22 Oct 2014

2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Volvo S60 D5 R-Design Lux Nav Optimised by Polestar

2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design
2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

In Volvo-land the 60 is the BMW 3-Series size car and S means saloon, so the S60 is a mid-size saloon.  D5 is the most powerful diesel engine which is currently a 2.4 litre 5-cylinder. R-Design is the sporty trim level that adds suspension upgrades as well as design touches. Lux Nav add extra kit and satnav. Optimised by Polestar adds a remap with a few more horsepower and torque.

The test car is at the top of the S60 range and the price reflects that, it costs £35k. Add in some serious options (because it's a press car) and the on-the road price is £42k.  That's a whole chunk of change. Is it worth it?

The S60 starts off on the back foot because it's front wheel drive whereas the 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class are rear wheel drive, as will be the latest party crasher the Jaguar XE. The Audi A4, however, is also front wheel drive.

Looks-wise its a winner.  The shape is familiar 3-box saloon but it's svelte with it, with a low looking roof and a shallow rear window line that slopes down all the way to the boot. It pulls this coupĂ©-alike trick off much better than the BMW 3 GT does.

A crease runs along the waist of the car from headlights to rear lights, bulging ever so slightly over the wheels.

In all it's a cracking looking car that really stands out in Rebel Blue. The 18" alloys come as part of the R-Design package.

Step inside and shut the door and you're presented with an interior as comfortable and luxurious feeling as any of the competition. The materials in particular are high quality with a squidgy covering to the upper dash which in other cars is often harsh plastic.

It's not a particularly big car but rear seat occupants have a reasonable amount of space with room for three adults abreast and legroom for 6-footers. The boot too is very long but isn't particularly well packaged - there's a spare wheel and the cover, which is flat, doesn't cover the width of the boot so there are spaces either of side of it.

The seats are monumentally comfortable, and clad in Alcantara and just the softest leather I've experienced. They're supportive and need little adjustment to get comfy.

The driving position is great with a deep footwell and a steering wheel that has lots of adjustment.  

As with any modern, well-specced car there are a lot of things it can do and lots of ways you can control it all, the trick is to make the various inputs feel second nature after a short explore.  If you have to resort to the manual that's a failure as far as I'm concerned.

It's worth explaining in some detail how it all works. If you're not interested then skip the next five paragraphs.

The controls are well placed and after a short while in the car everything feels where it should be. On the steering wheel itself you can control the stereo, phone, speed limiter and (adaptive) cruise control. On the stalks you have the usual lights (automatic if required) and wipers but there's also a dial and button to control the trip computer and display items.

The electronic dash can be set for eco or performance displays. Performance is best as it shows a huge digital speed readout in the centre of the screen with revs surrounding it.  Turn the dial on the left hand stalk and various info is shown such as mpg, average speed, speed in km/h in little windows either side of the speedo.

The central screen has a whole host of menus and options from sound system (loud, clear, DAB, FM, Bluetooth, CD) to elements of the car such as how long the lights stay on after you've turned the car off.  You can, for instance, alter the headlights so they work on European roads without dazzling oncoming drivers.  

Talking of lights Volvo's adaptive headlights are the most effective I've tested. Only once in a week, with the nights drawing in, did they briefly dazzle someone - when I drove down a bumpy road and they didn't dip fast enough.

The only two elements of the screen and tech in the car that are substandard are the fact the screen isn't a touchscreen and has an input system that can sometimes feel clunky, and the satnav's traffic management (and subsequent route redirection and ETA) are based on TMC which is not as good as TomTom's or Google's.
2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design
2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

The car starts with a push of a button, and the key can go anywhere but Volvo has provided a handy space in the dash for it.

The engine is quiet at idle. The gearbox has a soft, fluid feel and the ratios are well spaced.

On pulling away the engine note rises through the usual diesel clatter to a lovely off-beat thrum when pushed, the result of having five cylinders.

It has lots of power and torque and a flat power curve once the turbo has kicked in at 2,000rpm. It'll pull in all gears as long as you keep the turbo spinning and carries on to a high, for a diesel, 5,000rpm.

In fact it feels faster than the stats show, perhaps because of the Polestar tuning. It really is a quick car that has lots of grip, despite being front wheel drive.  Torque steer can be an issue though in small left, right tugs on the wheel as you accelerate hard in lower gears.

The steering is light and has adequate, if not outstanding, feel and feedback. 

The S60 is good fun on twisting roads. It doesn't understeer much, rather it stays neutral in most conditions.  The R-Design's suspension is slightly firmer than in other trim levels but still soaks up the vast majority of road surfaces with aplomb.

It really comes into its own on flowing A-roads and motorways where its brilliant ride and composure make for a soothing experience. Stick it in top gear and overtake on a swell of torque, turn up the stereo, select adaptive cruise and watch the miles go by as it returns 40 to 50 mpg despite having 347lb ft of torque.

So, is the S60 as good as the German competition?  I think it is.  It has the looks, the driving experience, the tech, the comfort, the style - but does it have the image?  That's up to you.


Price - £35,395 (£42,260 as tested)
Engine - 2.4 litre, 5-cylinder, turbocharged diesel 
Transmission - 6-speed manual 
0-62mph - 7.4 seconds 
Top Speed - 143mph 
Power - 230bhp 
Torque - 347lb ft / 470Nm 
Economy - 62.8mpg 
CO2 - 119g/km 
Kerb weight - 1,658kg
2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design
2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design
2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

2014 Volvo S60 D5 R-Design

By Matt Hubbard