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Volvo S60 Bi-Fuel Road Test

Many years ago Volvo were known for producing solid, reliable, safe but rather ordinary estate cars. How times have changed! The Swedish car maker, now part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, makes some of the most stylish and sporting cars on the executive market and, yes, they still make the best estate cars. However my Volvo interest for this test concentrates upon the S60 compact sports saloon. A fresh departure for Volvo when it was launched the S60 maintains the traditions of safety with comprehensive standard fittings and a range of both petrol and diesel engines. Most interesting though is the Bi-Fuel version that offers a standard 2.4 litre petrol engine twinned with LPG. Built along with the standard cars on the same production line the LPG models are fully covered by the standard warranty. It is difficult to compare prices with standard S60 models as the Bi-Fuel has the least powerful engine in the range. Priced at £20,670 for the 'S' and £23,445 for the 'SE' the former is the actually only £675 above the entry level price for the range and one of the cheapest routes into S60 ownership.

Liquified Petroleum Gas is a mixture of butane and propane gas that is a by-product of oil refining and natural gas production. It offers 10 per cent less emissions than an equivalent petrol engine in terms of C02 and although the mpg is slightly less than petrol the fact that the fuel is cheaper - 38p per litre compared to petrol at 75p per litre - makes it an attractive option. C02 has been identified as one of the major causes of climate change hence reduced taxes on low carbon emitting fuels. Autogas is now increasingly available at filling stations across the UK and most major towns and cities will have at least one garage selling LPG.

Changing over from petrol to LPG couldn't be simpler. A facia mounted switch can be activated whilst stationary or on the move and the switchover is seamless; there are separate gauges for petrol and gas fuel levels. You genuinely cannot differentiate between petrol and LPG in terms of refinement or performance. The LPG tank is located under the rear floor so the boot space, unlike most aftermarket conversions, remains capable of taking the same amount of luggage as a standard car. Although the petrol tank on the Bi-Fuel is slightly smaller than a standard car the addition of the LPG tank means that the car can cover far more miles than would be possible on a single tank of petrol in a standard car.

The Government also operates a scheme of grants on environmentally friendly cars such as the Bi-Fuel Volvos. Powershift offers grants of up to 75 per cent of the additional cost of Bi-Fuel models which would mean the Bi-Fuel S60 'S' costs £19,611 (down from £22,260) and the 'SE' version £21,581 (down from £23,445) Conditions apply to these grants.

My test car had the optional automatic gearbox and proved a relaxing drive with more than adequate performance whether cruising down a motorway or travelling cross-country. The S60 has an enviable feel of quality and solidity, a car in which you immediately feel at home and could drive from one end of the country to the other without stress, aches and pains. Finished in metallic blue with contrasting beige interior the test car looked and felt every inch a luxury car. The week I spent behind the wheel of the S60 convinced me of two things. Firstly, that LPG is most definitely a proposition worth considering and, secondly, that the S60 is a car with many benefits over and above it's more well-known German competitors.

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