2015 Volvo S60 Review

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John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
May 4, 2015

The 2015 Volvo S60 remains a striking shape with unbeatable safety ratings and equipment, and offers a range of models from quiet and comfortable to flamboyant and edgy.

Volvos are no longer square, but sometimes perceptions take a long time to fade. The 2015 Volvo S60 is an updated version of a vehicle that's now in its sixth year, and it can still startle and impress onlookers with its sleek take on a remarkably practical sedan. It's about as far as you can get from the old, square, slab-sided Scandinavian family sedans many of us remember from years ago. The shape of the S60 may make it the most noticeable Volvo on the road.

For 2015, the S60 gets a pair of new and very efficient four-cylinder engines that offer rewarding performance paired with far higher fuel economy than the previous models. They're only offered for front-wheel-drive models, though; if you want all four wheels powered, you'll have to stick with the older and thirstier engines for a few more years. And they complete an update that began last year, when the S60 received a modest restyling to keep it current (and update some of the parts under the hood to accept the new powertrains).

Those updates really just amplify and refine the S60's traditional Volvo virtues--outstanding safety, straightforward and functional interiors--inside a shape that continues to be both remarkably sleek and visually striking. Its wedge shape tapers at both ends, sitting on large wheels that give it a sleek and powerful stance. Inside, it's mostly Scandinavian simplicity that's smart and stylish but may appear minimalist against more lavish interiors from luxury brands. High-quality materials, pleasing textures and that 'floating' center stack give the car a decidedly hip vibe over some of its more traditional competitors. The exterior of the car was updated last year with a new front grille, bumper, and hood, plus new headlights that include LED running lights.

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Five adults will fit inside the S60, but four can travel in comfort, and the rear seat turns out to be bigger than it appears. New front seats last year are some of the best we've tested, with thoughtful bolstering and support in all the right places. They're not the capacious thrones that older Volvo seats provided, and we worry that larger and broader Americans may find the bolsters confining. But on a day-long test drive that covered a few hundred miles, we were completely sold on the front seats. Add to that a quiet cabin and good ride quality, and you come close to a luxury feel--except for the sportiest R Design model, which transmits more road harshness through its larger wheels and lower, stiffer Sport suspension.

The sharp handling and advanced features of the Volvo S60 compete most direclty with the sportier end of the premium and luxury range, although its shape aside, it's less luxurious than quietly competent. Think Acura or Infiniti, perhaps Audi, more than BMW or Mercedes-Benz. And in size, it's slightly larger than the compact Acura TSX or BMW 3-Series, but smaller inside than mid-size models like the Audi A6 or Infiniti Q70 (nee Infiniti M). Its performance sets the S60's sights somewhere among the likes of the Buick Regal GS, the Audi A4, and the BMW 3-Series.

If you are content with front-wheel drive, you can choose from one of two Drive-E 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines. These are Volvo's latest and most efficient models, from the base T5 240-horsepower turbocharged version up to a 302-hp turbo- and super-charged version in the T6. Either is mated to an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission, whose ratios are space widely enough that the engine turns over at low speeds on the highway for maximum fuel economy.

Step up to all-wheel drive, and the T5 AWD model uses an older 250-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder, while the more powerful T6 AWD has a 300-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged six. Both of these engines power the four wheels thorugh Volvo's Haldex all-wheel drive system and a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy, as you might expect, is better with the newer fours (28 or 29 mpg combined) than the AWD models (22 or 23 mpg combined).

Even six years into its model run, the Volvo S60 gets superb safety ratings. It aces all tests, including the latest and toughest, from both the IIHS and the NHTSA. On top of that, it adds a comprehensive suite of standard and optional electronic safety systems. That list includes Corner Traction Control, which allocates torque across the car to enhance grip in aggressive maneuvers; a radar-based Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake that identifies and brakes for pedestrians or cyclist in the road if the driver doesn't; and a Blind Spot Information System that includes cross-traffic alerts.

Then there's the S60 R Design model, with its long list of performance upgrades, for those few buyers who may consider taking their Volvo onto the race track. Those modifications include a more powerful 325-hp version of the T6 3.0-liter turbo six, providing an uninterrupted rush of power when you need it, accompanied by a smooth, strong, and sweet sound. Unfortunately, the six-speed automatic isn't always as quick on the response as you might want, making the car not quite as sharply-focused as traditional enthusiast sedans like the BMW 3-Series or the latest Cadillac CTS.

As well as the four powertrains, the Volvo S60 comes with Premier, Premier Plus, and Platinum trim levels that determine the level of extras. Several features, for instance the Blind-Spot Information System with cross-traffic alerts, can be ordered as stand-alone options.

Three of the four 2015 Volvo S60 engine variants are on sale now, with the T6 model with the new Drive-E engine coming in June. Prices start at $33,300 for the T5 and $38,150 for the T6, both in front-wheel-drive form. A loaded, top-of-the-line S60 R Design Platinum model can hit about $55,000. That lets you choose a stylish, safe, comfortable family sedan or a sportier, more powerful performance four-door. Either one will give you many of the latest infotainment, convenience, and active-safety features and options.

8

2015 Volvo S60

Styling

Even in its sixth year, the 2015 Volvo S60's taut lines and sleek interior give it a striking presence.

The shape of the 2015 Volvo S60 isn't common enough to have become familiar. So the exterior is a surprise every time one rolls into sight; not only is it clearly a Volvo, but it remains one of the sportiest and most rakish-looking shapes the Swedish brand has ever produced. And it's now in its sixth model year, which makes it even more impressive.

The smooth contours and sweeping lines of the S60's wedge-like sedan shape are expressive, and the organic details and flashy alloy wheels make it look like it's moving, even at a standstill. Last year, the S60 received a new hood and grille, with a larger Volvo "ironmark" logo on new horizontal chrome stripes, and retouched headlamps with LED running lights too. There's slightly more brightwork, and integrated exhaust-pipe outlets in back.

Inside, the Swedish design ethos has produced a simple but functional cockpit, oriented toward the driver and including the brand's characteristic "floating" center console with storage space behind and underneath . In base form, it's almost spare, though the textured surfaces and contrasting materials are high-quality. Two-tone leather with contrasting stitching can be ordered, but the entry-level S60 is an efficient machine for driving rather than a sybaritic experience. It's stark and simple, yet somehow welcoming, with a dash material modeled after the rippled surface of water, and two-tone elements that encompass the upholstery, instrument panel, and surface textures.

The boldest S60, inside and out, is the high-performance R Design model. From the outside, the S60 R Design somehow manages to appear even more aggressive than the standard shape, aided by a trunklid spoiler, a rear diffuser, special wheels, sport tailpipes, and other trim-specific elements. Inside, too, the R Design gets its own theme, with a unique steering wheel, upholstery, and other trim items adding up to provide a more track-oriented look and feel.

8

2015 Volvo S60

Performance

The 2015 Volvo S60 gets a new engine and transmission combo, powerful and thrifty, that makes it sportier.

Last year the Volvo S60 got some design updates; for 2015, the S60 gets two new engine options that combine power with much better fuel efficiency. In general, the 2015 Volvo S60 has performance to match its aggressive styling--though its high-end R-Design models may not deliver quite the handling and refinement to match some enthusiasts' demands.

The new 2.0-liter direct-injected Drive-E four-cylinder engine, in two different forms, offers strong performance in a lighter package, along with much better fuel-economy ratings. But it's only available for front-wheel-drive models. If you want the benefits of the new engines with all-wheel drive, you'll have to wait until the S60 is redesigned two or three years hence.

In S60 models with front-wheel drive, which Volvo says will account for about 60 percent of sales, two variations of the Drive-E four are offered, both paired to an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission. The base engine in the T5 is a 240-hp turbocharged version, with the more powerful T6 boosting that output to 302 hp by adding a supercharger for improved low-end response, complementing the turbo's power surge at higher engine speeds.

With the new Drive-E engines, Volvo quotes acceleration from 0 to 60 mph for the T5 at 6.0 seconds, almost a second better than last year's base engine. For the more powerful T6, it's just 5.6 seconds--helped by the cars being lighter to boot. Start-stop is standard on both engines, and we found it to be very quick on the restart and easy to get accustomed to in traffic. the T5 is rated at 29 mpg combined and the T6 at 28 mpg combined. Both front-wheel-drive S60 models benefit from relaxed cruising at highway speeds due to the wide gear spread of the new automatic.

Stepping up to the all-wheel-drive S60 models, however, requires reverting to older engines. The S60 T5 AWD uses a 250-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder, and the T6 AWD a 300-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged six rated at 325 lb-ft of torque. Both of these engines power the four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission and Volvo's Haldex all-wheel-drive system. The larger of the two engines feels stronger than its numbers might suggest, and while it's disappointing that there's no manual gearbox available the six-speed automatic pairs with the AWD system for easy driving, fast acceleration, confident traction and great all-weather capability. These models can get to 60 mph in about 5.8 seconds.

Regardless of engine, the S60 steers and handles well. It includes a menu system that lets the driver select from three different suspension tuning options. Drivers can also chose from three modes for the Drive-E engines: Drive (the default), Sport, and Eco+, which retune the power delivery and transmission shift points to provide quick response (Sport) or more fuel-efficient running (Eco+).

The all-wheel-drive S60 models are heavier than they may appear, but the lighter weight of the Drive-E engine makes the front-wheel-drive versions nimble and very responsive. Regardless of powertrain, the S60 is nimble enough for hairpin mountain curves and maneuverable enough for tight city streets--and its turning circle proves to be tighter than you may expect in a car this size.

The highest-performing model is the S60 R Design, which gets a retuned version of the 3.0-liter six that increases output to 325 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. The higher power comes with a sportier suspension tuning, which provides crisper handling, and larger 13.2-inch front brake discs for stopping under hard driving.

All in all, the S60 is a good blend of sport sedan and comfortable family car. It's not quite a track-day car, even in the R Design model, which isn't as sharp on race tracks as you might hope. But on the street, it's plenty responsive--and the new engines are lighter, higher-performance, and more fuel-efficient too. If only they came with all-wheel drive ....

9

2015 Volvo S60

Comfort & Quality

The 2015 Volvo S60 has superb front seats, though the rear is tight, and it's an acomplished traveler.

The 2015 Volvo S60 may have been the middle of Volvo's sedan range before the withdrawal of the compact S40, but it's on the small side for a mid-size sedan. As compact luxury models like the Acura TSX, BMW 3-Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class have gotten bigger, it's much closer to their size than to that of a BMW 5-Series or Infiniti Q70 (nee M). It makes good use of its interior volume, and there's plenty of room for passengers in the front and adequate room in the rear.

The new front seats introduced for 2014 are some of the best we've ever occupied in any car. They're substantially bolstered--and we worry that wider Americans won't quite fit into them--but after a few hundred miles of driving, we had no aches, pains, complaints, or any other issue. They're the kind of seats we expect in the highest-end sport sedans, and often don't get. Well done, Volvo.

The back seat looks tighter from outside than it proves to be once you get in. It's well contoured, although the raked rear window means it's closer to the floor than taller adults may like, leading to a slightly knees-up position compared to taller sedans. But it will hold passengers over six feet tall--two of them, anyway, if not three. Trunk space is also voluminous, as you might expect from the high tail and fastback-like line of the rear bodywork. The rear seatbacks, split 60/40, fold forward and also include a pass-through for skis.

The S60 isn't the single quietest car we've been in, but it's hushed under most circumstances and noises from wind, tires, and road surfaces are mostly well-suppressed. The car offers a wide range of chassis settings--firmness can be set to Touring or Dynamic, and increased driver control is available through Comfort, Sport, and Advanced modes.

10

2015 Volvo S60

Safety

The 2015 Volvo S60 has strong crash-test scores and an impressive array of electronic safety systems.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2015 Volvo S60 its top five-star rating in every single category, and so has the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which rates last year's S60 a Top Safety Pick+. Not only did the S60 get the IIHS's highest rating of "Good" on all tests, the list includes the new and challenging Small-Overlap Front Crash test, which the S60 also aced--unlike many new cars whose scores fell when the new test was performed.

The 2015 S60 is undoubtedly one of the safest cars on the road; beyond its uniformly top-rated safety scores, it offers and a long roster of electronic safety systems to complement the durable structure. The S60 carries Volvo's strong safety reputation forward with modern active and passive electronic safety systems too, though some of them remain optional.

There are, of course, standard front, side, and side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; and stability and traction control. But Volvo adds Corner Traction Control, which directs torque across the car to enhance grip in aggressive maneuvers, and it recently introduced a new Road Sign Information system that shows the speed limit and other information on the instrument panel.

Several optional systems--including radar-based pedestrian and cyclist alert system with automatic braking, Driver Alert Control, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Lane Departure Warning, plus the road-sign system and active high-beam control--are included as part of the Technology Package. Other safety add-ons include front and rear camera systems, parking sensors, and active HID headlamps. A Blind Spot Information System is also available separately, as a standalone option.

8

2015 Volvo S60

Features

The 2015 Volvo S60 offers multiple engines and an improved infotainment system, but no more pale-wood trim.

The 2015 Volvo S60 offers a mix of powertrain options and trim levels that provides a remarkable amount of variety in one of Volvo's mainstay vehicles for the U.S. market. It allows you to choose a a stylish, safe, and comfortable family car or specify a more powerful sport sedan with many of the latest technology, convenience, and active-safety features.

The basics: You can get T5 and T6 models (meaning 250-300 hp, or 300-plus hp, respectively), each with the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive--making four variations, each with a different engine this year--plus the higher-performance R Design model with all-wheel drive only. On top of that, you can choose Premier, Premier Plus and Platinum trim levels.

All Volvo S60 models, from the entry T5 up, come standard with power accessories, cruise control, a trip computer, driver control interface, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free communication, HD Radio, USB/iPod/auxiliary input, CD/MP3 audio system, and more. Recent additions to the standard-equipment list include rain-sensing wipers, headlight washers and a tunnel-detection feature for the headlights, and new dual tailpipes for the base T5. If you go for the more powerful T6 or R Design models, Volvo adds larger 18-inch wheels, Keyless Drive, a Personal Car Communicator, and a few other items.

The Premier level you get upgraded alloy wheels, bright window trim, and a new adaptive Thin-Film Transitor (TFT) display that has Elegance, Eco, and Performance themes. Premier Plus models add leather, a power passenger seat, a garage-door opener, park assist, dual xenon headlamps, and a power moonroof, while Platinum models get Keyless Drive, a voice-control navigation system with real-time traffic, and a rear camera system.

 The Technology Package, a popular option, bundles a long list of active-safety items (including pedestrian detection with full auto brake, adaptive cruise control, and a new road-sign info system), all for just $1,500. Then there's the Climate Package, at $1,550, which provides heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and windshield, and heated nozzles for the windshield washers. Finally, the Sport Package adds the Dynamic Chassis setup, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a retuned suspension. Additional wheel designs and some interior trim add-ons are among the stand-alone options.

S60 prices this year start at $33,300 for the T5 in front-wheel-drive form, and rise to almost $55,000 for a loaded R Design Platinum model at the very top of the range.

7

2015 Volvo S60

Fuel Economy

A new engine/transmission combination boosts fuel efficiency on the 2015 Volvo S60--but not for AWD models.

The 2015 Volvo S60 offers four different powertrains, two of them brand-new. And it's the new ones, both using the company's 2.0-liter Drive-E four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission, that produce the best fuel efficiency. The new models just keep Volvo competitive with BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which have already introduced similar turbocharged smaller fours, but they're a major advance over prior model years.

The new engines also come standard with start-stop, with we found to be very quick on the restart and easy to get accustomed to in traffic. And drivers can chose from three modes: Drive, Sport, and Eco+, which retune the power delivery and transmission shift points to provide quick response (Sport) or more fuel-efficient running (Eco+).

The drawback is that the new engines come only with front-wheel drive; if you want all-wheel drive, you're stuck with older, less efficient five- and six-cylinder engines. That won't change for a couple of years, until the S60 is redesigned to incorporate both the new engine/transmission combination and the company's Haldex all-wheel-drive system.

So, for front-wheel-drive S60 models, the T5 uses a 240-hp turbocharged Drive-E engine and the T6 boosts that to 302 hp by adding a supercharger as well as the turbo. The T5 is rated at 29 mpg combined (25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway) and the T6 at 28 mpg combined (24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway). Both vehicles benefit from very relaxed cruising at highway speeds due to the wide gear spread of the new eight-speed automatic.

But if you need all-wheel drive in your S60--as Volvo says 40 percent of buyers will--then the picture isn't as rosy. The five-cylinder T5 AWD model is rated at 23 mpg (20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway) and the more powerful six-cylinder T6 AWD S60 comes in at 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway).

So give Volvo half-credit for improving part of the range--but if you want highly efficient all-wheel-drive S60 models, you'll have to wait a bit longer. 

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June 28, 2015
2015 Volvo S60 4-Door Sedan T5 Drive-E Premier FWD

Great car, love the way it drives! Very comfortable and fast!

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This is my first Volvo and I am impressed! I have owned Acura, Infiniti and BMW this beats them all. Loads of low end torque from the Drive E turbo four and quick shifts from the eight speed automatic. I find... + More »
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April 28, 2015
2015 Volvo S60 4-Door Sedan T5 Drive-E Premier Plus FWD

Good Quality Car

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I've had many cars, Audi, Lexus, Chevy, Infiniti, Hyundai so I think my comparison is valid. The Volvo is quite and comfortable. Is handles better than the Lexus, Infiniti or Hyundai but not as well a the... + More »
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April 14, 2015
For 2015 Volvo S60

An all around terrific car.

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QUALITY IS IMPECCABLE.. CAR IS QUITE, SEATS ARE PERFECT, AND HANDLING AND ACCELERATION ARE BOTH VERY GOOD, ALL THE SAFETY FEATURES YOU CAN IMAGINE. I HAVE THE 4 WHEEL EDITION, AND THE CAR IS GREAT IN SNOW... + More »
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Styling 8.0
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