Volvo have just launched their new S60 saloon and decided to let a few lucky drivers have a go in one at a number of track events. I was lucky enough to win one of the 1,000 tickets on offer by answering some daft questions, and so I chose to pop along to Bruntingthorpe.
Volvos tend not to appear on my radar very often. Apart from the quirky C30 hatchback the Swedish manufacturer hasn’t got much in its range that really interests me, and the last Volvo I drove was a tatty old S40 saloon – a very, very drab car to drive. So I decided to approach the day with an open mind and see if Volvo have improved the fun-factor in their cars.
Volvos Can Dance Too
As if to prove that the new S60 is capable of being ‘naughty’ (this is the naughty Volvo, according to the ad campaigns) we got to watch a pair of S60s doing a quick synchronised routine for us.
See, you can make a big and heavy four-door saloon make some nifty moves.
Flat Out Around Bruntingthorpe
The first in-car event was a couple of hot laps in a 205bhp D5 diesel with a pro driver at the wheel. Straight away something was wrong – this Volvo wasn’t understeering like it was supposed to! Flat out around the sweeping bends of the airfield the S60 was incredibly composed, cornering with hardly any body roll and feeling incredibly stable.
One fascinating fact was uncovered about the DSTC system – it can’t be switched completely off, and there’s a good reason for that. Apparently some dumbass in the States was stupid enough to crash his car after switching off the traction control and was then able to sue the manufacturer for giving him the option to indulge his stupidity. So now manufacturers are afraid to allow systems to be totally disabled, so expect to see more ‘ghost’ modes on new cars rather than a simple on/off switch.
Watch Out For The Pedestrians!
One of the more controversial features of the new S60 is the collision detection system. This scans the road ahead and if it thinks you’re about to hit something it will warn you and then activate the brakes if you don’t react in time. I say controversial because it’s not worked with 100% reliability in demonstrations – take a look at the system failing to operate. However, this time it did work and brought the car to a complete stop before we ran over Inflatable Dave. Impressive stuff, but I hope Volvo have ironed out all of the problems.
Cops And Robbers
Next we got the chance to get behind the wheel of the S60 on a slalom course with a difference – half way through the course a Police T5 suddenly appeared in the rear view mirrors! Quite a laugh, trying to concentrate on going quickly though the cones with flashing blue lights right behind you.
We then got to see how the pro drivers can do it, and it was interesting to note that the new S60 D5 has got more power and torque than the tuned V70s that the coppers use on a daily basis. Looks like it’s time for the Traffic Cops to upgrade.
On to a wet surface and the chance to try and get the S60 to kick it’s tail out. The idea here was to show how good the DSTC was at reigning in a skid.
Onto the wet surface, hard turn and lift off the gas to tempt the tail out in a slide, and then feel how the car sorts it all out. Very well, as it turned out, and you could feel the DSTC activating the brakes at each corner to try and bring the car back into line.
The final event of the day was a timed run around a course of cones, and this time we got to drive the new T6. With a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six producing 304bhp the S60 T6 is no slouch, and sounds quite nice too (if a little on the quiet side). It’s a quick car, make no mistake, and handled the tight course better than you might expect from such a big car.
I would have had the quickest time of my group, if only I hadn’t missed one set of cones – a ten second penalty and a very average time as a result. Mind you, first prize was a dodgy looking baseball cap so I wasn’t that disappointed.
So Is The Volvo S60 any Good?
In a word … yes. It’s a much better drive than any Volvo before it, yet manages to keep that air of solidity, safety and practicality that Volvos are famed for. Would I buy one? No, not for my own personal daily driver as I prefer something smaller, lighter, more nimble, more fun. But as a family car to keep the wife and kids safe? Yes, I actually think I would.