You may have seen the Buick commercials of late wherein people are looking for Buicks but can’t find them because what they think a Buick is is something altogether different than the reality of the vehicles because the vehicles have undergone significant transformations.
This, I think, is an approach that would possibly be even more suitable for Volvo because today’s Volvo’s are certainly not the boxy or semi-boxy (when the Swedes tried to make the vehicles more sexy, which didn’t work out particularly well) vehicles of yore, and let’s face it: you don’t see a heck of a lot of Volvos out there, anyway.
Through October, Volvo sold 47,823 vehicles in the U.S., which is fewer than the number of Dodge Avengers sold in the same period: 50,710.
And if the S60 is any indication of contemporary Volvos, then all I can say is that there are a whole lot of people missing out on what is really a good automobiles (S60 sales through October were 17,574, down 12.2% from 2013).
The S60 strikes me as being a car that is completely realized. That is, there were people who were thinking about all aspects of the car, from the accordion-style band that holds the gas cap secured to the car when refueling to the position of the buttons on the head unit in the center stack. (And, yes, it is the waterfall-style center stack that Volvo pioneered, so there is space behind the head unit.)
One person who is fairly familiar with cars wasn’t sure what the car was when she first saw it, and was favorably disposed toward it when it was identified. Said another way, she was (1) surprised and (2) impressed.
A friend who works for a Detroit-based car company, when looking at the inside, said, “Volvo has always had great interiors.”
The point here being that although it is a sedan in what is the most competitive market segment, it isn’t chasing gimmicks in terms of both the way it looks and what it offers.
Volvo, back in the day, was synonymous with safety. The reason that it no longer is—in addition to its ill-advised straying into the sexy attempt—is because pretty much all cars come with a suite of stars on their monroneys indicating that they’re safe, too. This is not to say that Volvos are any less safe than they once were, because that’s not true. (E.g., it received a 2014 Top Safety Pick+ designation from IIHS.)
(Over the years I attended several body engineering conferences, and it seemed as though high-strength steel and laser welding were always discussed by the folks from Sweden, well in advance of even other European car companies, to say nothing of those based in the U.S.)
That said, there are unexpected touches on the S60 that show that safety is still part of the DNA. For example, plenty of cars have systems that show the speed limit for the road you’re on. The S60 does. But what’s a nice touch is that there is a small red dot on the outer diameter of the speedometer that indexes to the speed limit so that at a glance at the location of the needle one can tell where one is in relation to the limit. (All of this is rendered digitally.) There is the City Safety system that the company developed, which provides warnings—audio and visual—when a collision is imminent; brake deployment is activated, as in precharging them so that when you hit the pedal, the system will engage quickly or full-on automatic braking should you fail to take action, this at speeds of 31 mph or below. (Should you be driving at higher speed and begin to close on a vehicle ahead of you, there are warning lights that you can see on the windshield, projected up from the top of the instrument panel.)
But the point is is that there is a more comprehensive realization of the car, a more complete execution that combines style and substance. Which really makes for a better overall car.
The S60 T5 is powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, direct injection engine that produces 240 hp. It is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with self-shifting capability (for those who want to feel racy, presumably). For being a four-cylinder engine, it is quite remarkable.
Another aspect of what I think contemporary Volvo-ness is about is environmental awareness. The vehicle has what is called “ECO+,” which when activated has a number of fuel-saving functions, such as start/stop (it goes into effect at and below 4 mph) and air conditioning compressor disconnection when not required. This is driver-selectable. In cases when in a traffic jam, disengaging the system is probably a good thing to do because the engine stopping and starting can become a bit disconcerting if you’re stopping, moving ahead a bit, stopping, etc.
Being a premium car, there are the premium amenities, such as the eight way power driver seat, lather, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and more.
The vehicle as driven here had the “Platinum” package, which adds an array of things like navigation and adaptive cruise control, a Harmon-Kardon audio system and a power glass moonroof. There is the “Climate” package that adds heated seats all around and even heated windshield wiper nozzles (handy not only in Sweden, but in places like Michigan, as well). A package bringing 19-in. alloys and paddles on the steering wheel; another for sport seats; then blind spot information and other sensors; and metallic paint. The base MSRP is $33,750, but when thusly upfitted and a destination charge of $925, you get to $45,425. Which is completely rational for this car.
Should you be looking for a compact premium sedan, go look where you may not think to. Yes, there are a lot of good European cars in this category, but this is one that also has the benefit of being comparatively rare. At least until more people find out about the Volvo S60.
Engine: 2.0-liter, turbocharged, DOHC, direct-injected I4
Horsepower: 240 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 to 4,800 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Steering: Electrical power-assist rack-and-pinion
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 182.5 in.
Width: 73.4 in.
Height: 58.4 in.
Curb weight: 3,433 lb.
Cargo volume: 12 cu-ft.
EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 25/37/29 mpg