Volvo S60 saloon
"The Volvo S60 is an impressive all-rounder but the hybrid models hold the most appeal, particularly as company cars"
- Beautiful interior
- Generous specification
- Impressive acceleration
- Lacklustre handling
- Smaller boot than rivals
- Real-world fuel economy doubts for hybrids
The Volvo S60 saloon – sister to the Volvo V60 estate – is an important model in the brand's line-up, burdened as it is with the task of tempting buyers away from the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. The plug-in hybrid models have a big role to play in a world increasingly turning its back on diesel power.
Volvo is undoubtedly one of the first marques that comes to mind when plug-in hybrid technology is mentioned. The Volvo XC90 SUV was the first car from the Swedish brand to use it, and electrified petrol engines can now be found in the smaller Volvo XC60 as well as the flagship Volvo S90 saloon.
Volvo took the decision not to offer diesel engines in its new models in 2018, so there is a petrol-powered S60 called the T5 and two T8 hybrids. The petrol T5 has 247bhp, making it a punchy performer, but fuel consumption of up to 39.8mpg isn't going to win any economy awards. Not offering a diesel model seems to have affected S60 sales, as the BMW 3 Series is comfortably outselling it.
The first T8 Twin Engine has 385bhp from a combination of an electric motor and a petrol engine, while a Polestar Engineered version draws on Polestar’s racing nous and packs 399bhp. Whichever T8 you choose, it's the only plug-in hybrid model that can rival the performance of such sporty premium saloons as the Mercedes-AMG C43 and BMW 340i. It’s also a rival to the Mercedes C-Class C300 de and BMW 330e plug-in hybrids, although it’s much faster and has a price to match.
Rather than looking like a shrunken S90, the Volvo S60 has an individual look of its own, with sportier proportions and shorter overhangs front and rear. All the recent Volvo styling cues are present and correct, including the 'Thor's Hammer' headlight design. In R-Design trim, there's a subtle bodykit and rear lip spoiler that doesn't overplay the sporty theme, which makes the fact that the T8 can race from 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds all the more surprising.
Yet this is a car for which Volvo claims 176.5mpg and exhaust emissions as low as 39g/km. That comes courtesy of an all-electric range of 36 miles on a full charge. Those emissions mean the S60 T8 matches the 16% Benefit-in-Kind bracket into which the BMW and Mercedes plug-in hybrids slip, so the Volvo brings a remarkably low rate of company car tax for a car with this much performance.
That figure is unchanged, too, if you choose the even more powerful Polestar Engineered version, which adds 14bhp to the T8's already startling power output, as well as choice upgrades to the S60's suspension system. It's stiffer, more agile and rather less relaxing than the standard car, and feels like it misses the mark against more conventional sports saloon rivals.
The S60 has an interior that compares well with its rivals in terms of quality, and it arguably beats them for layout and aesthetic appeal. It's virtually unchanged from the V60 estate, with restrained, upmarket looks and a high-tech feel thanks to a big, portrait-oriented 'Sensus' central display that controls infotainment and convenience features.
There's no shortage of driver-assistance technology either; Volvo's 'Pilot Assist' system is on hand to make motorway driving safer and more relaxing, and nobody aboard will complain of tight interior space. In what may seem a break from tradition, neither the S60 saloon nor V60 estate are the most capable load carriers in their class.
We remain unconvinced that the S60 T8 Twin Engine really stacks up as an alternative sports saloon. The less expensive BMW 330e isn't much slower, is more appealing to drive, and still offers tax advantages to those who can make use of them.