Volvo has long played it safe in terms of its styling and vehicle designs, deciding to chase safety-conscious families in need of upscale, but not quite luxury transportation for their families. Now, the Swedish automaker has gone back to the drawing board and started from scratch with an all-new S60 that is meant to be as sexy as it is safe.
The S60 is offered as the entry-level S60 T5, mid-grade S60 T6 and the range-topping S60 R-Design, serving up far more in the way of luxury and performance than ever before as it guns for more upscale rivals from Germany. Though its design language isn't a dramatic departure from that seen on its predecessor, it is certainly more flowing and curvaceous than before.
In addition to the more stylish look, the new S60 seems to demonstrate Volvo's desire to move toward more slender A- and C-pillars for increased visibility. Over the years, these structural supports have become much thicker on most vehicles for structural and styling purposes. Volvo seems to have kept the styling up to snuff, without sacrificing its iconic safety.
Volvo's latest pedestrian-recognizing safety technology also made its debut on the S60. Capable of detecting when a collision with a pedestrian is imminent, the system automatically triggers the S60's brakes to prevent an impact. Volvo points out that more than 4,700 pedestrian fatalities occur in the United States annually and the feature really makes sense in Europe, where 14 percent of all car wrecks involve a pedestrian on the continent's crowded, narrow streets.
Though it gives up 50 horsepower and 59 lb-ft to the T6, the S60 T5 still acquits itself well, performance-wise, against its German competitors. A 2.5-liter inline-five engine produces 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft. of torque. The only available transmission is a six-speed "Geartronic" automatic with a manumatic function.
For the latest model year, Volvo upped the T5's compression ratio from 9.0:1 to 9.5:1 and increased turbo boost by 16 percent to 15 psi. While the changes don't result in any extra peak output, they do create more low-end power and a quicker zero-to-60 mph sprint (6.4 seconds, a 0.4 second improvement).
Front-wheel-drive is standard on the T5, while all-wheel-drive is newly available as an option. Fuel economy is rated at 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway with FWD and 20/29 mpg with AWD.
A new Premier Plus trim level includes active dual Xenon headlights, front and rear park assist, Homelink remote garage door opener, a compass in the rear view mirror and an Accessory Prep cable. Also new for the latest model year is the Platinum package, which brings a navigation system with voice control and map care, a premium audio system and a rear park assist camera.
Both packages are also available on the T6 and R-Design.
The U.S.-specification S60 T6 comes standard with a 300-horsepower, 325 lb-ft of torque turbocharged inline six-cylinder mated exclusively to a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. The T6 (as well as the R-Design) come exclusively with all-wheel drive.
As a result, the S60 T6 returns 18 city, 26 highway miles per gallon - same as the R-Design - while the T5 returns 20 city, 30 highway mpg.
A sport suspension is standard.
Volvo's innovative Pedestrian Detection technology comes in a package that also includes adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.
Other available options include metallic paint, wood interior inlays, front and rear parking assist, blind spot information (BLIS) and an active chassis.
The S60 R-Design is the range-topping variant of Volvo's S60 midsize sedan.
Boasting 325 horsepower and 354 lb-ft. of torque, the model offers a fairly substantial gain over the S60 T6's 300 ponies and 325 lb-ft. of torque. Like the S60 T6, the R-Design uses Volvo's turbo straight six and all-wheel drive with the company's Corner Traction Control torque vectoring system.
Maximum torque comes on at just 3,000 rpm and, according to Volvo, is available through the rest of the rev range thanks to some careful retuning of the 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. A six-speed automatic transmission will be the only available gear shift, although Volvo says that it has tightened up responsiveness of the Geartronic manu-matic mode.
A strut tower brace adds chassis stiffness, while monotube dampers at the rear improve the ride and handling responsiveness compared to the standard S60's twin tube setup. Shortened front springs tuck the S60 R-Design down about 15 mm up front. Stiffer bushings also tighten up the ride.
The front brakes are upgraded for the latest model year, now measuring 13.2 inches compared to 12.4 inches.
The S60 R-Design features a unique front fascia with a glossy piano black front grille, matte finish details, twin 90mm exhaust pipes and R-Design-exclusive 18-inch diamond cut alloy wheels. Volvo says it will initially launch the S60 R-Design in an exclusive Passion Red, although four other colors will also hit the market.
Inside, the sportiest S60 yet features unique front seats with more bolstering, off black leather with contrasting stitching, a sport steering wheel with the R-Design logo and blue watch dial-style gauges.
Several option packages are available for the S60 R-design. The Climate Package consists of heated seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, rain sensing wipers, an interior air quality system and headlamp washers. The Technology Package adds a collision detection system, Volvo's new collision warning system, active cruise control, road sign information, active high-beam assist lane departure warning system.
Volvo says that the S60 T6 is designed to compete against tier one rivals like the BMW 3-Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4.