- Strong, sweet-sounding engines
- Adjustable steering feel (T6)
- Supple, quiet ride (all but R-Design)
- No paddle-shifters or full manual control
- Road noise (R-Design)
- Seats not as supportive as in other Volvos
The 2012 Volvo S60 family shows that sport sedans can feel edgy without giving up their leading edge in safety, design, and interior interior comfort.
Volvo isn't what it used to be, and positively, the Volvo S60 is a poster child for what the brand has evolved to--combining a more curvaceous exterior with a cool Scandinavian interior design, class-leading safety, and performance that sets its sights on the likes of the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, and Acura TSX. And for 2012, the S60 has a little more appeal yet for driving enthusiasts, with the introduction of a new 2012 S60 R-Design model aimed at those who might just take their Volvo on the track once in a while.The 2012 S60 is more rakish and aggressive than any previous Volvo sedan on the outside, with smooth contours and swooping lines matched up with a low, wedgy front and pert tail, and framed with large flashy alloy wheels. It's handsome yet expressive from a few paces back. Inside, the S60's cabin is very stylish, yet functional, with a 'floating' center stack of controls that pushes the Swedish design ethos into a hipper direction. Textures and design themes inside are far from the ordinary for luxury sedans.
Last year, all Volvo S60 models came in high-performance T6 form—with a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. Now for 2012, a more affordable front-wheel-drive S60 T5 model (powered by a 250-hp 2.5-liter five-cylinder) has joined the lineup, as well as a new enthusiast-focused R-Design mode that offers a 'chipped' version of the six, making 325 hp. In both the S60 T6 and R-Design models, the engine is smooth, strong, and sweet-sounding, with an uninterrupted rush of power when you need it. The six-speed automatic transmission (there's no manual...yet) doesn't always respond as quickly as you'd hope from a sport sedan.
In T6 or T5 forms, the S60 doesn't feel quite as sharp as focused enthusiast sedans like the Mitsubishi Evolution, Subaru WRX STI, or Nissan G37 or BMW 3-Series, but some will prefer it that way, as a tight, quiet cabin and good ride quality factor in to give it a true luxury-car feel. The 4C dynamic chassis system in the T6 makes it the pick of the bunch for combining performance and comfort; T6 models get driver-selectable steering feel, too. But the T6 R-Design throws that out in favor of a dedicated Sport suspension that's lowered and noticeably stiffer; it also brings out the road noise.
The S60 is just a bit smaller than most U.S.-market mid-size sedans, yet it's a five-seater with true space for four adults. The swoopy roofline allows enough headroom for most, and provided you're not positioning the lankiest passengers front-to-back, there's decent legroom.
Though the curvy S60 doesn't have the versatility offered by those box-on-wheels designs Volvo built through the 1990s, this sport sedan does hold true to another Volvo expectation: safety. Volvo's Pedestrian Detection safety system can automatically stop the car if it detects a pedestrian and the driver fails to react. And while it hasn't yet been tested by the feds, the insurance-affiliated IIHS has already fully tested the 2012 S60 and made it a Top Safety Pick.
With base prices on the S60 dropping to about $31k for 2012 with the introduction of the front-wheel-drive S60 T5, the S60 is looking like a stronger deal for 2012 for those who simply want a well-equipped yet stylish luxury sedan. The T5 includes a long list of features, including tech extras like Bluetooth calling and audio streaming, HD Radio, dual-zone climate control, and a power driver's seat. The S60 T6 upgrades to leather upholstery and larger alloys, in addition to all the performance upgrades, and the top R-Design includes xenon headlamps and a moonroof among the many trim upgrades.