BY ANDY ENRIGHT
You tend to know what you're getting when you buy a used Volvo saloon. Something solid, sensible and safe is the usual prescription. Staid too, if older models are anything to go by, but the S60 changed that script. The first generation car was surreptitiously sassy and the second generation car we look at here got even more adventurous. Does a Volvo saloon outside the usual comfort zone work as a used buy? Find out here.
The first generation Volvo S60, introduced back in 2000, has come to be seen as a real used car bargain. You can get a racy T5 model in fairly tidy order for a couple of grand, and it's a car that attracts very little in the way of attention to itself. But what of the second generation car? Could that move the S60 a little more upmarket? After all, the sight of banger-priced first generation cars probably wouldn't fill you with confidence as to the residual values of the second generation version.
That model appeared in 2010 and it was soon joined by an estate variant, the V60, which seemed to make a bit more sense for most people, outselling the saloon by nearly three units to one. Six engines were available from launch; two diesels and four petrols. Entry into the range was the 163PS 2.0-litre D3 diesel model, while further up the line-up was the 205PS 2.4-litre D5 engine, offered with either manual or Geartronic transmission.
Petrol engines entered the range with the 150PS 1.6-litre T3, then there was the 180PS 1.6-litre T4 variant, the 2.0-litre 240PS T5 and the flagship all-wheel-drive T6 petrol model with Geartronic gearbox. Featuring a 304PS 3.0-litre engine, the high-performance T6 remains a relatively uncommon sight. In February 2011, Volvo launched the 119g/km DRIVe 1.6 diesel model, while in December of that year, an automatic gearbox was offered with the DRIVe engine, keeping emissions and economy unchanged.
In March 2013, Volvo revamped the R-DESIGN trim level, offering a more aggressive front end, smarter wheels, better seats and a more customisable digital display. R-Design models could be combined with all the engines available for the standard versions. Opt for the T6 and you could optionally boost performance to 329PS by opting for the Polestar software that charged the cars with an extra 25PS. The S60 range was replaced by an upgraded line-up for the 2014 model year.
What You Get
That the old S60 was barely missed is testament to the success of the later car, a model that improves on that design in every conceivable way. In profile, the 'four-door coupe' shape has more than a passing resemblance to the Ford Mondeo that shares the same platform but the S60 emphasises its elevated position with more sinewy lines and upmarket detailing. The straight edges that used to characterise Volvo are banished in favour of gentle curves that ease into one another. The double headlights at the front and large brake light clusters at the rear mean you should be able to spot an S60 day or night.
The cabin is an area where this car is able to leverage an advantage over the German compact executive models it competes with on price. The Volvo is simply a bigger thing and this car increases rear passenger space over the previous generation model. The Swedish brand's interior design has been impressing for a while and the S60 features company trademarks like the floating centre stack with storage space behind, while adding more of a sporty flavour with its metallic trim and supportive seating.
What to Look For
The S60's reliability is a good deal better than its predecessor. The underlying mechanicals are tried and tested parts and shouldn't give cause for concern. The interiors are also more hard wearing than most, but the load area can be damaged by trying to lever in bicycles which can be an awkward fit in this car. Check for parking bumps and scrapes, especially on the R-DESIGN models. The big alloy wheels are very susceptible to kerbing. The T5 and D5 models have quite an appetite for front tyres, so check there's some life left in the rubber.
(approx based on a 2011 S60 T5) Expect to pay around £175 for a clutch assembly, while front brake pads won't see much change from £70 for a pair, with rears weighing in at a more lightweight £38. You'll be looking at £180 for a radiator and the best part of £200 for a starter motor.
On the Road
Volvos have tended to feel like the safe cars they are when you get them out on the road but with this S60, more emphasis than ever before has been placed on instilling some excitement. There are three chassis systems available which govern how the car performs on the road. The Dynamic set-up is fitted as standard in the UK. Then there's a firmer, more sporting arrangement offered with the R-Design Lowered Sport Chassis pack. The final option is the Volvo FOUR-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept), an active suspension set-up that allows drivers to select their preferred settings when on the move. Advanced Stability Control is standard, as is Corner Traction Control which acts like a limited slip differential to control understeer when cornering.
As for engines, well almost all S60 buyers choose a diesel. Options range from the 215bhp 2.4-litre D5 with a mighty 440Nm of torque all the way to what could well be the S60's best power option, the D2 diesel's 1.6-litre unit with 115bhp and 270Nm of torque which makes the trip from standstill to 62mph in 10.9s even though economy is strong. In between, there are 2.0-litre D3 and D4 variants putting out 136 and 163bhp respectively. All S60 models get a six speed manual gearbox as standard but with selected engines, there's the option of a Geartronic automatic or the clever Powershift dual clutch transmission.
For the minority of customers wanting petrol power, there are two choices. Most sensible is the 1.6-litre GTDi petrol engine that offers 150bhp in the T3. Finally, there's a 304bhp T6 model at the top of the range with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine that can propel the S60 past 60mph in 5.9s. This rare variant comes only with AWD and a 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.
The Volvo S60 came of age in second generation guise. Where the first gen car didn't quite know where it stood in relation to the premium brands, this time round, Volvo made a very unambiguous statement, demonstrating that you could have all the style and design integrity that you'd expect in, say, an Audi but at a lower price. Here was Volvo putting its corporate confidence behind Scandinavian design and the market responded.
Actually, it's probably fair to say that the market responded in favour of the V60 estate version of this car, that model outselling the saloon S60 quite comfortably, but take the two as an S60/V60 package and Volvo couldn't have been disappointed with the outcome. As a used buy, the S60 makes a lot of sense. Prices are commensurately cheaper, model for model, than the V60 and if you don't mind forgoing a hatchback, you could wind up with a bargain, especially if you're looking for a D3, the most commonplace powerplant. If you like the idea of a saloon that's a cut above but don't want to follow the herd into a BMW or an Audi, save some money and check out the S60.