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20in wheels, upright central dashboard touchscreen, sat-nav, automatic transmission
Petrol plug-in hybrid:
405hp, 2.0 with 10.4kWh
Momentum, Inscription, Polestar
It sounds like it could be an opening line to a joke from a bad stand-up comic: 'did you hear the one about the car company that wanted to sell its new saloon to business drivers, but didn't offer it with a diesel engine?'
Except that that's the reality with this new Volvo S60 saloon and there's certainly no punchline. While new diesel car sales remain in free fall (down 31% so far this year), it's undoubtedly a brave move from the Swedish firm to only offer its new model ranges with only petrol or petrol-electric hybrid engines, starting with this S60.
Yes, electrification might be the long-term future, but are business drivers ready to fully embrace it? Three quarters of sales of the old S60 were to fleets and there's also no denying that plug-in hybrids have a lot of company car appeal in this class. Business sales respectively account for 88 and 60% of sales for the plug-in versions of the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
A stylish saloon
At least the S60 looks the part. Volvo's design department has been producing some of the best-looking new cars in showrooms of late, especially the S60's sister car, the V60 estate, and this latest is no different. We like the dominant front with the over-sized grille and 'Thor's hammer' front LED daytime running lights and also the sporty crease lines along the car's flanks. The rear, echoing the C-shaped lights of the larger S90, doesn't look quite so smart to our eyes, but overall the car boasts a distinctive style that stands out and is pleasing to the eye.
Alongside more traditional petrols, there will be effectively two versions of the S60 T8 plug-in hybrid, either in standard form with 390bhp or this flagship Polestar model with 405bhp. With a 0-60mph time of just 4.7 seconds and a 155mph top speed, the Polestar has enough pace to worry the likes of BMW's M3 and the Mercedes AMG C43, but at the same time produces 48g/km of CO2 and, officially at least, 134.5mpg combined fuel economy.
At this stage, with some rival models affected by the WLTP transition, a new 3 Series on the horizon, and staggered introduction of the updated C-Class range, it's difficult to match up rivals for the S60 T8. Perhaps by the time it's introduced, the plug-in market will offer greater choice.
With a 21-mile electric only range, that gives both this Polestar and the standard T8 a BIK rating of 13% for 2018/19, rising to 16% for 2019/20. It will be 2020/21 when that low electric-only range makes itself felt however, when that same BIK rating will only drop to 14%. A 40-mile electric range, for example, would see that drop to just 8% in 2020/21 - underlining that company drivers will have to pay close attention to this figure for PHEVs in years to come.
Fast but heavy
On the road, the S60 certainly feels refined enough for road and wind noise when cruising, along with a good road stance and sharp, direct steering. It's devastatingly fast, both from a standing start and particularly mid-range when overtaking thanks to that battery pack. The bad news is that same battery pack also adds a significant 200kg to the S60's weight.
While that weight feels low down, the S60 doesn't feel as manoeuvrable through tighter turns with rapid direction changes compared with the likes of the outgoing 3 Series. However, there is creditably little body roll and on longer more flowing bends the Volvo feels planted and controllable, enabling you to really lean on the grip provided by the tyres. The nice and responsive gear-change paddles behind the steering wheel help you to keep up a good rhythm too.
That said, while this S60 undoubtedly drives better than many recent Volvos there's still room for improvement with more involved steering and better suspension control over undulating surfaces. Sitting on large 20in wheels, the ride quality is far too fidgety over broken surfaces. The brakes, switching between regenerative braking to charge the on-board batteries and friction braking with the actual pads themselves, could be a lot smoother and more progressive in low-speed traffic as well.
Inside there is Volvo's usual portrait-style upright central screen on the dashboard with its very intuitive infotainment system. The front seats themselves are very comfortable with adjustable lumbar and under-thigh support. In the rear there's also plenty of head and legroom, although a third central passenger won't thank you for any longer journeys as the central transmission tunnel, housing the batteries, is large and intrusive, and takes up legroom. The boot meanwhile is a decent 442 litres and the rear seats fold for extra space.
There's no question that this S60 will make more of an impact on the market than its predecessor (just 1,250 S60s were sold in the UK in 2017). That lack of a diesel will undoubtedly have some effect for some higher-mileage business users, but the growing appeal of plug-in hybrids is sure to make up for that loss.
Which makes it all the more of a pity that while the S60 itself will arrive in showrooms in April, the T8 plug-in versions don't arrive until late 2019 due to a global short supply of batteries (something that other manufacturers are having issues with too). Longer term however, that's unlikely to dent what's sure to be an impressive technological head start for the S60 on its rivals. That, plus the fact that the S60 looks good and drives well, means that Volvo's competition are the last ones likely to be laughing come April next year.
P11D: £52,500 (estimated) (range from estimated £37,000)
Cost per mile: TBC
Fuel consumption: 134.5mpg
CO2 (BIK band): estimated 48g/km (13%)
Boot space: 442 litres
Engine size/power: Petrol 1,995cc, 10.4kWh electric, 405hp