Review: Volvo S60 T8 R-Design – Much better than a Mercedes?

Arif · Jan 9, 2021 10:45 AM

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It’s tough work to create something astonishing. You have to combine the best resources, be far better than the competition, pay attention to every single detail, and leave a great and lasting impression. It would be a stretch to call the Volvo S60 T8 astonishing, but having tried it, I must say, it’s almost there.

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It’s a shame that some of us could not think beyond Mercedes-Benz or BMW when it comes to a luxury car.

Yes, the three-point star is great for making an impression, and the Bavarian machine is excellent to drive. But the Volvo S60 T8 has its own appeal.

Exterior – the most beautiful car in the world?

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The first-generation Volvo S60 was crowned “The Most Beautiful Car in the World” in 2000 by Automobila, Italy. In the year 2009, the Volvo S60 concept was awarded “The Most Beautiful Concept Car” by German Auto Bild magazine.

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Left: First Generation; Right : Volvo S60 concept

That’s a lot to live up to and the Volvo S60 T8 R-Design does not disappoint. The “Thor’s Hammer” headlights strike a good balance between aggression and elegance. The car is well proportioned, and the simple contours are pleasant.

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The taillights have evolved from the previous two generations and now frown at the car behind. Debuting in 2019, the third generation Volvo S60’s design is undoubtedly fresh with a sprinkle of the future.

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Interior – Subtly exclusive, not very practical

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The dark interior of the Volvo S60 can be underwhelming to some. There are no wooden pieces, abstract patterns, or any bit of striking trim to wow you on a first impression.

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It takes a little while for you to soak it in and appreciate the luxury bits of the Volvo S60 T8. The materials are pleasant to touch, the seats are very snug and ergonomic, the tactile controls feel exclusive, and even the seat belt warning chimes sound like they're making a toast at a dinner party.

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That's as deep as the storage compartment goes

And let’s talk about the massive but almost useless center console. This is where the main battery is for the hybrid powertrain and hence there is absolutely no space for a storage compartment. The best you can fit is 2 mobile phones.

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Another consequence of the battery position would be the high armrest position. Your elbows rest a tad higher, almost as if you were sitting on a throne.

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Glamorous but glaring. And you have to twist that knob to start the car.

I like the interior as it is, but I believe some people would appreciate more flair. The touchscreen controls could also be a bit more intuitive, but you’d get used to it eventually.

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Backseat passengers get a generous amount of legroom. You get a transformer-esque armrest and seat support is decent.

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Driving Experience - Impressively quick for a car that weighs 2 tonnes

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If you didn’t have a peak at the spec sheet and just went for a blind test drive, you’d be surprised to find out just how complex the Volvo S60 T8’s powertrain is.

It's a 2-litre supercharged and turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (320 PS/400 Nm) powering the front wheels and an electric motor (87 PS/240 Nm) powering the rear wheels. Transmission is a Japanese 8-speed automatic by Aisin.

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You’ll barely hear any fuss from the car besides the occasional supercharger whine.
The car is fastest when you launch it in hybrid mode since the initial acceleration is taken care of by the electric motor and the engine provides tremendous power for later on.

We managed a 0-100 km/h time of 4.9 seconds after several tries, trying to reach the 4.4 seconds claimed figure. 

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With SUVs being the mainstream choice of today, the low riding position of the Volvo S60 gives a refreshing experience.

With all that power, weight, and fairly low center of gravity, high speed driving is effortless and assuring. You’ll barely have to second-guess overtaking maneuvers. 

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Our only gripe with Volvo S60 T8's driving experience is the vague brake pedal which feels more digital than analogue.

Ride Comfort – Possibly best in class

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The Volvo S60 T8 weighs a hefty 2,037 kg and has a fairly low center of gravity. That’s great for ride comfort. For context, the BMW 320i Sport weighs 1,535 kg and the Mercedes-Benz C200 weighs 1,465 kg. The difference is almost an entire Caterham 7.

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A heavier car with a low center of gravity means you won’t feel jerky accelerations and decelerations while riding inside it. I suggest you give the Volvo S60 T8 a try and feel it fro yourself.

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Admittingly, the ride leans a bit on the harder side, but at a very acceptable level. Road undulation absorption is satisfactory with only sharp road irregularities intruding the cabin.
Cabin noise level is 68 dB at 110 km/h but it feels a lot quieter than that.

Fuel Consumption – Who needs gas?

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It’s a hybrid so you can expect a pretty low number. Travelling for 168 km, starting at around 50% charge, and driving in hybrid mode, an average fuel consumption of 5.9 l/100km was recorded.

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The claimed 2 l/100km is almost achievable with an initial battery charge of 100%.

If you went on a road trip and don't have the facilites to charge the car with an external source, things will be a lot different. You can use the "recharge" function to charge the battery while you drive, but do expect a spike in fuel consumption.

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Feel free to choose your driving mode

We did this over 470 km starting with 100% charge and recorded 9.3l/100km. Still not that bad, but that’s not how you’re meant to drive a plug-in hybrid. Being a PHEV, it is best to keep the battery charged via an external source instead of the engine itself.

The 11.6kWh battery doesn’t last that long (49km range) and can only be charged at a rate of 3.7 kW.

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The maximum charging rate is 3.7 kW. You can charge at EV charging points, but a full electric car would benefit more from this type of charger.

At its maximum charging rate (3.7 kw), 3 hours is needed for a full charge.

With the standard 3-pin plug at home, about 5 hours is needed for a full charge.

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Charging with the normal three-pin wall socket will take close to 5 hours.

The EV range is claimed at 49km, but in the real world, it could be a little less. Driving habits, charging frequency, and climate could affect the real world range.

Conclusion – A great luxury car, but not many would look its way

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A fair way for me to describe my experience with the Volvo S60 is that it gave a lasting impression. I tried this back to back with a Mercedes C-Class and found myself preferring the Volvo. The added 500 kg doesn't look great from a performance standpoint, but boy does it make the car feel solid.

I like the hint of futurism in its styling, and the fact that it doesn't scream for attention. Coming from an engineering background, I feel that the complex powertrain is worthy of appreciation.

The Volvo S60 T8 combines proper luxury with tremendous power. Ride comfort is perhaps the best in its class thanks to its naturally heavy body. It ticks almost all the boxes of a luxury car, but it would still be tough to convince brand snobs to give it a try.

Arif

Writer

Previously an engineer in an automotive manufacturing company and a highway concessionaire. A part-time research student on biofuels and diesel engines. Obsessed with vehicle electrification and the future of transportation.

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