There was a time not too long ago when Volvos were viewed as being exceptionally safe but not much else, certainly not what you’d call ‘desirable.’ Oh, how times have changed.
Over the last decade, particularly in the last 5 years or so, the Swedish automaker has been on a roll producing some of the best vehicles on the market. This all culminated in the XC60 winning World Car of the Year, North American Utility of the Year and Japan Car of the Year back in 2018 and in the two years since, Volvo has continued to go from strength to strength.
There is now the XC40 at the base of the brand’s range and the new-age S60, a sedan promising to one-up the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Audi A4. We recently spent with one in T5 Momentum guise to see what all the fuss is about.
The Swedes Know Style
Volvo Australia’s S60 range consists of the T5 Momentum, T5 Inscription, and T5 R-Design, and then the range-topping T8 R-Design model. The T5 Momentum and T5 Inscription models use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 187 kW (250 hp) at 5,500 rpm and 350 Nm (258 lb-ft) of torque between 1,800 rpm and 4,800 rpm. Paired to this engine is an eight-speed automatic transmission with permanent all-wheel drive.
The T5 R-Design has the same engine and transmission combo but has been increased to 192 kW (257 hp) and 400 Nm (295 lb-ft). Fuel consumption for these variants sits at a claimed 7.3 l/100 km (32.2 mpg) although we weren’t quite able to match that figure.
The Volvo S60 T8 R-Design uses the marque’s trick 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder working alongside an electric motor. Power from the engine sits at 246 kW (330 hp) and 430 Nm (317 lb-ft) of torque while the electric motor adds an extra 65 kW (87 hp) and 240 Nm (177 lb-ft).
While the S60 T5 Momentum sits at the base of the range, it does not feel like an entry-level model. In fact, it feels very premium.
Simple yet beautiful cabin
Many of Volvos rivals have designed interiors overloaded with buttons as well as intricate and sometimes excessive styling details, the S60’s cabin is beautifully minimalist, just like other current Volvo models. Dominating the dashboard is the company’s 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen infotainment system supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I’ve always been a fan of the car manufacturer’s current infotainment system and remain one with this newest iteration. It is just as responsive to the touch as a real tablet and features menus that are incredibly easy to control.
What I perhaps like most about the system is that with a simple left swipe from the home screen, you’re taken to a screen that lets you toggle on and off various safety functions and other features, eliminating the need to dive into various menus to adjust things.
Sitting alongside the infotainment screen are a pair of vertical air vents while below is a large play/pause button and volume knob as well as buttons for the de-misters and hazard lights.
Elsewhere, the cabin of the S60 T5 Momentum sports a lovely soft-touch three-spoke steering wheel and a fully digital instrument cluster. There are also metallic components running along the dashboard and plush fabric on the sides of the transmission tunnel.
Comfort for all
Those sitting up the front get to enjoy supportive seats that offer a wide array of adjustments allowing you to find the perfect driving position. The rear seats are just as good as those at the front with adequate headroom and great legroom.
Our test car included the optional AU$3,100 (US$1,885) Momentum Lifestyle Pack that adds a panoramic sunroof, rear window sun curtain, bright décor on the side windows, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon Premium sound system. It also had the AU$3,000 (US$1,824) Technology Pack that adds a Head-Up Display, 360 Camera, LED headlights and Active Bending Lights, and Ambient Interior Lighting. The metallic paint was also an AU$1,500 (US$912) option. Boot space sits at 442 liters.
Like other Volvo models, the first thing that hits you while behind the wheel of the S60 is the overly light steering. While there is very little weight, it is still direct and responsive. Should drivers want a little more weight to the steering, there are two additional settings to change the feel. I primarily drove around with the steering in ‘Dynamic’, the heaviest of the three settings but it’s still too light compared to most cars.
Once you’re accustomed to the steering, it’s time to start enjoying the engine and transmission combo. Compared to the XC40 we drove last year, the 2.0-liter turbo-four of the S60 feels more refined and is much quieter. It also offers up more than enough grunt and can propel the sedan to 100 km/h (62 mph) in a very respectable 6.4 seconds.
Smooth is fast
The transmission provides quick and precise shifts with very little fuss. Similarly, Volvo’s permanent all-wheel drive system operates smoothly and provides good traction, regardless of the road conditions. Our test car was equipped with Michelin Primacy 4 tires that added to the road-holding abilities.
One small gripe I had related to the sometimes-poor throttle response and an in-directness with the throttle pedal. It would be nice if Volvo offered drivers the ability to adjust how sensitive the accelerator is, much like the sensitivity settings offered for the steering and brake pedal feel.
I primarily drove on relatively smooth roads but on the odd occasion that the road got a little bumpy or a drove over a speed-hump, the suspension soaked everything up. Overall, it’s a car that’s tuned to favor comfort over setting your pants on fire – if that’s what you want, you’d be better off looking at the Alfa Romeo Giulia or BMW 3-Series.
Safety features are provided in abundance with the S60 T5 Momentum. For example, there is Pedestrian, Vehicle, Large Animals and Cyclist Detection, Intersection Collision and Oncoming Mitigation with Brake Support, Blind Spot Information with Cross Traffic Alert, Front and Rear Collision Warning with mitigation support, Run-off road Mitigation, Hill Start Assist, and Park Assist Front and Rear.
Also featured is Volvo’s adaptive cruise control system with Pilot Assist. We believe Volvo offers one of the best driving-assistance systems on the market and on highways, Pilot Assist keeps the vehicle perfectly in the center of its lane. We also found it to work flawlessly on well-marked urban roads and felt just as confident using it as we did Autopilot in the Tesla Model 3 Performance.
It is hard to fault the Volvo S60. Sure, it may not be as engaging to drive as a BMW 3-Series but it does a superb job of offering a comfortable and relaxing driving experience. Everything feels well put together and it all works harmoniously.
Australian prices start at AU$54,990 (US$33,442) although ours was specced up to AU$62,590 (US$38,064). Prices in the U.S. kick off at $35,800.