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Volvo S60 T5 Car Review | February 1, 2001

Driven February 2001

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A few years back my next door neighbour proudly showed me his shiny new top of the range Volvo 360, expecting me to marvel at the quality of its construction. Instead I was amazed that anyone would buy a car with such a nasty interior and basic specification - for so much money. My mind was made up when I had to have a lift in it and it spun on a slightly frosty country lane.

Fast forward 10 years and things have improved massively, but not necessarily in every respect. Although the cars don't generally have a poverty spec any more, the interiors are still among the most uninspired designs currently available. The facia is a huge expanse of grey plastic with a few token wood inserts, and sitting with it in front of you doesn't exactly make you feel special.

But the instrumentation itself is very clear, and the ergonomics are excellent. Getting comfy in the large leather chairs is simplicity itself, whether you're sitting in the front or the back - although rear seat legroom could be a bit more generous.

Visibility is compromised by the thick B-pillars, but you can't expect Volvo to abandon all its values can you? Safety and Volvo have always been synonymous with each other, and the Swedish marque isn't about to give that up.

What it has given up is appallingly poor in car entertainment. Although a decent stereo radio cassette was the norm on cars in the old 360 GLT's sector, that model had to make do with a crappy mono radio. But the system fitted to the T5 is one of the best available. A CD autochanger and power galore make for a sound that matches some of the better aftermarket installations available.

Although it's a saloon, the rear seat folds 60/40, allowing the capacity to be used as usefully as possible. The boot itself is huge, as we've now come to expect from the current generation of high-backed designs on the market.

The driving experience always used to be the last thing on the mind of Volvo's engineers, but mercifully things have changed. In T5 form the S60's driving experience is something to savour - phenomenally reassuring brakes allied with barmy acceleration mean it's easy to have some fun behind the wheel.

If anything the problem is that the car is too quick and refined, leading to frequent occurrences of travelling well beyond the speed limit without noticing. Overtake somebody on a de-restricted B-road and you could easily be into three figures by the time you've got past.

To keep up with the latest trends Volvo has installed a Tiptronic-style gearbox in the T5. Leave it in auto mode and there's a real sense of urgency using kickdown - resort to manual changes and the car feels even quicker.

On the outside the car is typically understated in a Swedish kind of way - spoked 17-inch alloy wheels are all that hints at the car's performance but there's nothing else to give the game away.

So if the last Volvo you sampled was a late 80s example - or even an S40/V40 - it might be time you revisited the marque. You should be pleasantly surprised.

Richard Dredge

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