2019 Volvo S60 Review: Drivability Doubts Tarnish Many Strengths

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Assistant Managing Editor-News Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey Mays

Redesigned for 2019, the S60 comes in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription variants. A standard turbocharged four-cylinder (labeled T5) drives the front wheels, while an optional turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder (T6) pairs with all-wheel drive. Later in 2019, an electric motor will turn the T6 into an even quicker car: a plug-in hybrid T8, which covers separately as the S60 Hybrid. For a handful of customers, a range-topping T8 modified by Volvo’s performance affiliate, Polestar, features even more tweaks. Compare all the variants here, or stack up the 2018 and 2019 S60. As its name suggests, the S60 is closely related to the V60 wagon and XC60 SUV; compare them here.

The S60’s varied lineup has something-for-everyone potential, but our particular test car, an S60 R-Design T6, illustrates one way not to get it: with upsized wheels and Volvo’s Sport Chassis.

Harsh, Not Sporty

A $200 option on the R-Design T5 or T6, the Sport Chassis has firmer springs and shocks, plus a half-inch-lower ride height than the S60’s standard suspension. Paired with optional 19-inch wheels and Continental P235/40R19 high-performance summer tires, this suspension has an objectionably firm ride: Shock absorption is harsh, and the chassis seldom isolates occupants from dips and rises in the pavement, even small ones. Expect turbulence at any speed over all but the smoothest roads.

Those offenses would be forgivable if the S60 offered a dramatic handling payoff, but a sporty car this is not. With temperatures in the high 40s during our handling tests, the Continental tires gripped well enough, but Volvo’s all-wheel-drive system did little to hide the S60’s front-biased layout. Apply enough gas through a corner, and the AWD in Volvo’s 60-series cars can send a little more power to the rear, nudging the tail a bit sideways to reorient the car, but it’s far from the sort of balance you get in true rear-drive AWD systems — or even front-drive ones with more proactive distribution, such as the Acura TLX and Audi A4. Likewise, the S60’s steering has numb feedback and a slow overall ratio, especially versus nimble competitors like the Jaguar XE and Genesis G70.

This isn’t the first time a sportified S60 variant has eviscerated ride quality: The prior generation’s optional Sport Chassis had similarly poor execution. The base wheels (18-inchers with higher-sidewall P235/45R18 tires) might improve ride comfort, as could the S60’s optional adaptive shock absorbers or suspension tuning without the Sport Chassis. Indeed, our L.A. Bureau Chief Brian Wong had no qualms about ride quality in his First Drive of an R-Design with 19s and the adaptive shocks, and we found shock absorption — though not isolation — better in a similarly equipped V60. Test-drive one of the S60’s other setups if you can.

With 316 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque, the T6 moves vigorously once all systems are go, but there’s noticeable accelerator lag and a lazy automatic engine stop-start system that delay movement for a few moments after you hit the gas. (You can permanently disable idle-stop, at least.) Depress the pedal on the highway for passing power, and the S60’s standard eight-speed automatic transmission lags too long before it initiates a downshift. A selectable Dynamic driving mode does little to lessen the lag.

Volvo says the S60 T6 hits 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, versus 6.2 seconds for the T5 engine (250 hp, 258 pounds-feet). Polestar tuning, available as an accessory package on the T5 and T6, adds incremental power via software changes. The S60 T8, meanwhile, gets a combined 400 hp and 472 pounds-feet of torque — enough to hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, or 4.3 for the Polestar Engineered S60 T8, which is a separate high-performance edition rather than an accessory package. That’s blazing quick, to be sure, but performance enthusiasts can get much quicker numbers in the highest-performance variants of certain S60 rivals.

Familiar, Outside and In

Some 5 inches longer than its predecessor but still more than a foot shorter than Volvo’s flagship S90 sedan, the S60 and V60 wagon follow the XC60 SUV, with horizontal lines and sleek Thor’s hammer headlights. Inside and out, the family resemblance means you might mistake an S60 for a larger S90. Both sedans carry themes similar to what Volvo introduced with the current XC90,’s Best of 2016 recipient. Given how well such styling has aged, I’m glad Volvo stayed the course.

The cabin carries the same tech-centric minimalism of Volvo’s other cars. The automaker’s now-familiar 9-inch touchscreen is standard, as are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Volvo puts too many functions onscreen rather than giving them separate physical controls — I’d prefer a dedicated tuning knob and separate climate dials, for example — but the menus are intuitive and overall touchscreen response is fast, bolstered by a hardier processor for all 2019 Volvos.

One editor bemoaned the S60’s prominent center console, which has decent storage provisions but space-inhibiting bulk. It’s also shod in hard plastic, not the padding many cars now employ — a letdown among otherwise good cabin materials. Some occupants may find the lower cushions in the R-Design’s bolstered sport seats too constraining; Momentum and Inscription editions have less bolstering. Perhaps more relevant to all seating types, our test car’s chairs had limited height-adjustment range and snug headroom. If you’re tall or like to sit high, take note.

The backseat has decent legroom but a low seating position for adults, though it’s aided by a steep lower-cushion angle that supports the thighs and makes it feel like you aren’t squatting. I found the R-Design’s backrests too washboard-like for comfort (again, Momentum and Inscription models have slightly different backseat cushions). But available amenities abound: Outboard passengers can get their own heated seats and climate zones, the latter with air vents on the center console and B-pillars. And in one of my favorite Volvo traditions, drivers can flip down the backseat head restraints at the touch of a button to aid rear visibility.

Winning Potential?

Pricing for the S60 runs right in the thick of other luxury sports sedans. The T5 Momentum starts around $37,000, including destination charge. A factory-loaded T8 Inscription will set you back some $65,000, but its 10.4-kilowatt-hour battery should qualify for the same federal tax credits — about $5,000 — as Volvo’s other T8 vehicles. (As of this writing, the EPA has yet to publish tax credits or mileage ratings for the T8.) Care by Volvo, a vehicle subscription program, allows you to own a preconfigured Momentum or R-Design for a flat monthly fee that includes insurance. The T8 Polestar comes only by subscription, and Volvo’s limited allotment for 2019 is already spoken for.

Crash tests are unavailable as of this writing. Once it’s tested, results for the 2019 version of the S60 will replace the 2018 results on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s mid-size luxury cars page. Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with steering assist, and a drowsy-driver detection system are standard. So are power front seats, a panoramic moonroof, dual-zone climate controls and leatherette (vinyl) upholstery. Option up the S60, and you can get heated and ventilated front seats with massagers, Nappa leather upholstery and Bowers and Wilkins audio. Volvo’s optional Pilot Assist system — standard on the T8 and optional elsewhere — pairs adaptive cruise control with lane-centering steering.

The S60 has some of the same practicalities that helped its XC60 sibling win’s Compact Luxury SUV Challenge last year. But the XC60 won that contest despite its lackluster driving refinement, something SUV shoppers might deemphasize. By contrast, shoppers comparing the S60 to nearly a dozen rival sports sedans may not. Whether the S60’s strengths outweigh its drivability letdowns — a lot of which hinge on which version you drive — will determine your verdict.

Editor’s note: This story was updated Jan. 11, 2019, to clarify that the S60 is a sedan.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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