Being auto enthusiasts, we tend to forget that certain markets like the FWD luxury sedan segment even exist. With machines like the Acura TLX, Lexus ES, Toyota Avalon, Cadillac XTS and even the Audi A6 all sold with front-wheel drive, it is actually a large market. With that in mind, the new 2015.5 (yes, the .5 is important) Volvo S60 is an important car for the Swedish brand. I have spent extensive time in the Audi, Lexus and Toyota models, and all three are great in their own right. Does the Volvo have what it takes to win over buyers in this crowded segment?

The Volvo has a new Drive-E engine that promises incredible power and fuel efficiency, stunning Swedish design, and some of the most advanced safety tech available on any car. I really like the XC60 I had a few weeks ago that came with the same engine and safety systems, but how does this translate into a sedan? You will have to read on to find out.

Click past the jump to read more about the 2015.5 Volvo S60.

  • 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    8-Speed Auto
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    302
  • MPG(Cty):
    24
  • MPG(Hwy):
    35
  • Torque @ RPM:
    295
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.0 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    140 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    39000
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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With at first glance the S60 does look rather square, if you let your eyes wander for a moment you will begin to see the more organic shapes integrated into the body.

Like seemingly everything from Sweden, the Volvo S60 is rather attractive. Just like the XC60, it is covered in small details and lines that add up to an overall handsome look that should remain stylish for years. The classic Volvo nose has been sculpted and refined to make it more modern over the years, and the current curvature and slope looks great on the sedan. The headlamps feature that same attractive silver “wing” accent in the top of the housing. The nose looks a bit more aggressive with a black lower grille that features an upward cut in the center, and the chrome accent on the outside edges add a dash of class. The integrated LED running lamps are also a nice addition.

The profile is even more stunning thanks to a greater break from Volvo tradition. At first glance the S60 looks rather square, but if you let your eyes wander for a moment you will begin to see the more organic shapes integrated into the body. The sharp shoulder line that runs from the top of the headlight to the top of the taillight swells and undulates over the fenders. The sculpting line across the bottom is perfectly straight, but the cut gets deeper and taller towards the back creating interesting shadows and reflections, and the whole greenhouse is canted backwards slightly to give it a fast appearance. Of course there are those incredible-looking 19-inch alloys.

The rear is the least interesting portion of the new S60, but it still has a few noticeable details. From the direct rearward view you can see the slight uptick in the center of the trunk that looks like a small duckbill spoiler. There is an interesting thinning effect that happens visually in the bumper thanks to almost every rear line converging just slightly as they approach the center of the car. Of course, there are those now-common, but still good-looking, integrated trapezoidal exhaust tips.

Interior

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven Interior
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2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven Interior
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2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven High Resolution Interior
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If you don’t appreciate the look of the interior, there is the sheer amount of technology crammed into this machine that can draw attention.

The inside is typical Volvo as well. The same soft leather, waterfall center console with a storage bin hidden behind it, and plenty of smart ergonomic choices that made me love the XC60 are all present and accounted for. The sports seats are comfortable and well bolstered, and not once did I want for more support. Thanks to an optional add on, our seats were also heated. The interior color is a two-tone combination that Volvo calls Beechwood/Off-Black; I call it attractive and refreshing. Dash and door panels are trimmed in a silver that looks like brushed aluminum. The rear seats are well-sculpted as well, and while there are belts for three passengers, the rear feels a bit too narrow to really fit three with any level of comfort.

It is all about the details for me with this cabin. The seats are great feeling, but the stitching is interesting, and has great cuts and lines to make them stand out a bit more. The door panels have that great swoop look that combines the metal trim and the metal door handles together. Of course I still have that great looking frameless rearview mirror. It may seem like a crazy thing to obsess over a rearview mirror, but every person who got in the car commented on it. It just makes a bold statement, and I am not sure you can really appreciate how modern and crisp it looks by photos alone.

If you don’t appreciate the look of the interior, there is the sheer amount of technology crammed into this machine that can draw attention. For starters there is the infotainment. Our car has a seven-inch screen in the dash running what Volvo calls Sensus, and it comes with satellite radio, Bluetooth for both music and calls, navigation and more. There are also power retractable outside mirrors, active high beams, and a sunroof. On the safety front there is an entire laundry list of systems to keep you out of harm’s way: adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, pedestrian and cycle detection with auto brake, distance alert, driver alert control, lane keep aid, road sign recognition, and City Safety low speed collision avoidance system. Along with this, our car came with the Blind Spot package that features the BLIS blind spot monitoring system, cross traffic alert, lane change merge aid and parking assist sensors front and rear.

Drivetrain

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven Drivetrain
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Torque comes in an equally impressive 295 pound-feet and it’s all available from just 2100 rpm.

The T6 Drive-E badge comes with what has to be one of the most interesting and unique engines in production today. Open the hood and you are greeted with a very generic looking engine bay with a large rubber cover over the engine that wears nothing more than a simple Volvo badge. Under that chunk of flexible rubber lies a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that has both a supercharger and a turbocharger to produce a rather peppy 302 horsepower. This is one of the most powerful production 2.0-liters on sale today. Torque comes in an equally impressive 295 pound-feet and it’s all available from just 2,100 rpm.

That power is routed through a Geartronic automatic transmission with eight-forward gears. Power is only sent to the front tires though, so torque steer can be an issue. The goal of using a wound-out turbo with an eight-speed auto is to hopefully increase fuel economy. Volvo claims that fuel economy is 35 mpg on the highway with 24 in the city. The combined rating is quoted at 28. During my time I mostly cruised the highways and back roads and I had a hard time breaking 30 mpg. That small engine may sip fuel when it’s off boost, but every time you dip into the pedal it seems to really want to wind out to give you the power. When I was finally done I was sitting right at that 28 mark, but I feel my driving was too highway focused to find that acceptable enough.

Driving Impressions

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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I forgave the XC60 some of its leaning tendencies by pure virtue of size and height.

For being such a well-built and powerful car, I was less than enthused about the driving dynamics of the S60 when I first got behind the wheel. The steering was twitchy, overly light and it had no feeling. The car exhibited a fair bit of body roll and lean despite the “sport chassis” upgrade that comes with the 19-inch wheels; it was as if the car was tuned exactly the same as the XC60. I forgave the XC60 for some of its leaning tendencies by pure virtue of size and height. I don’t expect an SUV to handle like a sedan. In that same breath, I don’t expect my sedans to handle as ponderously as an SUV.

This story does get a little better. One day while showing the car to a friend we decided to really dive into all the various menus and settings that are available for the S60, and we found a way to change the assistance level of the power steering system. Once I had a greater level of feel and feedback from the wheel, I was much more confident pushing the car. It still exhibits more lean than I expected, but it’s better than the V-6 Avalon Limited I tested.

Thanks to that wild engine, when you are caning the machine the throttle is responsive, and that huge wall of torque available all over the rev range makes for a fun and engaging dance partner. I just wish the suspension was a bit tighter to make better use of it.

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Over highway journeys, the car is a treat to drive. The cabin is quiet and comfortable, and thanks to the upgraded Harmon Kardon stereo, music sounded great. You can set the automatic cruise control to help protect you from going too fast or crashing into anyone, and the lane keep assist will actually nudge the car slightly to keep it between the lines. Traditionally I despise these systems, and I kept them off for the majority of my time with the S60, but I can see how people who view driving as little more than an annoying chore would find great satisfaction in them.

If I had to name the biggest complaint about driving the S60 it would be the transmission. The eight-speed is incredibly smooth, very quick, and with the paddle shifters you can boss it around, but eight gears just feels like too many. Even with its silky smoothness, I constantly found myself aware of the fact that at normal highway speeds I was in seventh, rather than eighth, and I would force it up the last gear. When you go to execute a pass, the car has to shuffle through all the gears to get you the horsepower you are asking for, and the whole exercise just feels overwrought. The box itself is great, there are just too many cogs to swap through.

Finally, like all 2015.5 Volvos, our S60 came with the new Volvo On-Call system that lets me access various functions and features of my car from a smartphone app. I can track the cars location via GPS, check the dashboard, mileage, time till service and more. I can also lock the car and start it from the app. Winter is rapidly approaching and with several days below the freezing mark, I was happy to be able to remote start the car with the app. Strangely though, while I can remote start the car with the app, there appears to be no way to complete the same function with the actual key fob. My favorite feature of the app by far though is the lock reminder. When I have cars with the smart key system, I sometimes forget to touch the door to lock the car when I park. After a 30-minute wait, the Volvo app will send me a reminder to notify me that I left me car doors unlocked. If I am dinner, all I need to do is open the app to lock the doors without ever needing to leave the table. It’s phenomenal.

Price

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven Exterior
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The cost of the Volvo S60 is what I would call reasonable for the class, but not exactly great value. The T6 Drive-E carries a base of $39,000. Our car came with the Platinum trim upgrade that added most of the crazy safety features, HID headlamps, upgraded stereo and some interior features like accent lighting. This carries a cost of $3,750 making it our most expensive option by a long shot. The 19-inch alloys with the “Sport Chassis” upgrade was $900, the BLIS blind-spot system was another $900, and then the metallic white paint added $550 with the heated seats tacking on an extra $500. After the $925 destination charge and all the options, this tester topped out with a final MSRP of $46,525.

Competitors

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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If you want a cushy four-door sedan with solid fuel economy, lots of luxury, and drive heading to the front wheels, the Toyota Avalon is a great competitor. It is larger than the S60, more fuel efficient, just as nice inside, and it even costs just a touch less. That said, the Avalon doesn’t really drive any better, has much less horsepower and performance, and it certainly doesn’t look nearly as nice.

Buyers who may find themselves shopping across both models need to decide what they are really looking for. The Avalon is a full-size car, whereas the S60 sits more towards the midsize market. If you value space and fuel economy, the Avalon is a no-brainer. If you are more focused on build details, performance and safety features, the Volvo is the clear choice.

Audi A6

2014 - 2015 Audi A6 Exterior
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If you want all the quality of a Swedish car, but don’t want a Volvo, the Audi A6 is a great place to start. This German machine looks extremely handsome inside and out, is built like a tank, and it features one of the best four-cylinder engines in the world with its 2.0-liter TFSI. The A6 is a similar size to the Volvo and on the surface they should be very similar in most regards. In practice the A6 is the better handler of the two, but the Volvo greatly out-muscles it in horsepower. The Audi’s engine may be incredible smooth and predictable, but the little engine only produces 220 ponies and 258 pound-feet of torque.

You can buy an A6 with a bigger engine, or with AWD, but doing so dramatically increases the price. As it stands a base A6 model starts at $44,800. Once you start adding options that cost will quickly eclipse the S60’s price. With standard features like leather seats, three-zone climate control and heated seats, the Audi does come nearly as well equipped as out optioned up Volvo. Fuel economy between the two is nearly identical as well.

What it comes down to is going to the be choice between power and Swedish style, or German precision and cost.

Conclusion

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Overall I enjoyed my time with the 2015.5 Volvo S60. I still can’t get over how great the design is, the gobs of power and torque were always fun, and the technology crammed inside is some of the best available. It is smaller than similarly priced cars like the Avalon Hybrid Limited, but its nicer driving dynamics and aesthetics win me over. If I was going to dump $45k on a FWD luxury sedan, I would have a hard time picking any of the other cars I have driven over the Swedish beauty. I do wish the suspension was tighter, and fuel economy is as great as I would hope for, but Volvo has built a well-rounded package that should demand a look from anyone in the market.

  • Leave it
    • Fuel economy is only on par
    • Suspension is a bit soft for my preferences
    • Eight gears is just too many
Christian Moe
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