2014 Volvo S60 Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2014 Volvo S60

New Car Test Drive
© 2014 NewCarTestDrive.com

The 2014 Volvo S60 features fresh styling and an upgraded interior. Launched as a 2011 model, the S60 is a premium compact sedan that fits in the same class as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS, Infiniti G, Buick Regal, and Hyundai Sonata.

Volvo S60 comes in a broad range of models. The 2014 S60 lineup starts with the Volvo S60 T5, which uses a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5 making 250 horsepower, 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive standard, all-wheel drive optional. The midlevel S60 T6 AWD, the most popular model, comes with a 300-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled inline-6. Topping the line is the S60 R-Design, which raises the power to 325 horsepower and 354 foot-pounds of torque, a lot of power; R-Design features a sleeker nose, firmer suspension, 18-inch wheels, more seat bolstering, a unique steering wheel and racier instrumentation.

Styling revisions for 2014 begin with new body panels from the windshield pillars forward. A new hood and front fenders surround a widened grille on the 2014 Volvo S60. Headlights have been reshaped for 2014, and a new lower front spoiler has bright trim. Horizontal LED daytime running lights are new for 2014. Also, 17-inch Pandora alloy wheels are standard on the 2014 S60 T5. A new instrument cluster is installed for 2014, with white-illuminated buttons. The tire-pressure monitoring system now lets the driver know which axle has the problem.

Many optional packages have been upgraded for 2014. Among them: Premier trim gets new 17-inch Sadia alloy wheels for 2014, while Premier Plus gains a rear park assist camera, grocery bag holders, and quick-fold front passenger seat. Platinum trim gets auto-dimming, power retractable outside mirrors. The optional Climate Package adds a heated windshield and steering wheel, while the Technology Package adds Cyclist Detection to its Pedestrian Detection system. A new Sport Package for 2014 includes sport seats, paddle shifters, 18-inch Titania alloy wheels, and Volvo's Dynamic Chassis. A new Blind Spot Information System Package includes cross traffic alert, lane-change merge aid, and front/rear park assist. The 2014 S60 T6 now comes standard with paddle shifters (optional for T5), a first for Volvo. New Advanced Quick Shift shortens gear-change speed by 20-30 percent for third to sixth gears, and up to 50 percent from first to second. New 18-inch Titania alloy wheels go on the S60 T6 AWD sedan, which gains Keyless Drive. T6 options now include 17-inch Sadia alloy wheels, or 19-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels with a lowered sport chassis. The S60 T6 R-Design AWD gains a digital compass, plus a Homelink remote garage door opener.

The Volvo S60 is stylish, clean and sophisticated. Same with the interior.

The S60 T6 uses Volvo's Dynamic Chassis, while the S60 T5 uses the Touring Chassis. Differences lie in the stiffness of bushings, springs and dampers. Each chassis delivers excellent handling. The all-wheel-drive T6 offers secure cornering. Even the front-wheel-drive T5 features Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring, which moves torque to the outside wheel/wheels to help steer the car around a turn.

The T5 engine is a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder turbo, making an impressive 250 horsepower with 266 foot-pounds of torque. The EPA estimates the front-drive T5 will get 21/30 mpg City/Highway. We think the T5 offers good value, considering its power, safety engineering, comfort and style.

The T6 engine is a 3.0-liter turbocharged intercooled inline six-cylinder, making 300 horsepower, and 325 pound-feet of torque at a low 2100 rpm. Wonderfully smooth and quick when passing on two-lanes, it gets an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg City/Highway. The pumped-up S60 R-Design gets the same fuel economy rating.

The S60 R-Design makes 25 more horsepower and 29 more foot-pounds of torque than the 300-hp T6, thanks to ECM programming for more boost, fuel, and sharper throttle response. It's quite noticeable in track driving, where it's a good thing the suspension is stiffer. Despite Torque Vectoring, it still understeers when cornered at the limit.

Model Lineup

Volvo S60 T5 ($32,400), Premier ($34,900), Premier Plus ($35,550), Platinum ($38,250); T6 AWD ($39,250), T6 AWD Premier Plus ($39,900), T6 AWD Platinum ($42,600); T6 AWD R-Design ($42,700), T6 AWD R-Design Platinum ($45,700)

Walk Around

Substantial freshening of the front end for 2014 Volvo S60 includes all-new body panels from the windshield pillars forward, intended to enhance the the basic character without distorting the original appearance. Not only has the grille been widened, but the ironmark has grown in size. Longer, wider, and lower front intakes gain bright accents for 2014, and the new LED daytime running lights are horizonally mounted.

The Volvo S60 is sleek and stylish, with practicality redefined in today's world. 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 headlights mirror those shapes, and the tidy, newly-widened grille is perfectly appropriate to the small size of the car's forward-leaning face.

There are no bulging fender flares, no strutting to flaunt horsepower. 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.

Interior

The Volvo S60 interior is well thought out, from cupholders to storage compartments. Volvo did this thinking-out over many years of refining interior practicality. 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.

The non-leather T-Tec upholstery (vinyl) in the base-model T5 is really nice, and offers a healthy savings over leather.

We found the leather seats in the Volvo S60 T6 snug and comfortable, and gorgeous in Beechwood Brown. Some of the shapes inside, for example the trim on the doors, could be metal sculpture. Shimmer Graphite aluminum inlays, they call it, which sounds better than slightly shiny trim. Lovely little touches abound, such as strips of leather over the seatback pockets.

At the rear, the trunk is a spacious 12 cubic feet, with enclosed hinges and a pass-through to the 60/40 rear seats. With only 33.5 inches of rear legroom, the S60 is a sports sedan, not a roomy one.

The navigation system worked well, with that 7-inch screen in the top center of the dash, and wasn't confusing. The screen also displays information from the 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.

The rearview camera screen uses the 7-inch navigation screen, and the image is split and angled in the center to give a view off to the sides of the car.

Volvo invented that particular center stack, which is 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 and cyclist detection with full auto brake, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, alert driver control, and lane departure warning. Sometimes it can feel like Volvo overkills with safety systems. Engineers must burn the midnight oil to find new ways to mitigate the driver's errors in (and perhaps take over) the control of his or her car, while barraging him or her with information.

Volvo broke new ground in safety with optional Pedestrian Detection. It 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. Cyclist Detection has been added for 2014. Sounds good, although we ran into the dummy named Junior during an actual test. Because of raindrops on the windshield, we were told. We've also noticed that BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) sometimes thinks raindrops are cars.

Driving Impressions

With front-wheel drive, the Volvo S60 T5 gets an EPA-estimated 21/30 mpg City/Highway and, according to Volvo Cars of North America, can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds (6.4 in Sport mode), which is respectable performance.

The S60 T6's 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder makes 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque over a broad range, from a low 2100 rpm up to 4200 rpm. When you floor it to pass on a two-lane, it's very satisfying: quick and smooth. You can't ask for much neater and safer passing. You can find more awesome acceleration, but at 5.5 seconds from 0 to 60 mph, according to Volvo with the new Advanced Quick Shift, the T6 looks really good in the affordable real world. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg.

Take the S60 R-Design with 325 horsepower on those same roads, and passing ability gets even better. There's more torque, too, but it comes in a narrower band: 3000-3600 rpm. Zero to 60 mph can be accomplished in 5.3 seconds using Advanced Quick Shift, according to Volvo, which is quite quick. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg City/Highway (same as the T6 AWD). Volvo says the S60 R-Design is not intended to compete with the BMW M3 and Audi S4. Those cars are faster and ought to be, for their price.

The 6-speed automatic transmission uses a console lever, with a manual mode. This is the sportiest Volvo ever, finally adding paddle shifters for 2014.

The original S60 was tested on old roads in the UK, and the Dynamic suspension developed there. We were fine with the standard Dynamic Chassis, on the road. Our T6 gave nothing but pleasure, and proved that it can handle rough surfaces while cornering tightly. It felt solid without feeling heavy, and was precise. For those who'd rather have a softer ride than precise cornering, there is the Touring chassis, standard on the T5.

Even the very firm tuning of the R-Design suspension was okay on the road. But it's for Volvo enthusiasts who know what they're getting, not for the relaxed pace of city driving. Specifically, the S60 R-Design has 15mm shorter and 15-percent stiffer springs; monotube rear shocks replacing twin tubes; stiffer rear bushings, thicker front antiroll bar, and a front strut tower brace. An R-Design pushes the limit of stiffness, but won't cross that barrier.

All models have a system called Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring, which moves torque to the outside wheels to help steer the car around a turn, reducing understeer. We still managed to find big understeer at Thunderhill, an undulating racing circuit in Northern California, with the S60 R-Design, but at a corner where even racecars often understeer.

The Volvo S60 hits the mark where it aims. Styling is beautiful, leather and aluminum interior satisfying, and its function nearly flawless. Expect great power and cornering with all-wheel drive, coupled with unmatched safety. The T5 is a great value with a ton of performance, the T6 good value with more performance. Ditto the R, on a higher rung. The S60 carries Volvo's Safe and Secure warranty plan, with free scheduled maintenance for the first 5 years or 50,000 miles, including wear and tear coverage and roadside assistance.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed this report after his test drives of Volvo S60 models in Oregon and northern California.

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