On paper, the Volvo S60 sedan and V60 wagon appeared to have a plausible shot of achieving what no other manufacturer has managed in COTY’s 57-year history: the unicorn hat-trick.
Last year, the Swedes joined an exclusive club by becoming only the fifth manufacturer to manage the COTY double, by virtue of the XC40 compact SUV’s win following on from the victorious mid-size XC60 SUV from 2018.
So, given the S60/V60 pair share platforms, drivetrains, safety systems and plenty of interior architecture with the anointed XC60, what happened?
The sedan/wagon duo started solidly, delivering a strong (but imperfect) safety score. This year, the lack of front cross-traffic alert and no emergency assist bumped them down slightly.
Value was a little harder to define. Do you compare the Volvos’ pricing and equipment to the three premium German brands, or does the likes of the excellent Peugeot 508, also here at COTY in both Fastback and Sportswagon bodystyles, provide a more valid reference point? If it’s the former, then the S60 Momentum entry point stacks up close in spec to Audi’s A4 45 TFSI quattro (AWD; similar outputs from a turbo-petrol four) but the Swede comes in around $15K cheaper. At the top end of the range, we had the S60 T8 R-Design sedan on test, its turbo and supercharged four combined with a plug-in hybrid system to deliver 311kW and 670Nm. This spec takes the price to $86,000, and not everyone was sold, particularly when its 0-100km/h time came in one second slower than its claim.
Read next: Twin test - Volvo S60 vs Peugeot 508
Still, the T8’s urban efficiency is pretty handy, given it can drive around 40km on the electric motor, but back down in the lower end of the range, the frugality is less convincing. The Momentum sedan carries an ADR-combined figure of 7.3L/100km, six percent higher than an Audi A4 quattro.
But what ultimately stopped the Volvo sedans and wagon from progressing to the second stage was two-fold. Firstly, the judges felt that the lack of available air suspension – considered a must-have for the XC60 – was a real demerit for the S60/V60 pair. And while the optional adaptive dampers fitted to the T5 Inscription definitely helped the ride – the majority of judges rated it as acceptable, not great – it wasn’t enough to mitigate the lack of chassis excellence from the other two cars on test. Carey noted that the T8 was one of the few cars to exhibit suspension crash-through on one of the ride and handling loop’s nastier potholes. “Spec carefully, or spring for an XC60 on air,” advised Enright.
The second part of the hurdle for the S60/V60 is the fact they compete in a segment far more mature and with greater depth than that facing the XC60 in 2018. There wasn’t a single judge who thought the Swedish pair were superior in any core dynamic area to the two BMW 3 Series in the COTY field, and this was a fundamental stumbling block. Byron spoke for all of us when he concluded: “Very Swedish in their proficiency; just not that exciting nor particularly plush.”
THE JUDGES’ COTY SCORECARD
VOLVO S60/V60 SPECS
Type: 4-door sedan / 5-door wagon, 5 seats
Boot capacity: 390 – 529L
Weight: 1767 – 2006kg
Layout: Front-engine (east-west), AWD
Engines: 1969cc 4cyl turbo-petrol (187kW/350Nm); 1969cc 4cyl turbo-petrol (192kW/400Nm); 1969cc 4cyl turbo-petrol + supercharger + electric motors (311kW/670Nm)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Tyres: 235/55R17 – 255/35R20
ADR81 fuel consumption: 2.0 – 7.3L/100km
CO2 emissions: 46 – 167g/km
Crash rating: 5 star, ANCAP (Euro NCAP)
$54,990 – $85,990