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2018 Volvo S60 Review

2018 Volvo S60 Review
The 2018 Volvo S60 is a pleasant car, but rivals and even the rest of Volvo’s lineup have left it in the dust.

The 2018 Volvo S60 is a traditional luxury sedan with a moderately sporty flair.

With its comfortable interior, broad lineup, efficient powertrains, and high safety scores, the 2018 S60 is a good choice unfortunately let down by an outdated infotainment system.

The Volvo S60 is available in a wide array of trim levels—Dynamic, Inscription, Inscription Platinum, R-Design, Polestar, and the off-road-oriented Cross Country—each with many packages and individual options. The wagon version of the S60, the Volvo V60, is covered separately but is essentially the same vehicle aside from its more utilitarian cargo hold.

This year may be the current S60’s last. To mark the occasion, heated seats and a heated steering wheel are now standard instead of optional. The S60’s basic design dates back to the 2011 model year, which makes it among the oldest in a competitive set that includes such stalwarts as the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Parked next to newer designs like the larger S90 sedan in Volvo’s showroom, the S60 can look a little frumpy and dated. Its organic lines are clean, but not as crisp as those Volvo’s designers have shown us they can draw. Still, Volvo should be commended for offering the S60 with many different wheel designs, interior and exterior hues, and even suspension heights. The taller S60 Cross Country looks suitably buff for a day exploring the wilderness, while the S60 Inscription’s wheelbase stretches an extra three inches for added rear-seat room.  

Inside, the S60’s dashboard is littered with buttons, an optional all-digital instrument cluster keeps it from looking too dated. Its infotainment system features a bright 7.0-inch screen, but there’s no Apple CarPlay and the non-touchscreen setup is cumbersome compared to more modern rivals (and the gorgeous vertical display in Volvo’s fresher designs).

While all S60 sedans come with an 8-speed automatic, three different variants of a 2.0-liter inline-4 engine can be found underhood. S60 T5s feature a turbo-4 rated at 240 hp and can be paired with either front- or all-wheel drive. The 302-hp S60 T6 and the high-performance, 362-hp S60 Polestar use versions of a turbocharged and supercharged turbo-4 that sends power to all four corners. The S60 Cross Country features a small suspension lift and is only available with the 240-hp motor and all-wheel drive.

No S60 leads its class in terms of fuel efficiency, but the 29 mpg combined for the base, front-drive model is certainly competitive. More powerful S60s are thirstier.

Base S60s are serene, while Polestars are strong but not as thrilling as their body kits, big brakes, fancy suspension, and available Cyan Racing Blue paint scheme might suggest. Volvo has traditionally been better at safety than performance, even though the brand’s Polestar division is hinting it has some exciting designs up its sleeves.

All S60s include low-speed automatic emergency braking, while full-speed automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors and active lane control are reasonably priced options.

Inoffensive to the point of being bland, the 2018 Volvo S60 relies on a bright color palette to be eye-catching.

The 2018 Volvo S60’s not a bad looking sedan, but its rivals and even its own siblings are far more interesting to behold. We figure that the S60 is about average, with no real compelling reasons to buy one for its styling but also nothing offensive.

The S60’s lines are clean and smooth, with gentle surface contouring. Each trim level has its own front and rear fascias. S60 Dynamic and R-Design trims feature a more heavily scalloped lower front bumper and wheels with black accents. The S60 Inscription shoots for a more classic look with hints of chrome and complex wheel designs and its three-inch wheelbase stretch is masked well. The sporty S60 R-Design, meanwhile, is the only one available in Smurf Blue (which Volvo chooses to call Cyan Racing Blue, but whatever) and it has a low-riding body kit.

Standing on its own as the answer to the question we’re not sure anyone was asking is the S60 Cross Country. It sits more than two inches higher off the ground than the standard S60 and has unpainted fender flares and a silver-painted plastic faux skid plate under its front bumper. It’s the least pretty S60, but we’ll give Volvo props for trying something new.

Inside, all S60s are about the same with a dashboard canted slightly toward the driver. Even S60 Inscriptions are plain inside with limited stitching and brightwork, although the available matte wood trim and cognac leather combination is pleasantly upscale.

Central on the dashboard is a “floating” stack that holds most of the numerous audio, climate, and vehicle controls grouped together like an older cellphone. There’s a little storage room behind it, but the floating design is not quite the novelty it once was.

The 2018 Volvo S60 accelerates and handles well, but its ride and engines are not as refined as some rivals.

The 2018 Volvo S60’s trio of engines make for a desirable spec sheet, but they come up a little short on refinement. As it stands, the S60 doesn’t quite justify its price tag when it comes to performance.

We’ve rated it a perfectly average 5 out of 10, although we concede that the zippy S60 Polestar has a certain appeal. 

Most S60s feature a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque that Volvo brands T5. The base engine shuttles power to either the front wheels, or all four for an additional $2,000, via an 8-speed automatic transmission. The turbo-4 provides ample acceleration, but it sounds more coarse under acceleration than it should, when you consider its price tag can climb toward $50,000. We’ve also noticed occasional confusion from the automatic transmission.

Find an S60 with a T6 badge on its rump and it’ll be powered by a turbocharged and supercharged—yes, both—version of the 2.0-liter turbo-4 good for 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque paired to the same 8-speed automatic. It’s noticeably faster without making substantially better sounds and the hefty price tag makes it a tough sell for us. Volvo only offers the T6 with the R-Design trim package and all-wheel drive.

Topping the range is the S60 Polestar with its 362-hp, 346 lb-ft of torque version of the T6’s engine. It’s fast thanks to its broad torque curve, but not as ferocious as rivals with full-on performance cars like the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63. It’s also not a lot cheaper, making it something of a dubious value unless heavily discounted.

Base S60s with their standard 18-inch alloy wheels have a well-controlled ride that can occasionally crash hard on big bumps. Selection the optional 19-inchers makes things more brittle. The Polestar’s Ohlins-supplied suspension is much more impressive and remarkably cosseting. It doesn’t turn the S60 into a razor-sharp corner-carver, but there’s little body lean and even the roughest pavement doesn’t intrude too much into the cabin.

Despite the thick-rimmed steering wheel included on every S60, there’s little road feel. Still, the S60’s handling is sharp and direct, bordering on entertaining. Overall, though, the S60’s plump curb weight—all-wheel drive models approach 4,000 pounds—makes itself known too much for drivers to have a lot of behind-the-wheel fun. The optional adaptive suspension provides several different suspension settings, but even the standard non-adjustable setup plush enough for day-to-day driving and taut enough for a jaunt through the twisties.

All-wheel drive is optional with the base engine and standard elsewhere. As you might expect for a country covered in snow for much of the year, the Haldex system quickly shuttles power around as needed. Up to 50 percent of the sedan’s power can be shifted rearward for more traction. The S60 Cross Country sits about 2.5 inches higher off the ground than its siblings, but it’s more about the look than any real capability. It leans more into corners, but generally drives just like any other S60—albeit with a seating position above most sedans.

Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Volvo S60 wouldn’t be a Volvo without comfortable front seats.

In typical Volvo fashion, the 2018 S60 boasts exceptionally comfortable front seats and its interior is composed of high-quality plastics and soft-touch materials. That’s enough to earn this four-door a 7 out of 10 on our scale. 

The long-wheelbase S60 Inscription would earn an extra point for its commodious back seat, but it’s not the model you’re most likely to find on a dealer’s lot.

All S60s come standard with leather upholstered seats in one of two designs: a standard setup with power adjustability or a more heavily-bolstered sport seat. Heated front seats are a new and welcome standard feature across the lineup.
The standard S60’s second row is comfortable for two, albeit with less stretch-out legroom than some rivals. That’s corrected in the S60 Inscription, a model originally designed for buyers who prioritize second-row comfort in the Chinese market. Accordingly, the S60 Inscription is actually built in China, while the rest of the lineup comes from Sweden—not that there’s any difference in the way the cars drive or feel.

A voluminous trunk benefits from a wide opening and a standard split-fold rear seatback.

Fit-and-finish has been top notch on every S60 we’ve driven and we’ve enjoyed the unique surface graining and available aluminum and wood trim that impart a sedate but upmarket feel even on an S60 with no optional extras selected.

The 2018 Volvo S60 upholds the automaker’s reputation for crash safety, but we wish a rearview camera was standard on all trim levels.

Living up to its maker’s reputation for safety, the 2018 Volvo S60 scores very well here: an 8 out of 10 let down by missing front-passenger data, and the fact that a rearview camera is an optional extra.

It earns that commendable score based both on its safety equipment and on its crash-test scores. All S60s leave the factory with six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes, low-speed automatic emergency braking, and adaptive headlights.

Full-speed automatic emergency braking is standard on all but the S60 Dynamic.

Unfortunately, the only way to get a rearview camera on the S60 Dynamic is to opt for the nearly $2,000 Vision Package (which also includes keyless ignition, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, rear park assist, and an LCD instrument cluster. Other versions of the S60 come standard with the rearview camera.

Offsetting that demerit considerably are top-notch safety scores. The NHTSA rates the S60 at five stars overall. The IIHS calls almost every version of the sedan a Top Safety Pick. The only exception? The S60 Inscription, which doesn’t come standard with HID headlights that the insurance industry-funded organization says provide an “Acceptable” amount of illumination. The S60 Inscription’s standard halogen lights are rated “Poor.”

Plenty of trim levels and options make the 2018 Volvo S60 easy enough to customize, but its infotainment is behind the times.

A wide feature set that starts with a luxurious base model and ends with a decadent range-topper earns the 2018 Volvo S60 two points above average. We’d give the lineup another point for its 7.0-inch infotainment system, but the software is cumbersome compared to fresher designs.

The S60 lineup starts with the Dynamic trim level at around $35,000. Another $2,000 adds all-wheel drive. Standard features include HID headlights, heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, a power driver’s seat with memory, low-speed automatic emergency braking, satellite radio, and 18-inch wheels. Nearly all of those features are optional on most of the S60’s rivals, making it a comparatively good deal at its entry price.

A handful of option packages dress up the S60. We recommend the $1,950 Vision Package that adds a rearview camera, a configurable LCD instrument cluster, blind-spot monitors, and keyless ignition. Also worthwhile is the $1,500 Technology Package with adaptive cruise control, active lane control, full-speed automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beam headlights, and a few other goodies.

Perhaps more dubious is the $1,000 Sport Package with a suspension that’s a little firm for our tastes without adding much to the S60’s handling. Navigation is bundled with a Harman Kardon audio system, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are notably absent on any S60—a reminder of this model’s age.

The S60 Inscription runs about $2,800 more and features a wheelbase stretched by about three inches, navigation, a rearview camera, and rear parking sensors—although it deletes the HID headlights in favor of more basic halogens. Otherwise, the S60 Inscription’s options set mostly mirrors that of the S60 Dynamic.

An Inscription Platinum adds most of the features normally optional—think of it like an option package more than a separate trim level.

The all-wheel-drive S60 Cross Country runs about $45,000 and in addition to its lifted suspension and more butch body kit, it includes as standard most of the S60 Dynamic’s option packages.

Next up, the S60 R-Design swaps in the 302-horsepower engine, a firmer chassis, 19-inch alloy wheels, and a unique body kit, but its price tag is awfully close to $50,000. It’s offered with only a handful of options like heated rear seats and blind-spot monitors.

Topping the line is the S60 Polestar with its 362-hp engine, a unique Ohlins-supplied suspension, and a number of other performance enhancements. S60 Polestars top $60,000, but they’re all outfitted the same. The only decision to make with an S60 Polestar is between one of a handful of exterior paint colors.

All S60s use the same infotainment system with a bright, high-resolution screen tucked high on the dashboard. The screen is terrific, but that’s about where the accolades stop. The S60’s display isn’t a touchscreen and there’s no separate control knob, so you’re stuck with a control knob that normally operates as a tuner for the radio.

Fuel Economy
Nearly all versions of the 2018 Volvo S60 offer good fuel economy, although they run on pricey premium fuel.

Front-wheel-drive versions of the 2018 Volvo S60 are highly rated for their fuel economy, but selecting a more powerful engine or all-wheel drive dents those figures considerably.

Our 7 out of 10 rating here applies to the front-wheel-drive version of the S60, which is the most popular configuration.

Base S60s are rated at 25 mpg city, 36 highway, 29 combined. Popping for all-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the bottom line and it’ll have you stopping at gas stations more thanks to a 22/33/26 mpg rating. That’s a big hit for all-wheel drive. The tall-riding S60 Cross Country is even thirstier: 22/30/25 mpg.

The S60 T6, which is only available with all-wheel drive, comes in at 22/32/26 mpg, a modest hit given its extra power.

Topping the lineup is the most powerful—and thirstiest—S60 variant: the Polestar. It’s rated at 20/27/22 mpg.

All S60s feature a stop/start system that cuts out the engine at traffic lights and fires it up again when the driver takes his or her foot off the brake pedal. There’s no electrified S60.

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