UK Car Road Test

Volvo S60 2.3 T5 SE 2002

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We have now done reviews on several Volvo S60s. Getting hold of one of these is not easy; it's the top S60 model, being the 2.3 T5. The name (T5), I think is derived from it being a (5 cylinder) turbo charged engine. In the S60 range there is also a 2.0 and 2.4 with 5 pots and turbo chargers, they are not called by the legendary T5 moniker though. So is it just that the name is synonymous with high performance evolved from the earlier models such as the Volvo 850 T5?

 

The Volvo S60 is sold with a variety of engines and two basic spec levels - S and SE. Just one body style is available with a boot and four doors. This T5 SE model looks similar to the other models with nothing too distinctive giving away it's potential to outrun even the speediest of sports cars, and suprise a few tardy supercar drivers too.

 

In appearance, the body style of S60 T5 is subtle. The body shell is curvaceous and sleek with colour coded mirrors and bumpers. This one, finished in metallic silver with grey bumper protectors and window trimming, looks as good as any Volvo I can remember. The car journalists constantly criticise Volvo for its ugly box-like cars of the past but it can no longer be classed in that way. It's not quite an old man's car but it's certainly not a young man's car either. In looks, that is!

 

 

Maybe the reason that young men (and don't let's forget the women) don't drive these cars is down to the size. Cool, credible cars tend to be small cars for the younger drivers and, if you are fortunate enough to be well off, sports or performance cars tend to be coupes, soft-tops and similar unless you are pretentious enough to buy a Bentley. Saloon cars with mega power are a little scarce and I tend to singularly think of BMW's M5 (I know there are others but they tend to be unaffordable to the masses and simply scarce on our roads). Driver age tends to somehow dictate the style and type of cars bought so, when driving about tomorrow, look at the age of the people driving the new Citroen cars such as the C3 sports hatches - they are almost without exception less than thirty years of age. Is that because those of us who are older and have driven this type of car don't want to drive them again? If so, why?

So, this Volvo would suit me as I am forty years old. Having had the pleasure of driving the mad sports cars of yesterday, I can now drive the saloon cars of today and choose a powerful one without the peer pressure of having to impress and the strength of character to accept the ridicule. Given the choice, I admit that I find this Volvo more appealing than a Subaru WRX. It simply looks better and has a grace and style which is lacking in smaller, powerful cars.

 

 

Volvo have evolved into a very credible manufacturer. This S60 T5 is almost at the top of the Volvo range. Having SE specification, it boasts standard features such as full leather trim, cruise, climate, electric windows front and rear and a whole host of other goodies.

The controls are well defined and simple to use. They are coloured grey and look dull but are effective and do the trick. The ventilation is outstanding - the air conditioning is almost instant and even has vents in the rear for your (brave) passengers.

The T5 seating is very firm and comfortable. When seated, you are held snug and not too tight; the back of the seat is very comfortable indeed, unlike many sports cars which do not allow my back its proper support because their seats have Recaro styling which is made for one size only. That size is generally too small, giving a narrow centre section so that if you have a broad back (like myself) it becomes very uncomfortable after a while. This being the T5, you might expect sports styled seating but instead you would find a quality supportive interior which is both appealing and hardwearing. This car had Volvo's winter pack (heated seats) and fully electric adjusting sets with memory.

 

 

Comfort Features
Adjustable Steering Column
Adjustable Steering Column
Centre Arm Rest Front
Centre Arm Rest Front
Centre Arm Rest Rear
Centre Arm Rest Rear
Cup holders
Cup holders
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Front Door Bins
Front Door Bins
Head Rests (front & rear)
Head Rests (front & rear)
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Pollen Filter
Pollen Filter
Split rear seats
Split rear seats
Time Clock
Time Clock
General Features
12 V Accessory Power Point
12 V Accessory Power Point
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Mirrors
Colour Coded Mirrors
Digital Odometer
Digital Odometer
Exterior Side Mouldings
Exterior Side Mouldings
Heated Rear Window
Heated Rear Window
Tinted Windows
Tinted Windows
Luxury Features
Air Conditioning
Air Conditioning
Cigarette Lighter
Cigarette Lighter
Climate Control
Climate Control
Compact Disc Player
Compact Disc Player
Cruise Control
Cruise Control
Electric Mirrors
Electric Mirrors
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Heated Mirrors
Heated Mirrors
Leather Upholstery
Leather Upholstery
Radio Cass Remote
Radio Cass Remote
Radio Cassette
Radio Cassette
Trip Counter
Trip Counter

 

 

Service Interval Insurance Group Safety Rating Smog Rating
12000 16 Band (D)
Engine BHP CC Fuel Inj.
5 Cylinder 20 Valve DOHC Turbo 250 2319 Yes
Cyl Camshafts Valves/cyl Compressor
5 Double 4 Turbo Charger
Top Speed 0 to 60 BHP per Tonne
155mph 6.8seconds 178
MPG@Urban MPG@Cruise MPG@Speed Fuel Type
21.7mpg 39.8mpg 30.4mpg Unleaded
Kerb Weight Tow Weight Length Width Height
1427kg 1600kg 457cm 180cm 142cm
Boot Seats/up Boot Seats/Down Seats
394 Litres 807 Litres 5

I have driven T5s before and have always been impressed. This engine is a five cylinder twin cam high pressure turbo, mounted transversely, driving the front wheels through a five speed manual gearbox.

First sight of this engine and it looks just like all of the other Volvo 5 pot turbo units. There is nothing suggesting that it will generate a whopping 250 bhp and propel you to sixty in a mere 0.0 seconds or that it is speed restricted to 155 mph. I have said in many other UK Car reviews what a delight 5 cylinder engines are to drive and this 2.3 unit endorses my opinion further. Turn the ignition key and the engine cranks to an idle speed which is almost unnoticeable, in fact you struggle to hear or feel it running at all. However, press the gas pedal and instantly there is a lovely induction sound along with an almost simultaneous deep rasp from the exhaust and the engine is spinning as quickly as a Catherine wheel at full speed but without the anticipation of it dwindling.

 

Select first gear and you're off, up to 2,000 rpm then select second gear and the same again. No fuss, no noise and very smooth through all of the gears. The clutch is extremely light and judder free and the gearshift is precise and, again, light for the size of the S60 and the awesome power this T5 produces. First impressions of the drive are good; the engineering allows this car to sedately cruise around the suburban streets to my home in a 30mph restricted speed limit. There was a distinct lack of turbo charger noise and lag which surprised me, considering it's air flow system and it's BHP. Once the traffic had died down, I had the opportunity to drive a little harder and pressurise the exhaust system. Well, it is simply incredible! Once the engine revolves faster than 3,000 rpm with instruction from your right foot to go faster, the car depresses you into your seat with a great degree of force, trying to leave you behind, along with the traffic you were with. This does not just happen in the lower gears, it still happens at speed on faster roads. The car is as powerful as any performance sports car without being silly and going into the super-car league. I remember when the Porsche 944 Turbo 2.5 was uprated to 250 BHP and it was hailed as an incredible achievement to get so much ooomph from a four cylinder engine.

This is only 2,300cc of an engine and it will still respond in a controlled manner throughout its rev range like any larger several litre V8. It is not erratic or badly behaved due to being overcharged by the turbo, nor is it all-or-nothing depending what boost pressure is being forced into the intake manifold which used to be the case with older turbo charged cars. Just smooth power and a subtle sound throughout its range. I must say, the whistle and dumping of gas through the turbo charger into the exhaust has been remarkably subdued. You do hear the gasses passing through the exhaust and it is a recognisable power-like noise but is very, very subtle. Just like the car itself. 

There is only one car which I consider of a similar ilk to this S60 and that is Saab's 9-5 Aero which I also rate extremely well (previously reviewed). There are others but you cannot fairly compare them due to the price range of these two. And you would have to be a very good driver to seduce more grip from any tyres fitted in order to catapult you faster to sixty than these two Swedish cars do.

 

The front is, of course, heavier than the rear but it still feels very well poised and does not have any awkward lunges when selecting the gears and applying the awesome turbo boost.
  

The suspension is hard on this car and with such a powerful engine it is essential that it is, otherwise you would be ejected from almost every corner you took at speed. I have found all S60 cars to be firm but this one is noticeably different. Low profile tyres are fitted as standard and are very high speed rated with a soft compound (they wear out quicker than a bookie's pencil). The tyres perform extremely well considering the front wheels have to take care of all of the power from the engine, the steering and most of the stopping of this very solid and heavy saloon car.

The steering is power-assisted and is quite heavy but I liked this, even though the turning lock is a little poor (the front wheel drive restricts the turning lock a little when in tight spaces, this is to prevent the drive shaft CV joints popping out at full lock on full throttle). Precise it is, though, and feedback at speed is very reassuring. The chassis is the body shell, it is sturdy and very stable at speed, coupled with very low wind and cabin noise. 

Steer/Susp/Tech Features
Alloy Wheels
Alloy Wheels
Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
External Temperature Gauge Fitted
External Temperature Gauge Fitted
Halogen Head Lights
Halogen Head Lights
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Independent Suspension
Independent Suspension
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Power Assisted Steering
Power Assisted Steering
Rev Counter
Rev Counter
Service Level Indicator
Service Level Indicator
Optional Extras

 

Volvo has been a market leader in safety systems on cars for years now and has never been surpassed in the technology and hardware it fits to its cars which protects its customers. The S60 is a safety overload - you have airbags everywhere. They are in front of you, beside you, below you and even in the rear quarter panel above the rear occupants. They are, of course, all-intelligent, so they won't all go off at once unless you drive it off a cliff and bounce down a ravine. Still, if you do, you will also have more protection from the shell (which is stronger than a tortoise's), the SIPS, along with strengthened sill sections, side impact beams in the doors and lots more features.

 

 

 

In a light impact, this car is very expensive to repair because of the cost of any replacement safety features as well as any bumpers, lights or even body panels. However, it's better to be safe than sorry because the cost to repair cannot compromise the level of safety provided. It is all exceptional.

 

The S60 has up-to-date anti-theft devices fitted along with a factory-fitted immobiliser system. They are so good that all you will need to preserve one is a sharp stick to poke in the eye of the person burgling you to get your keys. This is happening all too frequently these days with most car thefts. A more sensible option is a tracking device so that the police can find it "again" for you. This, in turn, will put the thief before a judge who will probably "again" caution the scrote who stole it or severely punish them with community service. Still, we can always fall back on our affordable insurance if all else fails!

Safety/Security Features
Alarm
Alarm
Antilock Braking System
Antilock Braking System
Child Locks
Child Locks
Engine Immobiliser
Engine Immobiliser
Front Side Air Bags
Front Side Air Bags
Front Twin Airbags
Front Twin Airbags
High level brake Light
High level brake Light
Locking Fuel Cap
Locking Fuel Cap
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Remote Central Locking
Remote Central Locking
Side Impact Protection
Side Impact Protection
Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts
Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts
Visible Identification Number
Visible Identification Number

Having driven many of the Volvo range, this high powered S60 T5 is my undoubted favourite. Incredibly, the S60 TDI is a close second.  Having driven hundreds of other cars, I would place this one nearly at the top of the ladder. I think the Saab 9-5 just pips this beast and I would obviously prefer an M5. That said, I would be delighted to drive a T5 on a day-to-day basis. It is very understated and not at all recognised which is why I tend to enjoy driving one. I can be very mischievous in my driving style and this car lets you behave like a young 40 year old, leaving the younger generation in their small sports cars confused as to how the old man in his Volvo left them behind every time and always with style. That said, this is certainly not the first Volvo capable of doing this and definitely not the last. The S60 T5 SE has:

Outstanding build quality
Outstanding running costs
Outstanding performance
Outstanding safety
Outstanding handling
Outstanding affordability
Outstanding durability

And is outstandingly inconspicuous. 

 

 

 

It is an even bigger credit to this car that it had covered over 95,000 miles when we tested it. We found not a single fault or even a rattle.

 

PS you can have the engine control unit (ECU) re-mapped for an affordable amount which easily takes the bhp over 300. The engine is strong and reliable enough to take it - the 0-60 becomes even more amazing and the top speed is ridiculous. And the chassis takes all of it with ease.


 

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UK Car Road Test Volvo S60 2.3 T5 SE 2002

UK Car Road Test Keywords: saloonS60 2.3 T5 SE