Volvo S60 T4 2012 Review

Volvo S60 T4 2012 Review

There comes a time in your life when you just want a bit of comfort. I couldn’t easily go back to the rock hard suspension and bucket seats of my 20s unless it’s something insanely quick like a Gumpert Apollo. No, I want something a bit more civilized because single ladies in their 30s tend to appreciate Maseratis, not Mazdas.

However, this base model Volvo S60 may be targeting a little older than that. It’s not like the sexy S60 T5R that I tested a few months ago and spent an enjoyable journey from Auckland to Ruapuke and back. It’s softer; so supremely comfortable in the seats that it’s like

sitting in your favourite recliner. It made returning it while suffering from man flu almost as good as lying in bed. Yes, I know I probably shouldn’t have driven it while ill, but it has City Safety which brakes for you if you’re about to hit something (only at speeds under 30kph, though). There is the full complement of other driver aids, too, like traction control (it can get used frequently), stability control, emergency brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution and more.

Overall it’s a car that aspires to be as safe as possible and that is reflected in the design. There are no unusual angles or corners; there’s nothing challenging or awkward about the design both inside and out (apart from the floating console, which I’ll get to later); it even comes with a fairly peppy (but sensibly small and frugal) engine.

You don’t get a conventional key to start said engine, but you still have to put it in a slot in the dashboard before the car will start. Keyless start is an option. In fact, there is a huge range of options like additional safety (such as the Blind Spot Information System – $1400), additional bling (such as the Teknik Pack – $6000), and additional comfort (such as a humidity sensor – $165). Add up all the options for the T4 and you can be spending an extra $45,625!

Fire the S60 up and you can’t hear that much. You’ve got a turbocharged four-cylinder, 1.6-litre engine sitting in front of you and it’s ready to liberate 132kW and 240Nm through the front wheels. Press the accelerator and a great many of them are released at the same time and this keeps the traction control on its toes. I like that it will pull away briskly from a standing start. However, it does run out of puff a little early on and takes 9 seconds to get to 100kph.

You can’t fault the steering and general ride. It works exactly how you would think it would work: predictable, safe, a bit of understeer. The brakes are strong and there’s a cruise control with which you can finely adjust your speed one kph at a time – very useful. You don’t get automatic headlights, but you do get automatic wipers.

I can see why Volvo has made a floating dash. It does provide some (not very useful) storage behind it, but without it, you wouldn’t easily be able to reach the controls which are a mixture of genius and frustration. Genius that you can easily direct the air conditioning and you get 10 easily accessible radio memories so you can channel surf to avoid the ads. Frustrating in that I couldn’t figure out how to pair the dual climate control so ended up having to use both dials to change the temperature inside evenly lest I cause some kind of occluded front between the driver and passenger seats and clouds start forming. This area of the dash really does need a cleanup as the buttons are tad fiddly.

A screen lets you know what’s going on with the stereo and general car setup. You can pair your Bluetooth phone and dial using the keypad on the dashboard.

Child passengers will be pleased with the comfortable rear seats and won’t mind the slightly cramped legroom if you have tall people in the front. The boot is fairly small, too.

I don’t come with much of my own built-in padding, so I liked the seats and the seating position. It’s a solid-feeling drive that could benefit from a little more top-end power. However, the choice of a 1.6-litre engine does mean that fuel economy is good for a petrol car of this size (7.2 litres per 100km) and the CO2 emissions are low (166g/km). The styling will be inoffensive to absolutely everyone and it comes with all the safety boxes ticked. This Volvo will blend in. It doesn’t have the ‘look at me’ styling of the S60 T5 R-Design. That will suit a great many people, but probably people older than their late 30s.

Price: from $59,990

Pros

  • Super comfortable
  • Handling and ride are competent
  • Excellent safety features
  • Lots of options to enhance your S60

Cons

  • Needs a dashboard rethink
  • Boot is fairly small

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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