Volvo’s S60 is a fine, but underwhelming, compact, entry-level luxury car.
The S60 is nice looking and has all-wheel-drive, which will make it more useful to drivers in northern climes. It performs well, although its ride is rough, yet nothing really stands out.
Some will argue that its safety features stand out. That’s what Volvo, now owned by Geely, a Chinese firm, has hung its woolen winter cap on for years. Certainly the S60 T5 AWD Dynamic (quite a mouthful) that I tested had safety equipment, about what you’d expect on any car or crossover costing north of $40 grand.
For instance, there’s lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with automatic braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection also with auto braking, plus distance alert. All those are swell, but are not standard. They’re part of an optional $1,500 tech package. It also adds active high beams, rain-sensing wipers and the ability for the car to read road signs so you’ll always know what speed you should be going.
The test car also added an optional $1,950 vision package too that added a blind-spot information system (BLIS), plus rear park assist, cross-traffic alert, rearview camera, and a few other features. Again, others have these systems too, some come standard on other luxury, and non-luxury, lines.
The one exception in all this is the automatic braking feature for anticipated collisions and/or pedestrian and cyclist detection. This is part of Volvo’s City Safety system that clamps on the brakes if the car’s sensors detect you’re about to hit another car, pedestrian or cyclist. This is good and Volvo is to be commended for its development. I’m not sure that feature alone would sell me on the S60.
Beyond safety, which again I note is important, the S60 offers sporty acceleration from its 2.0-liter, turbocharged I4. The engine makes a peppy 240 horsepower and is a replacement for 5-cylinder and 6-cylinder engines previously offered by Volvo. The turbo ramps up quickly, although there is a bit of lag, and acceleration, especially on highway entry ramps, is quite good.
Gas mileage is solid too with the EPA rating for this car, which also features a Geartronic 8-speed automatic transmission, at 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. I got 24.6 mpg in about 70% city driving and not using the car’s Sport mode much.
Sport mode, which is part of the gear shift pattern, as in other cars will alter shift points to put the emphasis on acceleration. So you get a bit more torque and the tranny holds lower gears longer. You engage this by sliding the gear shift lever over from D to S. Simple.
Handling is decent, quicker than in some compacts, but still with a little play in the steering wheel. Cornering was fine, but not particularly sporty.
Another plus with the S60 is all-wheel drive, which is standard at the $35,950 starting price on the entry-level Dynamic trim. I had this in wet weather and grip seemed fine.
Ride is where Volvo’s S60 comes up short, especially in the luxury compact market. While the wheelbase is a solid 109.3 inches which should smooth ride sufficiently, it was rough on our crumbling Southeast Wisconsin roads. I would call the ride sharp, but not punishing.
The shifting from the 8-speed automatic also was somewhat abrupt at times, especially in Normal mode. Sport mode shifts seemed smoother.
Inside, the S60 looks much like Volvo’s other models with a plain, clean, modern look that in the bright “Passion Red” test car included black leather seats with white stitching. The dash is a hard black textured surface and there’s satin chrome around the air vents, door and dash trim and center stack, which features a textured metal face.
Seats are extremely comfortable with substantial hip and back support and these included heat, a $500 option. The driver’s seat was powered and includes three memory settings and a power lumbar support too.
Note though that the rear seat back is solid, it is not split and doesn’t fold. There is a pass-through though that would help if you were carrying a long item, say lumber or skis. Trunk space itself is modest at 12.0 cubic feet.
Controls are easy to use and get at. There are climate control knobs and the radio includes buttons in the form of a phone keypad on the center stack. The navigation/radio screen though is relatively small, something I’d expect to expand in the near future as more and more luxury vehicles move to massive screens. Everything was easy to tune and figure out, a bit plus.
The test car added a Harman Kardon premium radio and Sensus navigation system. The stereo sounded great and also was simple to use. The option adds $2,300 to the price tag.
Overhead is a power sunroof and shade, however the sun visors do not slide, so tend to let in side sun on morning drives. However, there are HomeLink buttons are on the driver’s visor.
On the plus side there is an automatic trunk release button and fuel door release inside, niceties in the winter, plus you can push a button to lower the rear seat headrests if no one is sitting in back. That helps visibility.
The S60 features a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel with the usual cruise control and phone controls on the hub. On the wheel’s left, behind the hub, is a stalk to control the dash’s trip computer. It was easy to figure out and works fine, but I bumped that long stalk a couple times when reaching for other buttons on the dash’s left side.
Pricing for the S60 starts at $35,950 for this model, with a $995 delivery fee. After adding options, the test car settled at $44,195 and there are many near luxury cars in that range. There also are many other trims for the S60, including Inscription, Cross Country, Polestar and R-Design Platinum.
Inscription models add 3 inches of rear seat legroom, a plus as space is a bit cramped in this Dynamic’s rear seat. The Cross Country rides higher, so feels more like a crossover in stature while the Polestar and R-Design models feature a massive 362-horse turbo engine.
Variety and price points climb from this base T5 Dynamic model, providing plenty of options for Volvophiles.
FAST STATS: 2017 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
Misses: Rough ride, rear seat doesn’t split and fold (just a pass-through), small nav/radio screen, somewhat abrupt shifts, visors don’t slide.
Made in: Ghent, Belgium
Engine: 2.0-liter, turbo, I4, 240 hp
Transmission: 8-speed Geartronic automatic
Weight: 3,619 lbs.
Length: 182.5 in.
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Cargo: 12.0 cu.ft.
MPG: 23/31 (EPA)
MPG: 24.6 (tested)
Base Price: $35,950
Invoice: $34,788 (includes delivery)
Heated front seats, $500
Nav/Harman Kardon package (Sensus navigation, Harman Kardon premium sound), $2,300
Tech package (rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, collision waring w/auto brake, pedestrian/cyclist detection w/auto brake, driver alert control, distance alert, lane keeping aid, road sign information, active high beam), $1,500
Sport package (Sport chassis, paddle shifters, 19-inch Portia diamond cut alloy wheels, electric power steering personalization), $1,000
Vision package (blind-spot information system, rear park assist, cross-traffic alert, rear park assist camera, TFT instrument cluster, HomeLink, keyless drive), $1,950
Test Vehicle: $44,195
Sources: Volvo, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage