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2015 Volvo S60 Swedish sedan joins the turbo four-cylinder crowd and our test fleet

Freshened Swedish sedan introduces new, thrifty powerplant

Published: May 03, 2014 09:00 AM

The freshened Volvo S60 sedan, along with the recently evaluated V60 wagon, gives a glimpse into the company’s powertrain future. Over the next year, the familiar five- and six-cylinder engines in all models will be replaced by a variety of gasoline, diesel, and hybrid four-cylinder powerplants. Right now, we’re experiencing the impressive turbo Four in our recently purchased S60 T5.

Starting at $33,300, the typically optioned S60 we bought rang in at $39,920—no small chunk of change. The basics of the S60 haven’t really changed, which is a good thing. When we tested this generation originally back in 2011, we said it might be the best Volvo yet. In the face of tough competition, the S60 remains a solid and substantial car, distinguished with an abundance of available safety gear.

The biggest news with the S60 is under the hood, although a confusing naming convention obscures that fact for fellow motorists. Despite having a five in the name, our car features a four-cylinder engine. Apparently, customers don’t like going to lower numbers with their badges. Chalk it up to marketing strategy and legacy product lingo.

Front-wheel-drive S60s, like ours, feature the 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to an eight-speed automatic. Power is generous and smooth, with a well-integrated turbo that makes the car very responsive and effortless throughout the broad powerband. It also delivers good fuel economy; we’re seeing about 28 mpg overall so far. Volvo claims an EPA rating of 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined.

The uplevel T6 uses a combination supercharged-turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, putting out 302 hp, while the AWD T5 will carry on with the old 250-hp five-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic, as will all other models of the 60 line with AWD. In the future, a four-cylinder turbodiesel, with a claimed 43-mpg highway, will debut on our shores.

On the road the ride is rather firm, but well controlled. Some potholes and significant road imperfections come through as stiff jiggles. The cabin is fairly quiet.

The sedan is quite nimble and lively on twisty parkways and secondary roads, although the new electric steering lost some feedback.

Inside is a mix of old and new. The seats give good support and are comfortable, but the manual rotary knob for the lumbar adjustment is a Volvo anachronism that has to be done away with now.  Volvo folks tell us it’s happening soon.  Rear visibility is still problematic—a function of the coupelike styling.  And the rear seat is rather cramped.

The gauge cluster uses a thin film transistor design that provides three display themes: Elegance, Eco, and Performance. It’s a nice feature that’s drawn little comment from our testers.  The default mode is Elegance and there is no real reason to futz with it.  The infotainment system is up-to-date, but too many functions require reaching for what looks like a tuning knob that lets you interact with the screen, rather than using steering wheel short cuts.

Safety has been a Volvo hallmark for decades, and the S60 has a variety of standard and optional technology. City Safety, which identifies impending collisions and brakes the car at low speed, is standard. Our S60 also had the $900 Blind Spot Information system, which adds to the blind spot monitoring cross traffic alert, parking sensors, and lane departure warning.  Unfortunately, you can only get a backup camera with the $3,250 Premier Plus package, which also includes eather, sunroof, and 17-inch alloys.

So far we’ve been impressed by the balance of power and fuel economy from the new powertrain.  Safety features in a new Volvo go without saying, but the new infotainment system is not the most intuitive. At close to $40,000, this Volvo is cold and rational, missing some off-the-cuff attitude.

Check back for full test results and videos on the updated S60 in the weeks ahead. Check out our impressions of the related V60 in the video below.

—Jon Linkov

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