The coupe version of the venerable Rover 3.5-litre saloon - a low-volume model that became a classic and is still a favourite of the Queen - inspired the S60, the Swedish company's Mercedes-Benz C-class and BMW 3-series challenger.
Designer Peter Horbury said: 'It has always been one of my favourites and I've been surprised that no-one has attempted to build a car like it since. The big Rover was years ahead of its time and I think the concept is just right for today.'
'We looked long and hard at the competition and decided every compact executive car offered much the same. I'd like to think that people will choose Volvo in future because it is a car that they want, rather than being the car they end up buying as a result of peer pressure and because it has a certain badge on its bootlid.'
Styled to have the dashing appearance of a two-door coupe and engineered to boast dynamic performance to match, the new four-door luxury model is claimed to offer sporty progress while being sufficiently roomy and practical for five occupants. Horbury said his design team had been able to squeeze a sedan into the mass of a coupe by moving the windscreen forward - extending the space for passengers.
'This is how I interpret the cab-forward look, and while it retains the brand theme set by the S80, this car has looks that suggest action even when it is standing still,' said Horbury.
Product planning director Peter Ewerstrand said: 'This car has real muscle and comes with all the pre-requisites that make it fun to drive. We have given it a wider track than the cars it will rival to make sure it has a better response and crisper feel.'
Based on the S80 platform, the coupe shares its basic structure, brakes and suspension with the larger car. Its rear axle is also carried over, but shock absorbers and anti-roll bars are re-tuned.
'With bodywork 20% stiffer than the S80 and twice as rigid as the S70, we think we can claim to have produced a car that has particularly good roadholding. We believe this is the model to win us valuable fresh business in several European markets such as the UK, where we have traditionally been seen as primarily a manufacturer of estate cars.
'As we don't have a big sedan customer base, we're entering a new segment in many respects and we aim to make conquests - but we will be careful as to how it is positioned in the marketplace. While this is a fun car to drive, it will not be billed as the ultimate driving machine,' said Ewerstrand.
Volvo is backing the S60's considerable kerbside promise with a choice of three power units, all tuned to provide effortless acceleration and an easy cruising demeanour and a five cylinder turbocharged 2.4-litre common rail diesel will offer 163bhp and 250lb-ft of torque when it becomes available next year.
Even the lead-in version sweeps to the benchmark 62mph rate in 8.8 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 144mph. At the top of the range is the sparkling 2.3-litre turbocharged T5 version, which shoots to 62mph in just 7.1 seconds and is limited to 155mph all-out.
Between the two is the 2.4-litre model, a light-turbo compromise that looks likely to be most popular with UK buyers. With a top speed of 143mph and a rest-to-62mph time of 7.6 seconds, this is a snappy performer that is also beautifully balanced. On test in Sweden, it impressed by having ample reserves of power for rapid and safe overtaking and produced hardly any mechanical noise as it swept around an airfield circuit and neatly executed a slalom test at high speeds despite wet conditions.
Ewerstrand said: 'We're billing this as a spirited car, but it also has competitive economy and emissions levels. All our five-cylinder engines deliver higher output and torque than key competitors in the segment, and we feel we have a package that's hard to beat.' Emmox director Andrew Wright described the S60 as a sporting saloon and a desirable overall package. 'Our figure residual of 48.45% over three years/60,000 miles reflects our thinking that it will be in demand. The prediction also reflects the development of the brand,' he said.
CAP Monitor predicted a slightly more cautious residual value of 43.28%, but editor Mark Norman added: 'At last, Volvo can seriously compete with the mighty German marques. This range has the specification, engine line-up and build quality that buyers want. It will be something of a rarity compared to some of the other cars in this expanding sector.'