2019 Volvo S60 Review

2019 Volvo S60 - Serving up an international update


A Swedish delicacy sets the table in restaurant-friendly Charleston, S.C. thanks to wisdom attributable to a Chinese fortune (err cookie?)  Welcome to globalization automotive style.

The delicacy in this case: the Scandinavian-inspired, totally-redesigned 2019 Volvo S60.   This mid-size sedan relocates to a new production home 40 miles northwest of downtown Charleston; signifying Volvo's first U.S. assembly facility. This plant started churning out S60s in the fall of 2018. The fortune is complements of the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, an up-and-coming Chinese conglomerate which deftly purchased the sometimes under-appreciated Swede from Ford Motor Company in 2010.

While a clash of cultures has doomed a cadre of previous automotive marriages, this one's enjoying an extended honeymoon as Volvo continues issuing updated product and technology at a steady clip while sparking sales here and worldwide.  Thus far, Geely has provided Volvo with needed capital, letting Volvo wheel its ninety-plus years of car-building expertise with minimal meddling from above.  A second vehicle, the XC90 crossover, is scheduled to begin production in the Palmetto State in 2021.

Before Volvo moved to town, the community of Ridgewood S.C. enjoyed a reputation as a sleepy little hamlet housing less than 2,000 residents a few miles south of Interstate 26, a much traveled stretch of highway connecting the port city of Charleston with the inland Capital of Colombia.  

Volvo offers a different twist upon European luxury and comfort, where German badging tends to draw much of the focus.  The S60 ride retains a serene smooth glide with confident handling, not an overly charged experience; prioritizing daily driving comfort rather than tackling track day.  

This S60, next-generation 2019 redesign incorporates Volvo's 'Scalable Product Architecture' (SPA), a flexible, modular chassis technology generating significant economies of scale first introduced in 2016 within the aforementioned  full-size XC90 crossover.  Other Volvo vehicle redesigns since, regardless of body style, borrowed from this same playbook. The previous-generation 2018 S60 was due for a SPA session as its aging platform gave Euro competitors  (Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz E-Class), a running start.

A nod to its Scandinavian heritage is found within the headlight housing, as the amber turn signal indicator utilizes the glowing shape of Nordic God Thor's hammer (a sideways "T") separating two sections of the narrow bejeweled headlight housing. Sleekish conservative exterior styling emphasizing a long hood, large square rear window and short deck lid while including dual inboard exhausts highlighted with chrome tips.

During calendar year 2018, Volvo Cars USA sold 98,263 units, an increase of 20 percent from the previous twelve months, its best showing in a decade. Worldwide, sales reached 642,253 units throughout 100 countries.

Volvo's alpha-numeric vehicle identification is rather logical. Three alpha prefixes clue body structure: S equals sedan, XC designate crossover while V denotes Versatility (a nod to the Venerable station wagon). The larger the divisible-by-10 numeric suffix, the larger the footprint. Volvo offers two sedans in the States: S60 and the larger, flagship S90.

Volvo utilizes four-cylinder powertrains in all vehicles sold in America with supercharging and/or turbocharging technologies pumping up horsepower along with new-wave electrified hybrids.

Both turbo and super charging utilize forced air, delivering greater volumes into the engine delivering increased horsepower.  Utilizing both technologies together is commonly coined 'twin charging.'

The S60 front-wheel drive T5 comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder delivering 250 horsepower.  An all-wheel drive T6 boosts the 2.0-liter inline four with both supercharging and turbocharging delivering 316 horses in a promised zero -to-60-time of 5.9 seconds.  Both connect with an eight-speed automatic transmission. A third option, the S60 T8 plug-in hybrid features the same T6 supercharged/turbocharged combo, supplemented by an electrical boost via a rechargeable lithium ion battery pack.

All recommend 91-octane or higher fuel.  The convenient self-sealing gas tank negates the need for a twist-off cap; just maneuver the gas nozzle through a thin circular plate which snaps back firm once removing the nozzle.

Standard start-stop engine technology is far more seamless and less intrusive than previous generation S60 efforts. This system quiets the engine at prolonged stops, and restarts the powertrain once the right foot returns to the accelerator extending fuel economy.

Of note; all three S60 powertrain selections are found in in the larger S90 sedan.  For those comfortable with mid-size dimensions, S60 delivers identical engine selections and new SPA platform highlights as the pricier S90, saving some serious Krona.

Both the front-drive T5 and our T6 all-wheel drive tester offer three trims:  Momentum, Inscription and R-Design.  All offer Volvo's 'Pilot Assist,' combining adaptive cruise control (using radar to slow and speed up S60 dependent upon the distance of the car head)  and lane keep assist (keeping S60 from drifting beyond roadway/highway lane markers).

Our T6 R-Design tester included a $46,400 starting price.  With a $2,500 advanced package and assortment of stand-alone extras, the bottom line reached $55,490 with $995 destination charge. A front drive T5 Momentum starts at $36,795.

Inside, a huge, rectangular 12.3-inch animated driver display mimics a traditional IP with two circular gauges. The right-side tachometer changes features depending upon the driving mode chosen (Eco, Comfort, Individual and Dynamic).  When compared to its German counterparts, Volvo's soft-touch interior design with white stitching and brushed aluminum highlights remain a bit more soothing.

Air vents take on an artistic swagger with long, vertical stylish ones flanking the multi-function screen and large, square ones flanking each end of the padded dash.

Front bucket seats include power boosters sliding forward from the cushion front helping ease leg fatigue during long hauls. The S60 carries forward  Volvo's comfortable and  supportive seating heritage. With added length (about five inches more than the previous generation), consider S60 a solid mid-sizer comforting three riders in back when needed.

Electronic Ignition switches on via a twist knob between front buckets.  A quarter turn to the right summons the engine.  The same muscle memory action also quiets the engine when garage-time arrives.  A finger/thumb activated chrome scroll bar summons the four drive modes. A small electronic parking brake tab and push-button deactivating engine start-stop reside in back.

A prominent portrait-style touch-and-swipe, nine-inch flat screen with the ambiance of an iPad tablet centers the dashboard.  Apple Car Play and Android Auto allow downloadable Smartphone App interplay with the  screen.

Under the screen is a sizeable, single twist knob working double duty as twists to the right and left monitor volume while a gentle center push turns the system on and off.  Flanking the dial is a row of buttons controlling front and rear defrosters along with a red hazard button.  Most other HVAC functions incorporate within the multi-function touch screen. Carve out extra play time to familiarize yourself with screen nuances and nesting.  Lots to absorb within the large, colorful graphics.  

2019 Volvo S60 Sedan

Price as tested:  $56,490

Engine: 2.0-liter four cylinder

Horsepower:  316

Wheelbase: 113.1 inches

Overall Length: 187.4 inches

Overall Height: 56.3 inches

Overall Width: 72.8 inches

Fuel Economy:  21 mpg city, 32 mpg highway

Assembly:  Ridgeville, South Carolina

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.