By now, you've probably heard that the new Ford Focus is chockfull of cool tech toys, particularly one impressive safety feature, the ability to stop itself at the last second, if it detects the car ahead has suddenly stopped.
At its launch just a few months ago, while members of the press were particularly impressed with its heavy list of features, they found one aspect clearly missing. Being the miserly drivers that we are, one of the first question asked by the journalists present was, “Does it come in a diesel?” The executives and engineers pointed out that new innovations in the engine’s valve timing and fuel injection can closely rival a diesel’s fuel efficiency, yet the crowd’s excitement seemed to dissipate with the original question.
As far as I can tell, there was no one from Volvo there. Yet somehow, on the other side of the South China Sea, someone was apparently taking notes. Because the first car to feature that incredible Full Auto Stop technology now offers just that, a diesel engine option.
That car is the Volvo S60. Last year, it was launched into the market with a wide variety of safety features, some of which can also be found in the new Focus. It could warn drivers if there was another vehicle in its blind spot. It could alert them if they were slowly drifting out of a lane. Or in the worst case scenario, even stop the car at low speed, should the vehicle ahead suddenly brake. In addition, it featured all wheel drive, propelled by a frighteningly powerful engine that could rocket the thing to 100 km/h in just 6 seconds. Of course, the one kink in the armor that fuel conscious potential buyers were quick to spot was that same massive, thirsty six cylinder turbo engine that made it exciting in the first place.
So now, the S60 is back with a vengeance, this time with a 2.0 liter 5 cylinder turbo diesel that makes even more torque than the original 6 cylinder, now called the S60 D3.
Just like the T6, the D3 retains the S60’s sexy styling, with wraparound projector headlights, running lamps on either side of the grille and the alluring tail lights that highlight the tail’s curves.
Inside, the sleek Swedish design sensibility is seen in the black and brushed aluminum interior. Simple, functional yet elegant style is applied to every bit of the cabin to make it as visually appealing yet functionally simple as possible. Grab any technophobe and they’ll likely love the S60’s interior. All of the vehicle’s systems from entertainment to safety features can be easily configured and set. The safety systems are clearly explained on the center LCD and can be turned on and off like a checklist on a clipboard. There are even clever touches like column mounted aircon vents in the 2nd row; or in the trunk - a backrest release lever and latch points.
The drive is just as sublime as the S60 absorbs mutes bumps to undulations in the road, without feeling too heavy and lumbering around corners. The interior is as quiet as a recording booth, shutting out much of the city’s noise to better enjoy your preferred music through the CD player or a connected iPod.
Thankfully, the changes in the powertrain have done little to diminish the fun factor. The S60’s 5 cylinder diesel (no word on why it’s called D3 and not D5) delivers lots power quietly and effortlessly. The heavy pedal helps to regulate the mounds of torque available early on, and even if you get carried away, traction control helps reign it all in again. The steering may be heavy, but gets lighter when parking and is also very precise at high speeds, feeling very stable and inspiring confidence in the driver.
Finally, there’s the fuel efficiency which will go as high as 12 km/L in the highway and as low as 9 km/L in the city, even with a heavy foot.
Of course, it’s missing a few features the T6 had. There’s no all-wheel drive, not that it was ever essential in the first place. There is no adaptive cruise control, blind spot information system or lane departure warning, which, considering how crazy our traffic is, were little help when we tested it. Of course, if you still want them, Viking Cars will gladly install them as an added option.
What has remained are the essentials like the sheer number of airbags, traction and stability control and the much appreciated City Safety which will likely save you a few times when tailing a jeepney with half a plate, busted tail lights and absolutely no reflectors – things the Focus requires to stop by itself.
In a nutshell, it’s everything you loved about the S60, with a much more fuel efficient diesel engine thrown in. No more fuel worries, no more anxiety about the dangerous drivers out there and more time to enjoy the car. I can almost see the same group of journalists nodding in approval.