Equipment and value
The Volvo S60 line-up consists of four model grades: the T5 Momentum (on test), T5 Inscription, T5 R-Design and T8 R-Design, with prices starting at $54,990 and topping out at $85,990. The V60 (Volvo-speak for wagon) adds a $2000 premium to each of the four variants. All S60s are powered by four-cylinder petrol engines with various types of forced induction – and electrification for the T8. All come as standard with all-wheel drive.
The 9.0-inch central infotainment screen works much like a large smartphone and houses just about all the S60’s vital functions – frustratingly, the climate controls, too. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported. The instrument cluster is a clear TFT screen, while other features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, blindspot monitoring and AEB are standard. The S60 comes with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
For the moment, only one highly specified variant is available for the 508 in both Fastback (on test) and Sportswagon. The five-door ‘sedan’ is $53,990 and the wagon adds $2000 to come in at $55,990. Both are powered by a four-cylinder petrol, which drives the front wheels.
While the interior is a little form over function, requiring an acclimatisation period and some patience, the 508 is well equipped and full of modern tech. Like the Swede, the Frenchie’s 10.0-inch touchscreen (now with a three-finger function to access the Home screen) also takes care of most of the controls. Thankfully, it is not as laggy as Pugs of the past. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, blindspot monitoring and AEB are also standard in the 508. However, for the cheaper monetary outlay, the Pug packs in more goodies – the heated, electric Nappa leather front seats even come with a massage function and there is a 10-speaker Focal sound system. The 508 comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
WINNER: Peugeot 508
Space and comfort
For anyone who has owned a Volvo in the recent past, the new S60’s cabin will seem familiar. And that is not a bad thing at all. The dash design is clutter-free, while the tablet-style screen dominates the aesthetic. The S60 is a bigger car, and overall space for all occupants is reflected in the increased dimensions. Head and legroom is generous, you could genuinely seat four adults on a long trip, while the traditional roofline affords easier access to the rear pews. It’s also comfortable back there, with pillar-mounted air vents and seats you sink into. Overall road noise and NVH is also a step above the Peugeot. However, being a traditional sedan hampers its luggage capacity, with the S60 offering up a 442L boot.
For a car with a price tag around the $50K mark, the 508 packs a massive visual punch. It is one of those interiors where you keep finding a new, intricate detail every time you get in. You have to applaud its luxe nature as it feels like a genuinely premium product ‑ although space is something that certainly is not at a premium. The sloping roofline that creates such an impressive external silhouette hampers headroom in the back. If you’re not careful, you can even whack your head on the roof entering the back seat. Once in place, legroom falls short of the S60. However, the liftback design generates a bigger boot at 487L. And the elephant in the room… the driving position. Peugeot’s fourth-generation i-Cockpit won’t be to everyone’s taste. For some it requires compromising.
WINNER: Dead heat
Ride and handling
Like many modern cars and SUVs, the S60 is one that requires adaptive dampers. And while our Volvo four-door came with refreshingly chubby sidewalls wrapping ‘small’ 17-inch alloys, the suspension is of the fixed-rate, steel sprung variety. Still, those springy sidewalls prove a saving grace, with the T5 Momentum’s ride quality verging on comfortable, if not quite achieving wafting status; although from our point of view, the 17s look a little bland… which, funnily enough, also describes handling. The S60 pitches and rolls on those sidewalls, the steering is lacking outright feel and overall it isn’t as agile as its front-wheel-drive French rival. We’d be speccing the optional Four-C Chassis control (which includes adaptive dampers) for $1250.
Roll out the cliché, but the 508 has a refreshing air of joie de vivre – genuinely. It is light on its feet, weighing in at 1430kg compared to the 1802kg S60, with a will to attack corners and country roads with abandon. That’s not something we’d often say about a humble liftback. The 508’s dynamic ability certainly meets the visual drama of the exterior – claw-like LEDs and all. The small wheel tricks you into thinking the rack is quicker than it is, but overall the steering offers great feel. The brake pedal is softer than the Volvo, but the eight-speed auto is more in tune with its powerplant than the Swede. With Michelin Pilot Sport 4-wrapped 18-inch alloys, the Pug has ample grip, which it uses to great effect with engaging dynamics. The adaptive dampers work a treat, too, giving the 508 a real duality of character between comfort and performance. The pick for drivers.
WINNER: Peugeot 508
Performance and economy
The Volvo S60 T5’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo is a bit of a powerhouse. On paper it sees figures of 187kW and 350Nm, which result in a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.4 seconds. Brisk stuff indeed, with the standard all-wheel-drive systems helping the four-door sedan bite into the tarmac off the line. It keeps a heady steam of grunt for overtaking, too, while there are three modes to play with: Eco, Normal and Dynamic. The eight-speed auto can sometimes get a bit confused and the engine is aurally limp, but it’s a quick unit. At 6.6L/100km it’s not as frugal as the Peugeot, but it cruises at highways speeds with ease.
For a motor lacking in size, the Pug’s 1.6-litre four really punches above its weight – you struggle to believe it is down on cubic capacity. Yes, it lags behind the Volvo for outright grunt with 165kW and 300Nm, but the deficit is greater on the stopwatch (8.1sec 0-100km/ claimed) than in reality. Now called PureTech, the engine is a development of the venerable Prince engine and, in Sport mode, there are hints of GTi within its pleasing engine/exhaust tones. The eight-speed automatic, with paddles, is keen to kick down in Sport, but remains intuitive when left to its own devices in Normal and Comfort modes. It is also the more fuel-efficient option at 6.3L/100km.
WINNER: Volvo S60
Volvo is kicking goals left, right and centre of late. After all, the past two Wheels Car of the Year gongs have gone its way. The Swedes have plenty to spruik ‑ although that’s in regards to its SUV line-up. Come closer to the ground, away from the high-riding four-wheel-drives, and the narrative changes. The S60 is out to rectify that. However, the script doesn’t go entirely to plan. As an executive sedan it makes a lot of sense, but the Volvo is outclassed by an unlikely foe.
Fans of the Peugeot lion will be branding the 508 a renaissance of the iconic French marque. Is it though? Yes and no. At the very least, it’s a positive move in the right direction, one that appears to be flowing from Pug SUVs right down to the upcoming 208. There is certainly a level of luxury, drama (those frameless doors) and dynamic prowess at play in the 508 that is very enjoyable. Its presence, performance and price make it hard to ignore and, ultimately, the Peugeot is the one we’d take home. A deserving winner.
Price and specs
|VOLVO S60 T5 MOMENTUM||PEUGEOT 508 GT|
|Engine||1969cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo||1598 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo|
|Max power||187kW @ 5500rpm||165kW @ 5500rpm|
|Max torque||350Nm @ 1500-4800rpm||300Nm @ 2750rpm|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|0-100km/h||6.4sec (claimed)||8.1sec (claimed)|
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