2021 Volvo S60 T5 Momentum FWD: Is the less expensive Volvo worth trying?
Price: $46,240 as tested. Premium Package added cross traffic alert with auto brake, blind-spot monitoring, and more for $2,050; the Advanced Package added 360 camera, active bending LED headlights, and more for $2,500; heated front seats and steering wheel, $750; 19-inch wheels, $800; metallic paint, $645. More noted below.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “exquisite cabin experience, plentiful standard features, surprisingly engaging to drive,” but not that the “front-drive S60 is too mild, frustrating infotainment interaction, lacks tactility.”
Marketer’s pitch: “For the road. For the planet.”
Reality: Definitely nice to drive and comfortable, but a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to this review.
What’s new: Volvo granted the S60 a redesign for the 2019 model year, with a high-performance engine in the T6 model (not tested), with available all-wheel drive. The sedan now is built on the company’s scalable architecture platform, and it’s the first Volvo built in the States. The company also offers a hybrid version known as the S60 Recharge as well.
Up to speed: But here in the “cheap” seats, the T5′s 2.0-liter turbo creates just 250 horsepower for the front-wheel-drive T5 tested, not an astounding number for a sedan. (The all-wheel-drive T6 gets a boost to 316 horses.) Still, even the tamer S60 left a strong impression, blasting from standing starts and up to high speeds in a hurry, with just a touch of turbo hesitation here and there. MotorWeek reports 60 mph comes in 6.2 seconds, which is not slouch material; Car and Driver puts the T6 at 5.1, so pay more for that trim level when every second counts.
Shifty: Either version comes with a shiftable 8-speed automatic. The gearbox functions well in both shift and automatic modes.
On the curves: We had the chance to take the S60 up north, as Grandma Sturgis 1.0 marked 86 revolutions on the planet. The S60 provided a delightful ride on highways and country roads, up hills and on curves. The tires did not provide a tremendous grip on rain-slicked roads, though, so slow it down.
The drive was fast and fine in comfort mode, and individual and dynamic didn’t make things feel that much better, just rougher.
Unnecessary roughness: Two episodes of severe balkiness from the 2020 S60 tested had Mr. Driver’s Seat putting Sturgis Kid 3.0 on standby at home, just in case the S60 were to fail on me. On two occasions, the sedan ran so rough for several seconds that I feared it would surely conk out. The problem cleared itself up, but I know if it had been my $46K, I’d have been back at the dealer pretty quickly.
How it’s built: So I’ll point out earlier than usual that Consumer Reports predicts the S60 reliability to be a 4 out of 5, following on two model years of the same reliability number. But my own unsteady experience left a strong impression.
Driver’s Seat: Even in the lesser T5 form, the S60 cockpit is a great place to be. The Volvo experience is a delight, with beautiful graphics, a firm but comfortable seat, and nice trim and touches all around. Twisting the silver starter knob shows that Volvo still offers unusual touches.
Friends and stuff: For rear-seat passengers, headroom is really good, though legroom and foot room are a bit snug. The seat is comfortable and cradles occupants in the corners. The middle passenger will be floating up above the rest, where the hump is tall and the console intrusive.
Cargo space is 15.4 cubic feet.
Play some tunes: The S60 previously had been locked into the old Volvo stereo, and its numeric keypad offered a touch of 1990s nostalgia. Now they’ve succumbed to the 12.3-inch vertical Volvo touchscreen as well. It’s pretty and functions nicely for initial operations, making choosing map or phone, for instance, easy. It can grow difficult further down the line, although swiping left or right offers menus right at your fingertips. Not terrific for handling on the fly, though.
Sound from the Harman Kardon 10-speaker high-performance system (part of the $1,850 multimedia package) is pretty good, about a B+ or A-. This version of the Sound Experience also features an easily accessible equalizer, something I had been unable to find in previous Volvos tested.
Keeping warm and cool: It’s all handled through the touch screen except for defrost and rear defrost. Strong vertical center vents and square outer vents don’t allow much adjustment, and I felt as if my contact lenses dried out in a hurry.
Night shift: Interior lights are a little dim, but the headlamps illuminate what needs to be seen up front.
Fuel economy: I averaged 23 mpg in a more well-traveled route than my usual pandemic testing.
Where it’s built: Ridgeville, S.C. (For those who skip here for reliability data, check a little higher up.)
In the end: The S60 definitely hits all the right notes, but I’d watch for other reports of engine trouble.