Cars, Local News, Volvo

Volvo sold 1,883 vehicles in Malaysia in 2019, up 36.1%; over 3,000 units exported to ASEAN and Taiwan


At its Chinese New Year media luncheon today, Volvo Car Malaysia announced that it had sold 1,883 vehicles in the country last year. A record for the Swedish brand, it represents a 36.1% increase over the 1,384 cars that were delivered in 2018.

This sales jump is in line with Volvo’s international exploits, crossing the 700,000-unit mark for the first time with 705,452 vehicles sold globally. Locally, the strong sales were boosted by the start of deliveries of the XC40, along with the launch of the new S60 and facelifted XC90. The company also introduced new dealerships in Setia Alam, Johor Bahru, Mutiara Damansara, Ipoh and Ara Damansara.

Meanwhile, production at the Shah Alam assembly plant was increased to around 5,000 units, of which the majority was exported to Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines and Taiwan. This appears to be the first time exports have significantly outpaced domestic consumption, having already surpassed the latter in 2018. As such, the company has achieved the production goal it set itself back in 2017.

As previously reported, VCM has big plans for 2020, as it expects to introduce the locally assembled version of the S60 and the facelifted S90. It is also now offering an eight-year battery warranty for its plug-in hybrids, and it will expand its dealer network to Sabah with a new Kota Kinabalu outlet this year.

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Cars, Local News, Volvo

New Volvo PHEVs in M’sia get 8-year battery warranty


Along with announcing the impending launch of the locally-assembled S60 and facelifted S90, Volvo Car Malaysia also confirmed that all new plug-in hybrid models in the country will come with an eight-year battery warranty, starting from January 1.

This is a significant upgrade over the existing coverage, which is tied in to the rest of the car’s five-year/120,000 km warranty. It also puts Volvo on par with Honda, which offers an eight-year warranty for hybrid batteries. Both its German rivals, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, offer a six-year/100,000 km warranty for their PHEV batteries, so the Swedish carmaker currently leads the segment in that respect.

Volvo offers four PHEV models on sale at the moment, the S60, XC60, S90 and XC90 T8 Twin Engine. All are powered by a 2.0 litre supercharged and turbocharged engine and a rear electric motor to provide a total system output of 407 PS and 640 Nm of torque. The XC60 and S90 get a 10.4 kWh lithium-ion battery, while the newer S60 and XC90 have a larger 11.6 kWh unit that provides an all-electric range of around 50 km.

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super bowl, Volvo

Volvo to give away cars if there’s a safety during the Super Bowl


The Super Bowl is this Sunday, February 2, 2020, and that only means one thing for those not impressed by absurd feats of athleticism: The ads are coming. Volvo is the first to kick things off before the big game with the announcement of Safety Sunday, a promotional gimmick that could result in the Swedish company giving away $1 million worth of vehicles. There’s just one simple thing that has to happen during the big game. At least one team needs to record a safety.

Last year, Volvo had one of 2019’s most interesting Super Bowl campaigns. Rather than spending a ton of money to show a commercial during the game, Volvo averted eyes from one screen to another with a mobile game. The champion was awarded a car through Volvo’s subscription service. That giving nature has carried over into 2020, and once again, Volvo is offering a chance to “win” a car. This time, participants do not need to play a game. 

To register for Safety Sunday, participants must visit VolvoSafetySunday.com, go to the configurator, and design a vehicle. It could be a V60 Cross Country wagon, an S90 sedan or a XC40 crossover — any vehicle will do. All trims and colors will work, as long as it’s a 2020 Volvo available in the U.S. market. Once the car is designed and submitted, the creator will get a configuration code, and that’s the end of the process. After that, it’s time to cross fingers and hope for a safety. If one occurs, Volvo will select random entries as the winners.

For those unfamiliar with football terminology, a safety occurs when the defense tackles a player who has the ball on offense in his or her own endzone (fumbles out of bounds and penalties in the endzone work too). If this happens, the defense is awarded two points, and the team that was pinned has to punt the ball the ball away. It’s one of the most exciting things that can happen in football, but it is rarely seen.

In total, there were only 12 safeties throughout the 2019 season, and neither the San Francisco 49ers nor the Kansas City Chiefs were responsible for any of them. Both the 49ers (48) and the Chiefs (45) were fairly successful in getting sacks this season, but the Chiefs are also top-tier in avoiding them. Largely due to the elusive nature of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs allowed only 25 sacks during the entire regular season, which was good for third-best in the league. 

Super Bowl LIV should be a great matchup between a high-powered Chiefs offense and a ravaging 49ers defense. But if there’s no rooting interest on either side, Volvo just gave everybody something else to root for.

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Cars, Local News, Safety, Volvo

Volvo to implement 180 km/h speed limit in Malaysia


Volvo’s resurgence in the past decade is truly a story to be marvelled at, having gone through a successful transformative era which saw the introduction of a new range of ravishing cars, most of which are properly luxurious and powerful.

The younger folks may not know this, but Nils Bohlin, a little-known Volvo engineer who invented the V-type three-point safety belt design some 60 years ago, has saved more lives than anyone else in the world. That’s because, instead of monetising his invention, the company chose to share the patented design to competitors in an effort to encourage mass adoption.

Fast forward today, Volvo makes some of the most technically advanced cars from a safety standpoint, but in 2008 it also made a promise that nobody should be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo car by 2020. It’s a bold proclamation, but there are proactive measures in place to realise that goal.

To start, the company will impose a 180 km/h speed limit on all its cars globally, with hopes to highlight the dangers of speeding. A quick check with a representative from Volvo Cars Malaysia also revealed that the speed cap will be introduced here, although the period with which it will be enforced has yet to be specified.

The problem with speeding, Volvo says, is that above certain speeds, in-car safety technologies are no longer enough to avoid severe injuries and fatalities in the event of an accident. Despite that, speeding remains ubiquitous and is one of the most common reasons for fatalities in traffic. “People simply do not recognise the danger involved in speed,” says Jan Ivarsson, one of Volvo Cars’ leading safety experts. Thoughts, guys?

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Cars, Local News, Volvo

New advanced Volvo 3S Centre in Ara Damansara to open soon – four storeys, 14 service bays, VR studio!


Volvo Car Malaysia, together with newly-appointed dealer-partner Sime Darby Swedish Auto, have unveiled a new 3S Centre at the Sime Darby Motors City in Ara Damansara. The four-storey facility is apparently built to the Volvo Retail Experience standards, and even features a Virtual Reality studio.

Designed to deliver a “contemporary luxury experience,” the showroom floor is located at the ground floor, whereas the service centre and car detailing area are spread across the second and third floors. A wheel alignment and balancing zone is located on the fourth floor.

Once opened, the facility will be the first fully air-conditioned workshop in Malaysia, staffed with 18 technicians to oversee aftersales operations. There are 14 service bays, two of which are specifically for RATC (Reception At The Counter) Bays. All customer parking spots will get an individual charger, too.

Volvo Ara Damansara is located at Block 6, Sime Darby Motors City, 6 Jalan PJU 1A/7, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. The showroom opens from 8.30 am to 6 pm on weekdays, 9 am to 6 pm on Saturdays, and 10 am to 6 pm on Sundays and public holidays.

The service centre, meanwhile, opens from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm on weekdays, and from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm on Saturdays. For additional enquiries, customers can call 03-76233200. The 3S centre will be officially launched on February 20, 2020.

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Cars, International News, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo

Daimler, Volvo mulling engine cooperation – report


Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo Cars, are considering cooperating to reduce costs of developing internal combustion engines, German magazine Automobilwoche reported on Sunday, picked up by Reuters. Volvo has been owned by China’s Geely since 2010, and the Chinese carmaker also holds close to 10% stake in Daimler.

The weekly cited a Volvo manager as saying there were initial talks with Daimler, but no concrete plans, while a company spokesman said it was too early to talk about firm projects, although it was not excluding parties. A Daimler spokesman said the company’s cooperation with Geely was developing in a positive way, but declined to elaborate.

In October last year, Volvo said that it would merge its engine development and manufacturing assets with those of parent company Geely, creating a division to supply group brands and also third parties with next-generation ICE and hybrid engines.

The Automobilwoche piece said this new division would start operating by the end of March, and that could be a possible starting point for cooperation with Daimler. A further step could be a partnership to develop electric powertrains.

Geely isn’t in it just for the shareholder bragging rights, as Li Shufu’s company has kicked off projects with Daimler. Both companies are set to build the next generation of Smart electric cars in China through a 50:50 joint venture, and both are also collaborating on a premium ride-hailing service in China. Geely’s deepening ties with Daimler has even caused some friction between the German company and its original Chinese JV partner, BAIC.

The appetite for tie-ups and even full mergers, as seen in the recent FCA-PSA marriage, is because of the auto market being a much tougher place to be in today. Global tariffs, accelerated by a trade war between the US and China, as well as big investments needed for electric and autonomous vehicles, are forcing carmakers to seek new avenues for cost reduction. Daimler is already working with its premium German rival BMW on autonomous tech.

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Audi, BMW, Cars, Feature Stories, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, MINI, Porsche, Volvo

2019 year in review and what’s to come in 2020 – tough year for Mercedes-Benz and BMW, but Volvo soars


Having looked at how the national carmakers and Japanese brands fared in 2019, we continue on the year that was with the premium brands. It was a mixed year for players in the segment, with most of the activity coming from the German marques, as expected. The usual duo led the way in with the introductions this year, but it was a bumper year for the four rings as well.

Things were however a whole lot quieter for many players, and although this will change in 2020 for some, it doesn’t look rosy for at least one.

A slew of Audis. Really?

The brand that has always played bridesmaid to the two other Germans made a real go of it this year, introducing no less than 10 models in 2019. Amazing, really, when you consider how quiet it has been in recent years, with only the occasional low-key introduction to signal that it was still around.

The action started in March with the debut of four vehicles, three of which were new. The Q7 received a specification update, but it was the Q2, Q5 and Q8 that made for the news, with their arrival significantly bumping up the Audi SUV count in the country at a go. The second-gen Q3, meanwhile, joined the party late in the year.

Sedans – and fastbacks – were not forgotten in the rare Audi blitz. April saw the introduction of the A3 Sedan, with the C8-generation A6 and D5 A8L entering the showrooms in June before making their working debut in August. Elsewhere, the second-gen F5 A5 Sportback and the C8 A7 Sportback went on preview for a bit before they made they were officially launched.

That’s quite a haul from Ingolstadt. Whether Euromobil continues to play aggressive in 2020 remains to be seen, but Audi fans surely won’t complain if it does. In terms of what’s coming, the facelifted B9 A4 should be one of the highlights next year.

Monthly debuts from BMW

BMW Malaysia started out their campaign in January with two M Performance Editions, which essentially signed out the F30 330e and F15 X5 xDrive40e, and these were each limited to 300 units. Next up, the G20 3 Series, which arrived as a CBU 330i in March, and its debut also saw a full catalogue of M Performance parts being introduced.

The same month saw the debut of the G15 8 Series, and a month later, to show that the G30 5 Series wasn’t forgotten, the company brought the 520i Luxury and 530e M Sport variants into the market. The all-electric i3s was also launched in April, but final pricing was only announced in August.

In May, the G02 X4 M Sport went the CKD route (pricing revealed in June), and the G05 X5 and F39 X2 M35i went on preview, ahead of their official pricing being announced in July. The F87 M2 Competition was next up to bat in June, making its debut in Sepang, and this was followed by the X7 SUV in July.

The month also saw the G29 Z4 sDrive 30i and facelifted G12 7 Series being announced, the latter continuing on with a 740Le xDrive badge designation. In September, another variant was added to the G01 X3 range in the form of an xDrive30i M Sport model, and the G20 3 Series went the CKD route, retaining the 330i variant.

Models to look forward to in 2020 are likely to include the F40 1 Series, the F48 X1 facelift, G06 X6 and Munich’s answer to the CLA, the F44 2 Series Gran Coupe. The G20 3 Series range will also expand with the upcoming 320i, although there’s still no word on when the 330e plug-in hybrid will arrive, or whether it is even coming. Guess we’ll know in 2020.

Lexus rolls on, while Infiniti stalls

It wasn’t until June that Lexus Malaysia got into the swing of things with the refreshed NX 300, in three variant forms (Urban, Premium and F Sport). The facelift has been around since 2018, but the latest update adds on kit such as Lexus Safety System + while lowering prices.

The seventh-generation ES sedan made its debut as an ES 250 model in September, in two trim levels, Premium and Luxury. The same month saw the RX facelift making its way to Malaysia, with the RX 300 going on sale in Premium, Luxury and F Sport guise.

The coming year will see the introduction of the UX, which was first seen here in 2018 when it was previewed at KLIMS. At that point Lexus Malaysia said there were no plans to bring it in, but it looks like that has changed, and the SUV is slated for our market.

No cheer however for its fellow automaker Infiniti. With the brand languishing globally and in the midst of a restructuring (which will see it exit Europe completely and focus on the United States and China), it’s no surprise that the turnout of new models this year locally was zilch. The brand remains in the country, but with the KL showroom having closed (operations have been moved back to Edaran Tan Chong Motor premises), one wonders how long before the carmaker calls it quits in Malaysia.

The tristar juggernaut chugs along

As 2019 draws to a close, and unless something dramatic takes place in the sales charts, it looks like Mercedes-Benz Malaysia will still hold on to its best-seller title for another year, edging out BMW once more. However, this year won’t be like 2018, because the overall numbers are down for both – up to November, MAA figures reveal that Mercedes sales are down by 24% and BMW, down by 19.6%, year-on-year.

It hasn’t been for a lack of trying or products, with the introduction of new cards at every opportunity continuing to be very much the game plan. The ball started rolling with the introduction of the W213 E350, equipped with the automaker’s new M264 engine, in March. The E200 Sportstyle and E300 Exclusive, bearing new engines and kit, were also launched at that point. The same month also saw the pre-facelift C253 GLC 300 making its debut.

Next to arrive was the V177 A-Class Sedan in A200 and A250 forms. This was followed by the Mercedes-AMG C63S Sedan and Coupe facelifts, along with the AMG GT 4-Door Coupe, which went on sale here in GT 43, GT 53 and GT 63S 4Matic+ forms. Then, the W222 S 560 e PHEV came along in June at the same evebt that gave the all-electric EQC its ASEAN debut.

The AMG A35 Sedan was introduced in September, and October was a busy month for the brand, with the W247 B-Class, C190 Mercedes-AMG GT R and GT C facelifts and X156 GLA 200 Style being introduced to the market. Rounding off the new product list for 2019 was the X253 GLC and C253 GLC Coupe facelifts, which were launched earlier this month. The refreshed SUVs also debuted Mercedes me connect, which will make its way on to upcoming models.

Expect no let-up in the introductions in 2020. Among these will be the second-gen C118 CLA, H247 GLA, X247 GLB, C167 GLE Coupe and the W213 E-Class facelift. The EQC is also slated to arrive in 2020.

MINI adventures continue

The brand’s first product introduction this year was the F60 Cooper S Countryman Pure in April. This was followed by the F57 Cooper S Convertible in July. The latter was a small scale outing, with a run limited to only 20 units.

Nothing like a commemorative edition to evoke nostalgia (and add to sales), and that was certainly the case when the 60 Years Edition popped up in August. The model is a 60-unit limited-edition offering based on the Cooper S 3 Door hatch.

Elsewhere, the F54 Clubman facelift premiered in November, going on sale here in sole Cooper S form. The John Cooper Works Clubman and Countryman were also unveiled at the same time. The next year should see the MINI Electric among the new introductions heading to our shores.

Short but Swede

There were only two new Volvos coming our way this year, and both arrived towards the tail-end of it, but despite this the Swedish brand has been gaining traction – up to November, it sold 1,691 cars, 32% up from the 1,279 units it had achieved by the same time last year. Doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that the German brands will sell less this year than in 2018, it’s a big plus on the brand’s report card.

The much-awaited third-generation S60 finally made its way here in October, going on sale in solitary T8 R-Design guise. While initial units are fully imported (CBU), local assembly is set to start later on, with no changes expected in the specifications when CKD production begins.

The XC90 facelift was the other, the refresh bringing about minor design tweaks, new kit and a bigger battery for the T8 Twin Engine, which increases the pure electric driving range, all accomplished without raising the price from before. The brand also introduced a leather dashboard for the T8 versions of the S90, XC60 and pre-facelift XC90 in August.

No new cats, nothing roving on the ground either

With no new product introductions in the past 12 months, Jaguar Land Rover Malaysia continued to sell what it had in 2019, but there should be a fair bit of activity next year. On the Jaguar front, while the I-Pace has been teased on the local website, it surely won’t be the next in.

That honour should go to the E-Pace – the SUV, first seen locally at our PACE 2018 event, was sighted in the country earlier this month, so it shouldn’t be long before it finally makes its long-awaited local debut. It will be joined by the second-gen Range Rover Evoque, which was previewed at PACE 2019, and was spotted this month undergoing vehicle type approval (VTA).

As for the new Land Rover Defender, don’t hold your breath too long waiting for it to show up that fast – any sign of it will likely be well into the second half of the year at the earliest, given that Australia only gets it in June. High right-hand drive demand might also delay timelines.

Taycan get it out fast enough

No shortage of ground activities – and customer engagement – in Sepang this year for Porsche, but in terms of product launches things were rather on the quiet side. The biggest bang was the introduction of the 992-generation 911 in July, the eighth-gen making its local debut in Carrera S and 4S guise.

Two versions of the Macan facelift were also introduced, the base 2.0 litre in June and the Macan S in August. Earlier in the year, Sime Darby Auto Performance revealed a 15-unit, limited-run 718 Cayman SportDesign edition for the Malaysian market.

Models due next year should include the Cayenne Coupe, but all eyes are of course on the new all-electric Taycan. We do know its set to arrive in 2020, but now we know around when – it’s due in around eight months. According to the folks at Porsche Asia Pacific, the first examples for Malaysia are due sometime in August, and we’ll be getting the Turbo and Turbo S first, well ahead of the entry-level 4S.

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Car Reviews, Cars, Volvo

DRIVEN: 2019 Volvo S60 – it’s very Swede, very sweet


What’s with us guys and sedans? The SUV is clearly a more efficient bodystyle with minimum wasted space within a given footprint. Essentially engorged hatchbacks, the sport utility vehicle is inherently more practical (big hatch opening versus a small boot aperture, square loading bay with lots of height) and is surely the best machine for daily urban warfare, thanks to extra ground clearance and a high perch, from which you can command and conquer, or simply avoid.

It’s a hit with the ladies and families across the world, and it’s something that Volvo knows well. The original XC90 felt like it had been around forever when it was finally replaced in 2014 – a 12-year run is rare, and its longevity was a testament to the car’s ease of use and practicality.

The slick sequel ushered in a new era of design for Volvo, and those good looks are now standard across the family. Momentum was already there when the second-gen XC60 came onboard in 2017, followed by the all-new XC40, which completed an SUV range so strong and desirable. It is the XC family that has propelled Volvo to year after year of sales records.

The SUV may be the hottest thing in town, but the sedan is far from finished. Now I don’t have stats to back this up, but it seems like when it comes to choosing vehicles for themselves (as opposed to picking family transport), men are by and large very much loyal to sedans. The coupe fan and hatchback diehard are outliers.

In the premium segment, sedans are still the bread and butter. The younger bloke likes a good sporty sedan, the more matured businessman a plush executive saloon. And while Alphards have disrupted the status quo slightly in our part of the world, is there a better way to arrive than in a big shiny limo? Look around you.

It’s likely that the paragraph above led to flashing images German premium sedans. The upwardly mobile young man – BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class; the businessman – E-Class; limo – S-Class, Bentley, Rolls-Royce (both British luxury brands are of course owned by Germans). That’s the reason why Volvo has found the premium sedan segment hard to crack. The S80/S90 has had three tries now, and the car you see here is the S60’s third roll of the dice.

Third time lucky? The competition is so stiff here and the stalwarts so entrenched, it will take more than luck to stand any chance. Thankfully, the Volvo S60 looks like a million and one bucks, and we all know that buying a car is far from just an exercise of the brain, especially at aspirational levels. No one’s looking for a pure tool.

To me, the S60 is the best-looking car in the compact premium exec class; perhaps Volvo has hit top form at exactly the same time that some of its German rivals are trying too hard stylistically. Brutish yet elegant, macho yet sensual – the S60 carries over much that’s good from Volvo’s current design template, but with a twist.

That twist could well be in the centre of the car, like a Coke bottle. While broad-shouldered and handsome like the S90, the S60’s body is more chiselled and contoured, with more definition and curvier panels. It’s a stronger look, but organic at the same time.

While the S90’s profile features a straight character line from front to back, this car’s shoulders are most apparent at the rear, thanks to a sharp crease that surfaces from the rear doors backwards.

At 4,761 mm, the S60 is some 202 mm shorter than the S90, but the smaller car is just 29 mm less wide (at 1,850 mm), which gives it more athletic proportions. That, plus the more muscular body, leaves the observer in no doubt which is the sports sedan. In comparison, the S90 looks like the more formal and “proper” sibling, which is appropriate.

The most obvious design difference between 90 and 60 sedans is at the rear. I’ve always thought of the blank space between the S90’s tail lamps as awkward; Volvo remedied that by moving the number plate slot up to its natural position. The signature Volvo logotype has been bumped up in a knock-on effect. The result is a more conventional looking bum, but one that’s still very distinctive thanks to those “E 3” LED tail lamp signatures.

Lastly, the front end, which at first glance appears identical to the S90, or any other modern Volvo for that matter. Look closer however, and you’ll find that the S60’s “Thor’s Hammer” LED daytime running lights protrude from the headlamp housing, which itself is slimmer. R-Design vs R-Design, the S60’s gloss black lower bumper elements are joined together by a slim lip – there’s no such bridge on the S90.

I think it’s cool that Volvo managed to achieve a sporty vibe (mildly aggressive even) for the S60 by keeping it clean and simple, and without resorting to exaggerating elements or adding unnecessary ones for machismo (by this scale, the 3 Series M Sport and C-Class AMG Line are rather juvenile).

To exclaim “Scandi” would be too easy, but they’ve never been heavy-handed, the Swedes. Even in R-Design form, the S60 is far from over-designed, but the look is unmistakably Volvo. I was tailing a gorgeous Alfa Romeo 159 the other day and observed the same – clean design, strong identity.

There’s much less differentiation inside compared to the S90, with only the silver “wings” that spread the width of the dashboard looking more elaborate here (cupping the side AC vents) and the centre console looking less adorned (S90 has a leather boundary).

The typical modern Volvo layout – high cliff dash, big portrait touchscreen – is repeated here. It can be quite a challenge to change things on the move, but at least the target area is large. Better for looks than user-friendliness, but with the amount of functions on modern cars, it’s either this or plane cockpit’s worth of buttons. Or BMW’s iDrive, which is still the best.

I’m a fan of light-coloured cabins, and we know that Volvo does it quite well, but the S60’s sporting brief means that we’ve only seen it in the R-Design regulation black. It never gets too dull though, thanks to judiciously applied silver, chrome and piano black trim.

The dashtop is covered in leather, while the knobs (engine start, drive mode) have an interesting knurled finish that reminds me of the motifs on whisky glasses – they act as jewellery for the cockpit.

Speaking of sparkly stuff, the top T8 Polestar Engineered adds on the Orrefors crystal gear knob that owners of range-topping Volvos are familiar with. That and the yellow seatbelts are the only differences between the cabins of the T8 PE and T6 AWD. Overall, it’s a modern and suave workspace for the driver. Very comfortable too, as you’d expect from Volvo seats.

As a static object, the S60 is a fantastic proposition then, but some might feel a sense of deja vu. Did you think of the outgoing S60 as a looker with plenty of pace, deserving of a spot on the grid with the favourites? Not me. I was moved by the S60 of the “ReVolvolution” era.

Retrieved from deep in the memory as I arrived in California for the drive of the new S60 was the original, specifically a black T5 with multi-spoke rims. I’m no brand fan, but that car – the second Volvo that wasn’t a box, after the first S80 – created a lasting impression on my teenage self (as the B5 Audi A4 did). Like Jennifer Love Hewitt, it was gorgeous.

It was fast too, with 250 turbocharged horses in an era where the Germans were still pushing big NA engines. Billed as sporty because that’s what the “3 Series segment” is about, the first S60 never had the driver appeal to match its looks and on-paper potential.

The second-gen S60, which first surfaced a decade ago, carried the same torch for the brand, and was hailed as the most sporting car Volvo has ever made. Dynamically, the Mk2 was a big improvement, and it was no chore to drive.

“The S60 feels refreshing and miles better to drive than its predecessor and big brother S80… Very surefooted and stable, not overtly sporty in nature but good to drive fast and without any vices… Good enough for most people most of the time, but there are better entertainers in the class,” this writer noted in 2011.

Fast forward to 2019. We’re in Malibu instead of Melaka, but the message is the same – the new S60 is the one of the most exciting cars Volvo has ever made, said CEO Hakan Samuelsson, who calls it a true driver’s car. That proclamation, plus the beauty of the S60 means that I set off into the hills really wanting to like this car. As a neutral, I’m rooting for the S60 to succeed.

We start with the T8 Polestar Engineered, which looks like a car Darth Vader himself would drive. Darker than the night, your eyes are immediately drawn to the fancy 20-inch alloys and gold-painted six-piston Brembo calipers, which grab 371 mm slotted discs. Under the hood, there’s more big-name gear in the shape of Ohlins dual flow valve dampers with 22 clicks of adjustment, attached to a strut bar.

Powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged and supercharged four-pot (318 hp/430 Nm) mated to a rear-mounted electric motor with 88 hp/240 Nm (11.6 kWh lithium-ion battery in the floorpan), total system output reaches up to 405 hp and 670 Nm. Volvo quotes 0-100 km/h in 4.4 seconds. Is this a rival to the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63?

No. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes behind the wheel for one to realise that the top S60 isn’t that kind of beast. It’s nowhere as brutal as those super saloons in acceleration, which might come as a surprise if your expectations had been inflated by the branded hardware and 400+hp rating. Perhaps it’s the over two-tonne weight, plus the fact that plug-in hybrids rarely perform to the level their total system output suggests.

There’s no attempt to fool you with sound and drama either; the “Twin Engine” powertrain is reserved compared to the testosterone-fuelled motors from M and AMG, and gimmicks such as sport exhaust flaps are beneath Volvo.

So, it’s no hammer, but the T8 Polestar Engineered is a stealthy and swift saloon that’s a pleasure to gobble up miles in. You pull away in PHEV-style electric silence (up to 51 km WLTP electric range) and there’s satisfaction to be had rolling around town without consuming petrol or emitting gases. In the default Hybrid mode, the ICE comes in and goes unobtrusively, which is not always a given.

In town and on the freeway, the S60 exhibits good refinement and a solid ride quality that’s less wafty than the usual Volvo fare. I’m not entirely sure if it’s the Scalable Product Architecture chassis (SPA, as used by the XC60 and 90 series) or the Ohlins suspension doing its magic, but the T8 PE excels in both comfort (despite the big wheels) and control (this is not a light car) as you push on. It’s most probably the trick dampers.

If there’s one thing I didn’t quite like, it’s the brakes. No complaints with the absolute power of the Brembos, but it’s the blending between the system braking upon initial input, and the part where the mighty stoppers bite. It isn’t very progressive, can be rather abrupt, and definitely needs getting used to.

No such issues in the T6 AWD R-Design, which is the highest variant you can get without an electric motor. The same modular 2.0L Drive-E is employed with a turbocharger and supercharger (lesser models are turbo-only) for 310 hp and 400 Nm of torque. Paired to an eight-speed Aisin conventional automatic, 0-100 km/h takes 5.5 seconds.

The T6 shares much that’s good about the T8 PE, but has its own character, and I enjoyed it more than the faster car. Besides feeling more agile and light on its feet, the engine had perkier response and there’s a nicer soundtrack to boot, which really came as a surprise. The steering is quick and direct enough, but there a synthetic feel to it that’s not unexpected.

As good as the Ohlins suspension is on the T8, it doesn’t make or break the S60, which in T6 form is firmer than you’d expect a Volvo to be. Over coarse tarmac, the ride can get a little knobby, and you’ll feel the road surface, but it doesn’t cross the line from feedback to annoyance. We didn’t encounter any big ruts or potholes, and it remains to be seen how the ride will fare on Malaysian roads with the 19-inch wheels, which look visually perfect on the S60.

We’re not sure which variant Volvo Car Malaysia will launch initially as a CBU import from the the USA. Coming from Charleston, South Carolina, the S60 is the first Volvo to be made in America. CKD local assembly and T5/T6 variants should happen down the line as Malaysia is the brand’s regional manufacturing hub.

So where does the new S60 stand in the grand scheme of things? Has anything changed after all these years? I feel that the Volvo is more desirable than ever, and it should be in any shopping list which has BMW or Mercedes-Benz in it – anything that looks so good should.

Let’s face it, BMW has always been the dynamic benchmark and still is with the latest 3 Series. When you’re really in the mood for a backroad blast, the car from Munich gives good vibes. That said, the S60 is fast and athletic enough to be a pleasant steer – not too comfort oriented like the S90 – while being a great cruiser.

In a sense, it’s a similar verdict to the one from eight years ago, but the S60 scores high elsewhere to make it a better proposition than it ever was. My guess is that very few buy a premium compact exec to bomb around and drive above seven tenths most of the time, and to judge it purely on driving would be to miss the point – comfort, design and individuality matters too, and the Volvo is a strong all rounder.

It’s funny that the good old sedan, for so long the default, is now a selfish purchase that the other half might try steer you away from. In a sea of SUVs, you’ll buy the S60 for how it looks, and I applaud you. It’s very Swede, and very sweet.

The third-generation Volvo S60 will be launched in Malaysia this week. Stay tuned for local variants and specifications



GALLERY: Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design

GALLERY: Volvo S60 T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered

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