When you think about luxury sports sedans, the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C Class, and BMW 3-Series all come to mind.. But Volvo says the S60 should also be a contender in that list, and for 2013 it has updated the powertrains to better compete.
Full Disclosure: Volvo flew me out to Utah and gave me my own room in a super fancy resort. My private balcony had a hot tub. It also fed me three square meals a day that were absolutely terrific, and offered me free booze. I skipped the free booze.
Swedish design ethos
The S60 is now entering its third model year, and since it launched we've called it the sportiest Volvo to date. Its front end is rakish and aggressive, and the rear end is wedgy and modern. The sides wear sweeping lines that create contours and add definition, which prevents the S60 from having a slab sided appearance. For 2013 Volvo hasn't changed the styling, and to that we say good call.
Inside the S60 is a very modern interior that shows off Volvo's Swedish design ethos. Sweeping lines and a mix of materials and patterns creates a warm driving environment. Volvo's floating center stack creates a useful storage cubby that most competitors lack.
We find the front seats comfortable, the seat bottom is a little shorter than we would like, making the front seats just a bit shy of the class-leading comfort we are used to in Volvos. The rear seats have plenty of room for two adults, and leg room is ample thanks to unique contouring in the design. Taller people who might not fit in the backseat of an Audi A4 or Mercedes-Benz C Class will have no issues with the backseat of the Volvo S60.
Choose turbo or turbo
While the turbocharged in-line six-cylinder remains the same for 2013, Volvo has updated the turbocharged in-line five-cylinder, which produces 250 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque in normal driving. An overboost function can boost torque output to 295 pound-feet. Volvo added a new crankshaft and pistons to the T5 engine, upped the compression ratio, and reduced internal friction.
To handle the power Volvo is offering all-wheel drive with the T5 powertrain for 2013 as a $2,000 option. This system is Haldex's fifth-generation all-wheel drive system. It is lighter than previous systems by approximately five pounds, which helps increase fuel efficiency. In normal driving torque is split 95/5-percent front/rear but it can be split up to 50/50. Under hard launches it instantly reverts to a 50/50 split.
Also new is a modified engine management system that expands the max torque range to 4200 rpm. The transmission has been reprogrammed for faster gear changes and upshifts in sport mode making the 2013 S60 T5 0.2 seconds faster than the 2012 model.
All these changes result in a fuel economy improvement of 1 mpg on front-wheel drive models with an EPA rating of 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Opt for the all-wheel drive and you'll lose 1 mpg across the board for an EPA rating of 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
That five-cylinder growl
How does this all translate in real world driving? Quite nicely. The turbocharged five cylinder engine combined with all-wheel drive feels eager off the line and pulls hard all the way to 60 mph. While there is plenty of passing power, the T5 seems to lose a little steam as you creep past 75 mph. The engine has a distinctive five-cylinder growl that enthusiasts will enjoy.
The steering is nicely weighted and responsive. And while the S60 is heavier than it looks, it still feels nimble around town and out on back country roads. The reprogrammed transmission feels much more responsive than the 2012 model, and when in sport mode shifts are crisp and fast.