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2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E: Quick Spin

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Can subbing in a completely new engine and transmission significantly change the character of an existing model? Yes, it certainly can—and the Volvo S60 is the best example of how dramatic the change can be.

While last year's model (and this year's model with all-wheel drive, as we'll get to in a bit) was powered by a turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine, this year's 2015 Volvo S60 T6 comes with a new 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder, making 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The new, so-called Drive-E engine is fitted to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

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The result is a sedan that responds, in its Sport mode, more vividly and sharply than the outgoing model with the six—due probably both to the loss in weight (about 150 pounds), and to the turbo- and super-charged approach. All the while, it's far more fuel-efficient than before, with our test car carrying EPA ratings of 24 mpg city, 35 highway.

We covered nearly 150 miles over the course of a week with the 2015 Volvo S60, and that included 130 miles of spirited driving, enjoying the power and torque on offer from this new engine, doing daily around-town and suburban errands, and making no effort to drive 'economically.' Yet we were rewarded with a 25-mpg average. Cruising on the Interstate at around 70 mph for 15 miles or so earned us an average of 33 mpg—so we're quite sure you'll be able to match the highway rating if you keep your speed down and steady.

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven, April 2014

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven, April 2014

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One of the keys to the great around-town average we saw was likely this Volvo's included engine stop-start system, which starts doing its job after the engine's warmed up for a few minutes, shutting it off when you're idling at stoplights, and starting it back up right when you reduce your pressure on the brake pedal. Here, the Drive-E engine starts and stops with barely a shudder, and your passenger isn't likely to notice it if the sound system's on.

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Where four is better than five or six

With its turbo fives and sixes, Volvo never quite achieved the level of sharp, instantaneous throttle response that's been offered by BMW in its turbocharged engines; but this new engine gets there. And the eight-speed automatic acts as a willing companion. Ease down partway with your right foot and the transmission stays in one of the higher gears, riding the wave of torque; likewise it's quick to deliver a decisive downshift with a harder prod—all with a resolve the former six-speed didn't have. More gears don't usually add up to less indecision, but that's the case here and the entire powertrain feels stronger and more confident, yet more at ease at the times you're not pushing it.


 
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