JS

FOR reasons I’m not quite sure of, the saloon car has fallen out of favour in the UK. Estates seem to be clinging on for dear life and the MPV is a distant memory. The days of “Mondeo Man” being used as a saloon-driving political stereotype are long gone.
But plenty of manufacturers are still serving up plenty of really good examples of this seemingly dying breed. Volvo, which has long been synonymous with its estates, offers a booted version of its popular mid-sized V60. And I’ve been driving the fruity one; the “twin-engined” S60 T8 AWD.
The eye-catching headline figure for this car, for some, will be its 400bhp clout. That puts it in the same frame as some of the greatest super saloons us petrolheads have fond memories of.
In truth, the 400bhp in the sportiest S60 is gathered up by using two powerplants simultaneously. There’s a conventional but clever two-litre, four cylinder engine with a turbocharger and a supercharger, and then an 86bhp electric motor. Combine the two and you have a rather potent car.
JSBut here’s the thing, as brisk as this Volvo is, the firm doesn’t really make a song and dance about its performance – rather its clever hybrid drivetrain and the economic and environmental benefits that can bring. More on that later.
Appropriately enough, it’s not going to trouble a BMW M3. It’s not really going to cause 340i owners any sleepless nights, either. It just hasn’t got the dynamic prowess. But that’s not really what this car’s about. Sure, it might be surprisingly quick, but it’s still a Volvo, so it’s still designed around its ethos of absolutely comfort, class-leading safety and its relatively new maxim of economy and cleanliness.
So what about fuel economy? This is it’s party piece, after all. Plug it in for a charge and a fully topped-up battery will give you just shy of 30 silent miles before it calls on help from the engine. The fossil fuel powertrain on its own struggles to reach the high-30s in terms of mpg, but combine the two and you’re looking at some very impressive figures.
So it’s sort of down to you; how often you remember to charge it, what mode you have it in, and how you drive it, as to what figures you get.
Nonetheless, Volvo’s official figures are a remarkable 44g/km of C02 and 148.7mpg. You can perhaps now see what I mean about its focus being on frugality rather than ferocity.
JSOf course, there are downsides to having all this tech bundled in. You lose out on interior space, for starters. The boot’s a bit smaller and the central channel is taken up with batteries, so cabin storage is compromised, too.
It’s also quite a bit heavier, but you’d not really notice that in every day driving.
A particularly impressive trait of the S60, though, as with any current Volvo, is its stunning interior design. It’s wonderfully comfortable and the Scandinavian design is a minimalist treat. It oozes class and elegance and it’s a fine place to sit.
The large central touch screen perhaps relies a bit too much on swipes, taps and pinches, but that’s the way of the world. Physical buttons are becoming a thing of the past. At least there’s plenty of driver aids to help out a bit while your eyes are off the road turning on the heated seats, or changing the lighting.
While running the S60 is a miser’s dream, buying one isn’t quite so easy on the wallet. Starting prices are around £45,000 before you’ve added any options and that’s more than £5,000 over the cost of a standard car.
But those who use their cars a lot, particularly if your mileage involves some urban sprawl or light rural use, it could pay for its own premium over time. Providing, that is, you’re able to keep the battery charged up.
In summary, then, the S60’s clever hybrid system is its big strength, and the surprising amount of grunt is its dirty secret.
But more than anything it’s a Volvo, and that alone will be more than enough for some people. The brand is undoubtedly in something of a heyday at the moment.
Plus, if you really want to follow the crowd and abandon the idea of a saloon, all this clever eco-technology is available in the estate and SUV models too.
Mondeo Man will be spinning in his grave.

JS