2019 Volvo S60 Review

There’s a lot about the car business today that’s depressing; relentless nannying, pushy electrification. So here’s something that will make you feel better perhaps.

Maybe even make you feel like buying a new car.

Well, a new Volvo.

No kidding.

The new S60. It rolls living up to what the Volvo name means, translated.

But what happened to Mrs. Doubtfire?

What it Is

The S60 is a new kind of Volvo. A sexy, fast, and safe Volvo.

All the latest stuff is safe meaning it does well on government crash tests, has all the mandated equipment.

It’s a given today because it’s mandatory.

It wasn’t, once.

Volvos touted crashworthiness before it became a federally required standard feature in everything. It used to be the main reason for buying a Volvo.

Today, there are better reasons for buying a Volvo.

Including, for instance, the only turbo-supercharged engine on the market. Available massaging seats, hard to find in this segment. A magnificent Bowers & Wilkins audio system.

Surrounded by that body.

Prices start at $35,800 for the base front-wheel-drive T5 Momentum trim, which comes standard with a 250 horsepower turbocharged four cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

T6 trims get standard AWD, and a turbo-plus-supercharged version of the 2.0 liter engine, with output boosted to 316 horsepower. Base price for this one is $40,300 which is several thousand bucks less than the cost of a 188 hp Audi A4 with front-wheel-drive and just a couple hundred bucks more than a 255 hp BMW 3 Series sedan ($40,250) without a supercharger or AWD.

But we’re not done rolling yet.

A top-of-the-line T8 Polestar Inscription ($55,400) comes with a 415 horsepower hybrid drivetrain, AWD, Ohlins suspension upgrade, Brembo brakes all around and a plug.

It can travel about 21 miles on battery power or get you to 60 in 4.5 seconds.

Mrs. Doubtfire just dropped her plate of Jell-O.

What’s New

The 2019 S60 is new from the wheels up—new in attitude as well as sheet metal.

It and other new Volvos are Ragnaroking around the turf once firmly held by Mercedes, BMW, and Audi, which are looking more and more Doubtfirean in comparison with the youthful, tight-flanked, muscled-up stuff coming from the very last place you’d expect.

What’s Good

Just look at it.

Just drive it.

Exceptional Bowers & Wilkins audio rig.

Exceptional seats.

What’s Not So Good

Small trunk (11.7 cubic feet).

No USB ports for the back seaters.

T8 Polestar is limited to just 50 examples.

Under The Hood

T5 trims come with the 2.0 liter, 250 hp turbocharged four paired with an eight-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive.

It’s almost the strongest standard engine in the class.

Zero to 60 happens in about 6.9 seconds. That’s not as speedy as the BMW 3 (5.4 seconds), but it’s right there with the CLA 250 (6.8 seconds) and ahead of the base-engined A4 (7.2 seconds).

This engine is a regular fuel engine, too.

T6 trims get the 2.0 engine with a turbo and a supercharger, the pair generating 316 hp, reducing the 0-60 run by one full second.

Why not use two turbos? Because turbos don’t build boost immediately; exhaust pressure has to build up first. So there’s always a slight lag between pushing on the gas pedal and being pushed back in the seat.

This has been greatly reduced in most new turbo’d cars by snugging the turbo as close to the exhaust port as physically possible, but even then, the turbo doesn’t spin and so build boost until after the exhaust gasses pass through it.

Superchargers are mechanically driven via belt-driven pulley, usually just like a water pump or alternator, and so build boost immediately.

If the T6 is insufficiently exciting, there’s the T8. A pair of electric motors plus the supercharger and the turbo quadruple-down on the power production, which rises to 400 horsepower and 472 ft.-lbs. of torque.

From a Volvo.

If that’s not enough roll for you, select the highest-performance Polestar T8 to get another 15 hp for 415 total and supercar acceleration with the potential for good gas mileage, too.

If your trip is within the battery pack’s approximately 21 mile range, you might even get there using no gas at all.

On The Road

Remember when Oldsmobile tried to rehab its image as an old man’s brand? This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile?

Well, this isn’t your mother-in-law’s Volvo.

She’d hate it which is exactly why you will love it. You don’t even have to drive it to love it. The S60 complements its surroundings and makes them look better in the same way that a room looks better when a beautiful woman walks in.

But the drive will clinch the deal because it doesn’t drive like a Volvo used to.

Nor does it drive like the rest.

Because the S60, T6 and up versions, is the only car on the market with a supercharged and turbocharged engine under one hood.

The surge of power is immediate; the characteristic boon of supercharging.

All that’s missing is the gear whine. But Thor is there, rest assured. To summon him, just step on the gas pedal.

Keep in mind this is only the mid-range engine.

You can amp things up another 100 horsepower by selecting the T8.

Mrs. Doubtfire just collapsed. Someone get a bucket of ice water.

Now you have a Camaro killer with four doors, usable back seats, a serviceable trunk and it gets much better gas mileage, too.

Operating in temporary electric car mode, it uses no gas at all, but without the minimum 30-45 minute “fast” charge that you have to wait for if you sign up for a full-time electric car.

You can also use the tremendous torque (475-495 ft-lbs.) of the electric motors as much as you like without worrying about running out of charge and having to wait as is always your fate when driving a full-time EV.

If the S60’s batteries run low, you still go so long as there’s gas in the tank.

No matter which engine/combo you pick, you can toggle through Eco Sport and Individual drive programs, each of which tailors throttle tip-in, shift characteristics and so on as you’d expect from less to more aggressive.

The LCD instrument cluster adjusts itself accordingly, too.

Though this is still a Volvo and so does come standard with more than a dozen electronic safety features (you’ll see the menu at start-up in the center of the instrument cluster), these are all very background features that you won’t even notice that they are there unless you literally fall asleep at the wheel.

You’re unlikely to do this, though, because this Volvo encourages you to drive it rather than nod off.

The safest car isn’t the one that protects you most if you pile-drive it into an oak tree. It’s the one you don’t pile-drive into an oak tree.

The S60 is also immensely comfortable in part because of its exceptional seats. Lots of attention went into these and to appreciate them you will need to sit in them for four or five hours, ideally.

If you do that, you may not want to get out of the S60.

At The Curb

The S60 is both a looker and a runner.

Still distinctively a Volvo but a new kind of Volvo.

young Volvo.

Inside, two very large LCD displays the main 12.3 inch instrument cluster and a secondary (and vertical) 9 inch display that is entirely touch/swipe, which eliminates most of the usual knobs and buttons.

The array can be intimidating if you’re over 40 and didn’t grow up with smartphones. But Volvo is targeting buyers who did, which is smart policy because they’re the ones who’ll be buying cars tomorrow as well as today and this is what they are into to sell cars.

The S60 is the only car in the class and one of the only cars on the market to have gone whole hog in this respect, which is bold and very much the opposite of Doubtfirean.

One knob remains, though.

It’s the one you use to start the engine. Instead of pushing a button, which has become generic and so dull, there’s a twist knob on the console that you turn to the right, just like a key but without needing a physical key. It is pleasantly tactile, like a physical key as well as unmistakably intentional.

As with turning a physical key to the right start the engine, you can’t mistakenly turn off the engine as is possible to do with push-button systems.

It’s impossible to do that with Volvo’s clever and unique take on turning the ignition on (and off).

The S60 feels like a full-size car up front. There’s 42.3 inches of legroom for the driver and front seat passenger, which is a couple of inches more than the in the Benz CLA (40.2 inches) and doesn’t feel like a subcompact car if you ride in back.

It has 8.1 inches more legroom in the rear than the Benz CLA (27.1 inches).

The trunk, however, is small for the class—11.6 cubic feet (the CLA has 13 cubic feet; the BMW 3 sedan has a 17 cubic foot trunk).

One thing that’s still very Volvo is also in the trunk. Well, I mean under the trunk floor in the storage compartment, there is room for the spare tire (it’s a space-saver, which is preferable to no tire at all and an inflator kit, which will help you not at all if a tire gets sidewall damage).

You’ll find a pair of yellow safety vests required by European law. You’re supposed to don these while changing a flat tire.

The Rest

You can get massaging seats in the S60 as well as four-zone climate control—both of these features are unusual finds in the entry-luxury segment.

One thing you may not be able to get is the T8 Polestar, since Volvo is limiting availability to just 50 copies for the United States. By the time you read this review, they’re probably all spoken for already.

It’s a shame that this uber Volvo (or however one says it in Swedish) is so restricted. Also a shame is that Volvo intends to shoot itself in the foot by limiting the speed of all the cars it sells, except for Polestar models, to whatever the speed limit is. In other words, not just top speed, as is common practice, usually in line with whatever the speed rating is of the tires the car came from the factory with but limited as you drive.

If the speed limit is 45, the car tries to prevent you from going any faster than 45 by cutting throttle or applying the brakes. You can “push through” these “assists” as they are styled by hammering the gas, but who knows how much longer even that will be allowed.

A few months ago, Volvo’s CEO Hakan Samuelsson said: “We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even the obligation to install technology in cars that changes driver behavior.”

Except, apparently, the behavior of the lucky few who can afford the handful of high-performance Polestar Volvos, which will be exempted from speed limit “assistance.”

The Bottom Line

You’re much more likely to see the real-life Mrs. Doubtfires behind the wheel of something other than a new Volvo.



*** Photo courtesy of Caricos

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