It’s a quiet, comfortable and understated sedan when that’s all you need, but it’s a fun, tossable sports sedan
As I get older I’ve really begun to appreciate things that just last. Those ten-year-old shoes that still fit great, a storied leather jacket or a 25-year-old car that still looks like it did when it rolled off the dealer’s lot. It’s not just about lasting though, it’s about staying relevant, and the best way to stay relevant is to be useful. Those shoes still need to be in style, that jacket better not have tassels and an old car should still have a purpose. Volvo cars though; they tend to be the vehicle of choice for the kind of person who lives with an appreciation for longevity.
There’s absolutely no denying that Volvo has earned an almost cult-like following by building cars that work now, and remain just as competent 25 years from now. That’s likely why on my daily commute through the wealthiest neighbourhood in Toronto I can easily separate the driveways belonging to the city’s “new money” residents, usually filled with the latest AMGs and Bentleys, from those of the “old money” types almost always home to old Volvos, Mercedes’ and Range Rovers, rarely less than a decade old. After all, why squander one’s fortune on a new car when the old one works just fine?
That’s the problem with selling Volvos; existing customers just don’t get rid of them! The time will come though, when the old family hauler is just too tired, or a child goes off to university and needs a car, and a new one must be purchased. It was that mindset that I used to approach my week with the latest 2016 Volvo S60 T5 Special Edition – I wanted to see whether I thought the latest car could hold a candle to the old soldiers out there on the road.
To my enthusiasm, the folks at Volvo arranged for me to spend a week with the perfect specimen, a white S60 T5 sedan with the 2.5L 5-cylinder and AWD. The white is a nice understated color, AWD is a must for those winter runs up to the cottage, and the 250-horse T5 is more than enough power. For the purpose this car serves, the 300 horsepower T6 would be unnecessary. Yes, this is exactly how I would order my S60 if I were going to drive it for the next couple decades.
Interestingly, with the five-cylinder slowly being phased out, the only way to get it for 2016 is by ordering the “Special Edition”. With an MSRP of $50,950, it is far from entry level, but the package includes many useful features like active xenon headlamps, heated windscreen, heated front and rear seats, a slick rear spoiler, a silver rear diffuser and quite literally every electronic safety feature in Volvo’s repertoire. For the money though, you definitely get a great looking sedan.
The little touches like the gorgeous 18” alloys, huge dual exhaust tips and LED running lights add an interesting flare to the otherwise traditional car. With its impeccable exterior fit and finish, the Volvo looks just different enough to get noticed, but remains sufficiently understated even for the most conservative buyers.
The same can be said for the interior of the S60. As expected the seats are some of the best in the business; Volvo has mastered the art of plush yet supportive seats, right down to the headrests. I easily found the perfect driving position behind the thick leather wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel. While extremely driver-centric, the controls did take some getting used to as Volvos do tend to be a little button heavy. The centre stack itself is a thing of beauty that looks and feels very well crafted. The same goes for the digital gauge cluster, which has 3 selectable themes. Surprisingly, my favorite is the “Eco” theme for its calm green backdrop and economy meter. Rear passengers are given plenty of head and legroom, and trunk space is right in line with what I would expect from a midsized sedan.
My week with the S60 proved to be very wet, meaning traffic in the city often crawled to a standstill, allowing me plenty of time in the Volvo. During this time I did run into a couple niggling issues with the car’s interior. Firstly, the dual automatic climate control cannot be synced, if you’re driving alone and want both driver and passenger temperatures equalized you must to adjust both knobs yourself. Secondly, there is a minimal amount of storage available up front in the S60, and the little storage that is available doesn’t seem well thought out. The storage tray behind the center stack is prone to throwing stuff onto the floor, and the cup holders in the console are so deep that it can be tricky to pull out a typical cup.
From behind the wheel I was actually truly impressed with the S60 in T5 AWD guise. The car has a very solid and heavy feeling that inspires confidence and a nice sense of security. The steering feels direct and is surprisingly heavy, offering an engaging amount of road feel without taking away the comfortable nature of the Volvo. The 250 horsepower turbo five-cylinder does a marvelous job smoothly thrusting the car to speed with an assuring growl. The only transmission available with the T5 AWD is the six-speed “Geartronic” automatic with Advanced Quick Shift .The unit does an excellent job keeping the RPMs right in the turbocharger’s ideal power band and executes lightning quick downshifts immediately when prompted by your right foot.
The S60 AWD delivers the confidence to carve corners with some of the best sport sedans out there. However, where Volvo really wins in my books is that you don’t have to sacrifice anything in the way of comfort or ride quality in exchange for its sporting poise. The car cruises along on the highway in near silence and absorbs the rough roads of the city with ease. I even managed to keep a relatively light foot and averaged a respectable 9.6L/100km over my week of commuting in heavy traffic. The non-AWD models of the S60 get turbocharged four-cylinder engines mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission for even better fuel economy.
I did get the S60 out on a short trip out of town on an antiquing weekend. The car felt right at home on the highway, the seats kept us in perfect comfort and on arrival the Volvo fit right in with the eccentric rides of fellow bargain hunters. I think that’s what I like most about the 2016 Volvo S60 T5 – no matter the situation it has a way of blending in perfectly. At the office in the city, or out in the country; it’s a quiet, comfortable and understated sedan when that’s all you need, but it’s a fun, tossable sporty sedan when you want it to be. I think that’s a good part of the reason why so many Volvos are still on the road today – they really don’t go out of style. A well-kept Volvo will handle whatever changes life may throw at it; from a commuter to a family hauler, or a day tripper to a city runabout, decades later this will still be the right car.