Now in it’s third generation, the S60 continues to evolve and improve and the 2019 version shows that Volvo is working hard to make great cars and successfully compete in the world market. We recently drove an AWD R-Design version to assess the state of Volvo’s popular sedan. The R-Design model provides a little extra level of design flair over the standard S60.
Outside, the R-Design has the same overall shape as the standard S60 but has some unique details to distinguish it. Black window trim instead of chrome. Black upper and lower grilles instead of chrome. Special tailpipes and different 18” wheels round out the exterior differences. These changes give the car a more sporting look than the base model.
Inside, the R-design has unique Nappa leather and upholstery on the seats. The R-Design also gets a unique leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector. The seats are 10-way electrically adjustable, and electric seat pad extensions are part of the package and are very comfortable and well bolstered.
A charcoal headliner is standard, and cool metal mesh deco aluminum inlays spiff up the interior. An updated nav system, a Harmon Kardon sound system, and a raft of electronic safety instruments complete the package. You get a lot for your $6100 R-Package option investment. Our car also came with heated rear seats and steering wheel, an advanced technology package, an improved Bowers & Wilkens sound system, and an upgrade to 19” R-Design wheels.
Under the hood is Volvo’s T6 engine that we’ve become quite fond of. It’s a dual-charged (super- and turbo-charged) 2.0L four-cylinder engine that makes 316hp and 295 ft-lbs of torque. No slouch, it rarely feels caught out, providing a nice flat torque curve to ride through the rev range. This time around however, it felt a little slower than normal. Perhaps the AWD added some extra weight or perhaps the fact that we’d just stepped out of a Maserati Levante Trofeo with a twin-turbo Ferrari-built V8 under the hood, but the T6 in this car felt a little taxed moving the car up the road. Not slow, mind you; but slower than we recall. This isn’t something we’ve experienced in other Volvo applications so we think it was more our perception than actual performance.
The 8-speed automatic does an excellent job of making subtle but quick shifts as it directs power to the AWD system. The car has shifters behind the steering wheel but they’re slower to respond that we’d like and they didn’t get much use because of that.
The ride has a firm, sporty feel that we enjoyed. It’s not rough or harsh in any way. It corners well with a little lean, but not enough to unsettle you. It’s performance is confidence-inspiring and it’s a delight to fling into a set of S-bends. The automatic transmission is quick to kick down and provide good power coming out of curves without upsetting the balance of the chassis. There is a drive mode controller on the console that allows you to select “Dynamic” and that makes the car’s responses much quicker and sporting. We actually preferred the car in Dynamic mode, although it didn’t quicken the steering wheel shifters like we hoped it would.
The brakes do an amazing job of stopping the car. You can control the degree of braking intensity with ease. They’re disk and calipers at all four corners with an electric parking brake. We never pushed them hard enough to see if they fade but they were still confidence inspiring.
The controls are well laid out. We’re quite fond of Volvo’s operating system. The navigation system that shows up in the gauge cluster is brilliant. The large screen above the center console is easy to see and use. The heads up display is nice when driving in heavy traffic so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. The seats are very comfortable.
Large bolsters keep you in place nicely but don’t complicate ingress and egress. We were really hoping for seat massagers like we experienced in the V90 last year but no such luck, although the electrically extendable seat pads were nice for drivers with longer legs; It offered a bit more support on long trips. Another nice feature that the S60 had was a button to fold down the rear seats. Push it and the headrests flopped down against the seat backs and then the seat backs would lower flat, making it easy to prepare to load the rear cargo area with several dozen boxes when your friends asks you to help him move.
All in all, the S60 is a very competent car. Sure-footed, safe, comfortable, with a lively engine to boot. Mileage is rated at 32 on the freeway and 21 in the city and that’s about what we saw.
Our favorite thing about the car was the engine’s easygoing power-band and the interior. One of the biggest reasons we enjoyed driving the car was because of the sense of stylish refinement and the logical layout of the controls. All the controls felt right and worked well. We enjoyed the interaction with the car. Our least favorite thing was the slowness of the operating system (nav, entertainment, etc) to boot up and the slow response from the paddle shifters. While other car’s systems come up instantly, it takes Volvo’s operating system between 30 – 45 seconds to come up and become responsive. And while we appreciate the option of shifting with the paddles, they were really too unresponsive to ever add to the driving experience. If anything, they detracted from it. But these are little things and as annoying to us as they were, we still enjoyed the S60 a lot.
The S60 starts at about $40,000. Our stickered at $55,000 but a big chunk of that was the R-Design package and the Bowers and Wilkens sound system upgrade.