Volvo S60 Review
Volvo S60 Pros:
- Astonishingly handsome styling! The Volvo S60 looks absolutely fabulous
- Solid build quality is very satisfying
- Sweet-looking cabin that’s loaded to the gills with features. Has sufficient room too
- Spectacular Harman Kardon sound system. Easily the best ICE in the segment
- Smooth & peppy 2.0L turbo-petrol engine mated to a competent 8-speed AT
- Sorted ride & handling. The S60’s high speed stability is excellent too
- Euro NCAP’s 5-star safety rating & loads of tech like adaptive cruise control, pilot assist, lane-keeping aid, collision mitigation support (front) etc.
- Depth of engineering that is as good as the best from Germany
Volvo S60 Cons:
- A FWD car in a segment where RWD is the norm
- Power & torque figures are lower than the competition
- No diesel engine on offer with the Volvo S60. Those with high running will look elsewhere
- The rear seat is placed too low, under-thigh support is poor and the floor hump is too big
- The S60 is missing some features like paddle shifters, 360-degree camera, cooled seats…
- Volvo’s thin dealer network in Zimabwe
- To many people, the Volvo brand doesn’t have the badge cachet of the German marques
- Not as exhilarating to drive as the BMW 330i which is the segment benchmark
Unlike the previous generation car, this S60 will not have a diesel engine on offer. That is a major disadvantage! At the time of launch, the S60 will have a single T4 Inscription variant which is powered by a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine that makes 187 BHP and 300 Nm of torque. It is mated to an 8-speed torque converter automatic gearbox that delivers power to the front wheels (note that the C-Class & 3-Series have the more fun RWD layout). The powertrain is shared with the XC40 which also ditched its diesel engine last year (Related News).
First glance at the car in the flesh, and you don’t need a spec sheet to tell you that the S60 is the longest car in the segment at 4,761 mm and it also has the longest wheelbase at 2,872 mm. It’s 2,040 mm wide (including mirrors) and has a height of 1,431 mm. Also among its rivals, the S60 is the only car that has a horsepower rating south of the 200 BHP mark. This will be a put-off for some, but we’ll get to that soon.
As you would expect from a Volvo, the S60 has a lot of features like 4-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, 12-way power-adjustable front seats with power cushion extension, Harmon Kardon sound system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, wireless charging among others. Safety-wise, you get driver & passenger airbags, inflatable curtains, SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) airbags, ISOFIX, Emergency Brake Assist and IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System) which is what Volvo calls an ‘electronic secretary’ that delays incoming phone calls and other information until the driving situation is calmer. Also, as is going to be the case with all future Volvo cars, you will get an orange Care Key through which you can set the speed limit on your car if you are lending it to someone (Source). There are a host of driver-assist features like adaptive cruise control, pilot assist, lane-keeping aid, collision mitigation support (Front), etc. You can read about the driving aids in detail in our XC60 review (Click here). We also miss out on a 360-degree camera and cooled seats which an expensive car like this should definitely have had.
For starters, the face is well-shaped & very handsome. The styling isn’t overdone and has the right amount of bling, while being classy at the same time. Yes, you get plenty of chrome bits here, but even ardent chrome haters wouldn’t be too offended by this front end:
The rear looks very stocky, which is unlike the front. We like the design & feel that it stands out from the usual fare. In comparison with the S90, this looks a little better with some curves on the trunk and haunches:
Volvo has come a long way from making straight-edged boxy & boring cars. However, there’s no denying that the S60 looks like a mini S90, and that’s not particularly a bad thing. It looks stunning and grabs eyeballs like any of its German competitors on the road:
The car is well built and has a solid feel all around. Heavy doors, minimal flex in the panels and sturdy construction make it a tijori (vault) on wheels:
Trapezoidal chrome grille gets vertical slats in gloss black and chrome. The grille is just the right size and seems proportionate with the overall dimensions (unlike the new BMWs). The air dam at the bottom expands into a diffuser-like chin:
All LED headlamps with Thor’s hammer LED DRLs. The DRLs are bright and also double up as turn indicators; quite the attention grabbers on the road. The full LED headlamps have active bending and even an active high beam system which works brilliantly at night, lighting up the right areas. Below, you will find big digital 9-shaped fog lamp housings with tiny LED fog lamps:
Just two sharp creases on this long bonnet. Notice the wiper blades at the top of this image, the water outlet is integrated into the wiper blade so you don’t have a spray that throws water all over:
10-spoke black diamond-cut 18-inch alloys look good, but the 5-spoke alloys on international variants look better IMO (reference image). The alloys are shod with 235/45 R18 Continental PremiumContact 6 tyres:
C-shaped LED tail-lamps are big and neatly integrated with the fender line. They are bright at night and look awesome on the road:
Step inside the cabin and the S60 is a good place to be. The dashboard is very well put together with high-quality materials and soft-touch elements all around make it look and feel premium. Yes, there are a lot of elements that are in common with other Volvo cars, but heck, why try to reinvent the wheel? I must add that while the cabin quality is good, some parts are harder than you would expect in a CBU. The all-black interiors do rob you of the sense of airiness in the cabin. If that’s the case, you do have all-white and brown interior options to choose from:
The steering wheel is chunky and nice to hold. In terms of design though, it’s plain jane and simple – no flat-bottom or perforated leather. The quality of the buttons is satisfying and they have a nice tactile feel to them:
The 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster looks great and displays traditional gauges crisply. It displays loads of information. Tachometer changes to an Eco gauge in Eco drive mode. Car points out which occupant hasn’t buckled up (driver seat in red here):
A close look at the soft-touch dashboard top with contrast stitching. The driftwood panel below looks and feels premium:
The doors are heavy and open wide. They close with a reassuring solid thud. Everything on the door pad is soft to touch, and even the bottom part of the door isn’t made of hard / scratchy plastic:
First look at the front seats and you will notice that they are quite thin (from the side). However, they provide excellent overall support. The bolstering at the side and the base is on point and hugs the driver nicely. The driver seat has memory function, 4-way lumbar adjustment and you can even extend the seat base electronically:
The panoramic sunroof isn’t very big in size and doesn’t cover the entire roof. However, it does let a good amount of light in the cabin which makes the all-black interior feel a tad bit airier:
No Bowers & Wilkins system here. Instead, you get a 600W, 14-speaker Harman Kardon system that has TERRIFIC sound quality. Punchy bass from the subwoofer too:
The 9-inch touchscreen infotainment unit is shared with the XC40 and you can read about it in detail here. The screen is tilted towards the driver and has inbuilt navigation, driving details and Android Auto / Apple CarPlay connectivity. Overall, the screen is responsive with no lag and has a clear display with good visibility (even under direct sunlight). The buttons below the touchscreen are for media control. There are no physical buttons to control the A/C which is so-not-cool (pun intended). You have to adjust the A/C via the touchscreen which really sucks. Manufacturers should retain physical control knobs for such important functions:
There’s a plethora of information and options in the touchscreen infotainment. Apart from the preset driving modes, you can customize your drive mode by selecting various parameters as per your choice. You also have access to the owner’s manual and the user interface is very much like reading the hard copy. You can also choose various options for the IntelliSafe Assist features. Apart from all these, you can easily access some of the quick commands by swiping left from the home screen. These include toggling between traction control, active bending lights, cruise control options etc. The driver can even adjust the passenger seat so that the boss in the back seat has more space:
The centre console is shared with the XC60, with the addition of wireless charging. Appreciate the attention to detail with the knurled knobs for drive modes and the start/stop button that needs to be twisted to start the car. Simple, unique and feels nice to operate:
Interior – Rear
This is a low-slung sedan, so getting in and out of the rear seat is a task. The seat is set low, so you drop down on to them to get in. The seats themselves are well made and the cushioning is on point. You have decent legroom thanks to the long wheelbase, and the car can accommodate two 6-footers one behind the other. On the downside, since the seats are placed low, under-thigh support is lacking and you will have your knees up. While the backrest angle is comfortable, the headroom was just about adequate for 5’10” GTO (6+ footers will brush their hair / head against the roofliner):
The transmission tunnel is huge, making the middle position best suited to a kid. Do note the AC vents above, which are controlled by a small touchscreen. The flap below covers two type-C charging ports:
Useable boot has 436 liters of space:
Lift up the floor and you will find a space saver below. Sucks, but it’s the trend with most European luxury cars. These brands need to realize that Zimabwe has neither the kind of roads seen in Europe, nor the fast roadside assistance:
Powering the S60 is a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine that makes 187 BHP @ 5,000 rpm and 300 Nm of torque. The engine is shared with the XC40 and is made up of lightweight high-pressure die-cast aluminium crankcases and bedplates with cast-in iron liners + nodular cast iron bearing reinforcements. Power is transmitted to the front wheels through an 8-speed torque converter automatic gearbox sourced from Aisin.
Twist the start/stop knob to the right and the engine comes to life. The S60 starts in ‘Comfort’ drive mode which is good for day-to-day driving. Most people would appreciate the refinement levels of this engine. At idle, the engine purrs silently and the cabin is pretty much silent. Slot the gear lever into D, take your foot off the brake pedal and the car takes off smoothly. With a gentle foot on the throttle, you will be pleased with the refinement & smoothness of this engine. You will also notice that throttle response isn’t super quick and the car won’t be lurching forward at the slightest tap of the accelerator pedal. The engine is tuned for a smooth drive and power delivery is quite linear in nature. Even the AT moves through the gears smoothly as long as you are gentle with the throttle. In situations where you need that instant power for a quick overtake or to close a gap, the 300 Nm of torque comes handy. The gearbox does take a second to downshift and provide that surge of power though…with a hint of torque steer. In city driving conditions where you want a pleasant driving experience, the S60 will keep you happy.
Out on the highway, the S60 can be a real mile muncher. It builds up speed effortlessly and you can cruise at triple digit speeds all day long, staying under 2,500 rpm in a calm and relaxed manner. Put your foot down and the engine revs smoothly to the 6,500 rpm redline. The mid-range is strong (as is the case with all turbo petrol) and there’s enough grunt at the top-end as well. With 187 BHP and 300 Nm on tap, performance is more than adequate to have fun. But it is nowhere as explosive as the BMW 330i that puts out 68 BHP and 100 Nm of torque more than the S60. That said, performance is more than enough for Zimbabwen roads & you can have driving pleasure on your favourite roads. The refinement levels are too good; in fact, we wish that the engine was louder in the top reaches of the power band. The turbo-petrol has a really nice non-Volvo like, sporty, racy tone at high revvs. As is the case with all recent cars from Volvo, the S60 is electronically limited to 180 km/h (Related thread).
Volvo has done a fantastic job in tuning this 8-speed gearbox. It’s no BMW ZF, but it’s a lot better than what you see in the likes of the Jaguar XE. If the BMW ZF gets a 10/10 rating from us, this one is a solid 8/10. We were frankly surprised. It’s smooth, well-tuned and almost always in the right gear. What you will notice is that the gearbox isn’t as snappy as BMW’s ZF 8-speed. The Volvo takes a little bit of planning for a quick overtake if your window is narrow & you are in “comfort” mode. To solve matters, you can engage “sport” mode or manually downshift. And this is where you will sorely miss paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Totally uncool to delete paddle shifters on such an expensive car. The shifts in manual mode are fairly quick, although it won’t allow for aggressive downshifts. Even in sport manual mode though, the engine will upshift at anywhere between 6200 – 6500 rpm, which is a shame because the turbo-petrol is really free-revving and we feel ~6200 is too early.
There are 3 preset driving modes to choose from – Comfort (default), Eco and Dynamic. There is also an individual mode where you can set various parameters of the car to your liking. These include the steering, powertrain and braking characteristics.
Eco Mode – Eco mode is tuned for efficiency…big time! The gearbox shifts up at the earliest opportunity to conserve fuel. The response from the engine is duller in Eco. That said, it is acceptable for moving around in urban traffic. In this mode, the steering is one-finger light and the dull throttle response makes for a very smooth riding experience for passengers (we would use Eco mode when a chauffeur is behind the wheel). One can use this mode even if you want to cruise on the expressway with a light foot.
Dynamic Mode – Engage Dynamic mode and it changes the car’s characteristics. The gear shifts are aggressive, the steering weighs up nicely and throttle response is instantaneous + crisp. In this mode, the gearbox does not shift up as early as the other modes, keeping the engine on the boil. Dynamic mode gives you good engine braking as well. The difference between the Dynamic and Comfort modes is noticeably bigger than between Comfort and Eco modes. The braking too is sharpened. Dynamic mode has its negatives though. The steering feels heavy at parking speeds and the power delivery can get rather spiky / jerky for driving in stop & go traffic.
The S60 gets a double-wishbone suspension setup at the front and a multi-link rear unit. It rides on 18-inch wheels shod with 235/45 R18 Continental PremiumContact 6 tyres.
The suspension setup is competent enough to handle Zimbabwean road conditions. There is an underlying stiffness at low speeds, very much like almost all European luxury cars. It feels mature and gives a very “big car feel” to the S60, keeping it properly planted at all speeds. Yes, you have to be careful on broken roads, yet the suspension absorbs most bumps and potholes in a compliant manner. Large potholes do register themselves in the cabin with a big thud and over bad roads, there is side-to-side movement of the cabin. Go slow on bad roads and you should be okay.
As with all premium cars, ride quality improves as you gain speed. On highways, the S60 rides FLAT and feels like a damn tank! Stability is top class as is the body control. Small undulations and expansion joints are absorbed very well and not much of it is transferred into the cabin. There is no vertical movement either at high speeds and the car boasts excellent stability.
In terms of handling, the FWD S60 is typically Volvo and not a RWD BMW. It can handle quick lane changes, and the overall road manners are very sorted. But enter a corner at high speed and the S60 isn’t in its happy place. The electric power steering is vague in the centre and feels disconnected in corners. You don’t really have much clue as to what the front wheels are doing, which restricts the speed you carry in a corner. Almost 200 BHP going to the front doesn’t make it easy for those tyres either. At the end of the day, the S60 is a FWD family sedan. It’s handling characteristics are neutral, but if you are looking for absolute driving pleasure in fast corners, look at the 330i, which is far sharper and tighter.
The steering is light & friendly in the city. At speed in eco / comfort mode, we found it a level too light. Solution = engage dynamic mode which firms things up adequately.
Braking performance is impressive. The pedal has a nice bite and the car sheds speed effectively under emergency braking conditions.