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Minimalism Maximised!

S Muralidhar | Updated on December 17, 2020

The rear design has a few more complicated features with the tail-lamps’ light configuration being the most elaborate   -  S Muralidhar

The vertical orientation for the dashboard and play on layers have provided Volvo designers the ability to create an elegant fascia   -  S Muralidhar

Volvo’s new S60 is Swedish svelte, but it is also too familiar. Look past its sibling similarities and you’ll find a reliable, VFM luxury sedan

The pandemic has hit the auto industry hard. Even though there are signs of a limping back to normal, there are a few in the industry who have been hit harder due to an already low sales volume. One of them is Volvo India; the company and its dealers have had to bear the brunt of the lockdown. With limited allocations and a focused product strategy its volumes were already low during regular years.

But, Volvo has proved to be a disruptor in the luxury car market, bringing in vehicles that bear the stamp of Swedish design, that focus on safety, and deliver more value and exclusivity. To shake off the Pandemic blues, Volvo India has just announced plans for launching the new S60 by Q1 2021. Can this executive luxury sedan better what Volvo does best? We put it to the test.

Design

Volvo’s design language is so unified that most of its vehicles look very similar to each other. They are certainly unmistakable and unique compared to competitors; and that is still a good thing going for the brand. Volvo design is minimalist, without seeming mundane. The new S60 gets all the trademark design treatment and classic Volvo features that we have seen in the other vehicles of the India portfolio. The Thor-hammer LED headlamps, the concave grille with its multiple vertical slats and the ‘seat-belted’ Volvo logo in the middle give the front its distinctive looks. The S60’s long bonnet and the low roofline give the impression that it is a low-slung car, but it is not. Even the 18-inch rims with 235/45 Continental tyres fill out the wheel arches nicely, leaving me wondering if it might mean that I’d have to crawl cautiously over speed breakers. But I didn’t encounter any such event during my two days of testing the S60 (ground clearance 142mm).

Unlike the simple straight lines at the front, the rear design of the new S60 has a few more complicated features with the tail-lamps’ light configuration being the most elaborate. Sitting on the edge of the sharply defined haunches, the large tail-lamps E-shaped with LED tubes look similar to the ones we have seen in other Volvos. The rear fender sports dual exhausts. The trim I was driving was the T4 Inspiration and this had the right amount of chrome highlighting all the key features in the exterior of the S60.

Cabin

Every Volvo cabin has been classier and more loaded than its competitors in the same segment. And the S60 will be no different. My test mule’s cabin was specified with a charcoal and maroon brown leather theme. The vertical orientation for the dashboard and the play on layers has provided Volvo designers the ability to create an elegant fascia. Brushed aluminium trim runs across the dash dividing the layout and acting like a virtual inverted bracket. The metal trim surrounds a sort of ribbon of open-pore wood inlay that Volvo calls ‘linear lime’. The cabin can be chosen with two other colour and trim themes. And there are five exterior colour choices.

The centre console is considerably raised and sports some of the more exclusive elements in the cabin, including the cut crystal start/ stop knob. In fact, this knob, the drive mode selector and the gear-stick itself are all variations over the ones we have already seen in other Volvo models. The rolling panels fashioned out of the same open-pore wood cover the cubby holes and storage pockets in the centre console. The cabin has an air of being busy, yet follows modern minimalist principles. Stitched dark grey panels on the top dashboard panels, the wood trim and the leather seats complement each other well. The Sensus touchscreen infotainment system is a more compact 9-inch version of the ones we’ve seen in the bigger siblings. Digital instrument cluster displays a speedo and odometer combo by default; this changes to a speedo and driving efficiency meter with a needle that turns anticlockwise pointing to the green zone when driving in Eco mode. The new S60’s cabin space is certainly not as much as the flagship S90, but it is more than competitors in the entry to mid- luxury sedan segment where it will be positioned. The seats are set a bit low, but there is enough legroom and headroom even for rear passengers. Seat construction is excellent with enough adjustment options and support to get the right seating position for front passengers. The squabs are not plump, but offer the right support to keep me fresh even after a long trip. The boot offers 391-litres of luggage space.

Performance

For now, the S60 will only be offered in one trim level and with only one petrol engine. Also in other markets, the 2-litre, 4-cylinder engine is offered in two other states of tune, including a supercharged version, but here it only gets the base version that delivers 190hp of power and 300Nm of torque. The 1,969cc engine sends power to the front wheels (no all-wheel drive option), and is paired with a 8-speed automatic transmission. The engine’s character is more in tune with those seeking a linear accelerating, efficient marathoner, than those expecting to burn rubber. Even though the Conti tyres offer good grip and there is no understeer, the S60’s handling and agility is similarly not for those seeking to carve corners on their way to their workplace. Rear-wheel drive competitors from the German luxury car brands will certainly outdo the S60 at this. If you want a Volvo that can challenge the inner Schumacher in you, then you’d have to look towards the Polestars.

The S60’s auto gearbox is a refined performer with quick, imperceptible shifts: and a responsive throttle feel too. The cabin stays quiet, except at higher rpm levels. Suspension setting is pliant with a touch of firmness at low speeds. Overall ride quality should be appreciated by rear passengers. The ARAI rated mileage for the new S60 is 13.57kmpl; my test mule delivered much less. But then again, I wasn’t driving like the average Volvo driver.

Bottom line

After being discontinued in 2019, the third-gen S60 is a comeback with a bang. Even though its single trim, single powertrain form limits options for the buyer, it should still manage to please most buyers in the mid-luxury segment. That buyer will still get a plush sedan loaded with features like a panoramic electric sunroof, Pilot Assist which is Volvo’s semi-autonomous driving tech and a whole host of safety features, including adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation.

Bookings open in January 2021, with deliveries expected by March next year. I expect the price to be under ₹50 lakh.

Published on December 17, 2020

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