SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS

Model

ANDY ENRIGHT

Model Volvo S60 T5 R-Design

Engine 1969cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo

Max power 192kW @ 5700rpm

Max torque 400Nm @ 2500-3500rpm

Transmission 8-speed automatic

Weight 1767kg

0-100km/h 6.3sec (claimed)

Fuel consumption 7.3L/100km

Price $64,990

On sale Now

YOUíRE NOT likely to buy a Volvo S60. No, really. The company aims to sell 400 cars in its first calendar year so a certain measure of exclusivity is more or less assured.

The market for sedans like this stands at around 40,000 per year, so the S60 needs to make a piffling 1 percent dent in it to create a warm and rosy glow in Gothenburg. Given that the XC40 and XC90 have achieved a 9 percent share and the XC60 a 16 percent slice of the pie, the S60ís targets look achievable.

The sedan arrives here with a choice of two powerplants. Around 96 percent of all the cars sold will be propelled by the turbocharged 2.0-litre T5 engine, with the remainder being the flagship turbocharged and supercharged T8 plugin hybrid. Volvo has pitched the S60 T5ís pricing way below that of the XC60, the SUV with which it shares much of its oily bits. The range kicks off at $54,990 for the T5 Momentum version, an allwheel- drive 187kW sedan which is at least $15K cheaper than an equivalent Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series.

Unfortunately, no Momentum or Inscription models were available to test, the launch vehicles comprising all 192kW/400Nm T5 R-Designs. Therein lies a problem. Put simply, the R-Design suspension is just too firm for Australian roads. The ride quality on both vehicles was notably terse, with a poorly controlled pitchiness. With no option of air suspension (something we always recommend to XC60 purchasers) and a low-profile tyre fitted, the S60 R-Design struggles.

The T5 claws back some credit with its wieldiness through corners. Good Continental tyres, clean, if somewhat mute, steering and a feeling that thereís not a lot of weight in the nose offer rewards to the keen driver. Weíre used to this powerplant in the XC40 and XC60 and while we donít expect a characterful, acoustically rewarding petrol engine in a mid-range family SUV, we do when choosing a quick sedan.

The S60 T5 R-Design is certainly brisk. Itíll trip the stopwatch at just 6.3sec on the sprint to 100km/h, the eight-speed Geartronic transmission rarely doing enough wrong for you to feel inclined to intervene with paddleshifting duties. For $65K in this range-topping trim, there are certainly more rewarding Ė and more supple Ė driverís cars available.

Itís hard to pick fault with the S60ís interior finish though. CarPlay, Android there from the most affordable model. The cabinís also a good deal more spacious in the rear than the old S60, which was notably tight on both head and legroom. The 390-litre boot is well down on the 480-litre class norm, but a split/fold rear bench and a ski hatch go some way to making amends.

There is a very good car in the S60. Unfortunately we didnít get to drive it. The S60 T5 R-Design is well appointed, handsome, safe and competitively priced, but the tedious ride quality and dull engine acoustics will be enough to see it scratched from the shortlists of enthusiast drivers. Weíll reserve final judgment until we get behind the wheel, but an S60 T5 Momentum or Inscription on softer springs and with a more generous tyre sidewall could well prove a significantly smarter selection.

ANDY ENRIGHT

PLUS

Good value; quality interior ambience; sleek styling; T5 engine offers decent shove

MINUS

Irksome ride; small boot; insipid engine acoustics; R-Design not pick in range

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