The Volvo S60 is appealing for its striking good looks and first-rate safety scores, and it backs that up with sharp handling and premium trim and engineering.
This second-generation S60 was introduced as a 2011 model then updated for 2014 and 2015.5, most recently with a new grille, bumper, and hood, new headlights and LED running lights. For model year 2016, Volvo S60 carries over with only minor changes beyond those.
All-wheel drive is an option, front-wheel drive is standard, and a dizzying variety of powertrains is available. Standard is a recently introduced 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 240 horsepower on Regular gasoline and gets an EPA rating of 25/37 mpg City/Highway, 29 mpg Combined. With it, Volvo says the S60 T5 Drive-E can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds, a very brisk performance. It comes with an 8-speed automatic with Sport mode and front-wheel drive.
The all-wheel-drive S60 T5 AWD comes with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder rated at 250 horsepower and lower EPA figures: 20/29 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined, also on less-expensive Regular gas. It comes paired with a 6-speed automatic and 0-60 capability of 6.6 seconds, still quick by anyone’s stopwatch.
The S60 T6 Drive-E comes with a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter rated at 302 hp, 24/35/28 mpg, and a very quick 0-60 performance time of 5.6 seconds, with the 8-speed automatic.
The performance-oriented S60 R-Design holds a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder that produces 325 hp propelling it to 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.4 seconds. It comes with the 6-speed automatic and EPA rating of 18/26/21 mpg.
If not luxurious, Volvo S60 models feel like premium vehicles, in terms of trim, ride quality and quiet operation. Due to its lower stance and stiffer sports suspension, the S60 R-Design transmits more noise and road harshness.
With its sharp handling, the S60 competes at the sportier end of the premium and luxury spectrum, though it’s more quietly competent than all-out luxurious. In that respect, the S60 comes closer to an Acura or Infiniti than to anything from BMW or Mercedes-Benz. A little larger than a compact Acura TLX or BMW 3 Series, the S60 is smaller inside than a midsize Audi A6. Performance falls closer to a Buick Regal GS or BMW 3 Series.
Assembled in China, the S60 Inscription model features an extended-length body. Fit and finish on the Inscription we tested appeared identical to S60s built in Europe.
Maintaining its reputation for safety, Volvo’s S60 got a five-star rating in every category from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. By the numbers, at least, it’s one of the safest cars you can buy. An extensive selection of electronic safety systems is available, though many are optional.
The Volvo S60 T5 Drive-E comes with cloth upholstery, power front seats with driver memory, eight-speaker audio with CD, USB port, HD radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch wheels. The ECO+ system includes Start/Stop technology. T5 Drive-E Premier ($36,600) adds a moonroof, navigation, and leather upholstery.
T5 AWD ($36,450) adds all-wheel drive to the base T5 Drive-E model, with the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. T5 AWD Premier ($38,100) includes T5 Premier equipment. T5 Cross Country AWD Platinum ($43,500) has a raised ground clearance and special trim.
T5 Drive-E Inscription Premier ($38,700) has an extended-length body, rearview camera, rear park assist, power rear sunshade, wood trim, and 18-inch wheels. T5 Drive-E Inscription Platinum ($41,700) upgrades with Harman Kardon 650-watt, 12-speaker audio; Bluetooth hands-free phone; pedestrian protection; adaptive cruise control; DVD entertainment; and lane-change assist. T5 AWD Inscription Premier ($40,200) gets Premier equipment with the extended-length body and 2.5-liter engine. T5 AWD Inscription Platinum ($43,200) adds Platinum equipment.
T6 Drive-E ($39,250) gets the 302-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, with paddle shifters. T6 Drive-E Platinum ($43,100) upgrades with Platinum equipment.
T6 AWD R-Design ($44,200) features the six-cylinder engine, R-Design leather upholstery, sport pedals, and special 19-inch wheels. T6 AWD R-Design Platinum ($47,700) adds Platinum equipment.
An optional Technology Package includes pedestrian/cyclist detection with automatic braking, Driver Alert Control, Distance Alert, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist; plus Road Sign Information. A Blind Spot Information group includes cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, and front/rear parking assist.
The S60 looks like a Volvo, but one of the most fashionable ever. Smooth contours and sweeping lines highlight the wedge shape. Expressive, organic details and flashy alloy wheels make the S60 look like it’s moving, even when idle.
The new Inscription sedan looks like a longer S60. That’s because it is: its wheelbase grew 3 inches. The Inscription’s roofline had to be reshaped to accommodate the additional body length.
Boldest of all is the R-Design, with its trunklid spoiler, special wheels, and sport tailpipes.
The Cross Country flaunts a more rugged appearance, with honeycomb grille, black fender cladding, 19-inch diamond-cut wheels, side scuff plates, and skid plates. Ground clearance of 7.9 inches gives it a more rugged stance. Cross Country gets an appealing shade of dark gray paint, complemented by blacked-out greenhouse trim and fender extensions.
Smart and stylish in the tradition of Scandinavian simplicity, the S60 interior seems almost minimalist. That traditional Swedish motif is complemented by contrasting, high-quality materials and pleasing textures. Elegantly blending form with function, the driver-oriented cockpit features Volvo’s floating center console, bringing a modern tone. Storage is available below and behind the console.
Upper-trim models feel luxurious, but not lavish. In base models, the interior almost looks stark. R Design models get a unique steering wheel and upholstery.
Five adults can be accommodated, while four can travel in full comfort. Front seats are among the best we’ve enjoyed, boasting thoughtful support and bolstering.
The rear seat is larger than it looks, but space is no more than adequate in regular-wheelbase models. A raked rear window puts the back seat closer to the floor than taller adults might prefer. Still, the back seat holds two passengers taller than six feet. The new, longer Inscription model offers 3.2 extra inches of legroom, making it class-leading in terms of rear space.
Though hushed most of the time, with sounds from wind, tires and road surfaces well suppressed, an S60 isn’t the quietest sedan, especially the R-Design.
All models steer and handle well, with three selectable suspension-tuning options. Plus, Drive-E engines offer three modes: Drive, Sport, and Eco+.
Two variants of the direct-injected Drive-E 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine are available: base turbo T5, and turbo/supercharged T6 for improved low-end response. Volvo claims 0-60 mph acceleration in 6 seconds for the T5, and 5.6 seconds for T6.
Stop-Start operation is standard on both; it’s quick on restart, and easy to get used to in traffic. Front-drive models promise relaxed cruising at highway speeds, helped by the wide gear-ratio spread of the 8-speed automatic.
All-wheel drive models, with their older engines, are heavier than they may appear. On the other hand, you get an easy driving experience, swift acceleration, confident traction, and excellent all-weather capability.
Lighter weight of the newer Drive-E engines makes front-drive models nimble and responsive. With any powertrain, an S60 is agile enough to handle hairpin mountain curves, and maneuverable enough for tight city streets. The turning circle is tighter than expected.
Despite its higher standard, body lean in the Cross Country isn’t excessive, and it handles much like the others. Handling is crisper in the R-Design, which gets bigger front brakes, but noise and harshness impair the pleasure.
Suspension firmness can be set to Touring or Dynamic, while driver control offers Comfort, Sport, and Advanced modes.
Especially with the newer fuel-efficient engines, the S60 effectively blends attributes of the sports sedan and family car.
Driving impressions by Christian Gulliksen, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.