A while back I said the Volvo S60’s sibling, the V60 was “one of the best cars on sale today.” Due to the fact that the S60 is so similar to that car, you might expect that I’ll have essentially the same things to say about the S60. Well, the answer is… yes and no.
The Volvo S60 is more or less the sedan version of the same car, but it doesn’t quite deliver in ways that the V60 does, and that essentially comes down to the fact that you get so much more with the wagon.
Still, the S60 is a quality small luxury sedan. It does right many of the same things that its sibling does and delivers an experience that’s purely Volvo at a time when Volvo is doing a lot of things right. The car isn’t a revelation, but it’s darn good, and if I can’t convince you to buy a wagon like you really should, this car is a smart second option.
My Week With the Vehicle
The good folks at Volvo lent me an S60 for a week so that I could enjoy all that it has to offer. I drove it around Indianapolis pretending to be an executive at one of the many businesses downtown.
After seeing how it fared at its more professional tasks that many people would use it for, I drove it all over the city and even on a weekend road trip up north to see how the thing handled the highway, the country roads, and any twisty stretches of Indiana road I could manage to find.
I found the vehicle to be a good car for downtown, a decent car for regular everyday duties and trips (where cargo and passengers were important), a consummate highway cruiser, and a force to be reckoned with on a twisty country road. It’s quite a car, but it’s not perfect.
What Is It?
The Volvo S60 fits into the small luxury sedan category and will take on the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Some other notable cars in this segment include the Jaguar XE and the Genesis G70 (I’ll review the Genesis at a later date).
The S60 is designed to bring Volvo’s sleek Scandinavian interior and exterior styling, high levels of comfort, and top-notch technology and sound system to buyers who are over the German cars but don’t want a Jaguar XE or the Genesis G70.
Volvo has been making the right moves lately and is picking up sales because of it. The brand is up for the year so far, and that looks to continue in the coming months. The S60 is an important piece of the Volvo pie and without it, there would be a big hole in the company’s lineup. The car isn’t just there to fill a hole, though, it’s a genuine performer taking on the Germans at their own game.
Elegant & Handsome
If the BMW twin-kidney grille that they keep increasing in size doesn’t float your boat and Mercedes-Benz’s three-pointed star and the muscular sheet metal wrapped around it doesn’t pique your interest, then perhaps the sleek exterior of the Volvo S60 will catch your eye.
The S60 takes styling cues from the rest of the Volvo lineup with its corporate grille, the Thor’s Hammer headlights, and the beautifully crafted wheels that look like they could be shrunken down and worn as jewelry.
The S60 isn’t as sleek as the V60, but that’s mostly because of the V60’s goodly roof. The long roof is more pleasing to the eye. The S60 is a little more abrupt, a little more athletic-looking, and that’s a good thing.
Is it as good looking as the BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, and other models? I think so. It’s different than those cars, though. It definitely stands out, and in an age when most vehicles look alike, that’s important.
Under the Hood
Just like it’s wagon sibling, the Volvo S60 features a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine that makes 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. This is for the T6 version of the car. The base T5 offers a turbocharged only four-pot engine that makes 250 hp. It’s still a good engine, but the T6 offers a lot more exhilarating experience.
The turbocharged and supercharged engine makes the car feel downright quick. Shooting around people on the highway is easy, and you never really feel lacking power when you need it.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is good, too. Upshifts and downshifts could be quicker, but the transmission is well sorted and filters power to all four of the sedan’s wheels. All-wheel drive is an option on this car, and one I think many people, even those who don’t need it, will choose.
The engine is potent and reasonably efficient. It manages 32 mpg highway, 21 mpg in the city, and 25 combined, according to the EPA. Those numbers proved to be accurate during my week with the vehicle.
A Handsome & Comfy Cabin
I’ve discussed the merits of Volvo’s interiors before. They have a beautiful Scandinavian minimalism to them that makes cabins from other luxury automakers look garish and in some cases cheap.
The company managed to clear up the clutter on the dash by going with a single large 9-inch infotainment system, which I’ll go into more detail on later. The seats in the car are superb and wrapped in thick and soft Nappa leather and cloth material, and the layout is intuitive and most controls easy to get to.
Overall, it’s a handsome cabin and one that puts many other automakers to shame. Compared to the other, busy interiors from many automakers the Volvo is a breath of fresh air. The fantastic seats help seal the deal, too. They provide plenty of adjustment and have superb support all around.
What is not a breath of fresh air necessarily is the infotainment system in the car. The 9-inch touchscreen display allows you access to the Volvo Sensus infotainment system. It’s used to control almost everything, and therein lies the problem. The touchscreen is more laborious to use than many of the other systems out there that still feature buttons.
This makes adjusting the audio, connecting a phone, adjusting the seats, climate control, navigation, and just about everything else a little difficult. It’s a system that you get used to eventually and forget about, but it could be made better.
When you first use it, there’s just so much to it that you become a little overwhelmed. Pair that with adaptive cruise control and advanced lane-keeping assist system that Volvo has on its car and the other features, and you have something that can feel a little alien at first. After a few days with things, it all makes a lot more sense.
A Safe Car, But Not the Safest Out There
Volvo is known for its safety. The S60 does a pretty good job of carrying that legacy on. In IIHS testing it got “good” marks in all crash testing. It came up short from being a Top Safety Pick due to its “marginal” headlight rating and the child seat ease of use rating that was “acceptable.” The ratings from the NHTSA have not yet been released at the time of this review.
In terms of safety equipment, the S60 has plenty of equipment and technology. Some of the highlights include blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert with automatic braking, collision avoidance system, runoff road protection, lane-keeping assist, rear park assist, and adaptive cruise control.
The lane-keeping system on the highway and the adaptive cruise control is one of the best in the business right now. My car came equipped with Volvo’s Pilot-assist semi-autonomous driving system.
It seriously takes the stress out of driving long hauls on the highway or interstate. You still are required to drive the car, but you can relax a lot more and let the car do most of the actual driving, which is a weird feeling that you get used to pretty quickly. The system buzzes at you and turns off if you’re not paying attention, so you can’t let the car do its thing all of the time.
How Big Is It?
The Volvo S60’s exterior dimensions are 187 inches long, 80 inches wide, and 57 inches tall. When you look at the competition, you’ll see that the car is within a few inches of the competition in every measurement.
The Jaguar XE and Genesis G70 are shorter at about 184 inches, and the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Audi A4 are all about the same length as the S60. The S60 is a bit wider than its competition, but it’ll still fit in a parking space easily.
When it comes to the interior dimensions, the S60 features about 42 inches of space in the front seat for legroom and about 35 inches of legroom in the rear. The BMW 3-series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and the Audi A4 are all essentially the same. The Merc and Audi have slightly less room upfront but only by about half an inch.
The Genesis G70 actually offers more legroom both upfront and in the rear than the S60. The Jaguar XE is behind the Volvo in both respects.
As far as cargo goes The S60 features 11.6 cubic feet of space in its trunk. This isn’t a ton of space. It’s enough for a couple of small suitcases or golf bags, but it’s not a cavernous cargo area. Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class offers about a cubic foot more. BMW’s 3-Series offers 17 cubic feet of cargo space. The Genesis G70 offers 10.5 cubic feet, and the Jaguar XE offers 12.1 cubic feet.
Overall, the S60 is right in the middle in terms of legroom and cargo volume. The car isn’t the best, but it’s not the worst either. Still, if you want a spacious luxury sedan in this category, the BMW makes the most sense.
Does It Work?
Much like the V60, yes the S60 does work, and well. However, it’s not quite as much of a standout in the segment as the V60. This is partly due to the fact that the segment is so much more competitive. The S60 is a wonderful car, but BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Audi, and Genesis all put out wonderful cars in this segment.
With that all said, I do have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the S60. The car is quick and fun when it needs to be and smooth and comfortable whenever you want it to be that. The back seat is on the smaller side and the cargo space is on the smaller side, but other than that, it’s a good car.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the segment stalwarts, then the S60 is something you should place near the top of your list. The car features almost everything the competition has and its driving dynamics are on point. Are the driving dynamics as good as BMW and Audi? Not quite, but they’re darn close, and most consumers won’t notice much of a difference.
Pair that with a superior interior, elegant exterior styling, superb seats, and right about the same amount of space inside and you have a car that is wholly satisfying.
Does It Justify Its Price?
The Volvo S60 comes with a starting MSRP of $35,800 before the $995 destination. That’s in the base model. According to the Monroney sheet provided with my loaner vehicle, the base price of my car before adding options was $40,300. With the options and excluding destination, I was looking at a price tag of $54,495. This is for the T6 R-Design model with all-wheel-drive.
The competition is similarly priced, but the Volvo is cheaper than most models. The BMW starts at $40,740. The Mercedes C-Class starts at $41,400. The Audi comes with a price tag of $39,200. The Jaguar XE starts at $36,995. The Genesis G70 is the only model of the ones I’ve been comparing the car to that’s cheaper at $34,900. Obviously, all of these models can see dramatic rises in price depending on the options and packages selected.
Even if you options-out the Volvo as much as possible, BMW, Mercedes, or Audi cars will be more expensive. The fact of the matter is you get a lot for your money with the S60, which is one of the factors that makes it a great option. Its price is absolutely justified for what you get.
What’s the Verdict?
Overall, the Volvo S60 is a fantastic car. It’s sleek, attractive, quick, fun-to-drive, elegant, and safe. There are some small issues with it, such as trunk size, but otherwise, it’s one of the best cars in its segment, especially when you factor in price.
Personally, I’d steer people away from the S60 and towards the V60, the sedan’s long-roofed and better-because-of-it sibling. The V60 is a fantastic car. It offers all that the S60 does but without the hamstringing downside of a small trunk.
Is the S60 the best in the segment? Honestly, no. But it’s one of the best, and if the German flavors that have dominated this segment for most of its existence taste a little stale to you, then you need to give the S60 a good, hard look.
- Base Price: $35,800 (T6 starts as $40,300)
- Price as Tested: $55,490 (including $995 destination)
- Drive Type: All-wheel drive
- Engine: Turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Power Output: 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque
- EPA: 21 mpg city / 32 mpg highway / 25 mpg combined
- Optional Equipment: R-Design Features, including exterior and interior elements, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, power adjusting driver and passenger seats, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, automatic braking, front and rear park assist, power-retractable mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors, 12.3-inch digital driver display, Sensus navigation, and Harmon Kardon premium sound system; Advanced package, which includes high pressure headlight cleaning system, head-up display, pilot assist, adaptive cruise control, full-LED headlights with active bending lights