2019 Volvo S60
For those who refuse to follow the herd
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- 20 Aug 2019
By James Park
Volvo, too, could’ve followed the other Swedish auto manufacturer – Saab – into the mouldy pages of history.
That would’ve been sad. This writer always had a bit of soft spot for those iconic boxy sedans and wagons and once seriously considered purchasing a C30 hatchback (Bring it back!).
During the last decade or so, a lot has been said about the Chinese carmaker Geely’s rescue of Volvo and how Volvo was allowed to carry on with relative independence (at least for now).
The ready flow of Chinese capital has enabled the Scandinavian company to produce a series of excellent automobiles, including the latest compact sporty sedan, the S60. However, similar to many well-made vehicles of this kind, it’s distressing to see their influence overshadowed by the ever-growing demand for utility vehicles.
Those who refuse to follow the herd might want to take a closer gander at the Sweden’s latest sedan offering.
This writer remains unconvinced of Volvo’s full-fledged membership in the circle of premium auto brands with the likes of Mercedes, BMW, Audi, etc. Then again, Volvo does not really seem to belong in the mainstream, either, resulting in a bit of identity confusion.
There is, however, no confusion as to how good the S60 makes you feel. It accelerates and stops and goes around corners with poise and style, holding its own against the equivalent rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
The S60 also matches its rivals in price. The base Momentum model is most competitive at $42,400 before taxes and other necessary fees. The mid-level R-Design jumps to $52,400 and the Inscription model demands $53,900.
The R-Design test-car loaned to this writer also comes with several option packages including Climate, Vision, Convenience, as well as special paint, head-up display (HUD), 19-inch alloys and the excellent Bowers & Wilkins premium audio that catapults the final price up to $63,250. This is little more than the BMW 330i this writer test-drove earlier this year.
The Momentum gets the base 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. For the R-Design and the Inscription, Volvo adds a supercharger to the same engine to generate maximum 316 horses and 295 lb-ft of torque.
Whereas small turbo engines are prone to ‘turbo-lag (boost coming in suddenly)’, adding a supercharger, which provides steady boost from the beginning, smoothes out the overall power delivery. Indeed, the S60 generates power evenly and there’s no discernible turbo lag. On the other hand, the engine sounds bit coarse and the distinct whine of the supercharger intrudes into the cabin at times (not necessarily bad, personally).
The smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission seldom hunts for gear and the optional AWD system send power to the front wheels during most everyday situations.
Even with relative autonomy allowed by its overlord, Volvo does need to watch its spending. That is, one can clearly see the cost-cutting measures used throughout the company’s vehicles. Case in point is virtually the same headlights incorporated in all the newer models. The tablet-style touch-screen infotainment system also seems to be used across the board.
Nonetheless, the S60’s interior appears sophisticated and the materials used generate solid and luxury atmosphere. Volvo’s reputation for making one of the best seats in the industry goes unchallenged. The driver’s seat, especially, is all-day comfortable and supportive.
Going back to the touch-screen interface, however, it’s not the most intuitive system out there. Instead of going through the screen every time, this writer wishes for separate controls for HVAC. On the other hand, the B & W audio kicks butt and makes longer drives much more enjoyable.
The thick leather-wrapped steering wheel is accurate, if not the most communicative. The S60 displays no torque steer and tends to under-steer at the limits, which is not unexpected. Suspension is taut but the car’s ride is not harsh.
At the end of the day, the S60 is a sporty luxury sedan on par with the 3-Series, C-Class and the A4.
While the German trio, in many parts of the Greater Toronto Area, are now as common as sesame seeds on hamburger buns, the S60 stands out with unique design and technology. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)
2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
As tested: $63,250
Engine: 2.0 litre turbo/supercharged four
Power: 316 hp/295 lb-ft
Transmission: 8 spd auto
Fuel: 11.1 litres per 100km (city), 7.3 litres (highway)
Best: supportive seats, smooth power
Worst: coarse-sounding engine, unintuitive infotainment
Competition: BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, Genesis G70
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