A Swedish Alternative to German Engineering.
Base Price: $31,300
As Driven: $41,270
Engine: 3.0L 6-cylinder, 300 hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Shiftable Automatic
Curb Weight: 3,812 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
MPG Rating: 18 city/ 26 highway
The interior of the S60 is utilitarian. There is a spattering of wood surrounding the climate control and near the window controls on the doors. The design is clean, but isn't as refined as other import sedans.
The speedometer and tachometer each have an information center in the middle. The gauges are easy to read and the information centers are easy to navigate. In a short time we were able to find the mpg meter and reset it. It took at least twenty minutes to find the same meter on the Mini Coupe.
The digital information centers are run with 8 bit graphics. The graphics felt dated, and not in the good way where you feel nostalgic and warm. They are the NES graphics compared to other manufacturers’ Xbox 360’s. The graphics were easy to read, but pixels where blockier than most manufacturers.
The car we drove had Navprep, which means that our car didn’t have navigation, but it is prepped to have it installed as long as you pay more after already dropping 40 grand.
The rear seat legroom is underwhelming. Last week’s Ford Focus had 33.2 inches of space in the back and the S60 has only 33.5 inches. If you rear occupants are going to be less than five feet tall for the next three to five years, then the legroom is a moot point. The Lexus IS350, IS250, & Infiniti G37 are some models that have even less room in the backseat. The Infiniti is listed at 29.8 inches and the Lexi are at 30.6.
The S60 is a blend of squared off lines and curves, which includes every shape every conceived.
The overall shape of the S60 hasn’t changed that much. The square lines from around the taillights on the old models have been smoothed out and given that modern-retro feel. The front end is swept back adding to the “moving even though it’s stopped” design.
Our favorite part of the redesigned exterior is the high arching taillights. They start wide and arch up to emphasize V-O-L-V-O spelled out on the trunk.
There are no forward facing fog lights and that kind of surprises us on a vehicle that has so many safety features. There are two daytime running lights that are located next to the grille and positioned vertically.
The R Design comes with an “R-Design” badge on the grill, more plastic molding on the front and rear bumpers, and a lip spoiler on the trunk.
Compared to other sedans in its class, the S60 is a unique looking vehicle. The S60 looks very different from the 3-series BMW, the C-class Mercedes, and the IS’s of Lexus. Something to think about before you buy something new for the executive parking lot.
City Safety is a feature to eliminate auto collisions at low speeds. Volvo has done the research and 75% of vehicle accidents happen at or under 19 mph. They don’t quote the study, they just present the number. City Safety uses infrared laser radar to detect objects in front of you. The owner's manual in the S60 states the City Safety will brake the car to prevent you from hitting the slower or stopped object in front of you. We tried it out under Volvo supervision. At a crawl we approached some pylons and were rewarded with auto braking to a complete stop. During a higher speed approach, the system engaged more quickly due to more speed equals more stopping distance, but we still stopped before touching the pylons. The manual does also state that if the difference between your car’s speed and the object in front of you is greater than 9 mph, that City Safety won’t be able to prevent a collision, but should be able to lessen the effects. That has to be lawyer’s language because we approached the pylons over 9mph and stopped before hitting it.
BLIS is a system to alert you of a car being in your blind spot. There is a camera attached underneath both side view mirrors. We’ve experienced systems like this on Audis, Fords, and now Volvos. We can’t give you a definitive assessment on whose system is best. All three systems were tested in different conditions. The day we had the Volvo was by far the worst weather day and it was also the system that performed the worst. It gave false readings throughout the test. Even on a two lane road, with nothing to be in the blind spots, the system would light up to indicate a vehicle there. The Volvo representative explained the system was probably detecting raindrops, but we never saw any the size of a Kia Rio!
There is a button near the gearshift that allows us to fold the rear headrests forward to improve rear visibility. We liked the idea of being able to do this at the touch of a button. Annoying teenagers in the back will learn quickly to not lip off to their parents. To teens it will appear that their parents are slapping them in the back of the head with their minds! P.S. Parents, please don’t show them this button. “With great power comes great responsibility,” and we just don’t see teens being able to handle this power.
While the S60 has no forward facing fog lamps, it does have a rear fog lamp. There is a single light on the left side of the trunk. It is located under the proper brake light. There is a button on the dash near the headlight switch that can turn on the rear fog lamp during rain, fog, snow, or just plain night driving. We found ourselves behind a Mercedes that had a similar light and it was quite useful in seeing the car on the rain soaked roads.
There is push button start/stop, but it’s a $550 option on all S60 models. One security issue that we found is if the car is running and you take the Personal Car Communicator (PCC) out of the vehicle, the S60 will still function. We were told that once it’s running, the PCC does not have to be in the vehicle to operate it. There will be a warning light and noise to let you know that the PCC is not in the vehicle, but the car will operate as normal. That means that you can’t leave it running unlocked on cold winter mornings. You can still start it and exit, but make sure you lock the doors. With the PCC in your pocket, the vehicle will unlock when you are ready to finally hit the road. Please do not donate your S60 to any car thieves.
The performance is where the S60 becomes noticeable. The turbo-charged six cylinder engine turns out 300 horsepower and the R Design model turns out 325 hp. The turbo kicks in around 2,500 rpms helping the AWD to jump off the line. The S60 has an excellent thrust to weight ratio, so that all 300 hp feels like you are sitting on a mountain of power. The 0 to 60 time is listed at 5.9 seconds which is similar to other AWD sedans.
Coupled with the all-wheel drive system, the engine was able to hurl this Volvo around every corner we encountered. It was impressive, and not just impressive for a Volvo, but impressive for any car. Most AWD systems tend to bunch and lurch as the steering wheel is turned to the extreme. The S60’s turning radius is tight and there was no shimmy or lurch from the steering. The AWD drive is actually FWD 95% of the time and then when needed it adds in the 5% of rear wheels.
Our day with the S60 was overshadowed by unlikely February thunderstorms. There was no wheel spin and we only felt the computers step in twice to help control the vehicle. Standard on all S60 models is Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC). This keeps the S60 on the road. If your speed and the tightness of the corner don’t match up, the DSTC will apply the brakes correctly to keep you on the road. There are always extreme situations that the system can’t anticipate, but if you’re driving that extreme the DSTC should be off. This is a system similar to the Curve Control that we encountered with the new Explorer. It might even have been something that Ford peeked at while they owned Volvo.
We averaged 22.6 mpg on our trip with the S60. The expected highway mpg of 26 has to be firm to make the S60 a good financial decision. If that number dips one or two mpgs, then the S60 is not a good consumer product. One saving grace is that the S60 uses regular unleaded fuel. Most luxury sedans in its class use premium. Doing some very simple and probably wrong calculations the regular unleaded will save you around $8 a tank. That’s a burrito per tank. We really like, nay, love burritos.
The good news is that the S60 has performed very well since its redesign for 2011. The customer satisfaction numbers are up along with reliability numbers according to a major consumer reporting firm. Volvo is rated as the 10th most reliable brand in country, higher than Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. Add together the reliability, the fuel savings, the 300 hp, the all-wheel drive, & the looks. All of that adds up to a premium sedan that appears to be worth every penny. Or at least 4,127,000 pennies before taxes.