- Striking shape
- New, fuel-efficient engines
- Unbeatable safety ratings
- Sensible, functional cabin
- Superb front seats
- Not quite mid-size inside
- Options can add $20,000
- R-Design rougher, noisier inside
- No AWD with new engines
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.
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.