The Volvo S60 is among the most conservative luxury sedans you can buy, but it’s also handsome and packed with plenty of tech and safety features. What do you need to know before you buy a Volvo S60? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything right here in our Buyer’s Guide.
The second generation Volvo S60 was a big deal for the Swedish brand now owned by Chinese company Geely. The new small luxury sedan represented Volvo’s effort to reposition their brand as something a little less, well, boring.
To do that, Volvo brought their exterior styling into the 21st century and laced their press releases with a ridiculous quantity of words like “sporty” and “dynamic.”
Have they done it? Well, not really. When we first saw images of the second gen S60 we called it a Buick (that’s not a compliment) and then said “With the new S60, Volvo’s somehow created a design as distinct as it is beige.”
So even with their awesome limited edition Polestar models and their elegant refresh for 2014, Volvo, as a brand, is still selling to middle-aged east coasters looking for something safe for their 2.2 kids and dachshund.
That’s not a bad thing, though, as the S60 offers tons of powertrain, body style and safety options. It can be had as a short wheelbase sedan, a long wheelbase sedan and even as a Cross Country model with 2.5 inches more ground clearance, hill descent control and unique exterior styling.
Engine options include two different 2.0-liter turbo inline fours, a turbo inline five, and an inline-six on Polestar models. Those engines are bolted to either a six-speed or eight-speed auto and send power to either the front or all four wheels. So there’s lots of variety in the S60 lineup.
On the safety front the S60 gets a Top Safety Pick + rating, the highest possible score from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Volvo’s luxury sedan offers tons of airbags and features like City Safety collision prevention, Lane Change Merge Aid, Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Information System, Active High Beam, Road Sign Information, Driver Alert Control (to prevent drowsy driving), Distance Alert, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with Full Auto Brake, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake Adaptive Cruise Control and plenty more to keep you and your family from dying.
We’ll admit that safety isn’t sexy, but for people looking for family sedans, sexy might not be the priority.
After debuting their new small luxury sedan at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, Volvo launched the second generation S60 for the 2011 model year, describing it as “the sportiest Volvo ever.” The new small luxury sedan shed the old car’s P2 platform in favor of the European D-Class platform, also called EUCD, and promised better handling, more safety and more elegant lines.
The new platform, shared with the XC60 and S80, initially came with a single all new powertrain: a 300 horsepower 3.0-liter inline-six mated with a six-speed automatic. That replaced the old car’s 2.5-liter inline-five and five-speed auto.
Volvo’s small luxury sedan got new styling inside and out a new infotainment system, and, Volvo claimed, improved ride and handling thanks to optimized suspension tuning. And of course, because it’s a Volvo, there were new safety options for 2011, too. Volvo revised the Dynamic Stability and Traction Control system, added a new torque vectoring system called Corner Traction Control and debuted their radar and camera-based Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, which can stop the car to prevent pedestrian collisions at speeds up to 22 MPH.
That first model year came as only a T6 AWD model with a single powertrain option, but in 2012, Volvo added T5 and T6 R-Design trims. The latter trim, with its 325 horsepower inline-six, stiffer and lower springs, monotube dampers and strut braces, was what Volvo referred to as “the sportiest and most dynamic Volvo ever.”
The base engine became the front-wheel drive T5 with a 2.5-liter inline-five making 250 horses. Then 2013 came along and brought six new sub-trims, three for the T5 (Premier, Premier Plus, Platinum), two for the T6 AWD (Premier Plus, Platinum), and one more for the T6 AWD R-Design (Platinum). In addition, all-wheel drive became available for the base T5 model, and the 2.5-liter and six-speed transmission got some tweaks to improve acceleration times.
Big changes came in 2014, when the Volvo got a new front fascia, new fenders and a new hood. The instrument cluster was revised, the headlights got LED daytime running lights, the rear fascia got an integrated exhaust and new wheels were added across the board.
The next year brought new T5 and T6 Drive-E models, which got 240 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-fours and 302 horsepower turbo and supercharged inline-fours, respectively. Both Drive-E models got engine stop/start and managed power through an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
This year, 2016, brings a more rugged S60 Cross Country to the lineup, with more ground clearance and unique styling. The regular S60's 3.0-liter inline-six gets the boot in all non-Polestar models and is replaced by the 2.0-liter turbo and supercharged mill. Also, T5 Drive-E and T5 AWD model get Inscription body styles, which increase the standard S60's wheelbase by three inches for more legroom.
Built initially in China for China in 2014, the longer-wheelbase S60 was meant to compete with long wheelbase models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, which are very popular in in Southeast Asia where many owners prefer to ride in the back seat. But the Inscription models aren’t just meant for China. Starting in 2016, they’re available in the states, too, making them the first mainstream Chinese-built cars ever sold on the U.S. market.
Which One We’d Buy
The Volvo S60 comes in seven trims: T5 Drive-E FWD, T5 AWD, T6 Drive-E FWD, T6 Drive-E AWD R-Design, T5 Inscription Drive-E FWD, T5 Inscription AWD and Polestar. It’s also offered as an S60 Cross Country, which adds about 2.5 inches of ride height and is available in T5 AWD trim.
All T5 Drive-E models get a 240 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder, T6 Drive-E models get a 302 HP 2.0-liter turbo and supercharged I4, T5 AWD models get a 250 HP turbocharged inline-five, and the Polestar gets a 350 horsepower I6.
The R-Design model adds a sport-tuned suspension and unique trim, and Polestars get performance parts like unique springs, shocks, turbo and intercooler.
All Drive-E models get electric power steering, while the T5 AWD and Polestar make do with a hydraulic setup. Suspension is a MacPherson Strut design up front and a multilink rear in the back. Brakes are 11.9-inch discs in the rear and fronts are either 12.4 inches on T6 models or 11.8 inches on T5 models. The Polestar swaps those front discs for huge 14.6-inch rotors.
If we’re looking for a safe and fuel efficient small family sedan, we’d nab the base T5 Drive-E. Not only is it the most fuel efficient trim, but it’s also the least expensive and comes decently well-equipped compared to European competitors like the C-Class or 3 Series.
Standard features include: 2.0-liter turbo four, eight-speed auto with paddle shifters, City Safety collision prevention system, LED daytime running lights, power heated outside mirrors, rain sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, power driver and passenger seats, power folding rear head restraints, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, Sensus infotainment system with seven-inch monitor, eight speaker 160W sound system, T-Tec vinyl seats and 17-inch alloy wheels.
All in with destination, we’d pay $35,090. That’s not bad, and it’s even better if you manage a good deal on a lease or a lightly used model.
MSRP: $34,150-$59,700 [T5 Drive E-Polestar]
Top Speed: 155 MPH [Polestar]
Acceleration: 4.9-6.6 to 60 [Polestar-T5 Drive E]
MPG: 18-25 city / 27-37 hwy / 21-29 combined [Polestar-T5 Drive E]
Engines: 2.0L turbo I4, 2.5L turbo I5, 2.0L turbo/SC I4, 3.0L Turbo I6
Horsepower: 230-350 [2.0L-3.0L Polestar]
Torque: 258-369 lb-ft [T5 Drive E-Polestar]
Curb Weight: ~3,433~3,840 [T5 Drive E-Polestar]
IIHS Safety Rating: Top Safety Pick +
Transmissions: six-speed automatic, eight-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front Engine, FWD/AWD
Photo credit: Volvo