Review: 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD

Jim Kenzie
By Jim Kenzie
Posted on November 22nd, 2013
0 Comments

Volvo has pretty much fallen off the radar screen recently. After a decade-long ownership by Ford, it was cut loose in 2010, ending up in the arms of the Chinese Geely company.

Judging from what little I have seen of Geely’s cars, they can use all the design, engineering and quality help Volvo can offer.

Perhaps the combination of Volvo’s expertise and Geely’s money and connections in China will work, as it seems to have with India’s Tata and Jaguar/Land Rover, two other European brands orphaned by Ford.

All-new products will start rolling off both the Swedish and the new Chinese Volvo assembly lines next year.

Meanwhile, Volvo is offering refreshed versions of some cars that have been around for quite a while.

I recently caught up with the 2014 S60 sedan and, frankly, I was pleasantly surprised.

The T5 five-cylinder front-drive S60 starts at $39,750. The T6 six four-wheel drive begins at $47,550. My tester was the Platinum trim level ($52,100), which largely brings SatNav and an upgraded sounds system.

You can also check R-Design ($52,450) or R-Design Platinum ($56,600) boxes on the order form.

No wagon at the moment, which seems odd for Volvo. But a new V60 wagon is coming to what Volvo calls “Candanavia” this January — if that means us and not the U.S., well, their loss.

Meanwhile, the sleek coupé-like profile of the S60 sedan has been face-lifted (in a good way) with new hood, grille, headlights and fenders up front, and an extractor-style exhaust pipe treatment at the back.

There’s up-rated trim, and, in T6 and Sport-package-equipped T5 models, sport seats that continue Volvo’s tradition of great seat comfort, with added side support for brisk cornering.

The S60 also has Volvo’s odd open-at-the-sides centre console storage bin, out of which stuff keeps falling. Not sure who came up with this idea, but it can’t be fixed too soon.

The instrument panel on the T6 is a TFT (Thin Film Transistor) affair that allows you to choose from three different formats, ECO, Elegance and Sport. The latter has red lighting, which I liked aesthetically, but, in some daylight conditions, proved hard to read.

Cameras in the car “read” the speed limit signs, and display the current limit in the IP. Most of the time anyway; occasionally it would miss one.

The Sensus information system, with a 7-inch screen, provides the usual access to infotainment-phone-driver-aid-SatNav functions. As with all such systems, it will take some acclimatization, but it’s better than most.

A thumbwheel on the steering wheel spoke allows you to page through the menus with minimal distraction.

The turbocharged, inline, 3.0-litre six generates a substantial 300-horsepower and a satisfying torque plateau of 325 lb.-ft. from 2,100 to 4,200 r.p.m.

This promises, and delivers, smooth, linear acceleration, despite the six-speed automatic gearbox being down a ratio or two to some of the competition.

Paddle shifters on the steering wheel — a first for Volvo — allow a modicum of driver control over ratio-swapping.

Volvo gets the direction for manual shifting of the lever wrong — it should be back for upshift and forward for downshifts — but so does almost everybody except a few like Porsche and Mazda.

The Haldex full-time four-wheel-drive system nominally directs 95 per cent of torque to the front axle, but can quickly change that ratio depending on circumstances. Volvo says it now does this transition faster.

As you would expect from a Volvo, there’s a pages-long list of safety features, including pedestrian and cyclist detection with full automatic braking.

This is all part of the company’s stated goal of “Nobody dies in a Volvo” by 2020. A worthy, if tall, order, which I think underestimates the creativity of drivers.

To me, the most important safety innovation from Volvo is its whiplash prevention seats. For years now, Volvo has shown the world how to do this.

The cost in pain and lost productivity from whiplash is enormous, and it can be almost entirely eliminated with this relatively inexpensive feature. That governments the world over haven’t made this mandatory is unconscionable.

Kudos to Volvo as well for being one of the very few car companies who get Daytime Running Lights correct — they don’t have them. You turn the headlight switch to “on” when you buy the car, and never have to touch it again.

Whenever the car is running, all lights are on, including your taillights, so people following you in dismal weather can see you. Given the preponderance of driving we do on controlled-access freeways, this is more important to my mind than having the front lights on.

I happened to be driving the S60 at the same time as I had a BMW 320iX on test, which gave me a rare back-to-back comparison.

Volvo has, so far at least, resisted the siren call of run-flat tires. And that’s probably the main reason why the S60’s ride was orders of magnitude better than the BMW’s.

More critical for BMW’s image, the Volvo handled better, too. I believe that’s because BMW had to soften the 3’s suspension to tame the run-flat ride, and lost handling in the process.

The Volvo was also quieter, although at least part of that was the smooth six-cylinder engine, versus the BMW’s four.

In sum then, the Volvo S60 is a handsome, sufficiently spacious, nicely-built, quick, smooth-riding and nimble car that just happens to be as safe as houses.

Does it deserve more attention than it’s getting? I think you have gathered that by now.

The vehicle tested by freelance writer Jim Kenzie was provided by the manufacturer. Email: wheels@thestar.ca.

2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD

Price: $47,550 base, $57,350 as tested

Engine: 3.0 L inline six, turbocharged

Power/Torque: 300 hp/325 lb-ft.

Fuel Consumption L/100 km: 11.7 city, 8.1 hwy.

Competition: Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class

What’s Best: Impressive array of safety technology more than justifies the brand image, excellent ride quality, outstanding seat comfort and support.

What’s Worst: Rear-seat room not best in class, minor controls require some getting used to, you might have to convince your friends that Volvo is still alive.

What’s Interesting: Enjoy the six while you can — Volvo is going all-four-cylinder next year

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