2020 Volvo S60 T5 R-Design review: A lovely little thing – Roadshow

2020 Volvo S60 T5 FWD R-Design

This Volvo competes with other luxury sedans like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Volvos are tastefully designed, carefully crafted and often warmer and more inviting than rival vehicles from Germany or Japan. Just like the automaker’s larger models, the S60 sedan possesses a certain Swedish ambiance that makes it feel special in a way that, say, an Acura doesn’t. From its interior design to the driving experience, this car is a lovely little thing.

Like

  • Roomy, premium interior
  • Overall refinement
  • Gorgeous design
  • Engaging drive

Don’t Like

  • Why no extendable sun visors?
  • Slight off-the-line turbo lag
  • Sensus Connect… again

The last Volvo I tested was an XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid. A seriously hefty vehicle, this model is one family-size take-out order shy of two-and-a-half tons. By comparison, the S60 T5 is a whopping 1,336 pounds lighter. Since these two vehicles have similar cabins, seats and tech, my brain automatically assumes this four-door will carry itself like a main battle tank, but this expectation is completely unfounded.

The S60’s steering is crisp and direct with zero discernible torque steer. Sure, additional road feel would be great, but the refinement and solidity this thick-set tiller exhibits are hard to argue with. Yes, the ride is firm, but it’s also vastly superior to the XC90’s. Impacts are felt but they’re never stabbing, plus the chassis seems as well-lubricated as a wheel bearing packed with fresh grease, with no grittiness or vibration, even when driven over crumbling surfaces. When you consider my tester’s large, 19-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli 235/40 P-Zero all-season tires, the chassis tuning becomes all the more impressive. Vehicles with rollers this big usually ride pretty harshly, as do many of this Swedish automaker’s products. 

As in other Volvos, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder is the beast of burden tasked with hauling this S60 around. It’s an almost unbelievably quiet powertrain with turbine-like smoothness from idle to redline. But unlike other flavors of this engine, the version used in T5 models only has a turbocharger huffing air into its lungs. Consequently, it lacks the immediate punch that turbocharged-and-supercharged variants provide.

Yes, this S60 can lag a bit off the line, but once some air is flowing through that blower it has no trouble moving with authority and can scamper to 60 mph in around 6.3 seconds if you keep the accelerator buried. An eight-speed automatic transmission works with this car’s 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque to deliver that more-than-adequate performance. This gearbox is almost always on point, quick to change ratios and nearly seamless, however, I notice a few clunky upshifts, though these are rare.

Solid performance and engaging dynamics are two feathers in this car’s proverbial cap, but so is fuel economy. My T5 tester is EPA-pegged at 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 34 on the highway. Combined, it should return 27 mpg, but in mostly rural motoring I achieved a claimed 33.5, which is, frankly, pretty excellent for a luxury sedan.

2020 Volvo S60 T5 FWD R-Design

Swedish elegance and plenty of tech define the S60’s cabin.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

But what’s even more impressive than this car’s real-world consumption is its interior. True to form, the S60’s cabin is beautifully crafted, with loads of leather, contrast stitching and upscale materials. The dashboard is strongly horizontal but also packs visual pizzazz. It’s embellished with textured aluminum, a trim that’s used to great effect on the center console’s roll-top-desk-style cover as well.

R-Design models feature Nappa leather-covered seats that are dressed up with fabric accents. The front buckets are all-day supportive, and the aft bench is nearly as comfortable, being commendably spacious, even for taller folks.

The S60’s trunk is plenty large as well, with a claimed 13.8 cubic feet of room when equipped with a spare tire. That’s more than you get in rivals like the Audi A4, Genesis G70 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. A wide-opening lid and low lift-over height should make it as easy as pie to load cargo into this sedan.

There’s little to complain about in this car, so I’m forced to nitpick. As in the XC90, sliding sun visors are a curious omission. Basically, they won’t extend to cover the full width of the front side windows to fight glare. This is so strange for a company that built its reputation on boxy station wagons, I mean, on safety. Why, Volvo? Why?

2020 Volvo S60 T5 FWD R-Design

Sensus is powerful, but it’s also a bit challenging to use and sometimes it lags. 

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The Sensus Connect infotainment system with navigation and its associated 9-inch portrait touchscreen are a prominent part of this car’s cabin. As multimedia solutions go, it’s fine, being neither my favorite offering nor one of the industry’s worst. Even after experiencing it in many different cars and utility vehicles over the years, I still find its user interface a little confounding and the performance occasionally laggardly. Ameliorating this situation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard equipment. A Wi-Fi hotspot is also integrated.

The S60’s available Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system is an excellent option, provided you don’t mind paying an additional $3,200. With 15 speakers and 1,100 watts of power, it’s loud, it’s clear and it can even make satellite radio sound decent. Piped through lesser systems, SiriusXM has all the fidelity of a wax-cylinder phonograph. 

As for other tech, R-Design models come standard with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, they also have lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, road-departure mitigation and a smattering of other useful aids. The optional $2,500 Advanced Package brings features like a clear and crisp head-up display, an ever-useful 360-degree camera system and Pilot Assist, Volvo’s name for adaptive cruise control with lane centering, to the table. That last item works OK: At higher speeds this hands-on-the-wheel aid seems more stable, but oddly, on two-lane roads it will sometimes tug at the steering wheel a bit, bouncing the car from one line to the other. Generally, I think Honda Sensing and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist are a little more consistent than what Volvo offers.

2020 Volvo S60 T5 FWD R-Design

This car is beautiful from all directions.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

An entry-level, front-drive, S60 T5 Momentum model can be had for right around $37,000, including $995 in delivery fees. With options like 19-inch wheels, metallic paint, an automatic-parking feature and a couple of other things in addition to the add-ons mentioned above, this R-Design example checks out for 10 bucks shy of 52 grand, a not-unreasonable figure, at least by 21st-century standards. I mean, you could spend more than that on a Lincoln MKZ, which would totally not be worth it. Of course, if you’re shopping in this segment, you would be wise to consider the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, two ubiquitous rivals. Yeah, they’re about as common as green lawns in suburbia, but there’s a reason they’re so popular: It’s because they’re really good.

With handsome looks, a luxurious interior and decently engaging dynamics, there’s little to gripe about here. Volvo has managed to distill the fundamental excellence of its larger vehicles down into a more manageably sized, affordably priced, and perhaps most importantly of all, lighter package.

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