Don't be fooled by the slick exterior of the new S60 T6 - this car remains a Volvo through and through. It still features the marque's traditional sober qualities of high safety standards and comfort; among small executive saloons, the S60 is a range topper.
The new four-door saloon is a worthy successor to the first-generation S60, introduced in 2000. If the first model looks a little dated after 10 years in service, the new S60 fits in well with the current trend for streamlined efficiency and durability - two other hallmarks of Volvo cars.
In a break with previous marketing campaigns, Volvo has not been too boastful this time about the new S60's superior dynamics. This was a problem at the launch of the first generation, when the company (then owned by Ford) tried to pitch it against some of the most popular, driver-oriented cars from Germany; few customers seemed excited by its handling or driving pleasure over the years - preferring the smaller executive-type cars from Bavaria.
Like many Volvos before the S60, it was the combination of comfort and safety that lured customers to the car in the first place. The Volvo S60 has a more spacious interior, including more leg room in the back seats, than many other models in the small executive car bracket. Offering sturdy support, its leather seats have long been acclaimed for their comfort. But the S60's electrically adjustable driver's seat leaves something to be desired: its range for lumbar-support adjustment is a bit limited.
The car's central console is a thin, curved wooden (or metal, if you prefer) panel featuring controls for things such as electronic climate, six-speaker audio system, rear curtain; Volvo resisted the temptation to distract the driver with a too-complicated touch-screen interface system.
The S60 T6 is equipped with a three-litre turbocharged engine that can produce 304 horsepower and 440Nm of torque. An entry-level 2.0T, rated at 203 horsepower and 300Nm, has also been introduced to the Hong Kong market.
The 2.0T uses a Powershift dual-clutch transmission, while the S60 T6 has a Geartronic transmission. Fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions have been improved in the latest model thanks to refinements made to the engine, such as brake-energy regeneration and reduced internal friction.
The S60 T6 really packs a punch, yet the power delivery is tractable without a hint of turbo lag. The five-seater is effortlessly quick, too.
On a recent test drive of the S60 T6, runs from Happy Valley and down to Stanley were pretty intoxicating: think BMW M3 but without the accompanying high-rev sound. In fact, there is no need to rev up the turbocharged straight-six in this Volvo; the constant supply of torque simply takes care of the push.
On the other hand, at high-rev range the engine reveals itself to be somewhat harsher than most engines making the finals of the Engine of the Year Awards. The six-speed transmission does its job well - notwithstanding the absence of steering wheel-mounted paddles to allow shifting between gears.
Steering feel and Volvo don't often come together in a single sentence, but the T6 doesn't disappoint. It is not as direct as the best Lotus, but it's suitably weighted and fluid for a saloon. Drivers should have no problem feeling the connection of power delivery through the feedback from the steering wheel. Its balance in refinement and feel should do justice to what is, perhaps, the best small executive car in a market far too dependent on electronically assisted steering systems.
The ride is comfortable, too. Volvo appears to have corrected the often harsh and bumpy ride associated with the rear suspension set-up of the previous generation. Your children may not be able to tell, but they should appreciate the ride as much as you enjoy the drive.
Like the earlier versions, the new car features a system called 'active chassis', which allows the driver to choose the suspension setting: comfort, sport or advanced. Great, but I'll be happy to leave it on comfort when I drive.
When it comes to enhanced safety features, Volvo could almost be likened to yachts racing in the America's Cup, with its 'collision warning with full auto brake and pedestrian detection' system. A further development of the City Safety, first seen in the XC60, it is designed to reduce the possibility of rear-end collision or hitting a pedestrian. All Hong Kong-bound S60 T6s come equipped with the system, the dealer says.
As for passenger safety, the car is fitted with a selection of infant and child seats with safety as the prime consideration. Another smart touch is an incoming air monitoring system for detecting toxic gases.
This is definitely the first serious Volvo saloon for the 21st century.
Volvo S60 T6 at a glance
What drives it? A three-litre, in-line six-cylinder turbocharged engine coupled with a six-speed automatic gearbox and a four-wheel-drive system.
How fast is it? The Volvo S60 T6 accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds, while its top speed is electronically limited at 250km/h.
How safe is it? The four-door saloon has inflatable curtains, whiplash protection and side-impact protection systems, side airbags and two-stage driver and passenger airbags.
How thirsty is it? It uses 9.9 litres of unleaded fuel for every 100 kilometres in a combined fuel consumption test, the carmaker says.
How clean is it? It emits 239g of carbon dioxide per kilometre.
Available From HK$499,000 at Volvo Cars Hong Kong - www.volvocars.com.hk, tel: 2927 3388