2017 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic Review

A still great model is clearly showing its age


Wade Thiel, Staff Writer



Positives: Exterior design that has worn well over the years, supremely safe like a Volvo should be, comfortable for all occupants, potent thrust and entertaining to drive.
Negatives: Storage looks far better than it actually works, interior has time-traveled backwards, sometimes coarse engine, tall seating height goes against car's sporty demeanor.
Bottom Line: The S60 is an excellent AWD small luxury sedan. Its technology may feel a little dated, but just about everything else is really good. If you're looking for a European luxury sedan and don't want a German car, this model is an excellent choice.
It's hard to stay ahead in the game of modern cars. You put out a product you're proud of, it gets well-reviewed, and then time happens. Other cars look better, drive better and overall do better, and you haven't planned well for a timely redesign. That's where the S60 sits, and we know a change is just over the horizon.

Volvo has put out some seriously excellent cars lately. The new XC90 SUV and S90 sedan get most the headlines, but the brand has some other seriously good cars that haven't yet gone under the knife, such as the S60. The S60 has been in its current generation for seven years now which is almost an eternity in the car industry. Although it’s getting long in the tooth, Volvo has continued to update the S60, but it's high time things got totally overhauled. But that doesn't mean the current S60 is a bad car. To determine whether or not the car still has the goods to be competitive in its segment, we drove it for a week. Here’s what we found.

Driving Experience

7.1

 

The S60 does a good job walking the line between sportiness and comfort. The car is smooth on any road, but can also be a lot of fun when it comes to tight, technical curves. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine offers more than enough power for most people, whether that be at highway speeds or urban driving. The only thing we were a little annoyed with was how hard the engine seems to work to make good things happen. Pair that with a somewhat intrusive start/stop feature and it’s safe to say it’s not our favorite engine from Volvo.

Ride Quality: A near perfect balance between a firm sporty ride and a soft cushioned one. The car feels at home on just about any road surface.

Acceleration: There’s some turbo lag with the four-cylinder engine and pedal response isn’t the greatest. However, once the engine delivers power, the car feels genuinely fast. Reported 0-60 times are about six seconds.

Braking: The brakes are powerful and progressive and stopping distances are on par with the competition.

Steering: The electric power steering is adjustable in the S60, with three settings: low, medium and high. The system adjusts the amount of force you need to exert to turn the wheel. We left it on the medium setting and would expect most people to do the same.

Handling: The car handles great thanks to a good chassis, suspension and AWD system. There’s little body roll and the car feels stiff and capable in turns.

Technology

6.3

 

The S60 came equipped with nearly everything you want in a modern car, from lots of driver assistance technology to a feature-packed infotainment system. While Volvo manages to include everything you need, its execution could use some fine tuning. What it comes down to is that the infotainment system and controls are dated. The features are good, but getting to them can suck.

Infotainment System: The 7-inch display sits high on the dash. It’s easy to see, but the infotainment system is a little clunky. Graphics could be better, and the system should operate more smoothly. We can’t wait until Volvo redesigns this car with a system similar to the one in the XC90.

Controls: The number of buttons and knobs take some getting used to, and even once you know where things are, you can’t get to the features you want as easily as you should be able to. Because all the knobs (except the one for the fan) are the same size, we often reached without looking and cranked up the heat instead of the volume.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone to the system was easy and we experienced no issues.

Voice Call Quality: Call quality was good on both ends.

Styling

7

 

The S60 is attractive and aggressive without being over the top. It’s a little more interesting to look at than Audi and BMW’s offerings. Audi and BMW have sophisticated but somewhat bland styling for many of their sedans, and Volvo is a little more interesting right now.

Front: The front of the car features a split grille and a creased, sculpted hood that curves down to an aggressive nose. Xenon headlights are placed to either side of the grille. Overall, it’s an attractive and sporty looking front end.

Rear: The rear of the car features upside down L-shaped taillights and brand and model badges as well as an attractive dual exhaust setup.

Profile: The side of the car isn’t as interesting as the front or rear. The wheels are the most notable features. Our tester came with 10-spoke 19-inch alloys.

Cabin: The cabin features an elegant design with a kind of two-tone design between the black leather seats and dash and the brushed-aluminum-like trim.

Comfort

8.6

 

Volvo has some of the most comfortable interiors out there. While the S60’s cabin may look a little dated, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad place to be. The materials feel of high quality (especially the leather seats) and everything is within reach. When you get in this car you’re kind of in your own comfy world.

Front Seats: The leather-wrapped front seats are ergonomically sculpted and comfortable for long trips. They’re power adjustable and offer plenty of legroom and hip room. The seats offer good bolstering too, keeping you planted in the turns.

Rear Seats: There’s plenty of room in the rear seats and they’re well-cushioned. The middle seat features less padding in the seat back due to the armrest and wouldn't be comfy on a long trip.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Little wind or tire noise. You can hear the engine fairly often.

Visibility: Front and side visibility is good. The seating height in the car is higher than you’d expect, but that makes it easy to see the road. Looking out the rear of the car can be difficult, but with the power folding rear head restraints in the down position, it’s a little easier. Also, the backup camera helps.

Climate: Front and rear passengers benefit from the climate system. The controls for the system could be better and easier to use on the fly.

Safety

9.5

 

Volvo vehicles are known for safety. The company has invested a lot of its money and time in safety technology over the years, and it shows in their most recent models. The S60 is a very safe car. It received an overall five-star rating from the NHTSA by acing all the crash tests.

IIHS Rating: The S60 achieved a Top Safety Pick+ rating. The IIHS rated the car good for all crash tests and superior for crash avoidance and mitigation technology. The only blemishes on its record were acceptable ratings for headlights and ease of use for child seat anchors.

Standard Tech: Volvo’s collision avoidance tech is some of the best out there and will apply the brakes automatically if you don’t. It works very well and isn’t overly intrusive. Other safety technology includes active dual Xenon headlights, ABS, daytime running lights, emergency brake warning, stability and traction control, airbags, child seat latch attachments, and approach and home safe lighting.

Optional Tech: Our tester was equipped with some additional safety features, including road sign information, lane keeping aids, blind spot sensors and adaptive cruise control.

Storage/Cargo

6.2

 

The classy design of the cabin doesn’t offer much in terms of storage and cargo carrying. The car has a good-sized trunk that’s close in volume to the competition. There are places to stow some items, but if you’re looking for a sedan that places a premium on storage areas, this isn’t it.

Storage Space: The S60 doesn’t offer many storage bins. The two cup holders behind the gear shifter are nice and the small compartment beneath the armrest and the small space behind the controls on the dash are good for everyday carry items like wallets, phones or spare change, but if you’re looking for a place to toss a purse or book, your best bet is the glovebox, rear seats (if no one is sitting back there) or trunk.

Cargo Room: The S60’s trunk offers 12 cubic feet of space. If you need more room, the rear seats do fold down, allowing you to snake particularly long items into the cabin of the car.

Fuel Economy

7.2

 

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder puts out great power and also manages to be pretty efficient. The EPA estimates put the car at 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, which is on par with the competition. Other small European luxury sedans equipped with all-wheel drive manage similar numbers.

Observed: We saw an average of 25 mpg in the S60.

Driving Factors: During our week with the car, we drove in the city and on the highway. We put more city miles on the car than we did highway miles.

Audio

8.3

 

The Harman Kardon optional audio system offers 12 speakers that work together to provide rich, full-bodied sound. No matter what you listen to or the volume, it sounds fantastic. We don’t know what the base audio system sounds like, but we’d be willing to bet this upgraded system is worth the money.



Final Thoughts

The Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic isn't for the person who wants the latest and greatest. That being said, it's held on well despite its obvious age. It’s soft, safe and comfortable yet still feels sporty and powerful. Unless you're focused on a high level of in-car tech and seamless controls, you can't go wrong with this alternative European sedan. Volvo needs to update the interior with a focus on its infotainment system. If you want a super safe safe, eminently comfortable luxury sedan with AWD that still looks pretty damned good, this Volvo is a smart choice.
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