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Sporty diesel Volvo hits SA

2006-05-25 08:00

Potent Diesel Grunt for S60

John Oxley

Yes, Volvo has done it again, with a price freeze on its popular mid-sized diesel.

Volvo Car South Africa unveiled its new five-cylinder diesel engine for the Volvo S60 in a very wet Eastern Cape, but this certainly didn't dampen any enthusiasm for the car.

We managed to find our way past flooded sections of road and were able to test the car's performance and particularly its new levels of handling on tight sections of road in the Hankey area.

And what a difference the engine changes make.

When the S60 was first introduced with the 5-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, back in 2003, we were impressed with its smoothness, quietness and its power and torque. At the time we felt it was the best diesel on the block, in its class.

Hot competition

Time moves on, though, and the competition has hotted up, with, especially, new six-cylinder diesels from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

So what has been the Volvo response?

Well, the improved and refined Volvo engine now gives the S60 gives much improved performance and better driveability, coupled with a sharp decrease in exhaust emissions, with power boosted by 16 kW to 136 kW, and torque a hefty 400 Nm from 340 Nm.

At the same time the specification level has been raised to the same as that on the top-end T5 petrol models, with a sportier chassis and suspension pack most dominant, as well as extras such as electrically-operated seats.

The latest S60 also comes out with the latest styling introduced across the S60 range introduced this time last year, which includes and new grille and revised rear light clusters.

And Volvo's active Four-C chassis (Computer Controlled Chassis Concept), which is available on the sporty S60R, has been refined and is now an option on the S60 diesel as well as other S60 and V70 models.

The active Four-C chassis system provides fully active damping with two distinct operating ranges - Comfort and Sport.


The latest D5 engine, like its predecessor, is a 2.4-litre all-aluminium engine and is extremely light for a diesel unit, part of the reason why its fuel consumption is low and its handling crisp.

More importantly, it produces higher torque than the most powerful five-cylinder petrol engine in the Volvo Cars range.

Most of the increase in performance on the new D5 come from better air and exhaust gas exchange management, a new turbocharger, and an improved injection system.

At the same time the car gets new gearboxes - either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed Geartronic auto 'box, the latter linked to the engine management system for improved performance.

The new automatic transmission contributes to a very fast response, particularly when the kick-down function is used.

It also has a lock-up feature at various engine speeds - depending on load - to give more pulling power and better driveability.


As a result the car now accelerates from 0-100 km/h in just 8.2 seconds on the manual, 8.7 seconds on the auto, and on to tops speeds of 230 km/h and 225 km/h respectively.

These are significantly higher than those of the outgoing model, with almost a second difference on acceleration and almost 20 km/h better on top end.

Yet fuel economy on a car which is a genuine 5-seater is remarkable, with overall figures panning out at 6.6 litres/100 km and 7.5 litres/100 km respectively.

A big plus on the engine, and one which will be appreciated by turbo-diesel owners, is that the turbo centre housing is now water-cooled, which is unusual in diesel engines.

As a result the turbo continues to be cooled even after the engine has been switched off, particularly beneficial during short stops after high-speed driving, such as when refuelling on the highway.

Finally, there's a new particulate filter in the exhaust system (which already has a catalytic converter),

This system burns off the sooty deposits normally associated with diesel engines - which means no more black smoke - and it doesn't need any servicing.

There's also a "drive-by-wire" electronic throttle for faster accelerator response.

In South Africa there's a 20 000 km service interval and S60 D5 models sold in South Africa are also subject to a 10 000 km oil and oil filter change service, but all service and standard maintenance costs are covered by Volvo Car SA's 5 year/100 000 km Volvo Plan.

On the road

From the first turn of the key we were impressed by the quietness of this common rail multi-valve turbo-diesel engine.

Even more impressive is its fuss-free operation and exhilarating performance, and I particularly liked the deep growl which emanates from the transversely mounted engine under hard acceleration.

All this wrapped up in the S60's beautiful coupe-like four-door body, with the most interior space and boot space in its price category.

It feels like a petrol car, and except for the lower revs limits, drives like one.

Indeed, my feeling is that at the relatively minor difference in price, there is absolutely no point in buying the manual.

Although the manual naturally delivers better acceleration, it's also not significantly more that it makes manual transmission a natural choice.

Only the most dyed-in-the-wool sporting types or absolute economy freaks would, we feel, want to opt for the manual.

At the same time handling shows a big improvement.

Sporty suspension

The previous model was aimed at high comfort levels, and as a result suspension settings saw more understeer than I would have liked.

That's all cured now, with a sporty feel that allows one to press on with alacrity.

Volvo's advanced DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) stability-enhancing system is fitted as standard.

DSTC cuts in and helps stabilise the car if it registers any tendency to skid.

The interior of the S60 can best be described as clean, functional and ergonomically correct, with wood trim or optional aluminium brightening the interior and giving that necessary touch of class.

Novel features include the ability of one, two or all three rear seats to fold down, a load hatch in the rear centre armrest, extra cargo space when the passenger seat backrest is folded down, a multi-functional load and shopping bag holder and sports design seats.

The S60 D5 is equipped with electric windows and mirrors, while separate ventilation and heat outlets for the rear passengers provide enhanced comfort.

Other standard features include a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, an air-conditioner, a remote keyless entry system, an anti-theft system, cruise control and even a boot lid that over-extends from centre so taller owners won't bump their heads on the latch.

Of course, safety elements are high in the S60 repertoire,

These include WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System), SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) and IC (Inflatable Curtain). All are fitted as standard.


  • S60 D5 (manual) R303 000
  • S60 D5 (Geartronic) R313 000

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