We briefly sampled the latest S60 on a first drive last fall, and came away impressed. Under Chinese ownership, the Volvo brand has been given a surprising amount of freedom, allowing them to build some of the most striking and technologically advanced vehicles on the market. Also available in the practical long-roof form as the V60 (reviewed here), the 2019 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design tested here attempts to go up against some heavy hitters in the compact luxury sedan segment.
The S60 is absolutely stunning, but in a subtle and understated manner that only Volvo can pull off. It still retains the somewhat boxy look the Swedish automaker is famous for, but has become more contemporary and handsome on the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). Volvo’s signature Thor’s Hammer LED headlights are in play, and our test vehicle was equipped with the factory winter wheel package that also doesn’t look like a significant downgrade from the upsized summer setup. Of note; Volvo builds the S60 in their Charleston, South Carolina plant rather than in Sweden.
Volvo offers Canadian buyers two powertrains on the 2019 S60, starting with a turbocharged 2.0L “T5”, that’s good for 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque. The T5 is front-drive only; opting for all-wheel-drive (as most will) requires a step up to the T6 tested here. The T6 is also a 2.0L four-cylinder, but gets both a turbocharger and a supercharger bringing output to 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque. This powertrain is punchy and reasonably efficient, but falls short in one key area.
Those spending over $50,000 for a premium sedan want refinement. Volvo’s twin-charged four-cylinder is powerful enough, but falls short in terms of noise, vibration and harshness. Our road test took place over an extremely cold week, with temperatures pushing minus 20 degrees Celsius. On days where other new vehicles at our office on test refused to start, the S60 fired up effortlessly. However, the engine sounds and feels gruff and unrefined, like it’s being strained in cold weather even after getting up to operating temperatures.
Even when it’s not all that cold outside, the T6 powertrain feels and behaves very obviously like a four-cylinder. It may not be a big deal to many buyers, but to some, a substantial “feel” is a huge part of a luxury vehicle purchase. Steering feel is quite good, with parking lot maneuvers being effortlessly light, and the electrically assisted rack tightening up at higher speeds. The R-Design gets unique chassis tuning, paddle shifters for the eight-speed, and feels a little bit sharper than its Inscription and Momentum siblings.
When Volvo’s T6 engine was a turbocharged straight-six, one of its conversation points was that it could operate perfectly on regular-grade fuel. This is no longer the case with the Drive-E twin-charged engines, which require 91-octane premium. We observed 9.4L/100km riding on winter tires in a combined cycle, with a heavy bias towards highway driving. A longer highway run observed as little as 7.9L/100km, and the S60’s tank is capable of holding up to 60L. This consumption is about average for the compact luxury segment.
With the exception of the engine sounds, the S60 feels great as a luxury sedan. It feels upscale in almost every way, with ride quality that rivals the Germans. It soaks up highway kilometers like it’s nobody’s business, and the interior is a spectacular place to spend time. Quality is top-notch, with the R-Design’s cabin replacing wood accents for metallic finish. It resists fingerprints and scratches better, and the seats, offer the perfect amount of support and a thoroughly excellent driving position. The optional Bowers and Wilkins surround sound system is easily our favourite premium audio application in the automotive business.
The 12.3” Sensus infotainment system is one of the better setups in the business, with seamless Apple CarPlay integration and a good amount of response from the native system. One challenge that is continuously faced by touchscreen systems in winter weather is slow load time on initial morning start-up. The issue here is that all major functions, including heated steering wheel and seat controls, are integrated into the system. This means that if it takes a few minutes to boot in the morning, that’s an extra few minutes that occupants will remain colder.
Pricing starts at $42,400 for the T5 Momentum. The least expensive way to get into an S60 with all-wheel-drive would be the T6 Momentum, at $47,400. The R-Design starts at $52,400 and includes a slew of features including heated seats, LED headlights, smartphone integration, and four-zone climate control. Our test vehicle was equipped with a Climate Package (heated rear seats, steering wheel), Vision Package (surround view camera, park assist, blind spot information), and Convenience Package (Pilot Assist, HomeLink). The as-tested sticker pushed $62,000 once counting the $3,750 Bowers and Wilkins sound system, a must have in my eyes.
The 2019 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design is a great luxury sedan, and a well-deserved update to its predecessor that was fairly competitive even after many years on the market. It isn’t, however, dynamic enough to be a sports sedan against the likes of the BMW 340i and Genesis G70. It’s too comfort-focused to have enough bite, and falls short with regards to power and overall refinement. The S60 offers more interior space for passengers than the Germans. Those who want their compact luxury sedan to be an excellent luxury cruiser and little else will find a worthy companion in this latest Swede.