2011 Volvo S60
Base price: $30,975 – $37,700
As tested: $43,450
MPG: 18 city/26 highway
- Impressive safety features Smooth ride, AWD handling Extremely comfortable seats
- Not a standout in its class
- Disappointing fuel economy
- Expensive with options
By Jim Prueter
Advanced safety features define redesigned S60 sedan
Absent from the Volvo lineup for 2010, the S60 sedan returns for 2011 redesigned with an all-new exterior and interior along with a new 300-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder and all-wheel drive system.
For some reason the marketing folks at Volvo have chosen to advertise the new S60 as “The naughty Volvo” which seemed odd to me the first few times I watched the television commercial — and even stranger after spending a week behind the wheel.
For the record and to the contrary, we found the new S60 to be everything but naughty and generally a very civil sedan. Perhaps the naughtiest thing about the Volvo we drove was its dismal fuel economy that couldn’t even reach the 18 mpg city rating let alone the 26 mph highway range. We averaged just over 16 mpg for our weeklong testing on mostly commuter miles, a near 50/50 mix of city and highway driving. The only saving grace is that the 300-horsepower turbo-charged 6-cylindar engine is designed to run on regular unleaded fuel — something that is rarely said about turbo-charged engines, regardless of manufacturer.
The S60 competes in a crowded class of vehicles known as luxury sports sedans, which includes the BMW 3-Series, Infiniti G37, Acura TL, Lexus IS, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and others. While the S60 is light years ahead of the previous generation, it felt outclassed by its competitors. With S60, the parts didn’t seem to carry the whole of the vehicle.
Still there is much to like about the S60. Engine performance is strong with the all-wheel-drive S60 reaching 60 mph in a breathless 5.5 seconds. The cabin is quiet and void of wind noise at highway speeds. Handling was fantastic with plenty of stick thanks to performance tires, 18-inch wheels and Volvo’s Dynamic chassis setup.
Though Volvo’s stability-control system can never be completely shut off, it does come with an algorithm called Corner Traction Control, which works the brakes and inside wheels when cornering to help the S60 bang through tight curves.
We can easily claim that the S60 is the sweetest driving Volvo we’ve ever driven, but did find the transmission’s manual-shift mode counter-intuitive — you must shove the automatic transmission lever forward, away from you, to get it into sport mode.
The big news about the S60 however isn’t the new styling inside or out, nor is it the new 300-horsepower Turbo-charged engine. It’s the new Technology Package ($2,100), which features the Volvo Pedestrian Detection system, automatic lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, drowsiness alert system, and Collision Warning system with full auto brake. The Collision Warning system can prevent collisions where the difference in speed is 22 mph or less, including those where a pedestrian is involved. Additional options include a Land Departure Warning, a blind-spot monitoring system and front and rear parking sensors.
Outside, the redesigned S60 moves away from the two-box Volvo styling of old to the swoopy flowing hood and roofline reminiscent of its sibling XC60 crossover utility vehicle.
Inside we found the standard leather upholstered seats to be among the most comfortable of any vehicle we’ve driven. Our test vehicle came equipped with the optional ($1,500) Premium package that includes adaptive xenon headlights, a sunroof, and a power passenger seat.
Volvo’s floating center stack, a carryover from Volvo’s C30 coupe, creates a storage shelf to the back that will accommodate small packages, a camera or purse. Rotary knobs are large and intuitive.
The 2011 S60 is available in two models: the front-wheel drive T5 ($30,975), powered by a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder 250-horsepower engine, and the T6 ($37,700) all-wheel drive powered by a 3.0-liter 6-cylinder 300-horsepower engine. Both vehicles use a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with manual shift sport mode.
Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, and stability control. The 2011 S60 has not been crash tested by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as of the writing of this review.
Overall while the S60 was a quick, solid, and very appealing car to drive it failed to standout among top-rated competition like the 3-Series BMW, Lexus IS, Audi A4, or Infiniti G37. We also thought some of the optional equipment in this class should be standard given the base price. For example, our test car had an MSRP of $43,450 and didn’t include heated seats. They’re part of the Climate Package ($800) that include headlight washers, rain-sensing wipers, and heated windshield washer nozzles.
Last August, Ford Motor Company sold the famous Swedish Volvo brand to the Chinese automaker Geely Holding Group. Volvo will continue to be built in Sweden.