The Volvo S60 appeared in 2000, replacing the S70 which had its roots in the 1991 850.
About 1800 differences distinguished the rectilinear 850 from the less rectilinear S70. Between them about a million units were sold, which is creditable indeed. In the S60’s nine years it managed 631,000 units. According to the press commentary, Volvo aimed the S60 at drivers, tired perhaps of jibes about how dull their cars were. To express this intent Volvo threw out litres of headroom and interior space as a result of the new car’s more rakish profile.
Indeed, it looked good then and does so now but my experience of the two cars is that the S60 is cramped while the S70 is perfect for long drives with a full complement of passengers and luggage.
The S60’s peers included the Mercedes Benz C-class, the Lexus IS200 (nominally) and the BMW 3-series and presumably more expensive editions of the middle market brands, Ford, Renault et al. Distinguishing the S60 was the range of five cylinder engines, starting at 2.0 litres and extending to a rather profligate 250 bhp, 155 mph T5 which no motoring writer ever warmed to. The dashboard gained a more raked and less cluttered appearance than the S70 which worked well enough, it must be said.
The design is attributed to Geza Loczi of Volvo’s Californian design studio, who was inspired by the C70 coupe. And that’s where the headroom of the spacious S70 got lost. The resultant car had cab-forward proportions and this is generally seldom a good way to create useful interior space but rather just creates a huge wedge of air over a deep dashboard.
Also out with the bathwater went the baby of quality, according to US owners. While US owners are rather critical bunch, this report at Car Gurus is not atypical and epitomises the reason the S60 did not sell as well as its solid predecessors.
“This year and model is a real gamble. We bought this car at 135k less than a year ago, and we’ve now spent as much on repairs as we did on the purchase, including AAMCO transmission, radiator ($670). brake booster ($657) and spare key ($171). Now facing air bag ($800) and emission (100’s) problems. This car seems to be falling apart mechanically. It had a clean CarFax report. We’ve owned earlier generation Volvos for years and have had an excellent experience. I assumed initial repairs would stabilize the car, but new problems keep surfacing. Maybe this isn’t a 200,000 + mile car like the older ones… We aren’t even addressing the engine mount problem that makes it handle roughly and noisily, because that doesn’t relate to the mechanical integrity.”
Edmunds.com view was thus: “For: superb comfort, wide variety of safety and luxury features, balanced ride and handling characteristics, available all-wheel drive. Against: handling lacks true sport sedan precision, expensive optional equipment, turbo lag and torque steer in the T5 model.”
In the UK, Honest John reports “Impressively solid, smart-looking saloon with decent handling and plenty of equipment. Keen second-hand prices. Decent reliability.” But they say the rear space and headroom is poor. What could be the cause of the difference? Is down to the fact that US-market cars came from the Ghent factory while European ones came from Torslanda in Sweden?
In 2001 a base model S60 cost just under £20,000. Today one with 147,000 km is yours for €1900 with a 2.4 litre engine.