Volvo adds the saloon counterpart to the V60 to its ranks and the S60 is yet another smashing product from the Swedish firm. It also marks a watershed in the company's drivetrain history, as it will not be offered with a diesel engine in any form - and all future Volvos will follow the S60's anti-black-stuff template.
In the metal
Saloons don't get much prettier than this. The S60 is slightly more aesthetically successful than its big brother, the Volvo S90, mainly by dint of moving the rear licence plate up onto the boot lid itself; the S60 is clearly the best-looking thing in its class. In R-Design trim, its muscular haunches, Thor-hammer headlights, bracket-shaped rear clusters and its general proportional 'rightness' make for a car that's just stunning, especially with an optional set of 20-inch five-spoke diamond-cut matte-black alloy wheels crammed into the arches. Stance, presence, elegance, enigmatic cool... it's got the lot.
Ditto the cabin, which is along the usual ultra-modern Volvo themes (12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster, large portrait touchscreen for the Sensus Connect infotainment, the rotary and squared-off knob for the engine start/stop functions and a beautiful solidity and heft to everything you look at, touch and operate) and is therefore a wonderful place to be. Rear-seat room is good and the boot preserves much in the way of practicality, measuring 442 litres with the back bench seat in place. Admittedly, R-Design Volvos have almost uniformly black interiors that are broken up by a sliver of silver metal running through the cabin's beltline, without any of the light wood or blonde leather that a Momentum or Inscription would be privy to, so it can feel a little sombre within. But the gorgeous R-Design seats and the overall magnificence of the cockpit makes up for this fact.
The S60 is touted as the most dynamic Volvo ever, which means choosing the R-Design trim might not be the handicap it can be in other models from the Swedish company. By this, we mean that the R-Design cars' firmer and lower suspension, coupled with big wheels on low-profile sports tyres, often results in a less comfortable ride and elevated levels of tyre noise in the back of the cabin - which detracts from the relaxing, feelgood ambience that these newest Volvos otherwise give you. However, the S60 just about pulls R-Design trim off.
For reasons we can't quite fathom, but which might relate to the S60 having an additional structural brace behind the rear seats in the form of a second bulkhead, the saloon drives in a more involving fashion than the V60 R-Design. The steering's weighting is lovely and there's superb consistency to everything it does, although it's not rich in the communication department. However, the body control is top-notch, the Volvo changing direction cleanly and efficiently, and also displaying little in the way of lean. Strong brakes and that silken eight-speed auto (which can be operated by some of the most tactile wheel-mounted paddle shifts in the business) help to make the Volvo decently quick across ground; and the T5 engine is a solid performer, with linear response, plenty of urge from its turbocharged midrange and much to recommend it in terms of mechanical refinement.
This undoubtedly makes the S60 fun to drive, if not exactly thrilling or seminal in the sports saloon segment, mainly due to its front-wheel-drive underpinnings. Also, there's not much pay-off in terms of ride comfort and noise levels. However, it is firmly suspended; rougher roads start to get the car jiggling, especially on those huge 20s, and there are occasions on motorways and main roads where large vertical inputs are too obvious - in essence, you'll always think of the S60 R-Design as 'sportily taut', rather than 'effortlessly smooth'. Magic carpet aficionados might want to wait for an Inscription on air suspension (if Volvo ever decides to offer it on the 60-series vehicles), then. Also, tyre roar is noticeable at speed, although it - like the ride quality - is nowhere near unbearable.
And the S60 is therefore a lovely thing to drive in a normal, day-to-day fashion. Well-calibrated controls and impressive high-speed damping make the Volvo suitably adept at long motorway runs, while it's easy to place on the road and has first-rate visibility all round. It's got all the safety features you'd expect of a five-star-rated Euro NCAP model from this particular company, so things like Pilot Assist (or just plain adaptive cruise, if you don't feel like letting the S60 steer for you) take the sting out of monotonous long journeys. It also managed 35 to the gallon on a steady, 100km motorway cruise and then 29.9mpg on a slightly more vigorous, near-400km snaking test route through the Scottish Highlands, which is not too bad for a 250hp petrol car capable of 0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds. Furthermore, the emissions allow the S60 T5 to sneak into Band C for road tax, meaning a reasonable €390 per annum.
What you get for your money
We can't mark this section as yet, as prices for the S60 in Ireland have not been set. It will arrive at first as the T5 alone, although other models - including a T8 Twin-Engine plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) version - will be forthcoming. It should undercut a comparable V60, although as we don't get the V60 T5 in Ireland (all models of the estate sold here are, perversely, diesel) then it's best to extrapolate from the V60 D4 R-Design's ticket to get an idea of the S60's starting price. We do know that the S60 T4 R-Design will be €46,495 and that the S60 Momentum, due in January 2020, will be less than that.
The S60 is yet another marvellous addition to Volvo's oh-so-desirable current model portfolio. Great looks, great driving manners and a great interior make this one of the first premium saloons you should be looking at if you're in the market for this sort of thing. Admittedly, the lack of diesel options and a narrow launch range might hinder the S60's start in life, but as more variants are added to the range, this should become something that'll give the German premium elite in this sector a very big headache indeed.