It’s not a coupé – which is why we love it

Road test: Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

I am often surprised at the number of niche vehicles out there; when it’s a matter of covering the miles, there’s little to beat a big saloon car. The dynamics mean there is less pitch and roll, less impact from side winds, a smaller front section to push through the air for economy and usually a better ride. Cars trying to tick too many boxes do tend to be a series of compromises. On a personal level, I have a saloon car, 4×4 and sports car so as not to compromise the ability of each. And while this is not the most financially (or spatially) pragmatic solution, it allows each to excel in its field. So let’s look at Volvo’s mid-sized S60 which does the four-door saloon bit rather well.

Specifically, this is the D5 R-Design model. What that means in English is that it has the most powerful 2.4 litre 5-cylinder diesel in the range and a smart trim specification. What it has meant while I’ve had the keys is that I’ve been unable to resist any opportunity to go out and drive it.

The biggest problem I have writing this review is that I absolutely love the car.  I like its size, its understated design, its gentle capability. I love the calm instrumentation (the dials on the R-Design seem clearer with their metallic blue background), the user interface for everything from iPod to satnav and the comfortable, heated, electric seats. But what puts this car right at the pinnacle of loveliness is that engine. It’s not just that it pulls from 1,000 rpm all the way to the red line. It isn’t the fact that it shifts the car with a satisfying thrust. It’s the slightly off-beat sound of the five-pot doing its thing. It’s worth pointing out that the D5 really does seem to provide the best of both worlds, offering effortless power and emitting only the scent of rose petals from the twin tail pipes.

If I’m to be picky, the ride isn’t quite magic carpet, the seats are a whisker short on the comfort provided by Saabs of old and the electronic handbrake mounted low under the steering wheel requires a stretch and isn’t the easiest to operate. This demo vehicle also has the usual array of alarmist safety features (see XC60 review) but the adaptive cruise control and cameras are really useful. I even learned to like the blind spot warning (BLIS).

There’s almost an embarrassment in calling a saloon, well, a saloon – most manufacturers are keen to re-label them as coupés. VW’s CC, Audi’s A7 and the CLS from Mercedes Benz are all excellent examples. Sleek they may be; coupés they are not – and nor is the S60. Alluding to its coupéness, design director Peter Horbury points out: ‘You are almost surprised to see that it has rear doors.’ Well, no, I’m not – I’d be pretty surprised and rather short-changed if it didn’t. The S60 should therefore be enjoyed for exactly what it is – a fabulous alternative to the other ubiquitous German saloons.

Volvo S60 D5 R-Design, £30,050 (options on model tested bring retail price to £37,020; range starts at £22,785)

Power: 215PS (4,000 rpm), torque: 420Nm (1,500-3,250 rpm), emissions: 124 g/km CO2 (band D), 0-62 mph: 7.2 secs.


Motor Writer rating: ●●●●●

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