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2019 Volvo S60 First Drive: Like Catching Up With an Old Friend

2019 Volvo S60

The 2019 Volvo S60 is a completely redesigned luxury sedan, but it feels oddly familiar. From the Thor's hammer headlight design to the tablet-style touchscreen and stylish interior, the 2019 S60 is more of a continuation for Volvo than an evolution.

Related: Carolina on Its Mind: Volvo Unveils 2019 S60, Pricing at First U.S. Plant

Volvo's platform, its Scalable Project Architecture, sits underneath most of its cars and SUVs. Each vehicle shares the same base turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the same Sensus Connect multimedia system and the same vertically oriented 9-inch touchscreen.

This means that when I met the redesigned S60, it was less like meeting a stranger and more like catching up with an old friend. Volvo has settled on a formula that feels like a winner to me, and the S60 is no exception. I tested two versions of the S60 around Santa Monica, Calif.: a T6 AWD R-Design with all the options boxes checked and the T8 Polestar Engineered. (In accordance with our ethics policy, Cars.com pays for its transportation to, and lodging at, such manufacturer-hosted events.)

Available Trims and Powertrains

2019 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design; Cars.com photos by Brian Wong

The S60, like other Volvos, offers Momentum, Inscription and R-Design trim levels. The front-wheel-drive T5 and all-wheel-drive T6 models are offered across all three trims, while the plug-in hybrid T8 is only offered in Inscription or R-Design guise. The T5 features a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 250 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque. The T6 ups the ante with a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder of its own, which pumps out 316 hp and 295 pounds-feet of torque.

The T8 has all-wheel drive and combines the gas engine from the T6 with a pair of electric motors and lithium-ion battery for a total combined output of 400 horsepower. Volvo will also offer a limited-volume, performance-focused T8 Polestar Engineered. See our S60 pricing rundown for a more detailed breakdown of the S60's various engine and trim levels.

More Sedate Than Sport

2019 Volvo S60; Cars.com photos by Brian Wong

Though the S60 goes up against luxury sedans with a heavy dose of sport, it trends in a different direction. Even though the R-Design has sportier looks and wheels, its ride quality is soft and comfortable. We've noted recent Volvos having some ride quality issues, but I did not find that in the S60. It has smooth road manners, though it does come at the cost of some sharpness.

The turbocharged and supercharged T6 engine offers plenty of scoot; power comes early, easy and often. The engine's 316 hp and 295 pounds-feet of torque is more than enough to give the S60 brisk acceleration and plenty of passing oomph. There are multiple drive modes, including an Eco mode that allows the car to be more efficient by coasting without engine braking at speeds greater than 40 mph.

A True Polestar?

2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered; Cars.com photos by Brian Wong

The previous S60 offered a Polestar performance edition, but it didn't offer electrification like the new one. All of the 2018 Polestar's power came from a gasoline engine; for 2019, the S60 Polestar Engineered uses Volvo's T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain with an added wrinkle of 15 additional horsepower that bumps total output up to 415 hp. It also has upgraded brakes, suspension and 19-inch wheels.

I found myself quite enamored with the old Polestar when it still had a six-cylinder engine. But the reasons I liked the old car so much — the exhaust noise, the tightness of the steering, suspension and an impressive all-wheel-drive system — weren't present here. For a Polestar-named product, this one felt a bit too squishy. The body rolls into corners and you can feel the car get a little unsettled when pushed, which was not something I expected.

The upgraded Brembo braking system is very twitchy. When braking ahead of a corner, it was easy to grab too much brake and unbalance the S60. Similarly, coming to a stop at low speeds also proved challenging as the pedal feel isn't linear, so it was very hard to predict when they would eventually catch, pitching occupants forward.

But if you want the 2019 S60 T8 Polestar Engineered, you'll have to wait until next year. Volvo only planned to offer this version through its Care by Volvo subscription service (at $1,100 per month), and all of the Polestar Engineered vehicles are already spoken for. The 2020 S60 likely will offer more. Volvo isn't sure yet if it will be subscription-only or up for traditional sale.

Faster Touchscreen

2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered; Cars.com photos by Brian Wong

Though the driving experience didn't overwhelm me, other changes were more successful, starting with the multimedia and vehicle controls system. This is the same system you can now find in all of Volvo's offerings, and it's a good system, but it previously had one big problem: a slow startup time.

In our long-term 2016 Volvo XC90 test car, Cars.com's Best of 2016 winner, this issue would repeatedly rear its head during our year with the SUV. You would start the XC90 and have to wait a good chunk of time for the system to boot up before it would show the backup camera.

Volvo updated the system with an upgraded processor that makes the system faster at recalculating navigation routes and startup times. I found the change to be as good as advertised, turning the S60 on and flicking it into Reverse right away. The backup camera image populated the screen in less than four seconds from the moment the car started, a remarkable improvement.

Volvo tells us that the faster processor will roll out to all 2019 model-year cars, so the upgrade won't just be limited to the S60 and V60 wagon.

Comprehensive Luxury

2019 Volvo S60

Though the S60's driving experience didn't blow me away, I still came away from my day impressed. Unsurprisingly, this follows how I've felt about other Volvos. The vehicles don't offer the best driving experience in their class, but everything else is so comprehensive that I either forget or just don't care.

The S60 is no exception. There are other sedans in this class that are more fun to drive (the Alfa Romeo Giulia immediately comes to mind), but I'd rather take the S60 home. Its interior is impeccable from a materials perspective, the multimedia and control system is top-notch, and the redesigned car is longer, which gives rear passengers plenty of legroom. My only nits to pick with the interior are a large floor hump that intrudes into the foot space for rear passengers and a lack of rear USB ports — just two up front.

But then I remember how well the safety features work, the quick startup time of the screen and super comfortable front seats, and those concerns melt away.

Production of the redesigned 2019 S60 begins late in the third quarter, with arrivals in dealerships by the end of the year.

Cars.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

 
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