Volvo S60 D4 Driven - New Diesel Adds Appeal

You'd better get used to the new 2-litre diesel engine in this Volvo S60, because you'll soon find a version of it in every single car Volvo makes.

What is bad for variety is undoubtedly good for the consumer in this instance as the new engine is a cracker. It's part of a move by Volvo to cut down on the vast range of engines it currently uses.

Many of those engines are impressively powerful and economical, but the wide range of units - all eight of them - share very little with each other and most use different transmissions too. This is expensive, in an automotive industry striving hard to cut costs without cutting quality.

Volvo S60 D4 rear

Importantly, the new engines - all 2-litre petrols and diesels - will work with Volvo's upcoming SPA underpinnings, set to form the basis of virtually every Volvo from now on. They'll also be compatible with Volvo's plug-in hybrid technology, the next generation of which is already in the works.

So, to the S60. We tried two models, a D4 SE with a brand-new 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, and a D4 R-Design with Volvo's new six-speed manual. Each features Volvo's subtly revised styling, part of a facelift last year, but the S60 remains an attractive saloon whatever trim level you choose. The R-Design is naturally the more dynamic-looking, but SE trim has a quiet confidence, especially in darker shades.

Volvo's interiors remain some of the best in their class too, and worryingly for rivals they're set to get even better. Recent concepts have given us glimpses of possible future interior architecture, and we've had a play with the company's new infotainment system too - more on that in a future post.

Volvo S60 D4 interior

The engine really suits the S60's character. The D4 develops 181 horsepower and 400 Nm of torque. While not enough to squash you into your seat, there's more than enough to handle a speedy overtake, to punch out of a corner or to cruise in high gears without frequent down-changes.

Response isn't bad either, and while keen drivers will prefer the manual's slick changes, it's the 8-speed auto we'd choose - it's quick to change, never hunts for gears and always seems ready to deliver your desired amount of thrust. Refinement is impressive too, and while a four-cylinder diesel will never be as sonorous at higher revs as engines with greater cylinder counts, full-throttle acceleration is rarely intrusive.

Volvo S60 D4 boot

Perhaps most impressive of all is the new engine's economy. Despite that 180-horse output, the manual's 74.3 mpg combined figure means it emits only 99 g/km of CO2, for zero VED. The auto is only marginally thirstier, at 67.3 mpg and 109 g/km for a 20 yearly bill.

Throw in competent handling - steering response is keen and ride quality cossetting - and you have a really appealing package.

Priced from: 28,195 (D4 SE manual)
MPG: 67.3 - 74.3
CO2: 99 g/km - 109 g/km

Volvo S60 D4 side

Verdict

Volvo still doesn't have the cachet of the German brands in the company car park, but for a certain type of buyer that just makes it all the more appealing. To buy the S60 is to deliberately choose a car on its qualities, rather than its badge.

That it now comes with power and economy figures to shame its German rivals makes it a thoroughly rational choice too.

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