Volvo S60 T4: Livelier Option for Younger Set

By Lee Pang Seng
THE Volvo S60 is seen as the rival to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series although the price difference is not as big as you would expect, varying from a few thousand ringgit to more than RM20,000, depending on models. Volvo has its share of followers who have come to accept its brand of engineering and safety standards, and the price that needs to be paid to enjoy that privilege.

It also helps that the S60 has been upgraded recently with more features and engineering refinements to add a shine to its image. A noteworthy change is going smaller in engine displacement to flow with the better fuel economy trend against the high price of petrol, especially in unsubsidised markets. The models introduced for the Malaysian market are the 1.6 T4 and 2.0 T5.

With the turbocharging technology that Volvo has subscribed to for more than two decades, having a small engine is no longer seen as an underpower issue. Force-feeding air and fuel mixture into the combustion chamber produces strong horsepower and torque that compensates well for the initial lag. In fact, the early development of torque has almost done away with the initial turbo lag.

That’s our impression after a weekend with the S60 T4. On paper, the four-cylinder double cam 1.6-litre engine with variable valve timing delivers 132PS (180bhp) at 5700 and 240Nm from 1600rpm to 5000rpm. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with manual shift option. Volvo says it has a top speed of 225km/h, and accelerates to 100km/h in 9.2 seconds, while returning an average consumption of almost 14km/l. That’s impressive for a 1.6-litre car that probably weighs about 1.5 tonnes.

We found the engine responsive with a peppy initial feel that should go down well with the younger set who is often hungry for sheer power and quick getaways. The turbo boost pressure may be on the mild side but with maximum torque peaking earlier and the quick build-up of power on the go, the S60 T4 would easily be a match against its German rivals.
And depending on how heavy your accelerator foot is, you can control the engine’s fuel consumption via the mileage range indicator on the instrument panel. We brought it up to a high of 670km through anticipated driving while a few bursts of hurried driving brought that down to below 400km at its worst. The choice is clearly yours to decide.

The 1.6-litre runs quietly but the guttural resonance from the exhaust system as the engine revs up encourages a speedy turn of pace. It did appear to be audibly louder than that in the S80 T5 2.0 that we drove a few weeks earlier. That too suggests a design to pander to younger drivers who may find such ‘powerful’ notes additive.

The independent front and multi-link rear suspension system keeps the S60 T4 well controlled dynamically through winding stretches. It turns in quite accurately with progressive understeer through sharp bends, and body lean is nicely checked to allow fairly high speeds through them.

It did feel a little jolty over successive bad patches, and the suspension components sounded klunky when the 215/50 R17 tyres are running over bumps and potholes. In a way, it is pretty typical as our impressions were the same with the S80 T5, although the effect was more subtle in the higher model.

Road roar was quite well muted over the varying surface terrain, and the few highway runs we did proved acceptable to the ears. There were also no complaints of excessive air turbulence raising wind noise that intrudes into the passenger cabin, a credit to the good aerodynamics of the S60 body.

The S60 comes well equipped with leather seats, auto up/down windows all round, electric adjustable front seats (with memory for driver), audio system with eight speakers, auto dim rearview mirror, power parking brake, and keyless entry, to name a few. The keyless entry is a newer system over the S80 we drove recently: all you have to do is put your hand in the space between handle and car body and the doors are unlocked. To lock, merely touch the depressed section on the door handle (we had to press a button on the S80).

And true to Volvo’s safety standards, the S60 comes with the gamut of active and passive safety systems. However, as the lower model variant, the T4 is not fitted with some of the newer systems though a useful one featured as part-and-parcel is the BLIS (blind spot information system). This uses a sensor on the door mirror to detect vehicles in blind spots so that we won’t change lanes inadvertently.

At RM220,000 on the road without insurance, the S60 T4 comes across as a good buy. That explains the greater preference among Malaysian Volvo buyers for this model. Of course, if you crave more, the S60 T5 2.0 with additional advanced features is available at RM259,000.

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