Saturday, 14 January 2012 12:53 PM
Efficient luxury. Two words that rarely go together. Admittedly the Lexus hybrid is meant to be the solution but in my opinion it isn’t because it’ll only cover around 300 miles a tank under normal driving conditions.
But the Volvo S60 just might successfully marry these two ideals. The stylish and supremely comfortable the 1.6-litre DRIVe version will return around 65mpg and produces just 114g/km of carbon dioxide – less than most hatchbacks. However, the overall package results in a marriage of compromise – but then aren’t they all?
You see while the S60 looks sporty thanks to the fact that it sits low to the ground, the eco-friendly engine doesn’t pack the expected powerful punch. Don’t get me wrong it’s not bad but the gears have to be worked hard to get the best results. The clunky six-speed gearbox could be smoother, too. But its engine stop/start is one of the most effective I have come across, switching off almost every time the vehicle stops, as it should do. You’d be surprised though how temperamental these systems can be, for instance the one on the Toyota Prius only cuts in if you’re gentle with it. The Swede is far less picky.
When the S60 was launched in 2000 there was no denying that it was cumbersome, in common with many executive saloons of that era. The second generation model, which was introduced two years ago, has a more curvaceous design making it feel a more compact vehicle. There are hints of both Audi and Mercedes about the exterior particularly around the front. When locked the wing mirrors automatically fold up, which is a useful feature.
Inside the well-styled and curved dashboard favours the driver while all features are easy to operate. Gone is the traditional handbrake, more’s the pity - instead there’s a small switch, which takes a little getting used to. There’s a bit of road noise but generally it's quiet and refined although the engine can be vocal under pressure.
Sitting in the leather upholstered seats is a joy that leaves driver and passengers relaxed at the end of a long journey. The doors shut with a satisfying thud as they always have done on Volvos and inside there’s a plethora of luxury features including heated front seats, all-round electric windows and air conditioning. Of course it’s ultra-safe, too. At night the illuminated instrument panel reflects on the windscreen and although this is out of the driver’s eye-line it can be irritating. A driver’s footrest would be appreciated. The boot is a reasonable size.
Parkers, the car experts, write: “Volvo’s last S60 came close, but not close enough to unseating, or even unsettling the German’s dominance of the small exec class. This time could be very different. The new small S60 has style, an innovative well-made interior, pioneering pedestrian-in-the-road sensing safety equipment and a new range of five-cylinder engines. Even braver, the Swedish firm claims its S60 is the sportiest car it has ever made.”
The new S60 should appeal to environmentally conscious execs seeking to make a good impression. In my opinion it’s far more pleasing than a hybrid as it will cover over 700 miles on a tank.
Volvo S60 DRIVe Lux Start/Stop
Economy: 65mpg (quoted combined)
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel
Top speed: 121mph
New price: £27,695
By Tim Saunders
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