2019 Volvo S60 R-Design AWD Review

The best all-around sports sedan today


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Handling and steering are surprisingly good, potent engine, high levels of comfort, beautifully styled, excellent interior design and materials quality.
Negatives: Infotainment needs laggy quirks weeded out, drive selector switch looks great but is hard to use.
Bottom Line: The S60 is a sedan that's rewarding to drive, as well as to sit in and look at. We were shocked at how fun it was to get behind the wheel and toss it around, and it felt truly solid, as well. If only the infotainment system lagged less, but it is a very impressive sedan, the point of upstaging the S90. Though not as connected and engaging as the Audi A4 or a Genesis G70, the S60 does so many things well as a premium sports sedan.
Volvo is once again trying to break into the European sports sedan fray with a brand new S60. The last one was a decent car but more of an also-ran than a bonafide carver. But the new car shows tremendous promise with its powerful engine options ranging from a 250 hp base turbocharged T5 engine and a T6 with supercharging that bumps the equation to 316 horses and standard all-wheel drive. It's going after the Audi A4, the BMW 3-series, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class with more than just power and traction but with some really great styling inside and out. We drove the sporty-trimmed T6 R-Design for a week to see how it fared in this hot segment.
 

Driving Experience

9.3

 

It's likely that many hardcore sports sedan enthusiasts won't even look at the S60 an option, but it's a remarkably well-balanced car all around when it comes to the whole driving experience. We were surprised by how much we enjoyed our time in the driver's seat.

Ride Quality: The ride is firm but very comfortable. It absorbs bumps and impacts remarkably well and never felt out of sorts.

Acceleration: The supercharged 316-hp engine puts the power down well to all four wheels, giving the S60 T6 a 0-60 time in the low 5s. Throttle response is great, and the supercharger virtually eliminates any turbo lag.

Braking: Its 166-foot stopping distance from 70 mph also is solidly competitive.

Steering: Its steering is accurate but numb with very little being communicated through the steering wheel. But the turn-in is near-immediate, and it's very precise.

Handling: Balance feels great, and the S60 corners pretty flat with no noticeable understeer.

Technology

8.6

 

The 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is one of the best in the business thanks to clean fonts, a brilliantly crisp screen, and easy menu toggling with the steering wheel buttons. While the tablet-style Sensus infotainment system has standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it can be frustrating to operate.

Infotainment System: The 9" touchscreen handles pretty much everything for infotainment and climate. While it looks great, there's lag (especially upon startup). Volvo needs to work on the software to be more responsive with fewer hangups. Otherwise, it's pretty good. It just takes some getting used to.

Controls: There are good physical audio controls just beneath the touchscreen, and the steering wheel controls are big and easy operate while driving.

Styling

9.5

 

This is another area where the S60 really stands out. We love the fact that it looks like no other European (or Japanese or Korean) sports sedan on the market. It carves its own path with a sophisticated style that's more artful than pretentious. It's a car you can own without other drivers thinking you're major tool, which we like.

Front: The wide Volvo grille is beautifully textured and very original, not copying anyone else and perfectly sized. The flanking Thor's hammer t-shaped headlights are some of the best in the business.

Rear: We used to dislike the bigger brother S90's taillights, which also show up on the S60, but they've grown on us largely because they don't look like versions of another brand's. The rear fascia is clean thanks to thin reflectors and matching twin exhaust ports. The simple Volvo lettering is also nice and iconic. We love that it hasn't changed at all.

Profile: The R-Design keeps things sporty with black window trim (instead of the Inscription trim's chrome) and black side mirrors. The proportions are balanced with short overhangs in front and back, and the body creases are minimal. Thank goodness there's no fender badging or faux vents anywhere to be seen.

Cabin: Volvo really has gone out of their way to make a stunning interior. R-Design sports steering wheel, sport pedals, and shifter are great touches. The leather seats have grippy inserts and a sporty look, and the materials and design are both top notch. It looks like no other car inside, and that's a high compliment. The S60's cabin, as with all other current Volvo models, is one of the best in the industry regardless of cost.

Comfort

9

 

For a sports sedan, this thing is plenty roomy in front and back, and the ergonomics are excellent. Volvo paid a lot of attention to occupant comfort, and it's truly a premium grade experience for driver and passengers.

Front Seats: The 10-way power seats for both driver and passenger are superb. Thigh bolsters are what we expect in this class of car for long-haul comfort, and they do not disapoint. The leather is soft and thick.

Rear Seats: The rear seat provides excellent legroom in a car where we didn't expect it. They're also well contoured in the outboard positions.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Volvo feels well-constructed and exhibited no creaks or vibrations during our testing. It's also quiet at highway speeds.

Visibility: The pillar thicknesses contribute to good visibility all around, as does the seating position and beltline. The cameras also work very well with clear displays on the touchscreen.

Climate: One of the better systems around thanks to big airblade vents and quick response from the HVAC. The heated front and rear seats are a huge benefit on cold Chicago days.

Safety

8.5

 

We'd love to give the S60 higher scores here simply because it does so well in crash tests. It just gets dinged for headlights, and they actually performed quite well during our own testing period.

IIHS Rating: It didn't nab top awards but received the top rating of "good" in all crash tests, which is a big deal. It also scored "superior" in accident avoidance tech but only "marginal" with headlights.

NHTSA Rating: 5 stars from the federal government.

Standard Tech: The S60 comes standard with a blind spot info system with cross-traffic and autobrake, collision avoidance tech that detects pedestrians, bikers, and large animals, whiplash protection, and rear park assist just to name a few.

Optional Tech: Front and rear park assist, adaptive cruise control, Pilot Assist Semi-Autonomous Drive System, 360 Surround View Camera, Full LED headlights with Active Bending Lights.

Storage/Cargo

6.8

 

There's not a ton of storage and cargo room in the S60, but it's decent. In the segment, it's actually one of the smaller ones, but at least the opening is large and the floor is flat.

Storage Space: The main accessible storage comes in the way of the cupholders with the sliding door. There's a small compartment in front of the shifter, but it's too small for a phone. The door pockets and armrest compartment can hold larger items.

Cargo Room: There's only 11.6 cubic feet in the trunk, smaller than the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Merc C-Class.

Fuel Economy

7

 

It's smart to supercharge and turbocharge for more power out of a 4-cylinder mill, but that doesn't equate to top-tier fuel economy. But the S60 is also sporty, so there's some sacrifice. We weren't blown away, but it's also not class leading.

Observed: 20.4 mpg

Distance Driven: 243 miles

Driving Factors: We drove the S60 exclusively in Dynamic (sport) mode for more performance and responsiveness from the transmission. We also drove it with a healthy amount of throttle, which definitely contributed to the lower fuel efficiency.

Audio

9.3

 

The standard 16-speaker Harman Kardon system is awesome, but ours got the optional Bowers & Wilkins system, which is even better. Great sound adjustment capability also contributes to one of the best premium audio upgrades around. We loved listening to it and experienced no issue, but $3,200 for the upgrade is a lot to swallow. Most folks will be happy with the base system, which is anything but base.



Final Thoughts

Though some die-hard driving enthusiasts may lament the fact that the S60 isn't as palpable in the driving department as the 3-Series or the A4, the S60 is simply a joy, and we'd consider it for our own personal garage as a superb all-around sports sedan with great driving thrills, supremely comfy and handsome interior trim, as well as head-turning but elegant styling. The R-Design trim will send the price well north of the car's $40K base price, but we think it's well worth it.
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