Car Reviews First Tests

2019 Volvo S60 and V60 First Test: Finding the Swede Spot

Driving Volvo's (finally) updated S60 and V60

Driving Volvo's (finally) updated S60 and V60

With one exception, Volvo’s lineup has consistently impressed us since the XC90 became the 2016 SUV of the Year. Despite the brand’s successful run, a 2017 S60 sedan hobbled its way to a last-place finish in an eight-car compact luxury sedan comparison. That ancient compact was “outclassed at nearly every turn,” but it finally steps aside for the 2019 S60 sedan and 2019 V60 wagon. When specced carefully, the new 60-series cars shine, showing off an unmistakable Swedish approach to luxury and style.

Design is as much a part of Volvo’s brand identity these days as safety, and the S60 and V60 have serious presence. Credit for that largely goes to the new platform those cars now ride on, providing more premium proportions and an enormous 4.9-inch increase in length. The stretched-out 2019 S60 is longer than all eight cars in our most recent Big Test comparo and boasts a back seat that feels far more livable than what you’ll find in most competitors.

The Volvo S60 and V60 are at their best when you’re honest about what you want from a luxury car; back road burners should stick with the Alfa Romeo Giulia or Genesis G70. Even in R-Design form with the all-wheel-drive T6’s 316-hp turbo- and supercharged four, the S60 and V60 lack the transmission responsiveness and steering feel those competitors offer. The Volvo can entertain on your favorite driving road, but even with Fusion Red Metallic paint, the S60 R-Design isn’t the sports car of the segment. Given that, the stiff ride you’ll experience to and from that snaking two-lane disappoints. If you’re set on an R-Design or Inscription, consider test-driving models with the standard 18-inch wheels to see if you notice a difference in road feel versus models rolling on 19s.

The same story applies to the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered plug-in hybrid. A bit of a Swedish unicorn, the 20-unit U.S. production of this special variant has already sold out. With 415 total system horsepower, the sporty plug-in hybrid is expected to get an EV range of about 21 miles (34 km) before the turbo- and supercharged four-cylinder kicks in to help. Beyond a normal S60 T8—the North America doesn’t get a V60 T8 model—the Polestar Engineered variant includes upgraded brakes and suspension as well as 20-inch wheels. The result is a surprising 4.5-second 0–60 time, but the plug-in’s powertrain also means a compromised trunk, slightly less rear-seat space, and a much smaller center storage area between driver and front passenger. What really kills the T8’s package, however, is its end-of-travel braking performance, making smooth stops difficult.

If all-wheel drive isn’t a must-have feature, take another look at the front-drive, 250-hp S60 T5 and V60 T5. Although the V60 T5’s 6.9-second 0–60 time can’t keep pace with many others in this class, it doesn’t feel much slower than T6 models, which reach 60 about a second quicker. Sticking with the T5 also bumps fuel economy from 21/31–32 mpg (11.2/7.6-7.3 L/100km) city/highway to 24/36 mpg (9.8/6.5 L/100km) and avoids the awkwardness of driving a 316-hp car that can be outrun by 252- and 280-hp all-wheel-drive alternatives (Audi A4 and Alfa Romeo Giulia, respectively). Saying no to the T6 also leaves you with an extra $4,500 USD to save and invest.

Or spend part of that money on blind-spot monitoring, which unfortunately costs extra on the compact luxury entry from the brand known for safety. Although we wish that tech (called BLIS in Volvos) were standard across the line and not just on the R-Design and Inscription models, it’s worth noting that a $36,795 USD S60 Momentum base model starts thousands below the Lexus IS, Alfa Romeo Giulia, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. And even at that price, the S60 gets a panoramic moonroof, a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, LED headlights with slick daytime running lights that don’t announce your car as a base model, 18-inch wheels, and safety tech that includes Run-off Road Mitigation, a lane keeping assist system, and automatic emergency braking that can detect pedestrians, cyclists, and large animals.

All trims offer Pilot Assist, which combines adaptive cruise control with a lane keeping assist system. Although the latter tech only works when it can detect lane markings on the road, the adaptive cruise control works well even in stop-and-go traffic. We’re a little less positive about the infotainment system on that 9.0-inch touchscreen. When complemented by the R-Design’s metal or the Inscription’s wood trim, the screen and the handful of buttons below it give the Volvos a refreshingly modern and clean interior. But the system has a couple drawbacks. Changing the amount of air or engaging air recirculation requires three clicks, including one to remove the HVAC screen. And even though Apple CarPlay and Android Auto greatly simplify in-car audio, phone, and navigation tasks, the systems only take up about half of that vertical-oriented screen—on the bottom.

Ease your frustrations with that subpar use of screen space by activating the Inscription model’s available massaging front seats. The S60’s prime competitors don’t offer that feature at any price, though if it’s a gotta-have feature, add the Lincoln MKZ to your short list. Volvo also continues to impress with its rear-seat headrest-folding functionality. Upon pressing a touchscreen button, the two outboard rear-seat headrests automatically fold down, increasing rear visibility. One-touch convenience extends to the V60 wagon, which has buttons in the cargo area to automatically fold down the rear seats to an almost completely flat position. And if you’d prefer the SUV-like styling of the Audi A4 Allroad and Subaru Outback, Volvo will happily point you to the upcoming V60 Cross Country model. S60 production begins late this year, with the V60 following in the first quarter of 2019.

Whichever S60 or V60 model you’re eyeing, the Volvos look distinctive inside and out. Combine that with the new, longer car’s decent interior space, and suddenly you’ve got a strong contender. Just skip the T8 plug-in hybrid and any trim with 19-inch wheels, as the car excels most when it isn’t trying to out-sport the segment leaders. As a $50,000 USD luxury four-door, the Volvo demands attention from those willing to look beyond the 3 Series and C-Class. We can’t wait to compare it to the rest of the segment.

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design 2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar
BASE PRICE $47,395 $1,100/mo Care by Volvo Only
PRICE AS TESTED $54,740 (est) $1,100/mo Care by Volvo Only
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.0L/316-hp/295-lb-ft turbo + s’charged DOHC 16-valve I-4 2.0L/328-hp/317-lb-ft turbo + s’charged DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 46-hp/110-lb-ft front, 87-hp/177-lb-ft rear elec motor; 415 hp/494 lb-ft comb
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,000 lb (56/44%) 4,431 lb (55/45%)
WHEELBASE 113.1 in 113.1 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 187.4 x 72.8 x 56.6 in 187.4 x 72.8 x 56.6 in
0-60 MPH 5.9 sec 4.5 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.3 sec @ 99.2 mph 13.1 sec @ 105.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 114 ft 110 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.91 g (avg) 0.90 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 25.8 sec @ 0.71 g (avg) 25.4 sec @ 0.75 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 21/32/25 mpg 27/34/30 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 160/105 kW-hrs/100 miles 125/99 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.78 lb/mile 0.65 lb/mile

2019 Volvo V60 T5 (FWD) 2019 Volvo V60 T6 AWD Inscription
BASE PRICE $38,900 TBD
PRICE AS TESTED TBD TBD
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon
ENGINE 2.0L/250-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 2.0L/316-hp/295-lb-ft turbo + s’charged DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,774 lb (56/44%) 4,095 lb (55/45%)
WHEELBASE 113.1 in 113.1 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 187.4 x 72.8 x 56.6 in 187.4 x 72.8 x 56.6 in
0-60 MPH 6.9 sec 6.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.3 sec @ 92.2 mph 14.4 sec @ 97.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 126 ft 121 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.83 g (avg) 0.84 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.1 sec @ 0.66 g (avg) 26.7 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 24/36/28 mpg 21/31/25 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 140/94 kW-hrs/100 miles 160/109 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.69 lb/mile 0.79 lb/mile

Buy, Lease, or Subscribe? Pricing Details on Care by Volvo

Buying and leasing aren’t the only ways to get into a 2019 Volvo S60 sedan. If a three-year lease seems too long and you’d rather walk to work than negotiate with a local dealer, Care by Volvo might be worth a try. The 24-month program includes maintenance, some wear and tear coverage, insurance coverage regardless of your location, and the ability to change Volvos at the 12-month mark.

At $775 USD/month, Volvo offers an S60 T6 AWD Momentum with matte wood trim and two packages, which include blind-spot monitoring, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a 13-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

Splurge for the $850 USD/month option for an S60 T6 AWD in R-Design form with 19-inch wheels, R-Design visual and dynamic updates, and the same equipment as the Momentum option. Both variants carry MSRPs between $46,000 and $49,000 USD.

Too much? The XC40 crossover’s Care options cost $650 or $750 USD per month.

Pictured here is the 2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered plug-in hybrid