2014 Volvo S60 review

16 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2014 Volvo S60 review

2014 Volvo S60

One thing Volvo has never been particularly good at is incremental changes – and that#39;s only because Sweden#39;s only automaker has rarely made any modifications to its products during their lifecycles.

But a new wind is blowing through Scandinavia, where Volvo is in the midst of a major turnaround. New ownership gave the company the resources – and the optimism – it needed, and we#39;re just now beginning to see the fruits of that labor.

Enter the 2014 Volvo S60. Volvo#39;s bread-and-butter sedan, the S60 has been treated to a nip and tuck outside, new technology inside and, perhaps most intriguingly, a sports suspension underneath. This is more than your average mid-cycle refresh, as we found out during an extensive test.

Volvo#39;s compact premium sedan, the S60 is its freshest model in North America. That#39;s not to say that the rest of the lineup stands pat; for 2014, almost all of Volvo#39;s models adopt its new front fascia design and a new configurable LCD instrument cluster. That latter add-on inside is nearly a segment exclusive and it shows that Volvo isn#39;t content with simply slapping lipstick on its cars and calling it a day.

The S60 is actually due for another update early next year when the 2015 models arrive with new, far more fuel efficient powertrains. With that in mind, we didn#39;t pay too much attention to what was going on under our S60 T5#39;s hood – although it is, of course, fair to note that it boasts the brand#39;s tried-and-true (and not especially fuel efficient) 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder turbo motor mated to a six-speed automatic.

Our tester sent power to the front wheels, but all-wheel-drive and, separately, a 300-horsepower six-cylinder model called T6 are also available. Check all the boxes and you can move your way up into a 325-pony model tuned by the automaker#39;s partners at Polestar, a Swedish racing firm that hopes to become to Volvo what AMG and M are for Mercedes-Benz and BMW, respectively.

One more big change was in store for 2014: A much-needed Sport Package.

Consisting of the expected tightened suspension and upsized wheels, it also included well-bolstered performance seats wrapped in sumptuous leather and paddle shift levers.

All told, our S60 listed for $38,050. That#39;s not chump change, but it is less than a zero option BMW 328i.

What#39;s it up against?

Power and performance-wise, the S60 T5 squares off best against the aforementioned BMW 328i. Toss in the Cadillac ATS 2.0T and you#39;re in the right ballpark. With 250 horsepower, the S60 T5 is more powerful than other entry-level rivals like the Mercedes-Benz C250, the Lexus IS 250 and the Audi A4 2.0T.

What#39;s it look like?

The biggest changes for 2014 come up front, where last year#39;s quad-like headlamps have been massaged into simpler single units. A subtle restyling of the front grille adds complexity, but overall the S60 remains a soothingly Scandinavian design.

Out back, changes are minimal, so the S60#39;s short decklid and big, high-mounted tail lamps remain.

Our tester#39;s Sport Package added attractive 18-inch alloy wheels that Volvo calls Titania. We hope they weren#39;t trying to channel a certain ill-fated ocean liner.

And on the inside?

Volvo has never been bad at interiors and the S60 continues that trend. You#39;ll find a comfortable, convenient design with good front and rear seat space and some of the most cossetting seats on the planet. The Sport Package#39;s new more bolstered thrones are no less comfortable than the standard units and they offer the added benefit of holding driver and passenger in place during wayward manuevers.

The S60#39;s center stack boasts a crisp screen up top controlled by a mish-mash of buttons below. The switches are generally logical in their arrangement, but the lack of a touchscreen display is exacerbated by the need to rely on too many knobs and buttons for simple menu navigation. As much as we hate to admit it, a single control knob located in the center console would help this system – but we don#39;t want to see Volvo move away from traditional radio preset buttons.

Changes for 2014 are highlighted by the S60#39;s new LCD instrument cluster, or Adaptive Digital Display in Volvo-speak.

Included with the Premier trim level (which, at $2,500, brings a host of goodies including leather trim, a proximity key, a moonroof and more), the instrument cluster offers a trio of modes – performance, eco and elegance. Performance puts the tachometer front-and-center with a gimmicky power meter off to the side. Select Eco and you#39;ll net a display designed to help save fuel. Notably, the eco mode does not extend toward modifying the way the S60 drives.

Elegance, meanwhile, approximates Volvo#39;s traditional gauge displays of yore.

Overall, Adaptive Digital Display proved a delight to use – switching between the modes is easy via a steering column-mounted stalk. The technology won#39;t set the industry afire, but it does give the Volvo a more tech-savvy feel than that seen in rivals.

Speaking of exclusive tech, only the S60 among its competitive set includes camera-based safety tech as standard. Bundled under the City Safety moniker, the S60 can stop itself if it detects an impending accident with a vehicle or a pedestrian at speeds under about 30 mph. We inadvertently tested the technology in a parking lot – it worked as advertised, alerting us and bringing the S60 to a halt instead of bumping into a wayward shopping cart.

But does it go?

There#39;s as much to like about the S60#39;s five-cylinder engine as there is to dislike. Strong – thanks to 250 horsepower – and grunty – credit 266 lb-ft. of torque – it provides satisfying power from any speed. Moreover, the S60#39;s six-speed automatic transmission is generally responsive and not overly-eager to make its way into a higher gear.

Only under slow acceleration does it occasionally exhibit a slightly confused feel as it decides which gear is best.

On the flip side, the S60#39;s engine isn#39;t notable for its refinement or its fuel economy. We managed to net just above the EPA#39;s 30 mpg highway estimate, but mixed driving pushed that down to about 23 mpg. The EPA suggests 21/30 mpg city/highway and 24 mpg combined.

Regardless, those figures are off the mark against the 328i.

But we said we wouldn#39;t spend too much time talking about an engine that is on its way out. Instead, let#39;s focus on the S60#39;s tightened chassis.

Simply put, it#39;s awfully stiff. The S60 is a firm but compliant rider to begin with, so pick your suspension wisely if the roads near you are rough. Generally, we think an S60 with the standard suspension but the Sport Package#39;s set of 18-inch lower profile wheels and tires would hit the sweet spot.

In the twisties, taut tuning redeemed itself by providing limited lean into corners and ample grip from the lower profile tires. The S60#39;s steering remains a little slow to react against the sharper Cadillac ATS, but its firm weighting provides more confidence than many rivals. We would have liked to see a dedicated sport steering wheel, although there#39;s really not much to dislike about the thickly-rimmed four-spoke unit Volvo fits as standard across the lineup.

Even with the suspension talking more to passengers over every bump, the S60 proved a quiet and comfortable highway cruiser. We noticed little wind and road noise. Even with an increased dose of sportiness, the S60 remains as serene as ever.

One of the most under-appreciated cars on the road today, the Volvo S60 has a lot to offer in the compact premium segment.

Delivering value, style and comfort in spades, it now can appeal to buyers looking for a little more zest. Needless to say, we#39;re really looking forward to Volvo#39;s new, more fuel efficient engine lineup.

2014 Volvo S60 T5 base price, $32,400. As tested, $38,065

Premier Package, $2,500; Sport Package, $1,200; Heated seats, $500; Metallic paint, $550; Destination, $915.

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