What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Many moons ago when I was but a young automotive journalist, I was handed the keys to a then new 2006 Volvo C30. “Wow,” I (probably) thought/wrote upon feasting my eyes upon the Swedish, Belgian-made, reworked Mazda3’s interior. “This is Scandinavian design at its best.” Now, eleven years later as I peep the innards of the 2017 Volvo S60 Platinum R-Design, I’m thinking: It must be difficult as manufacturer to know you have a better, world class interior in your pocket—the S90 and XC90 being exhibits A and B—and still have to go on selling something old like the S60. Everything under the hood is all new—the Drive-E engine that in T6 form replaces the old 3.0-liter turbo inline-six with a super- and turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4. That new heart is modern and brimming with power, but the bones are ancient.
The outside still looks great. Handsome is probably the best descriptor, especially all tarted up in Platinum R-Design duds. Volvo’s design team, headed by the brilliant Thomas Ingenlath, is hitting on all cylinders. I probably need a better metaphor because Volvo only makes 4-cylinder engines these days, but my point stands. The S60 has a lovely design. Personally, if I were buying a small Volvo, I’d go for the even-better-looking V60 (wagon). Except I wouldn’t, not really. I was just in the market for something exactly like the V60, and instead I bought Audi’s excellent new Allroad. The worst part is, I’m mad at Audi and their parent company Volkswagen over Dieselgate. Still when the rubber meets the road (and you really want a modern wagon), I just couldn’t pull the trigger on the Volvo.
Sigh. I always root for the little guy, too. With the exception of Jaguar, Volvo is about as little as they come in this space. As much as I want the Chinese-owned Swedish carmaker to do well, the S60 has passed its sell-by date. This happens. It’s to be expected, and it’s the passage of time. I drove an S60 T5 long-term car for a year, and it was a nice little sports sedan that I recommended to a few different friends, a couple listened. Four years ago. As senior features editor Jason Cammisa puts it: “A handsome, distinctive, and safe choice—five years ago. There’s nothing horribly wrong with the Volvo, but this category of cars has moved on, and this is an old vehicle.”
Now, as much of the YouTube audience is quick to point out, Jason and I are horrible nitpickers who miss entire forests while laser-focused on single trees. So here’s what the rest of the office had to say.
Associate editor Scott Evans: “The interior design is looking a little old, and the infotainment screen is tiny. There are too many buttons, and the system’s user interface isn’t intuitive.”
Senior production editor Zach Gale: “It’s still stylish, but the small screen set deep in that recessed area dates the car. I don’t mind the center stack with small buttons, but having the keypad as its main visual feature really dates it.”
Executive editor Mark Rechtin: “The interior looks like it’s trying to be a slight upgrade from what it is obviously dated.”
Technical director Frank Markus: “This one predictably feels its age.”
Associate online editor Kelly Pleskot: “The interior looks pretty much the same as it did when I first drove a S60 in 2013. It was weird to see the phonelike set of buttons again, and honestly it looks a little outdated.”
Associate online editor Alex Nishimoto: “Wow, has this thing aged.”
Road test editor Chris Walton: “I had no idea how old this car was until my eyes fell upon the center stack … that’s from, what, 2006? Sheesh.”
But because of that heart transplant, this puppy has got some guts. The little 2.0-liter puts out a healthy 306 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of whining torque with a Polestar Performance Software upgrade that costs $1,290 USD and increases power from 302 to 306, and torque from 295 to 317 lb-ft. That’s whining in a good way because supercharger. As a result, the old all-wheel-drive gal is capable of sprinting to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. She can also charge down the quarter-mile in 13.8 seconds at 101.0 mph (162 km/h). Not bad for 3,816 pounds (1,731 kg) of Gothenburgian steel. Just for comparison though, the 3,636-pound (1,649 kg) 2017 Audi A4 with its 252-hp and 273-lb-ft turbocharged I-4 hits 60 mph in 5.0 seconds and runs the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds at 100.4 mph (161 km/h). The 3,818-pound (1,732-kg) Allroad is a little pokier (5.7 seconds to 60 mph, 14.3 in the quarter), but, uh, it’s my wife’s car. In our figure-eight test, the S60’s front-wheel-drive architecture is on display, with a not-so-great time of 26.9 seconds. The A4 smokes the Volvo, completing a lap in 25.7 seconds. Remember, the A4—like the S60—can be had as a front-wheel driver. Audi simply makes the sportier, better handling car. Even the Allroad ekes out a win, doing so in 26.8 seconds.
Fear not, Volvo fans. We know that an all-new S60 is coming, one that is based on the brand’s very modern SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) vehicle platform. I might have even seen a few mules with my own eyes up at a top-secret test facility above the Arctic Circle. Who’s to say? What’s important is that the first SPA product we laid our hands on, the XC90, won our 2016 SUV of the Year award. The next PSA derivative, the S90 sedan, nearly walked away with our 2017 Car of the Year trophy. The Chevy Bolt EV ultimately won, but the S90 was a top three finalist. Meaning that unless something quite drastic goes wrong while shaving ten percent off its larger sibling, the S60 will be a force to be reckoned with. And it can’t come soon enough.
|2017 Volvo S60 T6 AWD (R-Design Platinum)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$51,110|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/306-hp/317-lb-ft supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,816 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||182.5 x 73.5 x 58.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.8 sec @ 101.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||111 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.9 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||23.1/29.8/25.7 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||22/32/26 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||153/105 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.76 lb/mile|