Why is it so challenging to design a sedan that, in no particular order, is: good looking, safe, comfortable, well made, sporty, attainable, and functional? If that is something that all automakers aspire to, why do so many of them fall flat on their face? Is it really that challenging? Is it really that difficult to design a vehicle in a way that all those things are addressed? Are productive compromises between engine, chassis, body, interior designers and penny-counters, managers, and executives really that difficult?
This what I have been asking myself while driving this new Volvo S60. I’ve been asking myself that because I found this mid-size sedan to be good looking, safe, comfortable, well made, sporty, attainable, and functional. And I really can’t think of many other sedans that are all those things. That was once BMW’s modus operandi but a quick spin any 3-series of this decade will leave you feeling sort of unfulfilled. Two unexpectedly great sedans are the new Mazda6 with the turbo engine and the Honda Accord with the two-liter engine but still not ideal, and rather of a different class than this Volvo.
Finding this Volvo almost alone in a world of mid-size sporty sedans that won’t make one feel compromised over buying a midlife crisis special really shocked me. Volvo, the brand that almost died not long ago, the maker of square, sturdy boxes with a focus on safety now makes a sedan that I’d pick over an equivalent bimmer, Benz, an Audi, and certainly over anything Japanese or American. That is unexpected to say the least.
This T6 R-Design model gets 316-horsepower from its turbocharged and supercharged engine. Well programmed eight-speed automatic transmission sends that power all wheels, a system that doesn’t feel like front-wheel-drive despite being biased as so. It’s quick, without lag, smooth, and quiet. I would use the term refined if it wasn’t for a slightly trashy sound when its cold. The gravy on this yummy Swedish meatball (sorry) is that it gets a respectable 32 MPG on the highway.
The car is just a pleasure to drive, be it enthusiastically or just chillin’ on the open highway. The suspension is ideally tuned for either occasion. The double-charged engine has a flat torque curve and the transmission shifts at the right time and without much drama. The AWD system puts the power down impressively, especially when coming out of corners.
Typical minimalist, modern designed Volvo interior is present here, similar in feel to new Range Rovers. Volvo always got the seats right and this is no exception – they are fantastic, even if they seem slightly basic compared to some seats that are overloaded with adjustments that no one will ever use. The fabrics are top-notch. The rear bench seat has a center pass-through and backrests fold down so that even a good size bike can be transported inside with the front wheel off. The trunk is big, too. The Bowers and Wilkins audio system is so good even crap music sounds good on it.
This is a short review because in the week that I spent with this car I really couldn’t find many design faults. The infotainment can be slow but it’s pretty good overall. Online searching resulted in some software issues with the new Volvos and some odd transmission hick-ups. I have a few friends with new-ish XC90s and their cars have all been solid so far.
In terms of attainability, the S60 T5 (turbocharged but not supercharged) starts at $35,800 and goes up from there. The T6 R-Design model in these pictures has the MSRP of $54,490. It’s not cheap, and it isn’t meant to be, but it is attainable. There is also the T8 hybid model and, soon a limited S60 T8 Polestar Engineered model. Best of all, there is a wagon V60, too. But the T6, as seen here is really damn good, as in it’s good looking, safe, comfortable, well made, sporty, attainable, and functional.
[Disclaimer: Volvo loaned us the vehicle for the purpose of this review. Images copyright 2019 Hooniverse/Kamil Kaluski]