2011 Volvo S60 Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2011 Volvo S60

Sam Moses
© 2011 NewCarTestDrive.com

The Volvo S60 is completely redesigned for 2011. The all-new 2011 Volvo S60 is clearly a car with beautiful lines that have been carefully drawn. It's stylish, clean and sophisticated. Those same words can be used to describe the interior, which features standard leather seating and aluminum trim that in some spots looks like sculpture. The dashboard and center stack, with the optional 7-inch display screen, make the driver feel successful and in command.

The 2011 S60 chassis has been done over to deliver the best handling possible. The all-wheel-drive technology offers secure cornering and features a new system called Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring, which moves torque to the outside wheels to help steer the car around a turn without understeer.

There have been many suspension changes for this new S60, which was tested on old roads in the UK. Shorter stiffer springs, and stiffer bushings. More travel in the shock absorbers. New suspension components, working with front MacPherson struts and rear multi links. A new steering column with faster steering ratio.

There are two optional suspensions, the Touring Chassis for those wanting a softer ride, and the Four-C active chassis offering Comfort, Sport and Advanced settings.

The new engine is a 3.0-liter turbocharged intercooled inline 6-cylinder, making 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque at a low 2100 rpm. It's wonderfully smooth and quick when passing on two-lanes. It gets 18 city and 26 highway miles per gallon, an increase of 10 percent over the previous S60 with a less powerful engine.

Volvo has broken new ground in safety yet again. There's an optional system called pedestrian detection, which brings the car to a halt at any speed below 22 mph, without the driver's involvement, when a pedestrian is in the vehicle's path.

Finally, the S60 carries Volvo's Safe and Secure warranty plan, with free scheduled maintenance for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles, and 5 years of Wear and Tear coverage and roadside assistance.

Model Lineup

Volvo S60 T6 AWD ($37,700)

Walk Around

The chief designer of the S60 says that his mission was to pump up the volume, to make it look more like a coupe. Mission accomplished, we'd say.

We've been saying it for years, that gone are the days when Volvo styling reflected stodgy Scandinavian practicality, so it's a cliche to say it now. We'll say it another way: the S60 is as sleek and stylish as sedans come. Great care went into the details, for example the symmetrical angles of the trapezoidal air intakes in the front fascia, two in the corners under the headlights, and the long horizontal intake at the bottom of the seamless nose. The Xenon headlights mirror those shapes, and the tidy grille is perfectly appropriate to the small size of the car's forward-leaning face. Small vertical trapezoidal LED parking lights snuggle up against the grille.

There are no bulging fender flares to overstate or even brag about performance. Just smooth lines from the front fenders to rear, where the hips meet the graceful coupe roofline. The only chrome on the side of the car is a thin strip surrounding the windows and stating the grace of their outline. The standard 18-inch wheels are split seven-spokes, nice but we've seen better, on the C60.

Interior

The snug and comfortable leather seats in the S60 are gorgeous in Beechwood Brown, and they're standard equipment; if we weren't so cautious about hype we'd put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence. Some of the shapes inside, for example the slightly shiny trim on the doors, could be sculpture. Shimmer Graphite aluminum inlays, they call it, which sounds better than our shiny trim. Lovely little touches, such as strips of Beechwood Brown leather over the seatback pockets.

The interior is well thought out, from cupholders to storage compartments. That's because it's only slightly changed from recent Volvos; they've had some years to make it all work. The instrumentation is clean and stylish like it's always been, the tach and speedo having a black background, white lettering, red needles and brushed metal rings. The headliner is a rich fabric.

At the rear, the trunk is a spacious 12 cubic feet, with enclosed hinges and a pass-through to the 60/40 rear seats. There are 2.1 inches more rear legroom than the previous S60, with a longer wheelbase but the same overall length. But that still isn't a lot or rear legroom, only 33.5 inches. The S60 is a sports sedan, not a roomy one.

Our test model had the Premium, Technology, Multimedia and Climate Packages, totaling $7100. So we had a nice big power moonroof to add spaciousness to the interior, 650-watt Dolby Surround Sound with 12 speakers, rearview camera and navigation system, among quite a few other things. The rearview camera screen is the 7-inch navigation screen, and it's split, angled in the center to give a view off to the sides of the car.

The navigation system worked well for us, with that 7-inch screen in the top center of the dash. It has far more options and capabilities than we were able to try out, driving from the Oregon wine country east to the high desert, for a few laps at Oregon Raceway Park to further test the cornering and brakes. But we can say it didn't confuse us, which is more than we can say for many. Meaning, it's intuitive, as far as we got into it.

The screen displays more than rearview and navigation. It's home to the information from the new DCI, or Driver Control Interface, including audio settings. Functions can be operated by a thumbwheel on the right steering spoke, or with buttons on the center stack.

Volvo invented that center stack that's like a thin wall with storage space behind it. The face of the wall is like a neat keyboard, with dials and buttons mostly for radio tuning that are easy to understand and use.

The Technology Package includes pedestrian detection with full auto brake, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, alert driver control, and lane departure warning. It's not hard to find arguments that Volvo engages in overkill (no pun intended) with safety systems. Engineers burn the midnight oil to find new ways to reduce the driver's responsibility in the control of his or her car, although Volvo would never word it that way. There's also the flipside and maybe stronger argument that such systems can save the driver from making a fatal mistake. Their latest invention is pedestrian detection, which brings the car to a halt at any speed below 22 mph, without the driver's involvement, when a pedestrian is in the vehicle's path.

We tested the system on a dummy named Junior. Foot off the brake, holding the speed at 20 mph. The car came to a halt, but we knocked Junior over, just barely (he forgave us). A Volvo engineer said it was because there were raindrops on the car's windshield, obscuring the sensor's visibility. We've found that raindrops sometimes set off another Volvo safety system, the optional BLIS, or Blind Spot Information System.

The Lane Departure Warning system is intended to alert the driver whenever he or she has unintentionally drifted into another lane. An alert sounds off when a camera senses the car is crossing lane dividers without a turn signal from the driver. It's quite useful for alerting drivers who are drifting off to sleep or are distracted by cell phones. That's a good thing. However, we found the system can be annoyingly aggressive at times. It was going off constantly while motoring along Southern California's Pacific Coast Highway, causing us to search for the off switch. PCH is a busy, mostly straight four-lane road, but the dotted white lines separating the lanes weave back and forth in many areas to make room for left-turn lanes, and in this situation, Volvo's Lane Departure Warning system was beeping at secondary intersections where we were cheating those apexes and touching the leading and trailing edges of some of those lines. Pressing a button on the center stack turns the system off in those situations when traveling below 40 mph, but you're stuck with it at higher speeds.

Driving Impressions

The all-new 2011 Volvo S60 T6 uses a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder, making 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, which is as much torque as the 4.4-liter V8 engine used in other Volvos. What's more, that torque is fully there at 2100 rpm, all the way up to 4200 rpm.

So when you floor the S60 to pass on a two-lane, as we did on our drive over remote Oregon roads to the wonderfully twisty new Oregon Raceway Park, it will be tremendously satisfying in its quickness and smoothness. You can't ask for much neater and safer passing than this. You can find more awesome acceleration, but no better in the affordable real world.

The 6-speed automatic transmission is controlled manually at the lever. Volvo boasts that this is the sportiest Volvo ever made, yet there are no paddles to shift by, because, Volvo replies, their customers haven't asked for them.

There have been a lot of suspension changes for this new S60, which was tested on old roads in the UK. Shorter stiffer springs, and stiffer bushings. More travel in the shock absorbers. New suspension components, working with front MacPherson struts and rear multi links. A new steering column with faster steering ratio.

Another new system is the Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring, which moves torque to the outside wheels to help steer the car around a turn. It solves understeer, not that that's a big problem with the all-wheel-drive Volvo.

There are three chassis choices. Our test S60 was equipped with the standard Dynamic Chassis, but there's a Touring Chassis with softer shock absorbers, not that the ride in our S60 was too firm, because it wasn't. But some people might want a cushy ride more than they care about precise cornering. The third available chassis is Volvo's FOUR-C, or Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept, which is active, meaning sensors change the settings depending on the road and driving style. The driver can set Comfort, Sport and Advanced.

We were fine with the standard Dynamic Chassis, both on the road and the track. In fact, the two-lane roads to the track were a better test than the track itself, because in a few short laps you couldn't learn the track well enough to push the S60 to its limits. It strolled through the easy challenges to cornering and brakes, on the track. And on the highway it gave nothing but pleasure, but proved that it can handle rough surfaces while cornering tightly. In short, the S60 felt solid and precise without feeling heavy.

The redesigned 2011 Volvo S60 hits the mark everywhere it aims. Its styling is beautiful, its leather and aluminum interior satisfying, and its function flawless. Superb power and cornering with all-wheel drive, with unmatched safety and warranty. The base price of $37,700 buys an awful lot of car, although the luxury options mount up.

Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the S60 T6 AWD near Newburg, Oregon.

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