REVIEW: 2019 Volvo S60 T5 R-Design AWD – And the Award For Most Improved Luxury Sedan Goes To…

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The S60 is a vehicle car from a Chinese parent with Swedish design trends built in the United States. The Volvo S60 is also compact sporty luxury sedan in a world where every car in this class is outstanding. Three years ago, we tested an S60 and found it to be good in some ways, but during this test what struck us was how far Volvo has come in such a short time.

What is it? 

Since we tested the 2016 Volvo S60, much has changed in this car niche. Back then, the BMW 3 Series was the car that defined the segment. Over just the past year, Tesla has grabbed this limited market by the throat and unless the company folds, which we are not predicting, it will own this segment for the foreseeable future with its Model 3. The Model 3 is a better performer for the dollar than the BMW and is now outselling it by an extra digit. Into this new reality comes the 2019 Volvo S60. Just to give you a sense of Volvo’s potential grown in this segment, consider that the company sold less than five hundred S60s in October. Tesla sold 17,750 Model 3s in that same month.

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Pricing and trims

Prices for the three 2019 S60 trims start at about $40K and rise to about $60K. Volvo is also offering a pair of subscription services at $750 and $850 dollars per month that include everything but gas and taxes. We tested the $53085 T6 R Type with all-wheel drive. We find it fun that Volvo still uses “T5” and “T6” even though the engines are all four-cylinders now and the in-line five and six-cylinder are retired.

Safety

Let’s keep this safety section brief. This is a Volvo. Yes, it has every conceivable safety system. Let’s also face reality. The S60 when it was last tested was a Top Safety Pick from IIHS. That is one step below the Toyota Camry’s rating of Top Safety Pick Plus. Volvo’s strong focus on safety continues, but the truth is, every mainstream car now offers pretty much the same level of safety equipment and crash test results for about half the money. Wisely, Volvo has added capabilities that go well beyond survivability.

Performance

Volvo’s interesting four-cylinder engine with both turbo and supercharging works fantastically well. It offers diesel-like pull at low RPMs and also 340 ponies of top-end power.  If that isn’t enough to get you to work on time, the plug-in hybrid version has more of both.

Ride and handling

Our S60 test vehicle handled exceptionally well in all situations. The ride quality is what we were most pleased with. Although it is still sports-sedan stiff, it was not as jarring as the 2016 S60 we tested. This is a big improvement for Volvo.

Seating

 

The front seats in our S60 tester adjusted in all the usual ways and also had a thigh extension we appreciated. Seat heat is strong and accompanied by a three-level heated steering wheel. Rear seat heat is available. We found the S60 extremely cozy during 10 F testing. We do need to note that the B-pillar placement makes getting in and out of the S60 difficult – just like it is in many small sports sedans. If bending and twisting is not your thing, this is not your vehicle.

 

 

In back, seating is adequate. Not as large as a midsized car like a Nissan Altima, but acceptable for adults. If you plan on putting kids in back, as we did, be aware that the bend and twist thing is also part of that routine and that stabbing at the seat buckle’s reluctant female aperture is frustrating while bending over a child. We loved that the back headrests drop forward to let you see better out the rear window when there are no passengers. Why don’t all cars have these?

Cargo

The cargo area of the S60 is wide and long and the rear seats drop. Under the cargo floor is a temporary spare! You won’t find that in a Tesla or BMW.

Infotainment and controls

Volvo’s new infotainment system is outstanding in many ways. Volvo has a large, vertical center stack with the menus arranged top to bottom you will want. There is no ridiculous mouse to learn, so that is a plus.

2019 Volvo S60 R-design

As you can see by this comparison with the older infotainment system below, the new system is much more modern and streamlined.

One minus of the new system is that some controls are very hard to adjust or even find. We searched without success for two things, the head-up display adjustment and the Android Auto operation. These are things we use in new test cars all the time with zero learning curve. After many minutes of searching, we resorted to the manual. We suggest you plan to spend time with Volvo’s specialists at the dealership before you take yours home.

In addition to the ride quality, the infotainment is the other huge leap for Volvo compared to the outgoing generation S60. The new screen is large and clear and the native navigation is great. Best of all, it is shown in the gauge area. By our count, Volvo eliminated 25 physical buttons in this new design.

The Verdict

The Volvo S60 will appeal to a shopper who wants a compact sporty luxury sedan with a bit of a unique flair not seen on every corner. The new S60 is a breath of fresh air compared to the outgoing generation and we loved every minute we had behind the wheel. The Volvo S60 is real-world fast, luxurious, and truly great looking sedan in the flesh.

 

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham