The all-new Volvo S60 makes a stronger case than ever for being cross-shopped with the luxury segment's best-known sedans.
The latest car on Volvo's Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) modular architecture, the 2019 Volvo S60 sedan, once again proves that the Swedish automaker knows exactly what to put into a luxury sedan -- and exactly what to leave out. The result is a car that's incredibly easy to live with and tough to pick fault with.
Volvo's appeal begins with its understated design. With clean panels and simple, straight lines, the 2019 S60 cuts a striking shape. Bold light elements at either end add more visual impact and look especially fantastic in the dark. And with its wheels (19-inchers in the case of my R-Design tester) pushed toward the ends of the body, the S60 has a very athletic stance on the road.
The cabin is likewise a straightforward affair, with almost no buttons anywhere to be seen. There are but a few material types and shapes throughout the interior, but all of them are great to behold and lovely to the touch. Stitched leather, drilled-metal Bowers & Wilkins speaker grilles and brushed metal trim are especially nice touches on my test car. Visibility is very good in all directions thanks to the tall, upright seating position, as well as narrow pillars and big windows all round.
Special note must go to the Volvo's seats. I drive a lot of different cars and it's always notable whether I can find a comfortable position immediately or fiddle with the seat for the first half hour behind the wheel. The S60 falls into the former camp, with gorgeously designed, nicely bolstered leather chairs that are effortlessly supportive and comfortable. I don't recall once adjusting the seat again to stay comfortable, which is high praise from a fidget like myself.
Not that second-row passengers have much to complain about, as there's ample headroom for regular adults and good, if not exceptional, legroom; my toes just tuck under the front seats. The wide trunk is rated at 11.0 cubic feet of storage space, and you can fold down the back seats for more carrying capacity. That's not best-in-class space, though if you really need to transport a lot of stuff you could buy the Volvo V60 station wagon instead.
The T6 badge on the trunklid indicates that my test car has a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, as well as standard all-wheel drive. The engine delivers 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet through an eight-speed automatic transmission. What's most impressive about this powertrain is its incredible flexibility. The engine serves up torque across its entire rev range with little hesitation and the automatic downshifts promptly and smoothly. Cut-and-thrust maneuvers in traffic take no second thought at all.
It's also notable how well Volvo has quelled NVH -- noise, vibration and harshness -- in the S60 T6. When I first drove the T6 engine several years ago in an XC90 crossover, it sounded strained and sent a good amount of vibration into the cabin. But this S60 test car stays quiet and calm in the cabin, even when exploiting all of the car's performance with the Drive Mode dial switched to Dynamic.
A delight to drive, the S60 has incredibly natural and well-judged control weights; there's no learning curve to driving it because it follows your inputs so obediently. Ride quality and high-speed stability are right up there with the Volvo's German rivals. Though very responsive and plenty quick, the S60 is not quite so thrilling to drive hard as a BMW or a Mercedes -- but frankly, most luxury-car customers are not chasing lap times. The Volvo's balance of luxury and sportiness is better suited to everyday driving.
With my loan occurring in January, I had ample chance to assess the Volvo's winter suitability, too. The all-wheel-drive system handles snowy roads ably and even delivers an entertaining amount of power oversteer in the white stuff; the factory Michelin MXM4 all-season rubber is good but not great in snow. The heated seats and heated steering wheel are very welcome options on cold mornings -- though waiting for the touchscreen to boot before I could enable them was frustrating.
Despite EPA fuel economy ratings of 21 miles per gallon city, 32 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, I was a little disappointed to record 21 mpg over a week of mixed driving. Anecdotally, most Roadshow editors have had trouble matching the EPA figures in real-world use with Volvos. Maybe we're just leadfoots. For those who need to save fuel, the S60's base, 250-horsepower engine choice is rated for 24/36 mpg, and Volvo will also offer its T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain in this sedan.
The S60 uses the same 9-inch, portrait-style Sensus touchscreen infotainment system as other new Volvos, which means we've got the same praise and complaints here as in other models. On the one hand, the high-contrast graphics are easily legible at a glance while driving, and the onscreen interface is simple to master. On the other hand, even with a new, faster chipset, the system can take its sweet time loading, and some basic workaday in-car functions are buried in the menu structure. Play around with the system to make up your mind about it before committing to buying.
More specifically, the Sensus interface consists of a central home screen with tiles showing navigation, music and phone-calling information; tap each one to expand it. The bottom-most tile changes depending on what app you've used most recently: It can be Apple CarPlay or Android Auto , for instance, or trip information, vehicle status or one of the several built-in internet apps like Yelp and Spotify. Swipe one way to get vehicle settings -- e.g. disable stop-start or change some of the safety settings -- and swipe the other way to jump between the aforementioned apps or music input sources.
There are two USB ports up front, hidden in the small-ish center console cubby, but no wireless phone charging. The back seat has its own heated-seat and climate-control buttons but doesn't offer any USB ports, which is a bit of a bummer if you've got gadget-obsessed passengers there.
An optional 12.3-inch color instrument cluster rounds out the tech complement, offering a navigation map display between virtual recreations of an analog tachometer and speedometer. Though there are some basic music, phone and navigation menus available on the cluster, as well as speed limit and other road sign warnings, it doesn't have as many functions as, say, Audi's Virtual Cockpit or Mercedes' latest digital clusters. A color head-up display provides more driving information right in my sightline.
No modern Volvo would be complete without a big list of safety technologies, and this S60 is no exception: precollision braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, parking sensors, self-parking and a 360-degree camera. If it detects it is about to be rear-ended, the Volvo can even tighten the seat belts and apply the car's brakes; if you weave across a lane line when there's oncoming traffic, the S60 will steer you back to safety. And, of course, there's the Pilot Assist semiautonomous assist, which can steer the car within its lane (provided you keep your hands resting on the wheel) when using the cruise control on the highway.
For all that I raved about the immediacy and power of the T6 engine, I'd probably equip my Volvo S60 with the T5 mill. It's still plenty powerful but returns better fuel-economy ratings. That does mean sticking with front-wheel drive rather than AWD, but I could always just equip winter tires if I needed more cold-weather traction. But I would, as with my test car, pick the R-Design trim level because of its sportier and sharper looks. Before options, a T5 R-Design would set me back a respectable $43,540.
Overall, pricing for the 2019 Volvo S60 roughly mirrors the competition, with the base T5 Momentum listing from $36,795 and a T8 Inscription listing from $56,395, with destination but before options. It's also worth noting you can "subscribe" through the Care By Volvo program, which starts at $750 per month for a Momentum trim level and $850 for the Inscription.
Living with the 2019 Volvo S60 feels a bit like sitting down for lunch with an old friend: Everything just works and is natural, no negotiation or explanation needed. It looks fantastic on the road, drives will all the confidence and maturity you could want and is packed with technology to keep you entertained and safe. Even more so than its predecessor, the 2019 Volvo S60 has what it takes to compete against the German compact-luxury sedan crowd.