T6 is recognisable by body addenda...
The years roll inexorably by and as one season follows another, so successive generations of Volvo family cars run their natural course.
PH might have let a new S60 family enter the world without comment, were it not for a couple of intriguing facts. The first is Volvo's claim that its new machine is the most dynamically able it has ever built, and thus worthy of serious consideration against junior execs from Audi, BMW and Merc. The second is that the S60 comes with the option of a new driver intervention system designed to help prevent you mowing down errant tots when you insist on rat-running past the local playschool.
We were invited to try the new S60 family in Portugal earlier this week (it rained, in case you were wondering, but the generous hospitality made up for it - thanks for asking!), and while we graciously declined the offer of the smaller diesel and petrol cars, a spin in the new T6 definitely appealed.
...including diffuser-style thingy
Costing from £35,695, the new T6 comes with the latest version of Volvo's 3.0 straight six, making 304 turbocharged horsepower. It's got four-wheel-drive as standard, using a Haldex system that diverts torque to the rear when the front end would otherwise start to give way. An electronic torque-vectoring system on the front axle brakes the inner wheel under power, effectively delaying the onset of that slippage moment too.
Gears are shifted by a six-speed autobox with a sports setting, but oddly (perhaps), there are no flappy paddles. If you want to change manually you can thrust the lever back and forth in its gate, but that does seem a little 'old-school' these days. There's no 'R' version either, although one will likely be on the way. Expect a package of go-faster visual tweaks, and a 40-50hp Polestar remap to be the key elements.
It's a different look to the German execs
As it is, the regular T6 we get first offers an ECU limited top speed of 155mph, and 0-62mph in 6.2secs, so it's hardly what you'd call a slouch.
UK-bound T6s ride as standard on a 'dynamic' chassis set-up shared with all European models, but which will be optional on the S60 in the rest of the world. It's a good set-up too, featuring a 10% quicker steering rack, and additional design stiffness in the front subframe and suspension mounts, as well as stiffer bushes and uprated shock-absorbers - with more damping effect than any Volvo has ever offered before, we're told. We're also told that Volvo's chassis engineers focused on UK roads during the set-up phase, because our tarmac quality is worse than anywhere else in Europe. As if we didn't know.
Unusually good fun in the twisties!
On the road, it translates to a ride that is comfortably pliant, while body roll and bounce is also well-controlled. Thanks in part to the torque-vectoring, the car's nose responds neatly and directly to inputs through the nicely-weighted steering, and the car retains a pleasingly neutral balance even in extremis. If you want to push the boat out, you'll also be able to specify your T6 with switchable active suspension offering Comfort, Sport and Advanced modes (the latter setting acting only to maximise tyre contact for ultimate grip, while the other two throw an element of self-levelling into the equation). Having tried this set-up briefly on a D5 diesel, I think I'd not bother. The T6 in standard form offers an honest, uncomplicated set-up providing a good balance between comfort and control for road use.
Volvo's 'floating console' is retained
The powertrain suits the package well too, with the six-speed box shifting smoothly, if not quite as imperceptibly as some of the new German installations, while the sport and normal settings provide a nice contrast in driving styles. Sport gives you sharper throttle responses as well as holding onto gears longer, at which point you also start to appreciate the six-cylinder motor's willingness to rev. It even sounds nice and rorty under load, although it's definitely a touch harsher than an equivalent BMW unit. There will be a manual option too, and while a double-clutch gearbox is offered on less torquey petrol and diesel models, the unit can't handle the output of the T6. (There are apparently moves afoot to address that situation, one Volvo source intimated.)
Driving position and seats are comfy
If there's a potential fly in the ointment dynamically, it's the brakes. The T6 is a quick car that encourages its driver to press on, but the brake pedal on the one I drove didn't offer much in the way of feel or inspire a great deal of confidence. Perhaps a set of meatier discs would be appropriate (the T6 shares S60 family stoppers), as the standard items felt a little overworked, I thought.
All in all though, (and remembering it's a Volvo), this new car is a convincing bit of kit. It lacks the dynamic edge of a rear-drive BMW 3 series, but it's undoubtedly comfortable (notably so in the back if that's important to yourfamily members) and effortlessly rapid. It looks a little different too, although personally I'm a bit hesitant about the plasticky-silver sill extensions and diffuser-style thing that are supposed to make the T6 look 'sporty'.
Auto 'box offers sequential shifting
So what about the Pedestrian Detection with Full Autobrake system mentioned earlier? Well, we didn't get the chance to try it on a live pedestrian, but Volvo did prop-up a dummy in the car park so we had something to aim at.
The package includes a laser and a camera with recognition software that looks out for humanoid objects with two legs. If you don't appear to have noticed one, you get a loud series of 'bongs' in the cabin and a big red flash at the base of the windscreen. Do nothing, and the car applies emergency braking to a standstill, but if you make any input in response to the 'bongs', you'll automatically override the system - allowing you to steer around it, for instance. Drive at less than 35km/h and you should stop before hitting your bipedal target, and if you're going faster, then emergency braking will reduce the force of the impact.
An errant bipedal form. Red alert!
The device worked perfectly as described in the car park, and only once went off during our afternoon test drive when it reckoned two large ladies promenading innocently on the pavement posed a risk to our panelwork, promptly issuing a 'red alert'. If that sort of thing happens regularly, I reckon you'd get fed up with it in pretty short order, leaving drivers with an awkward dilemma as to whether to disable the system or not. But that's a question for the lawyers, probably...