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Volvo has electric dreams

The reason is this S60 is the first Volvo to be produced and developed without a diesel engine.

As part of the first step towards the full electrification of its range, Volvo has ditched diesel for its new model ranges (they will still be available in existing cars until they are replaced) meaning that all new cars like this S60 will only be available with petrol or petrol-electric hybrid power.

With sales of new diesel cars in freefall at present that might seem to be a wisely prescient move on Volvo’s part but at the same time the hybrid market is still in its relative infancy (making up just six per cent of sales).

And this is a car mainly aimed at business drivers who still largely prefer diesels due to their higher mileage and lower tax rates.

It is a decision with one eye already looking to the future but at the same time that future has yet to entirely materialise.

In the short term at least, Volvo’s initial sales of this new S60 might suffer, especially until the hybrid and petrol market is fully established.

At least the S60 looks the part then. Volvo’s design department has been producing some of the best-looking new cars in showrooms of late, especially the S60’s sister car, the V60 estate – and this latest is no different.

We like the dominant front with the over-sized grille and “Thor’s hammer” front LED headlights and the sporty crease lines along the car’s flanks.

The new Volvo S60

The new Volvo S60 (Image: NC)

The rear, echoing the C-shaped lights of the larger S90, doesn’t look quite so smart to our eyes but overall the car boasts a distinctive style that stands out and is pleasing to the eye.

It is certainly more recognisable from a distance than the likes of the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series or Mercedes C-Class.

With that lack of a diesel, under the bonnet there is a choice of four engines, two turbo-petrol and two petrol-electric plug-in hybrids.

All S60s come fitted with automatic gearboxes with no manual available. The two standard petrols in the T4 and T5 are both 2.0-litres with either 190bhp or 250bhp.

In the latter form this gives the T5 a 0 to 60mph time of 6.5 seconds with a 149mph top speed, while at the same time returning 47.8mpg average fuel economy (on paper at least) and 152g/km emissions.

A third petrol called T6 also gets a supercharger and four-wheel drive with 310bhp and is being considered for a late 2019 arrival.

Volvo s60 interior

Volvo s60 interior (Image: NC)

The S60’s big news however isn’t just that absence of a diesel option but also that the flagship models are a pair of plug-in hybrids, badged as T8, with 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines plus a 10.4kW battery boasting either 390bhp or, in Polestar form, 405bhp.

As Volvo’s still relatively young performance brand, the Polestar model is certainly not for any shy and retiring types. Both T8 models boast four-wheel drive and manage the 0 to 60mph sprint in under 5.0 seconds with a 155mph top speed.

The Polestar version adds to that with uprated suspension, brakes and handling to live up to the brand’s sportier image.

Clever hybrids aside, the S60 has some stiff competition in the form of the forthcoming new BMW 3-Series, especially when even the current outgoing 3 is hardly a slouch.

On the road the S60 certainly feels refined enough when cruising, with a good road stance and sharp, direct steering.

The T8 is also devastatingly fast both from a standing start and particularly mid-range when overtaking thanks to that battery pack.

The bad news is that while offering a 21-mile electric-only range, the battery pack also adds a significant 31 stone to the weight of the S60.

While that weight feels low down and is controllable, the car doesn’t feel as manoeuvrable through tighter turns with rapid direction changes compared to the likes of the 3-Series.

But there is creditably little body roll and on longer more flowing bends the Volvo feels more planted and controllable, enabling you to really lean on the grip provided by the tyres.

The nice and responsive gearchange paddles behind the steering wheel help you to keep up a good rhythm too.

That said, while this S60 undoubtedly drives better than many recent Volvos (and bodes well for the stand-alone Polestar coupe car due next year), there is still room for improvement with more involved steering and better suspension control over undulating surfaces.

While it sits on large 20in wheels, the ride quality is far too fidgety over broken surfaces as well.

S60 is the first Volvo to be produced and developed without a diesel engine

The S60 is the first Volvo to be produced and developed without a diesel engine (Image: NC)

When switching between regenerative braking to charge the on-board batteries and friction braking with the actual pads themselves, the brakes could also be a lot smoother and more progressive at low speed.

Drive the non-hybrid S60 and the differences are noticeable, with that lack of battery weight showing obvious improvements to the car’s feel on the road, although the ride is still on the firmer side.

Inside is the usual portrait-style upright central screen on the dashboard with its very intuitive infotainment system similar to a tablet. The front seats are very comfortable with adjustable lumbar and under-thigh support.

In the rear there is also plenty of head and legroom, although a third central passenger will not thank you for any longer journeys as the central transmission tunnel, housing the batteries is large and intrusive and takes up legroom.

The boot meanwhile is a decent 442 litres and the rear seats fold for extra space.

Like its V60 estate brother, overall it is hard not to step out of this new S60 thinking that it would be a very easy car to live with day-to-day.

As an alternative non-German choice too, it is a far better all-rounder than the likes of the Lexus IS, although Jaguar’s XE provides stiffer competition.

The lack of a diesel engine in the range may well harm its potential success in the shorter term but in the long view the fact that many of its rivals have either temporarily dropped or do not offer a plug-in hybrid at this level means this S60 already has a head start.

That technology, plus the Volvo’s comfort and styling mean we think it definitely deserves to be on the shopping list of anyone after a small executive car.

For a company normally famed for its estates, this could be one of the best saloons that Volvo has ever produced.

● Model: Volvo S60

● On sale: April 2019

● Price range: est £37,000- £52,500

● Engine range: Turbo-petrol – 2.0, 2.0-litre 250bhp; Petrol-electric – 2.0 plus 10.4kWh battery, 2.0-litre 405bhp

● Power: 0 to 60mph in 4.7 seconds, 155mph top speed (2.0 hybrid 405bhp)

● Average fuel economy: 47.8mpg (2.0)

● CO2 emissions range: 44- 169 g/km

● Rivals: Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Jaguar XE, Mercedes C-Class

● Rating: ★★★★★★★★★✩

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