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View the cars in our FastSaloons' Fleet Search Visit our Forum   Contact Us Volvo S60R road testDate:17/05/2004   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests Volvo S60R road test

Volvo S60 R

Test Date
16th - 26th April 2004

Our Thoughts
The much maligned Volvo S60R - is it a credible sports saloon or just a nearly there ?

Does it justify its price increase over the T5. And can it really compare to the M3 and S4.

1st Impressions - Exterior Styling

Subtle styling and lots of RRRRR's
The car is visually impressive, but not too different from the rest of the range. Which is a good thing in my mind and if I owned one I'd be taking the R badges off, for an even more covert approach. Obviously there are differences:

The front-end gets the biggest change, with an M5-like spoiler featuring a large diffuser that lets more air in and also gives the car a lower gait. The grille also gets an R.

From the side the most distinctive thing is the 5-spoke R wheels which look handsome. In addition there are R branded brake callipers showing through although these are in plain metal and therefore don't look at all garish. Body styling wise there is no difference to the T5.

The rear-end changes are also subtle with only a very small lip spoiler on the boot and twin exhaust to distinguish the car from the T5. Badge wise the car gets two: a R and an AWD.

In fact the most distinctive thing about the car is the colour flash 'green pearl'. Which actually suits the car very well and is the colour most official shots are taken in.

Interior Styling

The car features a standard interior, but this is differentiated from the rest of the range using stitched leather on the dash and doors. The leather trims are colour coded to the seat colour 'Nordkap' soft leather). The overall effect is pretty good but when you look closely it just that a re-trimmed interior vs. a more bespoke one.

Blue dials, blue seats and lots of toys

On the other hand the instrument cluster is entirely bespoke for the car and features attractive metallic blue dials with red needles and alloy surrounds.

The wheel is similar to the one found in the T5 and featuring the radio and cruise control buttons. However, as with the rest of the interior it has a few extras for the R. The enhancements include a stitched leather centre, with the R logo, and a more tactile, shaped and stitched leather wheel.

The seats are very comfortable and unique looking. In fact these were the things that stuck with me most when I saw the car at Birmingham last year. That car had very bright tan seats that looked fabulous. The driver's seat is electrically adjustable whereas the passenger's is manual.

The centre console is identical to the T5, bar a few extra buttons: retractable mirrors; heated seats; DSTC instead of plain STC in the T5 and of course the chassis buttons (comfort/sport and advanced).

The car features a very good stereo, with good bass and overall sound quality. The car featured no satellite navigation or sunroof.

Ride, Handling & Steering

Trick Suspension + AWD = lots of FUN
The S60R has the Four-C (Continuously, Controlled, Chassis, Concept) system, which adjusts the level of each shock absorber individually 500 times per second. The damping force of the shock absorber can be changed by 5-15ms depending on the size of the change.

Some of things that the system monitors are: longitudinal / lateral acceleration and yaw rate; vertical motion of car body (roll, pitch, heave). Vertical position of each wheel and speed of car; steering wheel position and speed of rotation; engine torque, throttle pedal position and engine rpm; and degree of braking. Pretty impressive really and a testament to the advancement of computers - in fact taking that into effect one questions how the car drives at all.

The system has three settings: Comfort, Sport and Advanced. I get comfort, I get sport, but advanced just confused me - 'Random' might be a better word for it.

The official take on Advanced or rather 'Advanced Sport' is quote 'in this mode the chassis is optimised for maximum road grip. The car is 'unhooked' from the skyhook. The shock absorber setting is optimised for maximum contact between tyre and road surface. The setting is only recommended on smooth asphalt.'

Well, I tried the setting on some of the smoothest roads I know (and obviously some not so smooth) and at no time did the system work for me. On the track things might be different - but I'd need to be convinced.

Four-C has a couple more tricks up it's sleeve: Dynamic Cornering Control (DCC) and Active Yaw Control (AYC). DCC basically ensures the car rolls less during cornering, whilst AYC reduces understeer and oversteer by firming up the damping to counteract the laws of physics. The car is actually set up to allow some degree of oversteer, to provide more driver enjoyment.

Put against the best on offer the Volvo isn't going to beat or match them. Push hard and as the speed piles on so to does the chassis start to show holes. This is true in all modes with sport as expected, performing the best.

The S60R does have great traction, especially through corners. The all wheel drive system uses a hydraulic coupling to ensure power is directed to the place needed most. The system works by comparing the rotation of the input and output drive shafts. In this way if the front wheels spin ( the input drive shaft rotates quicker) then the system transfers torque to the rear wheels. The maximum torque that can be sent to the rear is 70%,

The system prevents the rear wheels spinning (by never letting the output drive shaft to rotate faster than the input). In addition the TRACS traction control system uses the ABS sensors to recognise spinning and distributes power between the wheels on the same axle.

If you compare the S60R to the T5 the car is considerably better, thanks to a combination of the chassis and also the AWD system.

Engine, Gearbox and Performance

The 2.5-litre engine is a development of Volvo's 2.3-litre turbo engine. As well as the increase in displacement, the car is fitted with a larger turbo (20% more capacity). The result is 300bhp at 5500rpm (6000 rpm in the automatic) and 295lb ft of torque between 1,950 and 5250rpm (258lb ft between 1850 - 6000rpm in the automatic).

2.5 turbo, 300bhp and 295lb ft from 1950 to 5250rpm
The S60R gets an additional intercooler (positioned under the bumper, behind the enlarged air intake) in order to counter the additional heat cause by the higher charge pressure from the turbo.

This reflects in performance figures of 0-60 in 5.4secs, 0-62 in 5.7secs for the manual and an only slightly slower 5.6, 5.9secs for the automatic.

The engine is actually 're-mapped' when you select 'Advanced' chassis mode. In this mode the ignition timing is changed to create more torque, for a more immediate throttle responses.

The six speed manual box is good, the changes are easy and the spacing of the gears seems well thought out. Third gear is very flexible and great for overtaking, but as there is plenty of low down torque forth is equally useable.

How does this reflect on the road? Well something we haven't mentioned is the noise, the soundtrack is great and this in combination with the shove you get during acceleration is brilliant. Like the T5 the noise is like a guttural growl - but in the R it is even more so. The car gives you a real buzz when you drive it.

Braking wise the car gets a beefed up system with 330mm ventilated brakes front and rear. This results in good braking performance, that doesn't suffer too much with brake fade. The Brembo developed system uses aluminium four-piston callipers, which in combination to their low weight give good heat dissipation.

Like the rest of the car the braking gets some electronic help along the way. As mentioned the car has ABS but also features Electronic Brake Assist (EBA) which senses the driver hitting the brake quickly and increases the braking to maximum even if the driver is not pushing the pedal that hard. This minimises braking distance. The Four-C and AWD systems also play a part in the car's braking. By firming up the front dampers, Four-C counteracts braking dive. By disengaging rear-wheel drive AWD increases directional stability.

As usual we performance tested the Volvo. In fact in one test we actually managed to reach 100mph in an amazing 13.42secs. However averaging things out the numbers were more or less in line with those posted by Autocar.

Acceleration0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100 0-110
Volvo S60 R (1 (03-))








Volvo S60 R (1 (03-))









*All stats are performed on private roads and repeated several times with the average displayed.


Size, Space and Economy
The S60R has reasonable legroom front and rear and will allow four adults to travel in comfort.

It's 424ltr boot is acceptable.

Economy-wise 19.2mpg (urban), 34mpg (ex-urban) and 26.4mpg (combined) is pretty good given the performance levels and obviously the sapping all-wheel drive. Emissions-wise the car rates as a 256g/km

Insurance-wise the Volvo is rated as group 18, which is actually pretty good.

Safety wise the car scored 4 out of 5 in the European NCAP tests - at the time this was one of the highest scores. The car features WHIPS (whiplash protection system) and SIPS (side impact protection system) , the later receiving a 100% score in the NCAP tests.


At 34,163 the Volvo is just 2k shy of the 4.2-litre V8 S4 and 5.5k less than the BMW M3. For the same money you could have an Mitsubishi Evo FQ-300 (which we'll be reviewing very soon) or the best Impreza money can buy - both with a little change.

For me ? Well I love the Evo and Impreza but neither are really that practical for a family. The M3 is only available as a coupe/cabriolet that leaves the S4 which when all things are considered is the closest rival here, being closest in price and also AWD. In many regards the S4 should take it but it's not the top of the range (soon there will be a RS4) and it is a little too subtle. On the flip side the residuals and build are going to be superior to the S60R and of course there is also the V8 to take into account . We've not driven it yet so that's as far as the comparison can go at the moment.

To sum up the S60R - It's a hoot to drive, the engine sounds great and it has real shove - not that disimilar to an Evo. Its got great traction and is pretty good round bends too. There are some issues with chassis control at speed, but even this was far better than most saloons we have tested. I think the best description is a 'Luxury Evo', it has the feel of a 30,000 plus car but maintains the rawness of the rally inspired saloons. I would seriously think about buying one if I had to trade down from the M5. It would be good for the family trips and also give me the laughs too when I was 'flying solo'.

Finally, recent press rumours are that a revised S60R is on the way - basically to silence some of the criticism in the press. And as I don't have too many criticisms now - I am very keen to get my hands on the revised car... soon please.

Our Review of the Volvo S60 T5

Our Review of the Volvo S80 T6 SE

See all the Photos we took during the test

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