For 2017, the S60 comes in T5 Dynamic, T6 R-Design and high-performance Polestar variants. Compare them here. Volvo simplified the S60's trim levels and engines for 2017; compare the 2017 with the 2016 S60 here. Front-wheel drive is standard on the T5 (all-wheel drive is optional) and the T6 and Polestar get AWD standard. We cover the outdoorsy S60 Cross Country and extended-length S60 Inscription, which adds backseat legroom, separately on Cars.com.
Firm & Fast
We tested an AWD T5 equipped with Volvo's optional Sport chassis — a setup that makes for an objectionably choppy ride thanks to a lowered sport suspension with firmer springs and modified stabilizer bars, plus 19-inch wheels with lower-profile tires instead of the S60's standard 18s.
In contrast to the S60's comfortable base suspension, the sportified setup surrenders to every dip and rise in the pavement, with minimal isolation on all but the most pristine roads. Shock absorption over frost heaves and sewer covers is controlled enough, but the suspension filters out little turbulence elsewhere. (That's my take; I should note that fellow editor Mike Hanley drove a Sport chassis-equipped S60 in 2015 and found ride quality acceptable.)
Handling is strong, at least. Body roll is limited, and the Pirelli all-season tires stave off the S60's eventual understeer with impressive lateral grip. Still, it's hard to slide the tail around much — an area where cars like the BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS and Jaguar XE still reign. The Volvo's quick-ratio steering makes for precise, assertive directional changes, but its raw dynamics fall short of the winners' circle.
In terms of acceleration, the S60 turns in a solid effort. The sole transmission, an eight-speed automatic, upshifts with sewing-machine smoothness early and often, invariably landing you in higher gears when a lower gear might seem necessary for passing. But the T5's 240-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder makes a burly 258 pounds-feet of torque, and it's enough to muscle past slower traffic whether you've induced a downshift or not. The oomph comes lag-free, too: In contrast to the accelerator delay that afflicts so many luxury cars, the S60 moves in lockstep with your right foot.
The turbo five- and six-cylinder engines from last year are gone. If you're keeping track, what's in there now is the motor from last year's S60 T5 Drive-E, sans the extra verbiage. As base models go, it's quick: Stand on the gas and the S60 T5 can hit 60 mph in about 6 seconds, Volvo says. That hangs with manufacturer-estimated acceleration times for the Mercedes-Benz C300 and Audi A4 2.0T — both pricier cars. The T6 and Polestar add power and shave zero-to-60 times down to 5.6 and 4.4 seconds, respectively. Have at it.
The S60's cabin has aged well. Volvo's waterfall dashboard mixes elegance and functionality, with a center panel that's rife with physical, rather than touch-sensitive, controls — an essential layout, even if it delves a bit much into nonessentials like a full numerical keypad. Still, there's a clear sensibility to the layout. Behind the control panel is a big storage bin, and the stadium-style cupholders are shaped for the caffeine tankers Americans will stuff in.
The sole blemish is Volvo's multimedia system, a 7-inch display that looks sharp but confounds basic tasks with screen delays and extra menus. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are unavailable, and a backup camera is inexcusably optional instead of standard. The whole setup begs for a touchscreen, but instead you have to manage the action through steering wheel controls or a dashboard knob. Graphics aside, this smacks of a 2000s-era system.
If we must go old-school, at least visibility is a hell of a lot better than in so many cars today. The S60's narrow A-pillars keep forward sight lines acceptable, and the rear window is unobstructed once you flip down the head restraints with a dashboard button. That's a feature every car should have.
Build quality is exemplary in some areas but shoddy in others. Most surfaces are padded and low-gloss, and the doors have a handsome finish that extends all the way down. Still, it curiously doesn't match the stuff on the upper dashboard. The passenger seat leaves some unsightly hardware exposed at its base, and its manual adjustments in the T5 are a head-scratcher for a luxury car.
Volvo’s waterfall dashboard mixes elegance and functionality, with a center panel that’s rife with physical, rather than touch-sensitive, controls.
Speaking of chairs, the standard sport seats have prominent backrest bolsters that many shoppers will deem too restrictive. Alas, the T5 has no other seating option. The T6 and Polestar have unique seats, but both appear to be just as hip-hugging. Backseat headroom and seat position are acceptable, but legroom is tight — something the extended-length S60 Inscription improves by a significant 3.4 inches. Trunk space in any S60, however, is a smallish 12 cubic feet.
Crash-test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are excellent. The S60's standard low-speed automatic emergency braking earned an advanced ranking (out of none, basic, advanced or superior) in IIHS' crash-prevention test. An optional forward-collision warning system with higher-speed automatic braking earned a superior rating.
The S60 has its drawbacks, but its price — from about $35,000 for the reasonably equipped T5 up to the mid-$50,000s for a loaded T6 — represents a considerable value versus leading sports sedans from Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. Volvo might even draw a few shoppers away from entry-luxury subcompacts, like the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and Audi A3, a group for which the S60 is a far better alternative.
Volvo just unveiled a redesigned XC60 SUV with similar panache to the excellent XC90 and S90. Given the schedule of redesigns on the automaker's 60-series cars, a new S60 is certainly nigh. Still, the outgoing car remains a solid effort — age notwithstanding. Sports-sedan shoppers looking to save a few (thousand) bucks should give Volvo a gander. Just skip that Sport chassis.