REVIEW DATE: 19 Dec 2006
The Entry-Level 2.4-Litre Diesel Engine In Volvo's S60 Shows How Far Oil-Burning Technology Has Come. Steve Walker Reports.
The advent of common-rail technology has revolutionised the way we think about diesel engines and Volvo have felt the change as much as any manufacturer. At the last count, 60% of Volvo's customers chose a diesel engine to power their new vehicle. Where once ear defenders were standard equipment for driving a diesel car and gas masks were a sensible precaution for anyone following one, oil-burners are now both quiet and clean. That's not to say that there isn't still room for improvement though. Having got the basics right, the logical progression for diesel is to up the anti with more power, hence the 163bhp diesel unit which now forms the entry-level point in the S60 diesel Range.
That's right, we're discussing an entry-level diesel engine here, one with over 160bhp. It wasn't so long ago that 163bhp would have been an ample output for a Range-topping unit. Indeed, a version of this 2.4-litre 5-cylinder common-rail injection engine with the same power rating used to be the top dog so far as S60 oil-burners were concerned and 163bhp is still more than many rivals can muster. Times change and Volvo obviously saw themselves falling off the pace in the performance diesel stakes so they took steps to bring the S60 back to the head of the pack.
The S60 diesel Range used to be comprised of one solitary engine, the 163bhp D5. Now buyers have two options to consider. Both are upgraded versions of this old D5 unit featuring improvements in the engine management system, better turbochargers and fuel injectors, revised combustion systems and new diesel particulate filters. The engine we're focusing on here has the same 163bhp output as the old D5 but the D5 mantle has now been passed to a 185bhp unit which is more competitive against performance diesel models from rival marques.
"The S60's mission in life is to elbow its way into contention in the compact executive sector."
In everyday driving, the reduction in NVH (noise vibration and harshness) that Volvo's engineers strived for is tangible and there's also a more sprightly reaction when you put your foot down. The old D5 unit could cover the sprint to 60mph in 9.5s but the improved 2.4D engine performs the same feat in 9.2s. The torque rating remains unchanged at a muscular 340Nm but that maximum is available over a slightly narrower rev band - from 1,200 to 2,750rpm instead of to 3,000rpm with the old unit. The claimed average fuel consumption is actually the same whether you opt for this 2.4D engine or the Range-topping 185bhp D5 at 42.8mpg but both cars are marginally inferior to the old 163bhp D5 on this score.
Of all the improvements Volvo have made to their 2.4-litre diesel, the ones that have rendered it Euro IV-compliant will be amongst the most salient for company car users. Unlike the old Euro III engines, these revised units raise the prospect of saving 3% on your Benefit In Kind taxation burden and that can mean a healthy yearly saving. Where the old Euro III car chugged out 166g/km of CO2, today's powerplant emits 174g/km but levels of particulates in the exhaust gasses have been cut - so those of us without a company car allowance get the satisfaction of knowing our car is doing that little bit more to keep the planet in good shape.
The 2.4D engine is available in all five S60 trim levels. Initially it comes down to a straight choice between the S model at £22,395, the Sport at a £1,850 premium or the SE which costs £650 on top of that. Then there's the SE Sport to consider at £26,695 or the SE Lux for £450 more. Even the lowly S models come well-equipped with cruise control, dual-zone climate control, 16" alloys, electric windows and mirrors, a leather steering wheel, a 6-speaker CD stereo and the DSTC stability and traction control system. The Sport adds bigger 17" alloy wheels, lower front and rear valances, side mouldings and a subtle rear spoiler. Intriguingly, you also get an interior that's upholstered in something called Nordborg. Apparently, it combines the benefits of leather and textiles so, surely, that must be worth the extra money on its own. The SE goes a little more luxurious, adding leather upholstery, a fancy 9-speaker stereo and some tastefully applied chrome inserts amongst other things.
The S60's mission in life is to elbow its way into contention in the compact executive sector but the list of models which have tried and failed to do the same is long and fairly illustrious. The fact that it isn't German is a problem that no amount of sausages on the menu in the Volvo staff canteen or lederhosen theme nights in dealerships are likely to fix but otherwise the S60 is a solid product. As usual with Volvos, build quality is good and the S60 is a highly comfortable car to cover long distances in. If you're comparing it with the BMW 3-Series' of this world, it lacks quite the same sharp responses and sporty feel but recent upgrades to the chassis have helped in this regard and the difference isn't as great as it once was..
The Compact Executive saloon class can, in reality, be split into two sections: the Germans (BMW 3 Series/Audi A4/Mercedes C-class) and everyone else (think Jaguar X-TYPE, Saab 9-3 and Lexus IS). Against comparable cars in this second sector, the 163bhp 2.4D S60 looks tightly priced and offers a power advantage. In other words, buyers keen to go for the Volvo should have no problem in justifying their decision.
The results below show the top S60 deals on buyacar
|Volvo S60 D3  Business Edition 4dr diesel saloon|
|Volvo S60 D2  R DESIGN Nav 4dr diesel saloon|
|Volvo S60 DRIVe  ES 4dr diesel saloon|
|Volvo S60 D2  SE Lux 4dr diesel saloon|
|Volvo S60 D2  ES 4dr diesel saloon|
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|OVERALL||7.1 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|
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