By Paul Gover.
The past five years have been very good ones for Volvo and its customers.
At the risk of a history lesson, Volvo was bankrupt and desperate before Geely of China arrived with the cash and commitment to save the sinking Swedish ship.
The first result of Geely’s hands-off approach was the excellent XC90 family-sized SUV, which was followed by the compact XC40 as Volvo scooped up major awards throughout the car world.
Now it’s time for the first of Volvo’s new-age sedans and it’s taken the same approach that worked so well for the XCs.
That means a design-driven brief, solid and sensible running gear, and the sort of classy final finishing which has become one of its 21st century trademarks.
Did I mention safety? Was it necessary?
Not surprisingly, the S60 is twinned with a boxy wagon called the V60 and the pricing starts at $54,990 for the basic S60 T5 Momentum and runs up to $87,990 for a fully-loaded V60 T8 R-Design.
My time is in the T5 R-Design, claimed to be the sporty one, at $64,900 with a punchy turbo four-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive and all sorts of luxury stuff including leather seats and a giant infotainment screen. There is even a 230-volt power socket in addition to the usual USB plug-ins.
The S60 feels solid and comfortable from the get-go, a lot like the XCs, but obviously more compliant in the suspension despite 19-inch alloys and with more potential enjoyment in corners. There are flappy paddles for manual shifting in the eight-speed automatic, which can be useful on country roads and for overtaking.
Power is more than adequate for any job with 192 kiloWatts, and the all-wheel drive system works in the background without making the car either nervous or turgid.
The cabin is roomy and quiet, with good legroom in the back, although I could easily be tempted by the wagon tail on the V60 as an alternate to a family SUV.
It gets along well, the brakes are great, and the safety stuff is unobtrusive yet includes a 360-degree view camera for parking and excellent LED headlamps, as well as a head-up speedo display
The big challenge for the S60, and comparative shoppers, is the opposition. The Volvo runs up against the very impressive 3 Series from BMW, as well as Audi and Benz contenders and all the rest, so it needs to mark its spot.
The 3 Series has the high ground on driving enjoyment, particularly for people who like to drive, so the Volvo has to qualify as a solid and reliable. Which it does.
It’s almost a return to the recipe that worked so well for Volvo through most of its history, with the emphasis shifted from safety to Swedish design as the hook and the reward for buyers.
Volvo S60 T5 R-Design
Position: mid-range luxury sedan
Plus: design, quality, Volvo badge
Minus: not as sharp as some rivals
THE TICK: Ja (Swedish for yes)