Volvo has already carved a niche for itself with safety tech. But with the S60, it wants to add a ‘Sporty’ suffix to its range. The Swedish car makers range in India is currently dominated by SUVs such as the XC90, XC60 and the XC40, even though they have the S90 and V90 Cross Country in the line-up. This left a big hole in the entry-level of the luxury segment which the S60 has helped plugged internationally since early 2019! So, almost two years later, India gets the all-new S60 sedan that promises to make sportiness safe, in typical Swedish fashion.
Instantly, it comes across as one of the most well-proportioned sedans on the market. A beautiful front end with a regal grille bearing slightly concave vertical slats lends the requisite amount of chrome to a “premium” face and the sculpted bonnet, wide shoulders and 18in wheels only complete the athletic stance. It’s handsome alright and even though it would fit right in a family portrait with other Volvos, maintains a unique silhouette that's more youthful than any other member.
Tech for days
Inside, the S60 bears a much stronger resemblance to the larger S90, which is not a bad thing per se, but the S90 is fast approaching senior citizen age, so...yeah. There’s no lingering doubt left in your head that this interior was designed in the midst of sheep, rolling pastures and a windmill view out of the designer’s studio. It’s very Scandinavian. The driftwood inlays used on the dashboard and centre console are supposed to emulate the natural ageing of wood caused by water and other elements and offsets well with the matte aluminium. But, it’s also all too familiar now and we’ve seen the same design language since 2016, back when the 9in Sensus touchscreen wowed the world. It works well even now but has been dwarfed by larger screens in cars costing one-third its price. Similarly, the 12in digital cluster has begun to show its age with an overtly minimalist look that isn’t customisable and the graphics look like they could do with an update too.
Thankfully, behind the familiar fascia is also a solid foundation of great tech that works well. The response of the capacitive touchscreen is class-leading and the interface is simpler than most too, with logical operation and the superbly finished knurled aluminum volume knob bang in the centre to control the fantastic Harman Kardon hi-fi. 14 speakers and 600 watts of power go through processing by specialist tuning brand Dirac Research to ensure that no matter where you sit in the car, the inconsistencies in frequency response and imaging are minimal. It also takes into account the acoustics of the cabin itself and as a user, you get a high degree of control over how much “surround effect” you like in your music and you can tweak it until you find your sweet spot. Bass permeates through the cabin without any evidence of a point source and blends in perfectly with the rest of the drivers, drowning you in a wave of sound that sounds magnificent. Large, open soundstage that goes beyond the physical boundaries of the cabin coupled with a taut low-end and you’ll keep reaching for the volume knob. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported via a cable (still not wireless) and a wireless charging pad in the centre console keeps it up to date. Though, my iPhone 12 Pro Max had trouble squeezing itself in and aligning with the charging coil, so a smaller phone will work better. Rear passengers get a couple of USB-C ports amongst themselves too, so no one ever has to suffer from digital anxiety in a Volvo.
Bringing in only a single variant, the T4 Inscription, makes it easy to customise your S60. You can’t. But it’s a fully specced out model that carries forward the brand’s mission statement to be the safest car on the planet with all the necessary tools. Adaptive Cruise Control with Pilot Assist, Lane Keeping Aid, Hill Start Assist, Emergency Brake Assist, Collision Mitigation support and a reversing camera, all come in handy if you’re caught snoozing or distracted. Some of it works better than the others, depending on how well the road markings are and when it does, it is really effective in keeping you within the lane and at a prescribed speed and distance from the vehicle in front. Then there’s the passive kit like inflatable air curtains, whiplash protection and of course, many airbags. Even without knowing any of this information though, the S60 feels like a safe, comforting place to be the moment you step in. The contoured seats are one of the most ergonomic I’ve ever rested my posterior on and the motorized thigh support extensions only add to the pampering. You can even control the passenger seat from the driver’s door-mounted controls, a little something that chauffeur-driven owners might appreciate.
Calm and composed
The comfort factor also extends to the driving bit, coincidentally. Although the T4 turbo-petrol motor is punchy at 190bhp and the chassis feels dynamic enough, the steering is calibrated to take things easy. So you can’t really point and dart the S60 but you get the sense that the car is capable of much more. The 8-speed automatic with paddle shifts is smooth and the Sport drive mode does make it fun to turn on the aggression a bit and even the engine joins the party by adding a sonorous soundtrack at higher revs. Ride is absolutely fantastic, flattening out almost everything in its path, even on the sporty 18in rims. It will make you hunt for bad roads only to marvel at what a fine job Volvo engineers have done with the ride and handling balance of the S60. The only thing that really keeps it from challenging the 3 Series or the Jaguar XE is the slow steering. But, for most owners behind the wheel or even in the back seat, the S60 will impress with its road manners, NVH levels and the overall sense of being cocooned inside a quality product.
It doesn’t scream ‘HI-TECH’ on the surface but the 2021 Volvo S60 has all the essentials and then some. Features like the panoramic sunroof and cooled seats will be an Indian favourite, while the awesome Harman Kardon audio and ionising air purifier can lift your spirits and the abundance of safety features keep it at the top of the game. Where it starts showing its age is in the obvious bits like the 9in infotainment touchscreen that feels a tad small in 2021 and the all-digital instrument cluster that desperately needs new graphics and readouts. If you’re the kind who likes to read between the lines though, the S60 is a fantastic left-field choice in the luxury segment. It looks smashing, has possibly the best ride in the segment and will help you emerge fresher on the other side of an 8-hour journey. Not many sport sedans can claim that now, can they?