Volvo has been very busy remaking its entire brand over the past few years. It started with a focus on powertrains, which saw its various five-cylinders and V6s gradually replaced by a lineup of efficient direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinders. Pricier trims went a step further by integrating both turbocharging and supercharging into the same 2.0-liter four, while the all-new award-winning XC90 SUV even has a plug-in hybrid version of the latter that’s good for a soul-stirring 400 horsepower.
That XC90 ushered in the second phase of Volvo’s metamorphosis, a wholesale brand-wide redesign that included an entirely new level of opulent luxury and future-tech feature sets. The XC90 was quickly followed by an entirely new mid-size luxury sedan dubbed S90 (replacing the S80), this model including a wagon variant named V90 (replacing the V70), plus an immediately more popular raised crossover model that—in Volvo tradition—goes by the name of V90 Cross Country (replacing the V70 Cross Country/XC70).
While all of this is thoroughly exciting to anyone working for Volvo or supportive of the storied Swedish marque, the new 2018 XC60, which looks like a smaller interpretation of the XC90, will be most impactful to the entire industry when it goes on sale later this year, as it most certainly will become Volvo’s new sales leader.
This leaves the D-segment S60 being reviewed here, as well as its V60 and V60 Cross Country siblings, which I’ve reviewed previously, as the lone Volvo line yet to receive chief designer Thomas Ingenlath and company’s makeover (the German-born ex-VW/Skoda/Audi designer must be busy as he’s simultaneously taking on the job of CEO for Volvo’s newly formed Polestar unit—with exciting future announcements, no doubt), plus of course an entire line of subcompact cars and SUVs that have yet to surface.
While not as new in styling or features as the updated models mentioned, the S60 is still very worthy of attention, especially for those who tend to hold onto their cars longer and therefore wouldn’t suffer from as much depreciation when the updated model arrives next year. It will ride on a new modular chassis architecture that Volvo will use exclusively. This current S60 reaches back seven years to when Ford sold the brand to China’s Geely, while the Volvo V3/Ford EUCD chassis it rides upon is 11 years old—coming into use with the S80—and has been shared with many Ford and Land Rover models since.
While I’m a big fan of Volvo’s new look, I must admit to still liking the current S60’s clean, uncluttered and especially aerodynamic design. It’s still elegantly sporty, if not the newest kid on the block. Unfortunately it sells into a premium sector that thrives on latest and greatest, hence why newer Volvo designs have mostly seen big boosts in sales (especially the XC90) and why this one has seen its once strong market share slowly and steadily erode from a high of 38,546 units in 2002 to an initial bump of 21,282 in 2011 and then a slightly higher blip to 23,356 in 2012, both after the redesigned version hit the road, to just 14,218 examples last year. There’s a silver lining in all of this downward dreariness, however. The previous low before this second-gen car arrived in 2010 was 1,437 units, meaning they’ve got a lot more to build upon this time around.
While most should agree the exterior sheetmetal is still plenty attractive, the cabin is particularly high in quality and designed with one part minimalism and another button-overkill, but being a fan of classic high-end audio equipment this works well for me. The majority of these buttons and knobs are clustered atop a unique floating center stack, the latter still a lovely design element, and they’re positioned to make a lot of sense once acclimatized, especially the HVAC interface that’s basically a body pictograph (you don’t even need to speak Swedish to figure it out—or English for that matter).
Above that is a fully featured infotainment system with nice graphics and strong contrast for good depth of color, and while not as impressive as the best-in-class tablet-style touchscreen interface found in the new XC90 and S90/V90 series, it’s quite serviceable and includes a backup camera with active guidelines as well as accurate standard navigation with detailed mapping.
Even more impressive is the S60’s fully configurable primary gauge cluster. Volvo was early to adopt this feature, which is now becoming more prevalent in competitors’ higher trims, and they did a very good job on this one. Its resolution quality is extremely good and the layout is both attractive and highly legible.
No matter the trim level the S60 delivers an upscale environment with superb attention to detail, very high quality padded soft synthetic surface treatments, tastefully applied satin-finished and brushed metals, and some of the best seats in the car industry. They’re upgraded to sport seats in T6 AWD R-Design trim, and covered in high-grade leather with attractive contrast stitching around their edges, as are the door inserts, armrests and steering wheel.
Choosing the $47,400 T6 AWD R-Design ($13,450 pricier than the base T5 FWD) means that upscale finery comes standard, the top-line model including proximity-sensing keyless access, stainless treadplates, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction sport steering wheel, a leather and metal shift knob, rain-sensing wipers, a heatable windshield, a unique version of the configurable instrument cluster, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, Sensus infotainment, a backup camera with active guidelines, voice-recognition, navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a Harman/Kardon audio system with Dirac Live sound staging, a 5×130-watt digital amplifier, Wi-Fi, and satellite radio, plus power-adjustable front seats with three-way memory, “Off-Black Sport” leather upholstery, additional aluminum trim, a powered glass sunroof, emergency “SOS” telematics, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, a digital compass, plus 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks and a center pass-through for expanding the 12 cubic-foot trunk.
Additionally, the S60 T6 AWD R-Design’s exterior gets unique styling details, auto on/off dual HID headlamps with active cornering and headlight washers (which go towards earning the S60 a best-possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating), LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps, LED turn signals integrated into the power-retractable auto-dimming side mirrors, attractive machine-finish 19-inch Ixion alloys, a performance-tuned suspension with stiffer springs and dampers, Distance Alert (DA) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist, Volvo City Safety pedestrian and/or cyclist detection with autonomous emergency braking, loads of additional active and passive safety features, and more.
My tester also came with a $925 Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) package featuring blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, a lane change merge aid, plus front and rear parking sensors adds to its comprehensive safety suite, while available options not featured on my loaner include a $1,550 Climate Package with a heatable steering wheel, an interior air quality system (IAQS) designed to automatically shut exterior vents upon detecting excess carbon monoxide, ozone, and other noxious gasses, a heated windshield, heated windshield washer nozzles, plus heatable front and rear seats; and a $2,170 rear seat entertainment system features dual eight-inch LCD touchscreens integrated in the backsides of the front head restraints, a DVD player, wireless headphones, a remote, and separate USB, SD and AUX ports.
Lastly, the accessories catalog includes $125 rear side window sunshades; a $100 powered rear window sunshade; $140 rubber floor mats throughout; $1,290 Polestar Performance Software that “allows you to enjoy a faster, more precise and intuitive driving experience,” says Volvo; and more.
I must say my T6 AWD R-Design model’s turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder made for a very energetic sport sedan thanks to 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of near immediate torque, plus standard AWD fed through a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic with manual mode and an engaging set of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The combination makes for effortless highway passing performance too, while the standard Sport chassis provides one of the nicest rides in the industry that can easily double as a canyon carver when called upon. Turn to the 362 horsepower $67,050 S60 Polestar if you want something more suitable to the track, but the off-the-rack T6 AWD R-Design would certainly fit my evenly balanced performance and luxury priorities more than adequately.
That it’s also a wonderfully fuel-efficient powertrain is more than just a bonus, its EPA rating an impressive 22 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway and 25 combined, which is only slightly thirstier than the 240 horsepower base T5 AWD engine’s 23 mpg city, 31 highway and 26 combined rating. Of note, the T5 FWD achieves a claimed 25 mpg city, 36 highway and 29 combined.
Despite the S60’s age it’s hard not to like it. It’s still a great looking four-door sedan with the sporty, aerodynamic profile of a four-door coupe; it’s beautifully finished inside with electronic interfaces that are better than many of its peers; its standard and optional feature set is easily up to snuff; its performance is superb; comfort sublime; roominess about average for the class; overall quality above average; safety rating high; and value for money excellent. You should certainly take a closer look.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Volvo Copyright: American Auto Press