08/07/2009 05:50 | By By: Richard Aucock

On test: Volvo S60 D5 2.4 review (2001 onwards model)

Volvo S60 D5


  • Bodystyle:4dr saloon
  • Engine:2.4-litre turbocharged in-line 5 cylinder
  • Fuel type:Diesel
  • Transmission:5-speed automatic
  • Date of test:January 2003


What is it?

Volvo has come a long way in a decade; from making Renault-engined cars that no-one wanted, to this - a truly desirable BMW 3 Series rival. Styled under the direction of Brit Peter Horbury, it's wide-shouldered, squat and not unlike a coupe at the rear. It's Volvo's first -ever car in the 'junior executive' sector so dominated by that 3 Series, and the fact that it's winning (some) buyers at the German's expense shows how successful Volvo has been in developing it.

Where does it fit?

As Volvo's 'mid-range' car, it fits beneath the V70 estate and S80 saloon in the range, but above the now-dated S40 and V40 range. Some reckon it's the most attractive Volvo of all, and it certainly has a lithe, clean-cut, modern look which is arguably lacking in the 3 Series. Other rivals include fellow Swede Saab's 9-3 Sport Saloon, as well as the inevitable Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, Rover 75 and Jaguar X-Type. Unlike many of the others though, Volvo only offers a single body type - four-door saloon. Estate fans must pay extra to trade up to the larger V70 variant.

Is it for you?

The S60 has one of the best interiors of any car in its sector, so if you spend a lot of time in your car, it's certainly worth checking out. Comfort is first-rate from the simply superb seats, while the interior is also ergonomically flawless. The dash is intuitive, very modern in design and a treat both to look at and to use, while standard equipment isn't too shabby either. As for motive power, there's a wide range of petrol and diesel units, though the choice powerplant for most is the 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel, tested here. With a smooth, most un-diesel engine note and plenty of grunt, it's an economical treat to use.

What does it do well?

Simply soothe miles better than any other rival. The S60 is extremely relaxing over long distances, with low noise levels, those seats and that striding engine, making long journeys a treat. Noise levels are also low, while the meaty chassis also handles roads with confidence. It's got a weighty feel which demolishes most road conditions, while ride quality's also pretty composed too. The engine's a delight to use, mated as tested to an exceedingly co-operative automatic transmission, and is smooth enough to cause the anti-diesel lobby heartache. It's also pretty quick too, pulling strongly from low revs right through to its rev limiter at around 4500rpm.

What doesn't it do well?

The S60 is no sports car, the front-wheel-drive chassis not offering the nimbleness or feedback of a BMW 3 Series. This is intentional though - the benefits come with that feeling of impenetrability. Some may be put off by the weighty steering and beefy-feeling pedals, though all become slick with a little practice. There's no estate option, as mentioned, nor a coupe, while it could also be argued that the model range itself is a little restricted; most rivals offer a sporty-looking variant. Volvo will counter this by saying the S60's coupe-like styling doesn't need any further tweaks.

What's it like to live with?

The S60 is the sort of car you'll look forward to covering high miles in, thanks to both the aforementioned comfort and faultless refinement. It's built to a very high standard too, which should ensure it remains fresh-looking for many years to come. It's Swedish remember, so has to stand up to weather conditions far harsher than ours. The heater's brilliant and air conditioning is faultless - further bonuses. Meanwhile, fuel economy is reasonable considering the performance and refinement, while Volvo's ever-increasing image means depreciation levels are low; you won't lose too much money with this car, and it's desirable enough to ensure consistent demand.

Would we buy it?

We rate the S60 very highly indeed. It's the perfect alternative for drivers who are attracted to the BMW 3 Series, but find it a bit too sporty and 'ubiquitous'. The Volvo's discreet, faultlessly-built, exceedingly comfortable and very pleasing to drive, thanks in no small part to the characterful five-cylinder diesel engine. It's not as economical as that 3 Series arch-rival, but lower list prices ensure the S60 remains an appealing alternative. Yes, if we had to keep one car forever, to travel thousands of miles a year in, this would be placed pretty high on the list?

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