Fleet News

Volvo S60 and XC90 diesels



HAVE you noticed how you can buy August-dated magazines already? Well, the same marketing-led impatience is making its way into the car industry, and 2006 model year ranges are now being launched.

No model in the 2006 Volvo line-up, on sale now, has escaped the attention of the designers and marketing people, with specification changes and some very subtle styling revisions (like a new black grille on the S80). It’s the engineers who have been the busiest.

The single most significant change is the introduction of a heavily-revised version of the 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel. It receives a boost in power from the 163bhp of the outgoing unit to 185bhp, and also gains a six-speed manual transmission as standard. A new six-speed Geartronic ’box will be introduced later this year.

The new D5 engine benefits from a particulate filter and Euro IV compliance and will be available in the S60, V70, XC70 and XC90. However, the increase in power is off-set by slightly higher emissions.

That’s not necessarily bad news though, as the changes bring the Volvo’s performance in line with many six-cylinder rivals, yet the five-cylinder turbodiesel still manages to undercut key competitors on emissions and price.

The introduction of the more powerful D5 allowed Volvo to offer a lower power version based on the same unit and delivering the same 163bhp as the outgoing D5.

Volvo S60 D5

Called the 2.4D, it too has Euro IV compliance and a particulate filter. The two new diesels give Volvo more breadth in the growing fleet diesel market, with the D5 able to compete with larger capacity rivals from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, while the lower output 2.4D is better positioned against diesel rivals, offering up to 160bhp.

And the fleet market is clearly very important to Volvo’s UK success, with business sales growing markedly.

In its first full year on the market back in 2000 the S60 achieved 6,699 sales. Of those 42% were to fleet buyers. In 2004 there was a huge increase in the private/company mix with 3,860 of Volvo’s 6,000 UK S60s going to business customers. That represents 64% of S60s being bought with the company chequebook.

Unsurprisingly, it is diesels which make up a significant number of S60s sold in the UK market. Indeed, Volvo has seen its growth in diesel sales leaping from just 8% in 2000, to 59% in 2004. That latter figure significantly betters the 33% diesel sales exhibited in the overall UK market.

Both the S60 and V70 are available with the new 163bhp 2.4D and the 185bhp D5 units, while the four-wheel drive V70 AWD, XC70 and XC90 are only offered with the more powerful D5.

In the S60 and V70, diesels will claim around 60% to 65% of the range mix, with the XC90 significantly more at around 85%. Fleet sales for the XC90 stand at around 28%; a growth on the 19.6% figure the XC90s managed last year.

Of those, the majority will be highly specified, with the bulk of sales in SE specification and above.

Few XC90s are ever specified without leather and sat nav, and both items are increasingly important to ensure good residual values.

To cater for this increasing demand for personalisation Volvo has introduced an Inscription range which gives customers greater freedom to choose from a wider and wilder range of leather trims, carpets and wood inlays in a similar fashion to schemes offered by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover.

Inscription will be limited to tiny numbers, but even in standard guise the new Volvo ranges offer generous standard equipment. All Volvos from the S60 up come with a full compliment of airbags, ISOFIX child seat fittings, ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and DSTC (Directional Stability and Traction Control with Electronic Brake Assistance).

Additionally, they all come with equipment such as electronic climate control, a CD player and alloy wheels. Even the entry-level S-specification comes pretty much fully loaded with all the equipment you could conceivably need, though Sport and SE trim levels are also available on the S60 and SE, and Executive on the XC90 only.

Volvo XC90 D5

Behind the wheel

DRIVING the D5 engine in the S60 and XC90 around Frankfurt reaffirmed my view of Volvo’s key selling point – comfort. The S60 in size and price competes with junior executive sports saloons, yet it offers a more cosseting and less driver-focused alternative.

The S60 is a difficult car to fault for the long distance business traveller . The seats are tremendously comfortable, more like armchairs, and the controls are beautifully simple.

It all feels well built too, and offers decent space for those in the front and back. The suspension adds to the comfort, smoothing off the worst bumps, although at the expense of outright agility when the roads become more challenging.

The gearbox and steering both do their job adequately, though you’re unlikely to be seeking out favourite country roads and shifting gears just for the hell of it. The D5 completes the package, offering easy performance, 40mpg-plus economy all combined with decent refinement.

Unsurprisingly, the D5 engine needs working harder in the XC90, though you’ll not notice any decrease in refinement as a result.

It’s definitely a cruiser. Show it some challenging bends and you’ll be rewarded with lots of body roll. Better then to relax, enjoy its comfort and huge practicality, though it desperately needs the Geartronic six-speed automatic gearbox which is due in October.

Driving verdict

THE new D5 offers both the S60 and XC90 a useful increase in power to make life in both even more relaxed than before. The impressive torque makes for easy progress, and the D5’s increased power gives the XC90 some useful additional urge.

The engine is definitely worth the small premium it commands over the less powerful 2.4D in the S60 – unless you’re on a very tight budget.

Model: S60 2.4D S60 D5 XC90 D5
Engine (cc): 2,401 2,401 2,401
Max power (bhp/rpm): 163/4,000 185/4,000 185/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 251/1,750 295/2,000 295/2,000
Top speed (mph): 137 143 121
0-62mph (sec): 9.5 8.2 10.9
Fuel consumption (mpg): 42.8 42.8 34.0
CO2 emissions (g/km): 174 174 219
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 70/15.4 70/15.4 68/15
Transmission: 6-sp manual, Geartronic auto from October
On sale: Now
Prices (OTR): £22,043-£24,543 £22,903-£25,403 £32,275-£44,830

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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