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First UK drive: 2014 Volvo S60 D4. Image by Volvo.

First UK drive: 2014 Volvo S60 D4
Time to try Volvo's excellent new D4 diesel engine in the S60 saloon - on UK roads.

   



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| First Drive | Derbyshire, England | Volvo S60 D4 |

Overall rating: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Volvo is abandoning its five- and six-cylinder engines for a new 'single architecture' range of petrol and diesel options. They're all 2.0-litre four-cylinder units, so it is only states of tune that differentiate the powerplants for various sizes of Volvo.

Key Facts

Model tested: Volvo S60 D4 SE Nav manual
Pricing: 29,395 as standard; car as tested 35,995
Engine: 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Rivals: Audi A4 2.0 TDI, BMW 320d SE, Mercedes-Benz C 220 CDI
CO2 emissions: 114g/km
Combined economy: 74.3mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Power: 181hp at 4,250rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

In the Metal: 5 5 5 5 5

As handsome as ever, the change to a new Drive-E diesel engine hasn't altered the exterior looks of the Volvo S60. Even in lowlier SE specification, it's still a swoopy, attractive thing and far more adventurous than some of the more staid machinery in this segment.

Inside, the biggest change in recent years has been to TFT instruments, which allow you to pick between Elegance, Eco and Performance displays. All are beautifully rendered and there are some clever ways of utilising 'dials' for multiple functions - for example, in the red-and-white Performance setting, the engine oil temperature gauge is replaced by cruise control information when you activate the system. With comfy seats, the subtle floating centre console and decent fixtures and fittings all round, the S60 is plush and almost feels like it's in the larger executive class, rather than something to target the smaller German machines.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

Aside from some extra strengthening and a slight increase in height for the diesel, a senior Volvo powertrain engineer said the Drive-E petrol and diesel blocks are so similar in their design that even he would struggle to spot the difference between them from certain angles - hence Volvo referring to the 'single architecture' engines.

Although ostensibly the chassis has been left alone, the new Drive-E engines are up to 90kg lighter than the old drivetrains. This means there's less weight over the nose of the S60 - and it shows. The steering is weighty and consistent yet lacking outright feel, but even so it's a game performer. You can fair throw the big Swede about and it clings on well beyond the point you expect understeer to rear its head.

But the drivetrain refinement is what truly stands out. We drove the manual version of the D4, which emits just 99g/km of CO2 - meaning 0 VED. Yet if you think it will be a grumbly, coarse affair in order to achieve such parsimony, you'd be well wide of the mark. It's practically inaudible up to 3,000rpm and the twin-turbocharging - a sequential system with a smaller turbo for low-rev responsiveness and a big blower for upper-revs firepower - bestows it with great in-gear flexibility. This is probably down to the i-Art technology, which isn't a drawing app for devices from a fruit-related global megabrand but actually a first from Volvo: each fuel injector has its own pressure sensor, rather than there just being the traditional one in the common rail. This allows for precise fuelling control and a massive 2,500 bar of rail pressure.

We heard a fellow reviewer opine that the auto version was the only rational transmission choice, but we disagree. On some of the Peak District's more strenuous inclines, the S60 D4 was happy to lug from 35mph in fifth gear, and it quickly attained 60mph in such situations. You won't need to stir the gearbox around endlessly to elicit go but if you feel like doing so nonetheless, it will reward you with a lovely, precise action and light clutch.

The quoted economy is stratospheric and we're not sure it's achievable, but even driving it pretty vigorously up hill and down dale saw an average mpg in the mid-40s over 65 miles. This is suitably impressive for something of this size. Take the D4 181hp out to the redline and it becomes louder, but harshness is simply not an issue and it'll keep pulling happily beyond the 4,250rpm peak power point. Overall, we're very impressed - and a 230hp derivative would be high on our 'want to drive one' wish list.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

As per our drive of the V60 D4 last year, in basic format the powerful and economical S60 represents good value against its traditional Germanic premium rivals. The Drive-E D4 offers better power/emissions than the likes of the BMW 320d, Mercedes C 220 CDI and Audi A4, and you can spec the Volvo up to a very high level of kit for just 36,000, like our test car. That means satnav, heated seats and steering wheel, all manner of camera-related safety equipment and adaptive cruise control as well.

Worth Noting

We also drove three more Volvos on the day of this test, which were the S80 and front-wheel drive versions of the XC60 SUV and XC70 crossover estate. And the best news is that the 181hp 'D4' engine worked equally well in all of them. It returned over 40mpg in each, with its sophistication more than suitable for the S80 executive, the 400Nm making light of the XC60's bigger body and the drivetrain somewhat modernising the ageing XC70.

We also managed to test the new eight-speed AW F22 automatic gearbox in the S80 and XC70, and it's another gem. Perhaps not quite as smooth as some other similarly-enumerated autos, it's still silky enough and more than capable of optimising the torque available.

Summary

Volvo will have phased out all non-four-pot engines by 2017 at the current rate, and while it is not yet confirming if smaller cylinder counts are in the offing, it's certainly the end for anything bigger than four pistons. But, judging by the brilliance of the 181hp diesel, Volvo could end up being a pioneer of such range-wide downsizing. With the diesels slated to offer between 120- and 230hp, and the petrol engines from 140- up to the 306hp of the current T6 and beyond, every possible customer requirement should be catered for by just two 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines - replacing the eight different architectures that currently exist within the brand. This one-engine-fits-all lark could turn out to be a stroke of genius.


Matt Robinson - 31 Jan 2014



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2014 Volvo S60. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo S60. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo S60. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo S60. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo S60. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo S60. Image by Volvo.
 

2014 Volvo S60. Image by Volvo.
 






 

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