If boxy sedans and wagons are indicative of Volvo’s past, the stylish and surprisingly sporty (in certain trims, anyway) Volvo S60
may just be the brand’s roadmap to the future. Not only is there an emphasis on design, both inside and out, but there’s also an edge to the S60 that Volvos of the past have lacked. Billed at its 2010 launch as the “naughty Volvo,” the S60 looks to satisfy those with a passion for driving as well as a passion for safety.
That it does so in a wrapper that looks as good as the S60’s sheet metal is just the icing on the cake. We’d go so far as to say that the S60 is the first Volvo you’d consider buying because of its styling, not in spite of it, and we’ll admit to being fans of the car’s gracefully flowing exterior lines. In range-topping R Design trim, the S60 even looks the part of a luxury sport sedan, which isn’t something we could say for Volvos of the past.
Inside, the S60’s interior has a bit more flair than you may expect from Volvo’s typically understated designs. It’s clear that the S60 is aimed at both a younger demographic and at those who previously shopped for Audis and BMWs exclusively. Volvo’s material choices and designs inside the S60 are decidedly upscale, and we admire its attention to detail on things like instrumentation and the “floating” center stack.
The 2013 S60 can be had with two different engines in three states of tune. Base T5 models get a 2.5-liter, turbocharged in-line five-cylinder, good for 250 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. At this trim level, front wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel-drive (AWD) an available option. Next up is the T6, packing a 3.0-liter in-line six, rated at 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque and equipped with standard AWD. If you want the fastest S60, that would be the T6 R-Design, which comes with the same inline-six engine as the T6, but tuned to produce 325 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. As with the T6, AWD is standard; oddly, the only transmission available across the S60 range is a conventional six-speed automatic, which seems out of place on models with sport sedan aspirations.
If it’s comfort you’re after, either the T5 or T6 models will do just fine, but even R-Design models don’t punish occupants with an overly harsh ride. While the S60 R-Design comes with a stiffer suspension and a lower ride height, it somehow manages to feel just a bit less sharp and communicative than competitive models from Infiniti and BMW. Splitting the difference between comfort and handling, Volvo offer regular T6 models with its Four-C Active Chassis package, which includes a tri-mode suspension system with driver-selectable Comfort, Sport and Advanced settings.
As you’d expect from Volvo, the S60 goes heavy on available safety features, too. In addition to the expected airbags, ABS and electronic stability control, the S60 features torque vectoring (what it calls Corner Traction Control) to ensure grip across a wide variety of surfaces and driving conditions. There’s an optional pedestrian detection and braking system that will stop the car at speeds up to 22 mph if a collision is imminent, and the same package includes lane departure and driver inattention warnings, too. New for 2013 is a road sign information system, which alerts drivers to potential hazards ahead.
The S60 spans an impressive range of trims, features and prices, so if you’re in the market for an entry-level luxury sedan there’s likely an S60 that meets your needs and expectations. For 2013, Volvo will offer T5 and T6 models in Premier, Premier Plus and Platinum trims, but some standalone options carry over from 2012 as well.
For a complete look at all the 2013 Volvo S60 models, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection