2021 Volvo S60 Review: First Drive

By Shivank Bhatt | on December 15, 2020

Two years too late, the third-gen Volvo S60 has finally come to India. Is it worth the wait or should you give this Swede a pass? 

The all-new third-gen Volvo S60 seems to be running very late, doesn't it? This sedan was supposed to come to India in 2019, but for some reason, we are only seeing it now. Excited? Don’t be because you won’t see one on showroom floors until March 2021.

There’s no doubt that the S60 is running way behind its schedule. And all of this delay has been happening at a time when the world is becoming a more and more difficult place for everyone. On one hand, we’re fighting a pandemic and, on the other, everyone is rushing towards SUVs, as if it’s some sort of vaccine. Anyway, if you happen to be one of those discerning ones who still prefer a luxury sedan over an SUV, I think it’s very difficult to look beyond the German trio of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. The S60, then, finds itself in a very tricky and tough spot before it has even landed on the market.

Should you dismiss the S60 based on the argument above? Well, I'd say not just as yet, for this sweet looking Swede, as you’ll now find out, has a couple of tricks up its sleeve.

I’ve already called it sweet-looking, which is a dead giveaway that I’m a fan of the S60’s design. You can say it looks like a mini-S90 – and you won't be wrong – but then these new-age Volvos do look the part, regardless of their size or segment. While the old S60 looked a little common, it’s now come out looking like a superstar in its latest avatar. There are a couple of reasons for that.

2021 Volvo S60 design

First, the third-gen S60 is based on Volvo's Scalable Product Architecture or SPA platform, which also underpins virtually every other Volvo product today, including the likes of the XC40, XC60, S90, and XC90. Like every other Volvo in the family, the S60 follows the brand's new design philosophy, starting with the signature LED headlamps with Thor's hammer-shaped DRLs, a large and imposing grille, and a beefy yet elegant demeanour, just like the S90. The side profile is where it differentiates itself from its elder sibling. From B-pillar onwards, the S60’s roof tapers down as opposed to following the slightly flatter and more stately looking S90. The rear-end is where it gets a little controversial, as the tail is cropped at a somewhat awkward angle – it lacks the fluidity of the S90. The C-shaped LED tail lamps are similar to the S90’s, and just like their ‘family face’, both the cars have a similar-looking butt.

The thing that I love about the S60 is that it looks smashing without being ostentatious or loud. To my eyes, the S60’s design is the classiest and most pleasant in its segment without it looking too different from others. The S60 stands out from a BMW 3 Series or a Merc C-Class like a tuxedo from a suit – both look the same for the most part to most people, but wearing the former gives you a sense of occasion.

2021 Volvo S60 rear angle

The S60 will be offered in just Inscription trim in India. There will be three interior upholstery options and five exterior colours to choose from. The one you see here has an all-black (Charcoal Black) interior trim. The dashboard layout and other components look familiar and for obvious reasons – the cabin is dominated by a vertically stacked 9.0-inch Sensus touchscreen, which is seen in every other SPA-based Volvo. The screen works flawlessly, and in terms of touch response and ease-of-use, it’s as good as an iPad. What’s more, it packs almost all the controls and functions – including the aircon settings – giving the cabin a minimalistic look with not a lot of buttons to fiddle around. This makes life both hard and easy. Some of the functions aren’t very easily found on the menu, and it takes time getting used to it. And sometimes you’ll also be lost in the sea of controls that this screen packs. A good way to pass time but not so much when you’re in a hurry. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity (not wireless), and you also have a nice Harman Kardon sound system with immaculate audio quality.

The quality levels are very good overall – the dashboard with stitched leather top looks and feel classy. However, the use of hard plastics on door panels and around centre console is a downer in an otherwise sumptuous cabin.

2021 Volvo S60 interior

The best part of the cabin is the seats, especially the front ones. They’re supremely comfortable and supportive, and sitting on it and driving the car is pure joy. The rear seats are also very comfortable, with a lot of knee room. But the drooping roofline leaves limited headroom for taller passengers (above 5’10). The seats are quite low and are mounted at a sharp angle, which means that taller passengers will sit with their knees up, which isn’t very comfortable over long rides. There’s a prominent transmission hump, so the middle passenger won’t be comfortable on the rear bench either. On the upside, there’s 4-zone air-conditioning in the cabin, and the rear bench also gets two Type-C USB ports.

There’s no diesel on offer with the S60, and there never will be. The S60 will be launched with a single petrol engine option in India. The T4 unit on duty is familiar, as it’s the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol that’s available with the XC40. It develops 188bhp and 300Nm of torque, all of which is sent to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox.

Performance-wise, there’s nothing to complain – the S60 is a quick car, and it picks up pace briskly. The power delivery is very linear – right from 1,800rpm to all the way up to 6,000rpm, the motor has a strong character. Not to mention, it’s a super-refined unit. The 8-speed gearbox does feel slow in comparison to the rivals. During kick-down, there’s a delay before it decides to pick the right gear to get going. The shift quality is smooth all the time though. There are three driving modes – Eco, Comfort, and Dynamic. Each alters the engine, gearbox, throttle, and steering responses.

2021 Volvo S60 rear design

The S60 T4 doesn’t come with adaptive dampers in India. However, the double-wishbone front and integrally linked-rear axle have a good balance. The ride tends to be a touch too firm, but it isn’t uncomfortable. And even though the car comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, the tyres have a high profile, which helps make the ride quality better. The cabin insulation is simply superb. It’s only at high speeds that you hear a bit of tyre noise, otherwise, it remains silent. 

The combination of the new and more rigid chassis along with a taut suspension gives the S60 a more planted feel around corners, and it feels quite responsive. It’s not as involving as a BMW 330i or Jaguar XE though, but it can keep the likes of Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class in check. The steering is direct, but it could definitely do with a bit more feel.

Being a Volvo, the S60 comes loaded with the company’s safety tech, which includes City Safety systems, lane-keeping aid, and more. The S60 has received a 5-star crash test rating by Euro NCAP, which shows it’s made like a bank vault.

To sum it up, the S60 is coming very late, and it’s going to be here with limited options – there’s no diesel and it’s available in a single trim. That’s a very narrow operating window without a doubt. Having said that, the S60 will find takers regardless, and there are a couple of reasons for that. First, unlike some of its rivals, it looks understated, classy, and inoffensive all at the same time. Secondly, it rides and drives really well, and there’s a lot of room at the back. Third, it’s a Volvo, which makes it even more unique and likeable. That’s because, in my opinion, a Volvo’s for people who simply don’t want to run with the pack.

However, a lot will depend on how Volvo prices the S60. And that’s going to be tricky because it won’t be assembled in the country like its main rivals. Instead, the S60 will be brought into the country as a direct import from the USA. Volvo has always managed to price its CBUs competitively though, so that should continue with the S60 – a sticker price of around Rs 50 lakh will make it a good value. But we have to wait for three more months before Volvo announces the price.

In the end, the Volvo S60 is very, very late, but it’s definitely going to be worth the wait.

Update: Volvo has launched the S60 in India priced at Rs 45.90 lakh (ex-showroom). Customer deliveries will begin from March 2021. 

  • 2021 Volvo S60

Engine: 1,969cc / Inline 4-Cylinder/ Turbo

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / Front Wheel Drive

Power: 188bhp @ 5,000rpm

Torque: 300Nm

X-Factor: For those who don’t want to run with the pack, the S60 is a great entry-level luxury sedan.

Pros           
• Classy design
• Driving comfort

Cons
• Stiff low-speed ride
• Slow transmission

Also read, 

All-new Volvo S60 India launch in March 2021 

Volvo XC40 Recharge India launch in 2021

Tags: Volvo Volvo S60

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