The previous Volvo S60 was a thoroughly likeable thing, but perhaps never really set the market on fire.

We should take it as a statement of intent, then, that Volvo has chosen to bestow a couple of brand firsts upon this latest version of their mid-size saloon.

To start with, it’s the first Volvo to be produced at the company’s new facility in South Carolina, and they seem to be doing rather a good job of it, too, if the car we spent a week with is anything to go by.

And secondly, it’s the first new Volvo to be launched without the option of a diesel engine.

This might seem a strange, particularly as the fleet sector the S60 is likely to appeal to is somewhat more reluctant to leave diesel behind due to CO2-based taxation.

The key driver here is Volvo’s headline-grabbing announcement that every new model from 2019 would be electrified in some way, with the S60 available in two plug-in hybrid forms: a 340hp T6 Twin Engine that’ll arrive later, and a T8 Twin Engine with 390hp that can be boosted to 405hp with a tweaked Polestar Engineered grade.

That leaves the T5 as the sole conventional choice, its turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine delivering a healthy 250hp and 350Nm of torque, enough to sprint from 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds.

As these figures suggest, it’s a punchy performer, with plentiful torque reserves that are freely doled out by the eight-speed automatic transmission, and although it might lack the tuneful charisma of the six-cylinder competition, it’s impressively subdued at cruising speeds.

During our time with it, the S60 T5 recorded an average of 36.4 mpg, inline with its official WLTP figures of 35.3 – 39.8 mpg.  And with no effort on our part, I might add.

In fact, our only criticism of this powertrain would be that the start/stop system activates rather clumsily, making it difficult to achieve a perfectly smooth stop – something we’ve noticed on other T5-equipped Volvos of late.

What’s utterly beyond question, however, is the design of the S60’s cabin.  Honestly, I don’t think anyone does interiors better than Volvo at present – materials and switchgear exude quality, the layout is perfection, the amount of space on offer is genuinely surprising (and seemingly infinitely adjustable) and the technology is both appealing and intuitive to use (admittedly with our usual caveat that we’d much prefer physical temperature controls).

The S60 is just as inviting in the back, boasting – as in the front – the best seats in the business, generous headroom and plenty of thoughtful touches: air vents in the B-pillars, charging points and so on.

The boot’s practical, too, its 442 litres accessed through a decent opening, while dropping the rear seats allows loads of nearly 1.8 metres to be accommodated.

Dare we say it but it’s also rather handsomely styled.  The larger S90 looks a little ungainly from the rear, but the S60 appears far more taught; athletic, even.  There’s a line that kicks up from the rear wheel-arch and arcs around the tail-lights before forming the trailing edge of the boot-spoiler, just one of the styling queues that hint at the S60’s sportier persona.

Indeed, Volvo go as far as to describe it as a driver’s car, and while at first that might sound like more of a marketing aspiration, there is plenty of truth to it.

Turn into a corner and the front wheels react obediently and consistently.  The steering – beautifully light and reassuring around town – is a little lacking in feedback, but that doesn’t make it any less precise.  Nor does it take more than a few corners before you develop considerable confidence in the S60’s abilities, and that’s a quality that’s at the heart of all the best driver’s cars.

Perhaps the trade-off is a low-speed ride that can occasionally feel a little fractious, although it never becomes tiresome as it can in some of the harder-edged competition.

What impressed most, however, was that this new, more responsive set-up hasn’t diluted that typical Volvo proficiency as a supreme ground-coverer.  There remains, in our opinion, no better vehicle for a long journey than any SPA-era Volvo.

For the time being, the S60 is available in R-Design Plus, Inscription Plus and Polestar Engineered guises with prices starting at £37,935, £38,835 and £56,105 respectively.

Alternative powertrains will likely join the range in time and, given Volvo’s declaration that the S60 constitutes a driver’s car, we hope the option of a manual transmission might come with them.

In the meantime, the new Volvo S60 offers its own typically Scandinavian take on the premium executive saloon.

One that I can’t help finding desperately appealing.

Entry-level Price£37,935Price as tested£43,260
Engine1969cc 4-cyl turbo petrolTransmission8-speed auto
Power250hp @ 5,500rpmTorque350Nm @ 1,800-4,800rpm
0-626.5 secsTop speed145 mph
Economy (WLTP)35.3 – 39.8 mpgCO2152 g/km
Dimensions (LWH)4761 x 1916 x 1600Kerb Weight1606 kg