October 2015 Driver's Notebook 1

Mid-Year Changes Enhance Volvo’s S60

After last year’s styling tweaks to the S60, Volvo has given the car a midyear update that includes more technology and in-car connectivity.

One example is Volvo On Call, a smartphone app that lets you lock and unlock the car, read the fuel level, odometer, average speed and average fuel consumption remotely. It was most handy on a recent cold morning because I could start the car in my driveway so it could warm up but still have the doors locked.

Volvo calls their system Sensus Connect, and it is a subscription service that comes with six months free. The driver can create a Wi-Fi hotspot inside the car for passengers to connect smartphones, tablets or laptops. The 7-inch color monitor in the center of the dash can display navigation information as well as on-screen owner’s manual. Several cloud-based apps such as Pandora, Stitcher and Yelp are also available.

S60 prices begin at $33,750 for the T-5 and top out at $46,950 for the T6 all-wheel-drive R-Design Platinum. I drove a T6 Platinum from Volvo’s press fleet and its sticker price was $46,525.

The S60 is available with one of four engines. The front-wheel-drive T5 Drive-E has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 240 horsepower; the all-wheel-drive T5 has a turbocharged, 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 250 horsepower; the T6 Drive-E has a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder with 302 horsepower; and the all-wheel-drive R-Design has a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder with 325 horsepower.

The transmission is an eight-speed automatic that can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel.

I drove the T6 that manages to pump 302 horsepower from just 2.0-liters, a number that would have been an impressive number for a racing engine not many years ago. Volvo is able to achieve this level of performance by utilizing both a supercharger and a turbocharger. The supercharger provides extra power at very low speeds while the turbo kicks in extra zip at high speeds. The result is an engine that feels twice its size. It delivers excellent power from idle to top end and is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on the highway.

Fuel economy is aided by a start/stop function that shuts off the engine when the car stops. The driver can select the Eco + mode that activates coasting when the throttle is released and disconnects the air conditioning compressor from time to time. I don’t like the jerkiness of the start/stop feature and I always turned it off.

The S60 can be equipped with a suite of safety technology features, several of which take control if the driver is not paying attention. A pedestrian/cyclist detection system alerts the driver to a person or cyclist in the road and, below 22 miles per hour, will automatically apply the brakes. City Safety will automatically brake the car to a stop below 31 miles per hour to avoid a collision. Lane keeping will tug the car back into the lane if it wanders. Other features such as blind-spot detection system, cross-traffic alert for the rearview camera, stability control, anti-lock brakes and corner traction control are useful driver aids.

The suspension is tight but not harsh and the handling is responsive and athletic. I was impressed with the lack of noise on the highway.

The S60’s cabin is spare but elegant in a Scandinavian style. The test car’s two-tone color scheme was bright without being gaudy. The seats were excellent.

Price: The base price of the test car was $39,000. Options included Sensus Connect, 19-inch wheels, metallic paint, heated front seats, blind-spot detection and the Platinum package. The Platinum package includes a Harmon Kardon premium sound system, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, pedestrian/cyclist detection with auto brake, driver alert, lane keeping aid, rear park assist and retractable side mirrors. The sticker price was $46,525.

Warranty: Four years or 50,000 miles. Service is free at 10,000, 20,000, and 30,000 miles.