60 T5 is my undoubted favorite and this S60 TDI is a close second. I find the car very easy to drive and sizeable for the pub run with friends and supermarket shopping and best of all is the frequency of the visits to the fuel station. I get more MPG from this than Saab's 2.2 TDi, Ford's Mondeo TDCi, and even Vauxhall's Vectra TDi. It is incredible fuel economy for its size and weight.
Paint finishing is very high quality and resistant to stone chips. I have seen many S60s with well over 100,000 miles still looking and driving as good as 10,000 miles. The interior trim is very resistant to wear and looks good on these high mileage ex fleet cars. Many recent reports have praised this S60 model of Volvo and I am no exception. They are very underrated and affordable in the used car sales market. Best buy is said to be the S60 2.5 TDi SE model. It will cost about £500+ more than this S version. For that you get full leather trim, fog lamps, fuel computer and more smaller features.
All in all this is a super car and is highly recommended by me at least.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, you can have the engine control unit (ECU) re-mapped for an affordable amount which easily takes the bhp up-to 250 bhp. The engine is strong and reliable enough to take it - the 0-60 becomes amazing and the top speed is ridiculous.
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