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The brand new Volvo S60 looks to barge on the compact executive sedan market, where the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class have established themselves as favourites.

16 Oct 2019


We recently drove the new Volvo S60, and came away mighty impressed with the package as a whole. In fact, we reckon it would stack up well against its more popular segment competitors.

How well? One way to find out - to drive them side by side.

The premium compact sedan is dominated by three German models - the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The reason the 3 Series is missing from this group test is because the 330i model we tested is quite a bit more expensive (and more powerful) than the rest of the cars you see here.

The new Volvo S60 looks to barge in on the compact executive sedan segment dominated by the Germans

A visual presence

The A4 and the C-Class are extremely recognisable and familiar-looking models. The A4 looks sleek, modern and compact. The only complain we have are the small 16-inch rims. The C-Class, well, looks like a typical Mercedes - a timeless design that's instantly recognisable. 

The S60 is looks the most muscular and athletic. It looks fresh and different, and in our eyes is the best-looking of the three.

The C-Class sports a timeless and highly-recognisable design

Quality control

As far as cabin space goes, the S60 definitely has the most. It has the longest wheelbase (32mm longer than the C-Class, and 52mm longer than the A4), which translates to notably more rear legroom. There's also a tad more head room for rear passengers compared to the other two.

The S60 also impresses with its overall cabin quality. The Mercedes has the most visually stylish cabin, with its 64-colour ambient lighting and wood trim, but there is a slight feeling of style over substance here.

The A4 has the most sleek and functional digital dashboard

The Audi feels the most functionally advanced. It's got the best digital dash in terms of functionality (capable of displaying all manner of information in a variety of style), and the infotainment system is easy and intuitive to operate. However, where it suffers is in quality - this car is already a couple of years old (a facelift is on the way), and it feels that way. It feels, a little tacky. 

The S60 finds a great balance. It's stylish in an understated manner, functionally accessible, and with generous use of soft leathers it is the most snug and comfortable feeling (it also has the best seats). It's also the only car here with a sunroof. 

The S60's 9.2-inch iPad-style touchsreen is sleek and easy to operate

One gripe with the S60 though - there isn't a wireless charging pad for your smartphone, so be sure to carry along your cable. 

Riding in comfort

On the road, the S60 immediately feels like the bigger car. It's heavier, and with a bigger footprint. Thankfully, the engine is gutsy enough that the car never feels slow or sluggish, though at heavier loads the engine doesn't sound quite as nice or refined as we would have liked.

Where it impresses is in comfort and ride control. The suspension is supple enough to shrug off bumps in the road, while still remaining neutral at high speeds (the Merc's soft suspension makes the car tend to bounce up and down)

The Audi's cabin is simple and intuitive to operate

The Audi's drivetrain is the most impressive. Power comes effortlessly and quietly, the car has a small footprint and feels light on its feet, and the engine is the most refined of the three. However, the ride is quite firm, and isn't quite as forgiving as the other two.

The C-Class falls some way behind the other two. This C200 model packs 181bhp and 280Nm of torque, and is on paper fairly close to the S60's 187bhp and 300Nm of torque, as well as the A4's 188bhp and 320Nm of torque.

The 2.0-litre powerplant under the A4's bonnet is the most refined and powerful of the lot

However, in reality, it doesn't feel anywhere as close. The 1.5-litre engine, even with EQ Boost, just isn't as gutsy as the 2.0-litre powerplants in the other two cars. It's also lacking in refinement - it sounds pretty harsh when worked hard. 

One rather big knock on the S60 though - the fuel consumption is pretty terrible. We managed 13.2km/L in the Audi, 11.4km/L in the Merc, and a rather dismal 9.2km/L in the Volvo. 

The S60 delivers notably more rear legroom

Swede victory

The Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class both have more badge recognition and clout compared to the Volvo. And in this segment, that absolutely matters. That's a big hurdle that a brand like Volvo is always going to have to overcome. 

However, judged on their respective individual merits, the Volvo is the best of the lot (and by some way, too). It feels the most accomplished, refined and complete of the three. It's also the best value for money - the A4 is less than a thousand dollar cheaper, but it's an older car and the Volvo delivers much more equipment and quality at that price point. 

The S60 may not have the badge clout of its German competitors, but there's no denying that it is the better overall car

Long story short - if you can look past the badge and the poor fuel economy, get the Volvo. It's the best car of the three.
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Car Information

spacer
Promotion
There's a promotion for Audi A4 Sedan

Price

: $188,016

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1984cc

Horsepower

:

140kW (188 bhp) / 6000 rpm

Torque

:

320 Nm / 4200 rpm

Transmission

:

7-speed (A) S tronic

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

7.3sec

Top Speed

:

240km/h

Fuel consumption

:

19.2 km/L

spacer

Price

: $210,888

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Twin-scroll Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1497cc

Horsepower

:

135kW (181 bhp)

Torque

:

280 Nm

Transmission

:

9G-Tronic (A)

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

7.7sec

Top Speed

:

239km/h

Fuel consumption

:

15.8 km/L

spacer
Promotion
There's a promotion for Volvo S60

Price

: $188,000

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1969cc

Horsepower

:

139kW (187 bhp) / 5000 rpm

Torque

:

300 Nm / 4000 rpm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A)

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

7.1sec

Top Speed

:

220km/h

Fuel consumption

:

13.9 km/L

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