A NOISY neighbour is setting the cat among the pigeons in the premium mid-size saloon car scene.
It comes in the shape of the new Volvo S60, a stylish and racy-looking vehicle hell bent on disrupting a sector dominated by the ‘big three’ German outfits.
This third generation S60 is already a landmark car for Volvo in that it is the first model to be built at the Swedish brand’s US plant in South Carolina – establishing the company as a global manufacturer with facilities in the world’s three principal sales regions.
More important though, it is the first modern Volvo to be sold without a diesel engine, heralding the company’s commitment to electrification.
It means the S60, which has just gone on sale in the UK with prices from £37,920, will be available exclusively with petrol and petrol-electric hybrid power, the latter also up for grabs in high performance Polestar engineered form.
Volvo is riding the crest of a wave at present. It is the fastest-growing premium brand in the country to the point that in 2018 it recorded its highest annual UK sales figure for 28 years with more than 50,000 cars – in an overall market that was down by seven per cent.
Amid claims that the S60 is the most dynamic handling Volvo ever made – promising to stir but not shake its driver – the press launch of the newcomer was staged in the Scottish highlands, including on some of the spectacular roads featured in the James Bond film Skyfall.
To suggest that the car’s design is striking would be an understatement. Those clean trademark Scandinavian lines are all there but with some added eye-catching details like T-shaped daytime running lights and muscular rear haunches.
R-Design variants, which make up the initial phase of UK supply, push the boat out further with a high-gloss black trim, dual integrated exhaust pipes plus 18-inch diamond cut alloys.
Move inside and the minimalist interior oozes elegance, boasting the same Sensus touchscreen control set-up as Volvo’s other new models, allowing the cabin to be largely free of buttons and switches.
This may be the smallest Volvo but an appreciably longer wheelbase than on its predecessor ensures space is plentiful, significantly so in the back, and the boot’s 442 litres of luggage space is accessed easily thanks to a wide boot opening and low loading height.
Safety has been of paramount importance to Volvo since day one and all S60s come with the brand’s City Safety suite of collision avoidance aids, Oncoming Collision Mitigation – a world first in the mid-size saloon arena – and Steering Support as well as technology to stop the car inadvertently running off the road.
Every car also gets voice control, smartphone integration, access to apps like Spotify and Google Local Search and you can also turn the Volvo into a WiFi hotspot via either a mobile phone or the built-in car modem and a SIM card.
Every S60 is powered by a version of Volvo’s own 2.0-litre four-cylinder Drive-E petrol engine, ranging from the 250bhp T5 unit in the launch car to the fiery 390bhp T8 Twin Engine and 405bhp T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered plug-in hybrid.
All get an eight-speed automatic gearbox with petrol versions featuring front-wheel drive and hybrids all-wheel drive.
As for performance you can expect the 250bhp petrol models to accelerate from 0-62 in 6.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 145mph, though Volvo says all its cars will soon be electronically capped to a 112mph maximum.
It is part of the company’s Vision 2020 campaign with the goal that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by next year.
What buyers can expect from the S60 meanwhile is car of outstanding ability. The engine is sweet, the dynamics exceptional, the ambiance relaxing and soundproofing superb as we discovered on a stunning route that took in over 200 miles of varied highland roads, skirting mountains, passing lochs and cruising through the awe-inspiring Glencoe.
James Bond himself would not feel undersold in the S60 – in fact he’d positively love it.