2019 Volvo S60 first drive: Sublimely looking beyond SUVs

October 18, 2018

Volvo refuses to ignore sedans—and wagons. Even though about 80 percent of the vehicles that leave the automaker’s showrooms are high-riding crossover SUVs, it’s sedans—and wagons—that put Volvo on the map.

The 2019 Volvo S60 and its V60 wagon sibling may not tip the boat, but it’ll certainly rock it. These are the latest models to take advantage the trickle-down Nordic minimalism Volvo bestowed on the rest of its lineup. And, as we recently learned on a test drive in  Santa Monica, California, where luxury-brand sedans are the default buy (or is it lease?) for the locals, the S60 is all the better for it.

MORE: 2019 Volvo S60 luxury sedan first look: Carolina on its mind

The S60 comes in three trims—Momentum, Inscription, and R-Design—that start around $37,000 and top out at a hefty $63,000.

S60 trims can be paired to one of three powertrains, a “T5” 250-horsepower turbo-4 with front-wheel drive, a “T6” 316-hp turbocharged and supercharged turbo-4 with all-wheel drive, and a “T8” 400-hp plug-in hybrid that shoots power to all four wheels. All S60s use an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Volvo may have built a following for its wagons, but it knows buyers aren’t there. The long-roof V60 is a more practical S60 and it’ll follow later but just in three trims with the 316-hp powertrain paired to all-wheel drive and the 250-hp version with front-wheel drive.

2019 Volvo S60

2019 Volvo S60

2019 Volvo S60

2019 Volvo S60

2019 Volvo S60

2019 Volvo S60

Nordic Minimalism

The S60 wears the new Volvo design aesthetic begun by the larger S90 sedan well; perhaps even better than the big brother with fewer awkward hints, particularly from the rear three-quarter view.  

Meanwhile, the S60's interior is a master class in Swedish reservation. Perhaps even too reserved; a few more traditional buttons might cover quick adjustments better. Changing the fan speed requires a distracting dive into the submenus of the vertically arrayed infotainment screen. We understand why button proliferation in a modern car is a Very Bad Thing, but there should be basic audio and ventilation controls at the ready. Thankfully, though, Volvo updated (and therefore sped up) the chipset orchestrating its tech.  

The upgraded system, which Volvo calls Sensus Connect, is otherwise simple, presenting a configurable four-tile layout after startup. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, a wi-fi hotspot are standard and buyers can opt for several third-party apps like Spotify, Pandora, and Yelp. Mid-level audio means a perfectly fine Harman Kardon system, but a thundering 1,100-watt Bowers & Wilkins system tops the line.  

All S60s come with automatic emergency braking with forward-collision warnings. Oncoming lane mitigation (also standard) applies extra braking if it senses oncoming traffic encroaching into the S60’s lane. Blind-spot monitors, cross-traffic alerts with automatic braking, lane-departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control are all optional.

The S60 is an attractive alternative to bigger-selling small luxury fare such as BMW's 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz's C-Class, and it drives very well, even in base, front-drive, 250-hp "T5" guise.

R-Design To The Rescue

The base $36,795, 250-hp “T5” configuration (we briefly drove the V60 wagon with this drivetrain) obviously offers less performance, but will tick all the boxes a high-value buyer might look for.

With black trim and unique 19-inch, five-spoke wheels, the S60 R-Design looks and smells the sports sedan part. The T6 316-hp S60 R-Design we drove left us wanting for nothing more in power, handling agility or braking ability. The steering effort level is extremely light, but you can dial in a bit of heft using the Dynamic driving mode.

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