The car I learnt how to drive in as a teenager was my father’s reliable, boxy Volvo 240. It was a manual car with velvet seat covers and an impressive ground clearance, considering how no one suffered when I inadvertently took on bumps at unsuitable speeds. I always felt safe in that car and I suppose that was why my father entrusted his precious firstborn to it.
A little more than 20 years later, I feel just as secure behind the wheel of modern-day Volvos. You can put some of it down to nostalgia, but no one can deny the marque’s long and well-established reputation in automotive safety.
But even as its R&D in safety has evolved, so too has its approach to design. The boxy styles of old have fallen away to reveal sleek, chic sedans as well as handsome SUVs.
The low-slung S60 is particularly powerful in its proportions, with a strongly sculpted profile that contributes to a dynamic, elegant appearance. The car’s prominent front grille wears the Volvo emblem proudly, while full LED headlights with the brand’s unique T-shaped light signature create an unmistakable presence, day or night. At the rear, the boot edge kicks upwards for a sportier attitude and better aerodynamics at speed.
The hybrid Volvo S60 T8 is now available as completely knocked-down (CKD) units for the Malaysian market. Similar to the current completely built-up (CBU) variant, the Volvo S60 T8 CKD is powered by the award-winning T8 Twin Engine e-AWD plug-in hybrid and can deliver a total output of 407hp and 640Nm of torque. Get ready for the rest of the statistics: its electric motor outputs 87hp and 240Nm of torque while its Drive-E petrol engine, equipped with supercharger and turbocharger technology, produces 320hp and 400Nm of torque. This translates into a 0-100 km/h run in a mere 4.4 seconds.
Instead of the start button, the driver has to twist a knob, a deeply satisfying sensation reminiscent of turning a key. The interiors combine sportiness and a typically Scandinavian minimalism. Metal-finished controls with diamond-patterned finishes adorn air vents, the starter knob, driving mode controller and steering wheel controls. Sporty accents include metal mesh aluminium décor panels and contrast stitching for the seats, tunnel console, doors and gearshift gaiter.
The engine fires up with the slightest of hums, and a tablet-style central screen in portrait format makes reading information easy and reduces scrolling. I found the 9-inch screen incredibly responsive, actually. It is the motherboard of the car, if you will, from which all the controls are managed — connect your mobile phone, access Spotify and of course, explore the impressive list of safety features in the S60. This is a Volvo, after all.
Core to the S60’s approach to safety is a rigid cell that protects its occupants, while crumple zones front and rear dissipate as much energy as possible in the event of a collision. What is also unique to the marque is the City Safety with Autobrake technology, which assists the driver in avoiding potential collisions and is the only system in the market that recognises pedestrians, cyclists and large animals. The last does not apply to KL, you say? I have news for you — cows still roam certain areas of Sentul, and in Petaling Jaya, a large goose serves as guard dog at a home near the entrance to the Gasing Forest Reserve. Fortunately, I did not have to test either system out, as traffic was quite light when I had the S60.
What I did use a lot of was the Pilot Assist driver assistance feature, which builds on the adaptive cruise control function, so on top of staying to a fixed speed and distance from the vehicle in front of you, it also uses steering inputs to keep you in the centre of your lane. The 360˚ camera is another helpful feature, showing a bird’s-eye view of the car and its immediate surroundings on the large centre display screen. Reverse and parallel parking has never been easier.
The car comes in a number of drive modes, the default mode being the Comfort hybrid setting. The car glides when it is in this mode, and moves very gracefully. For day-to-day running around, this is ideal for its balance of power and performance — I mean, do you really need the full throttle to pick up groceries? On a jaunt to the city, we opted for full electric mode. On a full charge, the car can do 40km on Eco mode, which took me on quite a few trips to Bangsar and back.
But my favourite mode was the all-petrol Dynamic. As I flipped a small toggle to my left, the engine gave the slightest jerk as if to say it was ready for a bit of fun. And oh, was she a pleasure to drive! As the powertrain shifted to an all-petrol format, the energy was rapid and easy, the car’s responsive handling an absolute delight. Ideal for long-distance driving, Dynamic mode brings the raw power of its petrol-powered engine to the fore, and I got dangerously close to doing the centenary in its stipulated time. Almost.
There is something very comfortable and familiar about the S60, which made it enjoyable to drive just minutes after I slipped into the driver’s seat. Speed and power do not come at the expense of safety and security, which is comforting. Although Volvo has come a long way far from the 240 I once drove years ago, it is good to know some things about it remain the same.
The Volvo S60 T8 CKD is priced at RM295,888 (on-the-road, without insurance, inclusive of excise duty and sales tax) and is available for test drives at all authorised Volvo dealers nationwide. The car can also be booked on volvocars.com/my online in adherence to the government’s advice on social distancing.
This article first appeared on Aug 3, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.