It’s a brand that has built its reputation around being trustworthy and loyal. Sounds almost like your faithful Labrador retriever doesn’t it?
But these are also attributes that could also describe the 2015 S60 sedan that I recently tested.
Safety? Of course! Those are table stakes for a Volvo and it’s one area where the S60 really shines.
There is a long list of passive and active safety systems that the S60 comes with as standard equipment. Here are my top 5, with their hilariously intricate acronyms.
BLIS, LCMA, CTA, ROPS, WHIPS, and ACC. Want to find out what they are? Read here.
This car will brake by itself to prevent or reduce the effects from a collision, will warn you if you’re following a car too closely, and it will even steer itself back in line if you aren’t paying enough attention.
The S60’s crash test results are excellent, as expected, with the S60 rated as a Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick+.
Volvos are safe, but not just in the measured tests that make the headlines. The Swedish manufacturer also has many other internal crash tests that go above and beyond what is mandated, such as this run off-road crash test featuring the upcoming XC90.
Even the hood has been designed not just to look nice, but also to protect any pedestrians who might walk in front of your car.
If you’re a fan of Volvo’s 5-cylinder engines, rest assured they’re still kicking around. But thanks to a $11 billion dollar investment, now also available are Volvo’s newest and more efficient engines.
My test car was equipped with Volvo’s new Drive-E direct injection powertrain. Part of a green initiative to make the S60 cleaner and more efficient.
My T5 Drive-E front wheel drive test car was equipped with a Drive-E 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 240 hp hooked up to a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Also available is the T6 Drive-E front wheel drive S60, which has a supercharged and turbo-charged direct injection version of the same engine, but uprated to 302hp and 295 ft-lbs of torque.
Torque comes on strong with this new 2.0L Drive-E powertrain, with 258 ft-lbs of torque delivered from a low 1,500 to 4,500 rpms. It’s really more of a torque plateau than a curve, with pulling power when you need it at pretty much anytime you need it.
There is also a turbo overboost function which boosts the torque up to 280 ft-lbs for up to 10 seconds at a time.
In order to help it sip on fuel, Volvo has also added a Start/Stop system and an Eco+ button. The latter reduces the load on the engine by shutting off accessories such as air conditioning and shifts the transmission into neutral when the throttle is not being applied.
Engaging Eco+ also reconfigures engine mapping and initiates the Start/Stop function when the car slows down to 6.4 km/hr rather than at 0.
Fuel consumption is rated at 9.8L/100 kms in the city, and 6.6L/100 kms on the highway. I averaged 10L/100 kms in mostly city driving.
While not exactly sporty, the 2015 S60’s handling is still sound and respectable. Some media outlets have criticised the S60’s ride for being a bit too firm. However I found it perfectly comfortable, with just the right amount of firmness without the harshness, even when riding on gorgeous two-toned 19” wheels and Pirelli Sottozero winter tires.
Somehow the Europeans just get suspension turning dialled in properly more times than not as far as I’m concerned.
Despite having electric power steering, Volvo’s engineers have done their homework. The weight off-centre doesn’t feel too artificial and precision is on the good side. However, my test car doesn’t quite have the road going eagerness that its German rivals have been blessed with.
With the addition of electric steering, the S60 also adds a multi-level lane departure warning system which can not only audibly warn you when you step out of your own lane, but can also vibrate the steering wheel (heated of course) and even take corrective action (should you set it to that proactiveness-level).
Inside, fine interior details include high quality materials. Multi-textured soft touch plastics are fitted to most surfaces, along with real metallic trim accents on the dash and door panels.
If you find the grey on grey surfaces too bland, you can specify wood trim for the centre console to bring some warmth to the cabin. But personally I liked the metallized-grained trim, which added a minimalistic industrial feel to the interior.
The waterfall centre stack also has a semi-hidden storage bin behind the controls. A practical and interesting design that I wish wasn’t a Volvo exclusive.
And the seats, oh those seats! Instantly comfortable and supportive without being too constrictive for those who dislike aggressive lateral bolstering. Somehow Volvo’s interior designers have also managed to make the head restraints both pillowy soft but yet effective from a safety standpoint.
However the cabin is not without a few ergonomic faux pas. While I appreciated the use of hard buttons versus a touchscreen, the centre stack looks a bit cluttered when compared to the offerings from das Fatherland. Admittedly it took me a couple of hours to get used to all of the buttons and knobs, especially when navigating the different menus.
Fortunately Volvo is making huge strides in the infotainment system as demonstrated by the upcoming all-new XC90 SUV. But unfortunately those changes will likely not make their appearance till the next generation S60.
At $51,050 as tested, who, you ask, would buy the S60?
I would hazard a guess that it’s probably someone that wants something fancier and more luxurious than a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry but without the flashiness of a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz. And of course, you can’t get the added security of all-wheel-drive with a Camry or Accord.
It’s a design that is characteristically Scandinavian minimalistic, without the need of any massive grilles or spoilers to espouse its pedigree. I just hope enough people give Volvo a chance to prove that their cars are driven by more than teachers or librarians.
While the Volvo S60 T5 Drive-E can’t match the sporty driving characteristics or pizazz of its German rivals, it still delivers on traditional Volvo values. Add to it a far more interesting driving experience than your typical family sedan and for many, that’s the perfect recipe for success.