2008 Volvo S60 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 22, 2008

The 2008 Volvo S60 is a comfortable, safe all-weather sedan, but if you want top sport-sedan performance, you should look elsewhere.

To bring you the best information on the 2008 Volvo S60, the experts at TheCarConnection.com perused a wide range of available reviews, then included notes from their own firsthand driving experience with the S60 and its sporty T5 variant.

The mid-size 2008 Volvo S60 sedan sits at the middle of Volvo’s sedan lineup, between the compact S40 and the larger S80. The roster now consists of a base 2.5T front-wheel-drive model, 2.5T all-wheel-drive model, and the sporty, front-wheel-drive T5 model; the highest-performance T5 R model has been discontinued.

The 2008 Volvo S60 continues the same swoopy styling that was first introduced in the 2001 model year, though updated with a new front end in 2007. Inside, the S60 doesn’t have the fashionable interior theme or the thin, "floating" center console setup of the S40 and S80.

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A turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, making 208 horsepower, is standard on the 2008 Volvo S60, and it produces brisk acceleration and responsive performance with the five-speed automatic transmission. A Premium Package, which also includes a moonroof and leather upholstery, upgrades to Geartronic manual shift control. The T5 models upgrade to a 247-horsepower, 2.3-liter turbocharged five with Geartronic.

The 2008 Volvo S60 has excellent front seats that are some of the best contoured and most supportive in their class, but in back, it’s a different story; rear passengers will find it short in legroom and possibly headroom, due to the sloped roofline. The cabin is especially well isolated from road and wind noise, though, and is otherwise a very pleasant place to be.

All of the 2008 Volvo S60 models ride quite smoothly and steer responsively, but they fall short around sharp corners, especially on rough surfaces. Torque steer—a pull to the side under hard acceleration—can be an issue on the front-wheel-drive T5, though the T5 AWD model remedies that.

The T5 models include some significant upgrades, including larger 17-inch wheels, leather seating, a power sunroof, and MP3/WMA functionality on the CD player. An Imola two-tone interior is a no-charge option on vehicles with the Advanced Package, and available for a fee on the T5. Top options include a Dolby ProLogic II sound system with 13 speakers, heated seats and headlamp washers, and a navigation system. The high-technology safety features that are offered on several of Volvo’s other models, such as the blind-spot warning system, adaptive headlamps, and a backseat integrated booster seat, are not offered on the 2008 Volvo S60.

The 2008 Volvo S60 includes a list of safety features comparable to that offered by rivals, including stability control, anti-lock brakes, front side airbags, front-seat whiplash protection, and side-curtain bags. The 2008 Volvo S60 attains four-star ratings (out of five stars) for frontal impact and five stars for side impact, along with top "good" ratings for frontal and rear impact but "acceptable" ratings for side impact from the insurance-affiliated IIHS.

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2008 Volvo S60

Styling

The 2008 Volvo S60 is still a visually striking alternative to other European luxury vehicles, but it’s no longer progressive.

Like Demi Moore—or Bruce Willis--the 2008 Volvo S60 is aging but still turns heads.

Originally released for the 2001 model year, reviewers nonetheless still find the S60’s shape appealing and distinctive. Perhaps one of the first sedans to adopt a coupe-like roofline (a trend now exemplified by vehicles like Mercedes’ CLS), the S60's “swept-back rear roof creates a nice fastback look,” states Kelley Blue Book. Cars.com says the “curvy shape, far removed from past Volvos, gives the four-door S60 the look of a coupe.” Automobile names “other sporty cues,” such as “the wide stance, the subtle flares at the wheel openings, and the tucked-in bumpers.” A grille and bumper redesign for 2006 smooth the S60’s exterior. According to Autoblog, changes for the 2007 model year include “a deeper lip spoiler, new grille and larger Volvo iron symbol.”

Calling the interior design “similar to the previous-generation S80,” Cars.com says “the S60’s businesslike dashboard groups audio and climate controls within a broad center panel.” Of changes made for the ’07 model year, Autoblog comments, “Many interior trim pieces have also been dipped in metal to brighten up the S60’s insides and the watch-like instruments found in the S60R and new S80 are now an option.” The Auto Channel notes that the S60’s interior “is very much an example of Swedish Modern style."

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2008 Volvo S60

Performance

The 2008 Volvo S60 falls short in smooth, rapid performance, though it does offer all-wheel drive.

The 2008 Volvo S60’s peaky turbo power, five-cylinder harshness, lack of manual transmissions, and understeering front-wheel-drive architecture probably aren’t going to sway the BMW faithful, according to reviews from around the Web.

The S60 comes with only two flavors of a 2.5-liter, turbocharged inline-five cylinder. The light-pressure version brings 208 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque to the table; the high-pressure version clocks in at 257 and 258, respectively. Says Car and Driver, “refined isn't its middle name,” reminding us “this 2.5 is a transversely mounted in-line five, an inherently uncivilized layout.” The Auto Channel comments on the engine’s “unique five-cylinder howl” above 5,000 rpm. That said, the torque curve for both the base and higher-output varieties are pretty flat, and the horsepower figures are impressive, so acceleration remains class competitive, with a T5 yielding 0-60 times of 6.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver. “But the delivery isn't as linear as it is in a naturally aspirated Audi or BMW six,” they continue, hurting the S60 in the luxury class in which it plays. Others aren’t quite as critical. “The 2.5T engine provides good acceleration and plenty of passing power,” finds Kelley Blue Book, who also feels that it works “well with the Geartronic automatic transmission,” the only transmission offered, having lost its manual option for the ’08 model year.

The experts are split on the S60’s ride and handling, but no one would argue that a front-drive chassis can provide the kind of response and fun that a proper rear driver does. Kelley Blue Book points out one of the biggest issues associated with front-wheel drive, griping that “the high-powered T5's noticeable torque steer can, at times, become annoying.” They also malign its steering, saying it “does not feel as connected and precise as those of the BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G35.” Edmunds also feels that the “Swedish sedan's handling dynamics are a bit dull compared to newer rivals.” Of the steering, Automobile snipes that it “offers about as much feel as you'd get driving with woolly mittens.” ConsumerGuide praises the “satisfyingly solid structure,” but considers, as do others, that the ride is a bit harsh, allowing “minor road imperfections to be felt more than in most class rivals.”

“Brakes feel strong,” says ConsumerGuide, and Edmunds agrees, stating they “indeed exhibit impressive stopping ability.”

The Haldex all-wheel-drive system on the 2.5T AWD is a boon to those driving in inclement climes. Car and Driver declares it “formidable in the snow” or “snow-covered gravel and ice surfaces.”

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2008 Volvo S60

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Volvo S60’s harsh ride, tire slap, and discordant five-cylinder put a lot of pressure on its amazing front seats and solid ergonomics to carry the day.

The 2008 Volvo S60 soldiers on with really, really comfortable front seats and a nice nav system, but seems to be lacking in every other area, including value for the price.

Near-universal praise for the front seats, a seeming Volvo standard, leads editors at Car and Driver to rate it “very comfy for long cruises” and “probably my first choice for a road trip.” Edmunds agrees emphatically, stating “front occupants will bask in the comfort of the Volvo's orthopedically designed seats.” Kelley Blue Book lauds the wide-for-its-class interior, saying this feature “translates into generous shoulder room.”

While not a penalty box, the rear of the S60 doesn’t receive the glowing comments showered upon the front section. “Rear-seat passengers also complained about having to crane their necks sideways because the large front headrests blocked their view forward,” says Car and Driver. Edmunds warns that “rear passengers will likely find the legroom tight,” and ConsumerGuide notes “the nicely shaped bench seat is comfortable for two medium-sized adults, but legroom is very tight if the front seats are set far back.”

Some editors consider the base interior a bit Spartan, but all feel it's put together well. “The Volvo S60's interior is functional but doesn't feel upscale unless you order the leather upholstery and Dolby Surround Sound options,” comments Edmunds. Cars.com judges the base trim, with its cloth seat, manual driver’s seat, and single CD-player, to be “modest.”

Ergonomics are generally rated high, as summed up by The Auto Channel, who feel that “Volvo's iconic climate control switches are the most self-explanatory in the industry.” Kelley Blue Book loves “the placement of the optional navigation screen, which rises up from atop the dash rather than being integrated into the audio head unit.”

The S60 starts with an MSRP of just over $31,500 and extends all the way to nearly $39,000 for a fully loaded model. This competes directly with rivals such as the Mercedes C-Class and the Audi A4, two competitors with greater refinement and newer design.

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2008 Volvo S60

Safety

If safety tops your list, the otherwise aging 2008 Volvo S60 deserves a closer look.

Safety is one area where the 2008 Volvo S60 does not fall behind the competition, though it is not as feature-rich as Volvo’s new platforms such as the S80 and related V70.

In the NHTSA’s frontal impact crash testing, the S60 earned four out of five stars for both driver and front passenger. For side impact crash protection, it earned five out of five stars for both front and rear. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing yielded the top “good” rating for the S60 overall and an “acceptable” rating for side-impact testing.

The Auto Channel lauds the S60’s “full complement of standard safety equipment,” which includes three-point belts with pyrotechnic pretensioners, whiplash-protection seats, front seat side impact airbags, front-to-rear side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and Volvo’s OnCall telematics.

Edmunds mentions “rear parking assist is optional.” And Popular Mechanics remarks on Volvo’s “safety cage design,” featuring the front and rear crumple zones Volvo helped introduce to the auto industry decades ago, as well as side-impact door guard beams that are now taken nearly for granted in automotive design.

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2008 Volvo S60

Features

The technology and features in the 2008 Volvo S60 seem to be in perfect rhythm with many drivers.

In the age of excessive electronic intervention (iDrive and self-parallel-park as two examples), the 2008 Volvo S60’s unique and uncluttered approach to technology is a refreshing departure from the luxury norm.

One of the most unique features of the S60 is its optional navigation system. Rather than integrating the nav screen with the radio display or computer/iDrive display a la BMW, Volvo tucks the screen neatly away inside the dash when not in use. Says Car and Driver, “most drivers had no trouble using the optional navigation system…it was easy to keep a peripheral eye on it while driving.” Toggle control buttons for the system are located on the back of the steering wheel, earning praise for their ease of use but jeers for lack of redundant controls for the co-pilot in the passenger seat. Of this feature, ConsumerGuide mentions the toggle buttons are “inaccessible to the front passenger” and finds the “dashtop screen…hard to read in daylight.” ConsumerGuide appreciates that this system “doesn't absorb audio or climate functions.”

Listing the S60’s notable optional features, Edmunds remarks that they “mostly come bundled in packages,” and “include an excellent 13-speaker Dolby Pro Logic surround sound system with an in-dash CD changer, a navigation system, Bluetooth, Sirius Satellite Radio, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and an interior air quality system”--not to mention a power glass sunroof, active bi-xenon headlamps with washers, rain-sensing wipers, and custom alloy wheels.

Car and Driver notes the radio, “unique because its functions are all controlled by turning knobs — even the radio presets.” They feel that it takes some getting used to, “but once learned, it was easier to use than most conventional units.”

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