When I walked into the showroom the sales person told me: “Once you’ve driven the S60 you will never want to drive anything else”.
I was excited to test this theory because powering the Volvo S60 D5 is a 2.4 liter, 5 cylinder turbo diesel engine, producing 158Kw and 440Nm, and indeed I found it to be no slug. The 6 speed automatic gearbox is very intuitive and the slightest change in throttle position results in speedy and very accurate gear selection. Being connected to the the tarmac via Volvo’s very grippy four wheel drive system makes you feel safe, even when planting the throttle around a bend. Minimal turbo lag and smooth power delivery from the bottom of the rev range feels sluggish at times, but soon transforms into performance that will make your butt-dyno happy and put a smile on your face as you reach the mid range. Normally a diesel engine’s exhaust note is not something you record and brag to your buddies on YouTube about, but the engineers at Volvo created something special on the D5. You will be forgiven when you find yourself wide eyed, asking the sales person whether he is sure they did not give you a V6 by accident. The only bothersome thing about this engine is the vibration during idle and shut down. This is not something generally associated with diesel engines in 2012, and Volvo might want to have a look at this.
Most Volvo models, including the S60 D5, have an optional “Polestar” package. This is Volvo’s own performance upgrade and will not affect your vehicle warranty or maintenance plan. For an additional R10,000 you get a Polestar badge and an engine management software upgrade promising a performance increase between 10 and 11 percent. If you are a performance junkie like me, get it!
Unfortunately the model I drove was not the R-Design and I found the suspension a little too soft for my liking. Sporty driving and a few fast bends and your passengers might suffer from a mild case of motion sickness. If you are inclined towards turning up the radio and stepping on it, I would advise that you spend the additional R6,000 and get the performance suspension available via the R-Design package.
The interior is where things went wrong and the perfectionist in me felt horribly let down. Although the instruments are well positioned and easy enough for a four year old to operate, some aspects were lacking. Overall the materials used are of good quality, but Volvo made a mistake in opting for hard plastics on the doors. Already evident on this demo car, with 20,000km on the clock, were creaking door panels and handles when opening the doors or driving over uneven surfaces. The leather interior already seemed worn and shiny. As the interior of a car is where you spend most of your time, I found this unacceptable. The final nail in the coffin was noticing how badly the roof lining was finished at the rear window. Another piece of hard plastic would certainly not have hurt here. Being designed around, what I perceive as minimalism, makes the interior feel lacking some modernity.
With Volvo trying to position themselves among the premium brands, some work still needs to be done. With all the safety gadgetry and beautiful engines on offer, failing in something as important as interior build quality is an unacceptable oversight.
So, “once you’ve driven the S60 you will never want to drive anything else”, right? I do not agree.
Volvo S60 D5 Geartronic Elite: R426,800.00
Volvo S60 D5 Geartronic R-Design: R432,000.00