Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Entry-level Volvo S60 comes with 250hp
  • Two T8 plug-in hybrids – 390hp and 405hp Polestar
  • More models to follow in 2020

If you're looking for a low-powered or diesel-engined S60, you're right out of luck. From its launch in the UK in April 2019, there are two basic models – the T5 petrol with 250hp and two versions of the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid with 390hp or 405hp for the Polestar Engineered S60, which also comes with uprated springs and dampers, plus a more aggressive-looking bodykit.

Taking the T5 first, it's fair to say is that if you're expecting a ballistic performer like the Volvo T5s of old, you're going to be disappointed. Despite having a generous 250hp to play with, this version of the S60 is fast and effortless, but too composed to be exciting. Performance is strong, though, thanks to a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, with a 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds and a maximum speed of 145mph.

We like it, though, and although the engine note's a little flat when pushed, overall it's an efficient, refined and agreeable performer. But it lacks the final degrees of engagement that the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE are better known for.

Plug-in hybrids for performance

As you'd expect from the range's flagship, performance is rapid, with a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds and a maximum speed limited to 155mph. Like the T5, it’s lacking an interesting soundtrack, but you can forgive it for that, thanks to instant and devastating throttle response in the low and mid-range. It’s a quick and useful way of getting from one end of a country to the other. Keen drivers who love to rev a car out to its rev-limiter will be left disappointed as it feels all out of power at around 6,000rpm.

To give it the full beans, you need it in 'power' mode. This utilises the electric batteries for the full 390hp experience. Rest assured, if you continually use this mode the batteries will deplete pretty quickly, and you'll be left with just the 303hp petrol engine.

Essentially, the petrol engine powers the front wheels, and the electric system powers the rears, giving the car four-wheel-drive. Torque levels weigh in at a whopping 400Nm, making four-wheel-drive a sensible choice.

Overall, it's an interesting and characterful performance saloon, and although it’s not as accomplished an all-rounder - or as fast - as an Audi S4 or BMW M3, it’s still very capable, and good to drive. It is also a much more convincing effort than the old – non-hybrid – V60 Polestar.

Handling

  • As expected, it's a sporty saloon with surefooted handling
  • Limited body roll and excellent body control
  • It's not the most fun to drive – but certainly close to the pace

The Volvo S60 T5 R-Design Plus is quite clearly a sports saloon, so it's been set-up with a firm ride and reasonably flat cornering. So, body roll is kept reasonably in check, although like the V60 it’s so closely related to, it doesn’t corner quite as flatly (or with as much verve) as a BMW 3 Series or the best-in-class Jaguar XE, but it rarely disappoints unless that's your primary reason for buying a car of this kind.

Rarely are you aware this is a front-wheel drive saloon – it points and steers very effectively, and it's more than capable of cracking on quickly and efficiently when you’re on A- and B-roads. In tight bends, it’ll do the B-road thing without disgracing itself, and you'll enjoy its unfussed and relaxed overall demeanor.

Standard brakes are excellent, delivering plenty of stopping power and decent feel – Volvo's non-hybrid cars are so much better than the plug-ins in this respect because of the regenerative braking in the hybrids. This is where the electric motor helps to slow the car down, in addition to the mechanical brakes and helps to charge the batteries in the process. Although this is clever and good for economy, it does mean that you can never be certain just how hard you need to press the brake pedal, because it depends on how much regeneration the car needs.

Polestar Engineered version is a better bet

The Polestar Engineered S60 is a big upgrade over the standard S60, with sharp steering, grippy, four-wheel drive traction, and lots of ability. It still feels a heavy car, with all the issues that come with that, but feels more responsive than the entry-level S60, and you should be able to have some fun when it comes to it.

The six-piston Brembo brakes are brilliant, with great stopping power when you’re driving hard, and a curiously inconsistent feel when you’re not. When slowing to a stop, you’ll sometimes be surprised by how they jolt you, although familiarity will see you driving round the issue.

In summary, the Volvo S60 is a very capable executive saloon that's up there close to the best of its rivals. It's relaxed in the main and semi-sporty when it needs to be.