2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E review: Supercharge? Turbocharge? Volvo does both

Starting at $33,300
  • Engine Turbocharged, 4 Cylinder Engine
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • MPG 29 MPG
  • Passenger Capacity 5
  • Body Type Sedans

Roadshow Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall
  • Performance 9
  • Features 8
  • Design 7
  • Media 8

The Good The 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive E's dual-charged four-cylinder engine delivers gobs of power and great throttle response. The handling is good, but still supple. The S60 is available with a wide range of safety, convenience, and entertainment tech.

The Bad Some safety features felt a bit naggy. The standard Sensus infotainment system is mired by an awkward physical control scheme.

The Bottom Line Though its standard cabin tech is a mixed bag, the 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive E boasts loads of available safety features and one of the most complex and entertaining powertrains in this class.

The 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E is a car having a crisis of identity, but in the best possible way.

Taking a moment to inspect the sedan as it rolled into the Car Tech garage, I was impressed by its good looks. I especially appreciated the gentle sloping roofline that transitions seamlessly into the slightly concave trunklid. The hood is slightly sculpted, adding an aggressive edge, and the Volvo's defined shoulders blend better with the sheet metal of the rear haunches for a less geometric and more athletic appearance than before.

Standing alone where you can appreciate the details, it looks like boring old Volvo's built itself a proper sport sedan. However, in the crowded flow of traffic or parked along the boulevard, the S60's style is still generic enough that it simply blends in. For some drivers this is a good thing, and I do like the sedan's understated, grown-up style. (There's little more embarrassing than a midsize sedan having an obvious midlife crisis.)

Plus, with such an odd yet powerful engine beneath the hood of our T6 Drive-E model, a little bit of understated, sleeper style goes a long way.

Supercharge or turbocharge? Why not both?

I count four different engine options for the 2015 Volvo S60 in the States. The T5 is available with either a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that outputs 240 horsepower or a 250-horsepower turbo 2.5-liter, depending on whether you opt for front- or all-wheel drive. At the top of the line is the 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 engine of the T6 AWD R-Design that's good for 325 horsepower.

Our T6 FWD Drive-E is, however, equipped with perhaps the most interesting engine in the lineup: a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine that outputs 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.

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The 2.0-liter engine combines supercharging with turbocharging for nearly nonstop power.

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Turn off the stereo, open the windows, and matt the accelerator from a stop and you'll hear the whine of the supercharger cramming air into the direct-injected four-cylinder, filling the boost gap where there would normally be turbo lag. By about 3,500rpm, the turbocharger has spun up and takes over forced-induction duties from the supercharger; the mechanical whine is replaced by the slightest whistle of the turbo.

Power and torque flows through an eight-speed automatic transmission on the way to the front wheels. The gearbox features respectably quick and smooth up- and downshifts, which are sharpened with the selection of its sport and manual shift modes. Drivers can also select gears by tugging the S60 T6's steering-wheel paddle shifters.

Thanks to regenerative braking, electric power steering, anti-idling engine stop-start, and an Eco+ mode that further optimizes the transmission program and the climate control system's operation for even more fuel savings, the S60 T6 Drive-E's fuel efficiency isn't bad at 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined. I only averaged about 24.3 mpg over the course of my testing, which consisted of a maddening amount of stop-and-go traffic followed by working out that frustration on B-roads through a heavy right foot.

With a clear road ahead, zero to 60 happens about as fast as you can say "No way, dude, this is a Volvo?!" or about 5.6 seconds in normal people time. Between the two 'chargers and the quick transmission, there's no dead spot in the power delivery. The mill is very responsive to pedal input during backroad blitzes. It is possible to catch the engine sleeping while cruising thanks to the automatic transmission's default economy-oriented shift program's tendency to choose tall, fuel-sipping gears, but that's nothing that a quick squeeze of the left paddle can't fix.

Sporty engine, comfy ride

Handling is also pretty good thanks to the optional 19-inch BOR diamond-cut wheels shod with 235/40 Bridgestone tires, an option that also adds the Sport Chassis, which is Volvo-speak for lowered, sport-tuned suspension. The S60 also has a form of torque-vectoring that uses bias braking to make the sedan's open differential perform like a limited-slip.

The sedan goes around a corner well enough and feels responsive to wheel input. However sporty it is, though, the nearly 3,500-pound, front-drive S60 T6 still feels like comfort is its primary goal, with a compliant ride and slightly muted steering feel, and as much as I think this car's 302-horsepower engine is the sweet spot in the line, I'm eager to compare how the AWD R-Design model tackles a corner.

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Optional 19-inch wheels bring with them meatier tires and a sport-tuned suspension.

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Go faster, but do it carefully

No one's surprised that this Volvo arrived with a hefty loadout of driver aid and safety tech.

Lane keep monitoring and assist, driver alert system, park distance sensor, blind-spot monitoring, forward precollision system with visual and audible cues...keeps beeping!

The $1,500 Technology package adds Active High Beam Control headlamps that automatically dim when oncoming traffic is detected, a Lane Departure Warning system, and Adaptive Cruise Control with a Queue Assist feature that allows the Volvo to stop and go when traffic is really jammed up. There's a Forward Collision Warning system that can also detect pedestrians and cyclists and engage the Full Auto Brake system to attempt stop the vehicle before an impact or lessen the severity. A Distance Alert system gradually illuminates a group of red LEDs at the base of the windshield, making them grow brighter as the gap between the S60 and the car ahead closes to let the driver know that he or she is following too closely. Driver Alert Control is supposed to detect the driver's level of drowsiness or inattentiveness and may suggest that you pull over and take a break. There's even a Road Sign Information system that uses a camera to read road signs and displays, for example, the current speed limit in the instrument cluster. That's a lot of tech for $1,500.

Also optional is the $900 Blind Spot Information system (BLIS), which watches your back while you're changing lanes, adds cross-traffic alerts to the optional rear camera while reversing, and adds front and rear park distance sensors.

An automatic parallel-parking system is available for the 2015 S60, but was not equipped on our example.

Most of these systems could be disabled or enabled at the touch of a dashboard button, with the exception of the Forward Collision Warning system, which I couldn't get to shut up. I can understand why Volvo would want such a system to stay on, but after a few days of the S60 beeping at me whenever I accelerated before initiating a pass, whenever it felt I was too close to the lead car in heavy traffic, or seemingly for no apparent reason, I found myself shouting at the S60 to shut up and let me handle the driving bit. It seems a bit odd that a car with an engine that seems to encourage the driver to go faster would micromanage me so much.

On the other hand, maybe I should have just slowed down a tad.

Fiddling with dashboard tech

For a vehicle with so many optional electronic nannies to boost driver safety, the Volvo S60 plays things comparatively fast and loose with the dashboard tech.

The standard 7-inch Sensus LCD infotainment system that you'll find at the T6 trim level is sunk fairly deep into the dashboard. Reaching it from the driver's seat isn't an issue because it's not touch-sensitive. Instead, the driver accesses the various functions via a fairly cluttered bank of buttons and knobs on the center stack. I found the physical controls easy enough to use, but more complicated than other physical controllers or even a simple touchscreen.

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The Sensus navigation system was a bit too indecisive when routing around traffic, but its visuals are crisp.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

What surprised me most was that Volvo doesn't lock the driver out of any part of the the Sensus infotainment system while the vehicle is moving. The same car that will happily beep at you for following too closely will also let you input a navigation address at speed using the awkward control knob or the 10-key, phone-style keypad. Talk about mixed messages.

Speaking of interface quirks, our Platinum-level technology system features a competent turn-by-turn navigation system with handsome graphics and integrated traffic data. The system will constantly monitor traffic conditions during your trip and will occasionally chime in to suggest alternative routes with less congestion. This is a very cool feature that can save time on a commute and introduce the driver to routes off of the beaten path. However, sometimes the system can get a bit too nitpicky about its routing, such as on one particularly congested Friday evening when the Volvo asked me again and again to make slight, nearly inconsequential changes to the route, many of which involved simply exiting and reentering the same highway a mile or so down the road. I'd rather not be bothered unless I'm going to save 10 minutes or more.

Standard audio sources include Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming, HD Radio, satellite radio, and USB and 3.5mm analog auxiliary inputs. There was no app integration in our example's configuration.

That audio plays out through an optional Premium audio system that comes as part of the Platinum trim-level upgrade. With five channels of amplification, each delivering 120 watts to a total of 12 speakers, audio quality is generally good, but didn't stand out in any memorable way. Like the Volvo's 302-horsepower engine, the audio system sometimes seems a bit too powerful for the chassis it's embedded in. The flat EQ curve will heavily distort the bass at louder volumes with what sounds like door panel rattle, so you'll want to reduce the bass level using either the five-band EQ or the three-band (bass, mid-, and treble) tone settings before cranking up Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What."

More tech-savvy drivers will want to take a look at the Sensus Connected Touch infotainment system, which is available with or without navigation, but wasn't equipped on our tester. This system adds touchscreen sensitivity and a variety of connected features when tethered to an Internet-connected smartphone or 3G/4G USB dongle. If you're interested in Web-connected navigation, browsing the Web while parked, or listening to music via services like Spotify, TuneIn radio, or Deezer, you'll want to check out this tech.

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The digital instrument cluster can be reconfigured for sporty or efficient driving.

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One bit of tech that the S60 definitely does right is its TFT digital instrument cluster, which integrates nicely with physical bezels and shrouds that mimic a traditional analog setup. You can choose between three display modes. Elegant is a simple, mostly monochromatic setup that displays a large analog-style speedometer flanked by bar gauges for the engine temperature and tachometer. The Eco gauge switches to a blue background and replaces the temperature gauge with an eco-driving guide. Finally, there's the Sport skin, which glows red. It puts a large tachometer in the round central area and uses a digital speedometer. To one side, the temperature gauge returns; on the other is a power meter of sorts that measures engine output.

The digital instrument cluster also displays road sign information gathered by the Tech package's camera and adaptive cruise control information. I liked the Sport skin's large digital speedometer, which was the easiest to read at a glance, but wished that there were some way to pair it with the Eco mode guide for daily driving.

In sum

The 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E was sending me all sorts of mixed messages during my testing.

In the T6 Drive-E configuration, the styling is understated almost to the point of being boring, while simultaneously hiding one of the most complex and entertaining engines in this class. It is available with a plethora of safety tech that will henpeck you into being a safer, more attentive driver, but its infotainment and navigation system requires quite a bit of visual and physical attention and will let drivers fiddle with complex functions, such as destination search, at highway speeds.

In spite of (or, perhaps, because of) its oddness, the S60 won me over. There's nothing boring about this sedan and there's also so much to love about the performance and daily driving experience.

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The Volvo S60 T6 wraps sophisticated safety tech and an excitingly powerful engine in an understated design.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The T6 Drive-E sits in the middle of a list of available S60 configurations, at $38,150. Our example gets upgraded to the Platinum trim level, adding navigation, premium audio, a rear camera, and other features for an additional $3,350 and $500 for heated front seats (which really should be included in this class). $1,250 swaps the stock wheels and suspension for the 19-inch rollers and sport suspension. We've also got the $1,500 safety Technology package, $800 for Active Dual Xenon headlamps, the $900 BLIS upgrade, and $550 for metallic paint. That brings us to an as-tested price of $47,925 (including a $925 destination charge).

For my money, I'd skip the metallic paint and upgrade to automatic parallel parking and consider investing in the optional Sensus Connected Touch infotainment upgrade for an excellent tech car with a great engine.

Tech specs
Model 2015 Volvo S60
Trim T6 Drive E
Power train 2.0-liter turbocharged, supercharged, direct-injected 4-cylinder, 8-speed automatic transmission, FWD
EPA fuel economy 24 city mpg, 35 highway mpg, 28 mpg combined
Observed fuel economy 24.3 mpg
Navigation Optional with traffic monitoring
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio sources USB, aux-input, Bluetooth, CD/DVD, HD Radio
Audio system 12-speaker, 5-channel x 150W Platinum Premium audio system
Driver aids Optional: rear camera, Forward Pre-Collision Alert, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control, Lane Departure Warning, Active High Beams, Blind Spot Information, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, full-speed Adaptive Cruise Control
Base price $38,150
Price as tested $47,925