Small SUVs and crossovers are nearly as thick these days as political pundits, so it takes some effort to separate one from the mob of little tall wagons.
Lexus tries, with some success, with its NX 300, based on the previous generation Toyota RAV4 platform. As in much earlier times, Toyota tries with styling. The big deal here is its giant spindle grille and fancy 3-dimensional taillights outside, and its multicolored interior, even though the colors are black and white, and some folks will argue that black is the lack of color. Continue reading 2020 Lexus NX 300 AWD F Sport→
You simply must admire the marketing genius of a car company that dubs its LED headlights as Thor’s Hammer.
Volvo wins that honor with several of its latest models. The powerful headlights project a T, hence the Thor nomenclature. The latest hammering of lights I witnessed was on a beautifully sculpted Volvo S60 sedan, but not just any such sedan.
No, Volvo is committed to going all electric sooner instead of later, so this was the S60 T8-AWD Inscription model. It’s Volvo’s top-of-the-heap hybrid touting a combined 400 horses from its 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged I4 engine and an 87-horse hybrid electric motor.
The sexy sparkling pearl white (that’s $645 extra) mid-size luxury sedan was a powerhouse jumping onto the freeway, or hustling away from a stoplight. No wheel chirp from the AWD system and there are four power modes to let a driver decide how much oomph is needed at a moment’s notice, or how much economizing. Adjustments are made on the console.
Pure hybrid delivers plenty of kick as the S60 hybrid is rated 295 ft.-lbs. of torque. It feels like much more though. And yes, the gas engine with its 313 horses of turbo and supercharged power kicks in to add more thrust. Think of it as Volvo’s Saturn V hooked up to all four wheels.
In case you don’t want to pay extra for the hybrid, nor like the idea of plugging your car into your garage outlet each evening, a standard S60 is available with just the 300+ horse turbo/super I4. A standard turbo I4 that makes 250 horsepower also is available. Costs are less for those than the hybrid.
But for now let’s focus on this hybrid rocket, which also handles like a fine sports sedan. While feeling substantial it also is light enough to whip through a serious series of S-curves with no tail-wagging or sway. A new double A-arm suspension up front and multi-link system with composite leaf spring in back do the trick. This Volvo handles.
Ride is as you’d expect, firm, sporty and well-controlled. Not smooth enough to be considered ultra-luxurious, but nearly as good as most German makes that purport to be ultimate sports sedans.
The Volvo also was a fine machine to have during one of our incredibly rainy fall weeks. Its traction was stout, never putting a wheel wrong even when pushed a little harder than might be wise in the wet, certainly on wet leaf coated streets.
A quick word here on the car’s svelte looks before we gaze inward. I like the S60’s lines, its lowered hoodline gives it a slim profile, yet it still sports a large Volvo grille with equally imposing Volvo badge that could nearly pass for a superhero’s shield. Thor maybe?
It’s also worth noting for the uninitiated that plug-in hybrids are simple to recharge as popping the trunk, removing the charger and cord, and plugging the charger into a port just in front of the driver’s door. Then plug the cord into a garage outlet. Even with a 110-line it only took 3-4 hours for a full charge, which got me about 25-30 miles of pure electric zoom.
While in that mode I saw 53-58 MPGe, but running mostly on gas with a little electric help throughout the week I ended up at 37.5 mpg. It appears the key to stellar economy is regular evening recharges.
Inside, the car is extremely quiet, as are most hybrids because there’s not much engine noise. Sound deadening is good too, so road noise is minute.
This white sedan featured a two-tone dark brown and medium brown leather interior, the dash, doors and steering wheel being dark, the seats the milder shade, with contrasting stitching. There are driftwood inlays in the dash and doors, plus satin chrome trim on the dash, air vents, and door handles. Black gloss finish trims the large vertical infotainment screen and there’s a crystal-like shift knob that glows at night.
Seats are well-shaped and power up front, with the lower cushion able to be extended, a benefit to taller drivers. The front seats also are heated and cooled, plus add a massaging feature activated via a control at the front of the seats’ door-side panels, yet visually adjusted on the infotainment screen. All of those perks are part of a $2,200 leather seat package.
Meanwhile heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel add $750 to the price tag.
The S60’s interior is roomy too, certainly to haul four adults cross country, while the trunk is a bit limited at 11.6 cubic feet.
The 9-inch tall Sensus infotainment screen works well and is much like a smart phone, allowing the driver, or preferably a passenger, to slide the screen either direction to reveal many options. Sliding one way unveals 19 functions while the other reveals 22 apps. While it’s easy to figure out, it really is complex enough that safety dictates a second operator, or only making adjustments while the car is at rest.
The advantage of a large screen, naturally, is seeing its navigation map more easily. For the record, the test car’s stereo also was an audiophile’s, well, dream. The Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system adds $3,200 to the car’s cost, but it could melt your ear buds, and I mean that in a good way.
Other pluses include a large power sunroof, a head-up display, and all the safety devices we’ve come to expect, from parking sensors and blind-spot warning to emergency braking and pedestrian recognition systems. City Safety helps avoid low-speed accidents, smart cruise is standard as is auto high-beam headlights that bend around corners. And yes, that backup camera delivers a 360-degree view.
What doesn’t the S60 include? A wireless charging station. Plenty of places to hook in a power cord, but nothing cordless for your phone.
Then there was one more concerning oddity. Occasionally there was no heat from this South Carolina-built car. Maybe it thought only air conditioning would be required.
I set the temperature, even to HIGH, and pressed the Auto button to fire up the heat several mornings. Nothing, no fan noise, no nothing. Adjust the fan and the air pouring from the vents was only cold. Then, miraculously, two days before I returned the car the heat popped on and continued working the rest of the drive. Odd!
Figuring that if your car had such a glitch a sharp dealer would fix it, I’d have no trouble buying a Volvo. At its base T5 Momentum level with the 250-horse turbo I4 the car’s a bargain starting at $36,795. And there are plenty of models to choose from between that and this top-line T8 hybrid.
The test car listed at $56,395, including delivery. With its various options this one settled at $64,190, including $800 for fancy wheels.
Bottom line? S60 is a lively hybrid that can increase your fuel economy substantially, while still providing a powerful, fun, sporty and safe drive. But check the heater before you drive off the lot.
FAST STATS: 2020 Volvo S60 T8 E-AWD Inscription
Hits: Sporty looking sedan, kick-butt power, sporty handling, AWD and with quiet, luxurious interior. Tall vertical infotainment screen, massaging front seats, 4 power modes, comfy seats, roomy interior, big sunroof, heated steering wheel and powerful great sounding stereo. Oh, and a plug-in hybrid so excellent mileage.
Misses: No wireless charging station and occasionally no heat, plus too much futzing with the multifunction info screen.
Made in: Ridgeville, S.C.
Engine: 2.0-liter super and turbocharged I4 & plug-in hybrid electric motor, 400 hp (combined)
A line out of the 1980 hit movie The Blues Brothers and totally appropriate for this blog entry as Mark and I traveled to the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s (MAMA) Fall Rally just outside of Joliet, IL, home of the Joliet Prison where after his release from prison, Jake (John Belushi) reunites with his brother, Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) — collectively known as the “Blues Brothers.” Yep, we drove right past the front door. Continue reading New Toyota Supra is super fun→
Civic comes in 3 shapes, a big player in small car market …
Honda’s Civic is a mainstay in the small car market. Why? It has been around for years, remains affordable and comes in three body styles, sedan, coupe and hatchback.
All of those traits make it unusual. And for the past few years Honda designers have been trying to create a bit more visual excitement with Civics that feature sharp creases and angles that frankly, always make me think of a kid’s Transformer toy. Some love it, others, not so much. I find the nose appealing, the profile acceptable and the rear end rather garish. Continue reading 2019 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring→
This may be overstating it some, but if ever there were a modern-day Volkswagen Beetle in both spirit and style, it would be Kia’s sweet Soul.
Consider that 11 years into its run the styling has been updated in tweaks to nose and tail, but the basic shape has stayed the same with its boxy looks offering a bit of swagger with its roof that tilts slightly downward in back. Somehow the look is sporty and fun, as opposed to the boring boxes on wheels, such as Scion’s XB and Nissan’s freakish Cube, that have come and gone, not to be missed. And this time around the headlights are thin slits with a light bar up front that sort of reminds of a Chevy Camaro nose. Fun! Continue reading 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6 Turbo→