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What's new? Volvo S60
The Swedish manufacturer’s more dynamic new compact exec has BMW and Audi in its sights
by Graham Heeps
Previous incarnations of Volvo’s small executive sedan, which has been named S60 since 2000, have emphasised the marque’s traditional values of comfort and safety. The all-new S60, which has just gone on sale, is a very different animal from classic predecessors like the 240, however.
“Our aim has been to have a more energetic attitude and sharper steering,” explains Stefan Sällqvist, vehicle dynamics manager at Volvo. “We worked a lot on getting better body control in this car, too. A decade ago with the old S60 we had more of a cruiser type of car; now we’re trying to become a real driver’s car with this new model. Our main competitors are the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series.”
In line with the new Volvo strategy first seen on the facelifted S80, two passive chassis setups will be available, Comfort and Dynamic. The former will be standard in North America, the latter everywhere else, with the opposite setup a no-cost option in each case. Note that the two options share the same springing.
“I wouldn’t say we’re sacrificing comfort,” Sällqvist argues. “It’s just a matter of rebalancing. It’s not a limousine type of comfort, but I think with the better body control you get a more harmonious drive – and it’s that harmony between ride and handling that we were looking for.”
Also available as an option is the Dynamic-based, Four-C adaptive damping setup, centered on the Tenneco/Öhlins technology that features on the Ford Mondeo, Galaxy, and S-MAX, with which the Ghent-assembled S60 shares its basic platform.
When it was first conceived, Volvo (like Jaguar Land Rover) had input to the platform, alongside Ford. “We made sure all the brands could fulfil their DNA,” he says. “There are some specific Volvo things like all-wheel drive, which Ford doesn’t have, so we had to develop something new there to fit the Volvo. The same goes for accommodating the bigger engines, the T6 (petrol) and D5 (diesel), which are unique to Volvo. The hardpoints are quite similar to Mondeo, but the tuning parameters were free for each brand.”
S60 gets the Ford/Volvo-developed and -patented Advanced Stability Control system first seen on the XC60. An additional roll angle sensor, located low down in the middle of the car, between the front seats, helps detect slip earlier than before so it can be controlled at an early stage. “It needs a lot of testing,” admits Sällqvist, “but the XC60 application gave us a lot of experience, so it was quite straightforward [to develop it] for the S60.” A further stability control-based feature is Corner Traction Control, an electronic LSD-style function.
The bulk of S60’s dynamics development was accomplished by Volvo’s own dynamicists working out of the Gothenburg technical center or the Hällered proving ground. Sällqvist stresses that the firm’s comprehensive chassis development facilities, including a K&C rig, a four-post rig for ride measurements, and three of the latest ABD path-following robots, should ensure continuity under Geely ownership. “We have everything we need in-house,” he says. “That was the case before Ford came and we have continued to work like that since, so nothing has changed.”
Looking to the future, it seems that S60 could be the first of several more driver-orientated Volvos. Don’t expect it to give up the safety-first mantra anytime soon, though: “Safety is still very important for Volvo, and it will be too in the future,” he promises. “What we’re trying to do is combine driving pleasure with safety. We think that if you have a car that feels safe, then you can also have some fun driving it. Perceived safety is very important.”
Dimensions: 4,628mm (L) x 1,865mm (W) x 1,484mm (H). Wheelbase 2,776mm, track 1,588mm (F), 1,585mm (R)
Curb weight: 1,611-1,752kg depending on engine
Dampers: BWI (passive); Tenneco/Öhlins (Four-C)
Geometry: Camber F/R: -0.65°/-1.32°; Castor: 3.6°;
Toe-in F/R (total): 0.1/0.2°
ABS/ESC: Continental Teves
Steering: ZF for speed-dependent, T-drive for standard gear. Ratio 15.2:1 (previous S60: 16.8:1). Turning circle 11.3m