Sunday, 1 June 2014

New 2014 Volvo S60 review, test drive

A midlife update sees the Volvo S60 sedan sport a more mature appearance and get some more kit on the inside.

There are few saloons whose design would have made as big an impression as the Volvo S60. With its hunkered-down stance and coupé-like profile, the S60 has always had a very sporty and youthful air to it. With this midlife update, Volvo seems to have toned down the styling, perhaps to make the S60 appeal to a larger (read older) set of buyers.

The basic design remains unchanged, but there’s a newfound maturity to the S60’s face. Those distinctive vertical running lights have made way for larger headlights and a wider, more pronounced grille. The intricately sculpted front bumper is new and there are deeper ridges on the bonnet as well. Volvo hasn’t tinkered with the boomerang-like tail lights so you just can’t confuse an S60 for anything else from the back. Oh, and full marks to Volvo for the gorgeous matt-finish wheels.

There are no radical changes in the cabin, though the new S60 sees the adoption of Volvo’s new customisable TFT display in place of the analogue speedo and tachometer dials. Depending on your mood, you could select from Performance, Elegance or Economy themes which change the background colours and position of elements within the readout. The setup may sound gimmicky, but it’s fun to have the tacho take pride of place on the console, Porsche-style, in Performance mode. The display apart, there are no other changes in the cabin. So you still get that Volvo-trademark floating centre console, smart dashboard and, of course, those superbly supportive seats that are among the best in the business.

Space and comfort remain good, though chauffeur-driven owners should note that the relatively small rear windows reduce the perception of space. The rich-looking cream leather does brighten things inside the cabin but is prone to getting stained easily. Other grouses? We’d have liked a less busy-looking centre console; it’s got way too many buttons. Also, a more modern interface to access the infotainment and car settings would be welcome. The settings also let you activate the car’s safety features like the updated City Safety that uses lasers to detect an impending frontal collision (at speeds upto 50kph) and automatically applies the brakes to minimise impact.

Volvo sells the S60 in two five-cylinder diesel engine options; the wildly entertaining T6 petrol has been discontinued in India. The more powerful D5 features a 2.4-litre, 211bhp engine and is identifiable by its dual exhausts. We drove the 163bhp, 2.0-litre D4 version which will undoubtedly be the more popular choice. It’s a nice engine that delivers power in a linear, predictable manner. Sadly, it isn’t the quietest of motors, so you won’t find yourself shifting the six-speed auto to Sport mode when in the mood to relax. But Sport mode does bring out the quick-revving side of this motor and also the slight hesitance of the gearbox to upshift. Tiptronic control speeds up gearshifts and enhances the fun factor. The S60 is a front-wheel-drive car, so it won’t thrill you as much as its rear-wheel-drive competition, but torque vectoring technology does ensure it’s not a dull drive either. Similarly, there is a firmness to the ride but it’s never to the extent of being uncomfortable.

Yours for Rs 34.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the S60 compares well on price with the BMW 3-series, Audi A4 and outgoing Mercedes C-class. But don’t buy the S60 solely for its appealing price tag. It’s a genuinely likeable and competent alternative to the aforementioned trio from Germany. Just wish Volvo had a bigger presence in India.

Fact File

Price Range (in lakhs)*
Ex-showroom priceRs 34.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Power163bhp at 3500rpm
Torque40.7kgm at 1500-2750rpm
GearboxSix-speed automatic
Wheel base2776mm
Chassis & Body
Tyres215/50 R 17

FrontVentilated discs
RearVentilated discs
Tank size67.5 litres