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 ....