Latest Volvo clocks

up the firsts

Volvo S60, with deer
Volvo S60, side action
Volvo S60, dashboard 2
Volvo S60, front static
Volvo S60, front action 2
Volvo S60, front action
Volvo S60, side static
Volvo S60, rear action 2
Volvo S60, rear seats
Volvo S60, seats folded
Volvo S60, front seats
Volvo S60, dash detail
Volvo S60, rear action
Volvo S60, dashboard
Volvo S60, boot

THERE are several firsts for the latest Volvo from the resurgent Swedish maker, enjoying the fruits of generous Chinese funding and a sweet spot on model design.

For starters, the new S60 saloon is the first car with a Volvo badge to be built in the United States, where buyers will regard this mid-size five-seater as a compact family runaround.

Then there's what you'll find under the bonnet. Or rather, what you won't find - and that's a diesel engine. Banished; as the brand commits ever more strongly to electric power, Volvo is rapidly saying farewell to the smelly pumps.

Launched here with only with a 2.0-litre petrol engine, the S60 line is due later this year to be boosted by Twin Engine versions adding an electric motor and battery for both improved economy and performance. Prices start at £37,935 for the only S60 available at launch, a thoroughly kitted out T5 R-Design Edition.

That brings 250 horsepower and 145mph potential with the sprint to 62mph in a brisk 6.5 seconds, average economy of up to 39.8mpg and 155g/km tailpipe emissions. The later to arrive all-wheel drive 390hp T8 Twin Engine and 405hp T5 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered versions will see off 62mph in 4.6 and 4.2 seconds respectively. So pretty brisk, then.

Even the less powerful launch S60 feels punchy when pushed, as it ought as its maker wants it to be the most dynamic Volvo ever, pushing for sales against a rival like the BMW 3 Series, still reckoned the king of drivers' cars in its segment.

It has also got to work on a more practical level with the BMW and Audi A4 and Jaguar XE in vital aspects like interior roominess and boot space. Well, with front and rear wheels pushed further apart than the last S60, the newcomer is spacious up front and big enough in the back for a couple of adults to travel without feeling too hemmed in. Not stretch out limo luxury, but nothing to grumble about either.

The boot is fine too, with the same 442 litres of space as the previous S60. Need more luggage room and there's the V60 estate with actually rather less on offer (430 litres) with the rear seats in place but a cavernous 1,241 litres with them flattened.

No surprise, perhaps that this feature combined with Volvo's entrenched reputation with estates that the more expensive V60 is expected to outsell the new S60 saloon by three to one.

Most sales of the saloon will be with T5 front-wheel drive power (a chunky 85 per cent) and in R-Design Plus trim. Owners of these cars won't feel shortchanged in the fittings and fitments department.

Standard kit includes sat nav, head up display, LED headlights, dual zone climate control, part-leather trim on the seats (heated in the front), 18in alloy wheels, hands free boot opening and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The first cars in the UK are R-Design Editions, adding bigger alloys, adaptive cruise control, rear view camera, heated steering wheel, Harman Kardon sound system and a blindspot information system with cross-traffic alert.

Polestar Engineered and Inscription Plus models add features like sportier suspension, bigger still wheels and ventilated front seats. And, on the Polestar, front and rear seatbelts finished in gold.

Goodness knows what they will look like, but they'll surely add a splash of colour to an interior that is otherwise resolutely black, only relieved here and there with splashes of tastily applied alloy on the dash.

In typical modern Volvo fashion, it all clicks nicely for the driver, with big, clear instruments and a touch screen that works as well as this sort of control can when you dispense with conventional buttons and knobs. Which is pretty well, most of the time, even if a screen brings distractions of its own.

Out in some delightful Scottish scenery for the first test drive, the new S60 felt in its element, with typically smooth northern road surfaces flattering a car you feel might turn a touch firm on worse, more southerly roads.

Pop the drive into dynamic mode and the gearchanges snap through more insistently and the steering firms up and the car begins to feel properly sporty - but all the time with a Volvo overlay of making relaxed progress, while getting there safely (quite properly) takes precedence.

Perhaps the S60 won't be pushed this far too often but owners will enjoy the feeling that their handsome family machine can show a bit of edge when called upon. In an unusually extended test session the car showed 36.5mpg, so pretty practical too.

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