Volvos have never been about design. Growing up, I was exposed to a number of different vehicles by the classy Swedish manufacturer; my favourite being an 850 GLT we had in the family sometime in the 90s. Though sharing its styling cues with the bricks our house was built with, the 850 exuded class; and that’s before Volvo finally decided to modernize with the times and evolve their design language. The latest one, the 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, redesigned for model year 2010, is amongst the first of the beautiful Volvos.
Having to hold its own in one of the most competitive car classes means the S60 is easily forgotten or disregarded. The existence of the BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and even the new Cadillac ATS means that the poor Volvo is simply put on the back burner. The interesting thing about it though is that even though the size, level of luxury, and price point puts it right in the middle of that pack, it doesn’t even seem to try to be competitive. The Volvo S60 is just a wonderful car in a class all on its own. The 2010 redesign for the S60 also fell right in line with the discontinuation of its younger brother, the nice but bland S40 (may it R.I.P). The “blend” of the S40 and old S60 into one brand new car meant coming in with a bang; and that’s exactly what the new S60 did. I have made it no secret that I absolutely adore the 3-series, the ATS, and the A4. I decided to drive the new S60 T5 for a week and find out exactly how good the new one actually is.
My tester was the 2013 T5 AWD model. New for this year is the availability of all-wheel-drive with the base T5 engine. One of my first “long enough to matter” experiences with a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine was earlier this year with the Audi TT-RS. I had nothing negative to say about that engine, but the one in this Volvo isn’t exactly performance-oriented. Being a purist at heart, in order to objectively write a review for this S60 I decided to put myself in the shoes of a version of myself 10-years into the future. I’m now in my mid-30s, married with a kid, and need to shop for a nice vehicle for kid duty. Everybody around me seems to have a 3-series or a C-Class, and I still can’t bring myself to buy a car that nearly everyone else in my demographic already owns. I can’t quite justify that Range Rover Supercharged quite yet. How about a smaller crossover? I hear the Audi Q5 or even Volvo’s own XC60 are both great options. Nah, let’s stick to the sedan.
The S60 is beautifully designed both inside and out. I’ll go as far as to say that it’s one of my favourite designs on the road right now. Yes, I just said that about a Volvo. The proportions are right, the overhangs aren’t too big, and the thing just oozes pleasantness. The S60 R-Design with the turbocharged 6-cylinder engine has a blistering 325-horsepower and goes down the road like its on fire, but that car has a bit of an identity crisis. It understeers way too much and looks way too flashy. The 250-horsepower T5 though, seems like a brilliant option. Enough torque (266 lb/ft) to get you to where you’re going, a turbocharger, all-wheel-drive, and cushy enough to drive the in-laws to and from the airport. Oh, and despite being a turbocharged motor, the S60 T5 happily sips regular fuel. Awesome.
The S60 T5 isn’t exactly boring to drive either. It may not be blisteringly quick, but it definitely has more steering wheel feedback, better throttle response, and a more satisfying drive than both the Lexus IS and the Mercedes-Benz C300. It handles the corners with ease and doesn’t have nearly as much body roll as the Lexus or the Mercedes. Granted, the S60 wasn’t made to handle the racetrack, but it seems to enjoy a spirited drive through the countryside just as much its driver. Oh, and it can hold a full-size bag full of hockey equipment in the trunk without an issue. Don’t get me wrong though; it’s not exactly a sport sedan. It’s not a luxury cruiser either. The current S60 is actually an almost-perfect combination of family car and executive saloon that’s relatively athletic. In short, it’s not the hot girl you hook up with once and conveniently “forget” to call her back; it’s the one that you take home to your parents because she’s special without having to compete with all the others dying for your attention.
My T5 Premium Plus model, at $45,550 with the option of all-wheel-drive, comes pretty much loaded. Leather interior, adaptive xenon headlights, power seats, park assist, and a large LCD screen are all standard. The only thing it was missing is the navigation, but navigation would never be a deal maker/breaker for me in the slightest. If you must have navigation and a backup camera, the “Platinum” model, slotted directly above my Premium Plus, is also available. A neat little feature I liked was the gear shift of the S60; it’s illuminated and glows quite nicely at night. Innovation; it’s what I’ve always liked about the Swedes. They like answering questions that nobody ever asked. The seats in the IKEA-mobile are absolutely mind-blowing. My colleague Krish Persaud raved about the “NASA-inspired seats” in the 2013 Nissan Altima he recently drove, but the ones in this Volvo should be permitted to have more bragging rights. I liked them so much that I was actually overcome with a feeling of sadness every time I had to park and exit the car. Typically, I find something to complain about whenever I experience a two-tone interior. Not this one; the contrast of the colours just works. They’ve done it right.
Stereotypically, Volvos (particularly the station wagon variety) are common amongst suburban soccer moms and hockey dads. Now though, there seems to have been an evolution of vehicles in the parking lots of said after-school activities. They seem to be full of crossovers such as Acura MDXs, Lexus RX350s, and the dreaded minivan. If you only have one kid though, there really isn’t the need for a full-on crossover. If you can get away with a sedan, it’s hard to do much better than the S60 T5. Enough get-up-and-go, polarizing styling, and I can essentially guarantee that the hockey arena parking lot won’t have too many of them. You might however, have to park beside a new XC90. When you do though, be sure to congratulate the owner for buying a car right out of 2003.
Kudos, Volvo. You’ve finally moved past the brick, and done a damn good job of it.
2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Gallery