ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: We tallied plenty of experience with Volvo's S60 in R-Design trim, having spent a year with one in our long-term fleet a few years back. Our bright red sedan was a great car, with a lot of power from the turbocharged inline six-cylinder getting to the ground through its all-wheel-drive system. I made a few road trips in it and absolutely loved the seats in that thing.
Now, for the 2014 model year, Volvo has updated the S60 on the outside along with some fresh touches inside. The majority of the work takes place up front, with a new bumper, a new hood, new front fenders, a lower front spoiler and a grille with a larger Volvo emblem, in addition to LED daytime-running lights. The rear has a new integrated exhaust-pipe design. So nothing over the top has been done, which is good. Overall, the S60 has been and remains an attractive sedan with just enough attitude.
Cabin updates are mostly small, like cloth-wrapped B-pillar covers. Metal trim is added around air vents, and there are new front doorsill plates. The most noticeable change is the new instrument cluster, which looks pretty darn cool. The tachometer sits in the center, where it should be; the screens that flank it can be configured to show things like a power meter and water temperature. The waterfall center stack remains along with high-quality materials throughout.
But the highlight of any Volvo S60 is the front sport seats, included on this particular test car with the optional sport package. I have to say that these are the best overall seats in the business from a comfort standpoint. I'm tempted to rip one of them out and turn it into an office chair. There's plenty of support in all the right places, with nicely sized side bolsters. They aren't overly firm like seats you find in a lot of German cars, and they aren't too soft, either. They are just right.
Unlike our long-termer, this 2014 Volvo S60 T5 Premier Plus is packing the turbocharged inline five-cylinder and is only available in front-wheel drive. There's 266 lb-ft of torque on tap from 1,800 to 4,200 rpm, which sounds like a recipe for torque steer, right? Yeah, you get some torque steer here, but it's not insane, like, say, the first-generation Mazda Mazdaspeed 3. Instead, keep a firmer grip on the steering wheel when you mash the throttle and you'll keep the thing pointed in the right direction without too much trouble. Steering feel is light, but response to inputs is swift. It takes corners confidently with good grip before the front tires wash out.
No, the inline five isn't the range-topping engine in the S60. In fact, it's the base engine -- a base engine with 250 hp. It's no slouch, with a 0-60 mph of 6.2 seconds, according to Volvo. It gets off the line briskly, with the engine pulling strong throughout the revs, so the number is believable. The six-speed automatic performs snappy up and downshifts.
The $38K cost of admission for this car seems to be in line with what you get. It's an attractive, comfortable, refined and reasonably entertaining sedan to drive. The Volvo is front-wheel drive, so the Buick Regal GS stacks up close to it, followed by the upcoming Acura TLX. We haven't driven the Acura yet, but we've been in a lot of the Buicks. A Regal GS front-wheel drive carries a base price of $37,830, and it's available with a manual transmission; the Volvo can be had with an automatic only. Enthusiasts likely would spring for the Regal GS just for the manual. For people who are looking for something more comfortable, who appreciate nicer interior surroundings, who don't need a stick shift and want something fun to sling around, this Volvo S60 T5 is probably a better bet for you than the Regal GS is.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I really liked our long-term Volvo S60 R-Design, but this new one doesn't hit the same buttons for me. Our last was all-wheel drive, and it had more power from its inline six. This car jumps off the line, especially in sport mode, but it's not smooth at all. The front tires spin going around a corner, and you get a lot of dive and lift on braking and acceleration. The steering, though a bit numb, is quick and direct.
The body didn't change much, but Volvo did smooth out the shape a little bit, and I don't think it looks as good. The R-Design model ups the aggressiveness; I would like to see one in red to make a better judgment. The silver makes it look sort of plain.
The interior is great, like most Volvos. It's a step above most “regular” cars, if not up to Mercedes-Benz/BMW standards. The controls were easy to use, but it took me a few minutes to figure out how to reset the trip odometer. The radio, navigation and climate work exactly as they should.
The backseat looks to have a decent amount of room, at least with my 5'10” frame in front, and visibility is good as well. It was easy to maneuver the seats into a proper driving position.
Unfortunately, this S60 falls into no-man's-land in the market. It's a step above the Ford Fusions and Chevy Malibus of the world, but it's not up to German status. A buyer would need a particular affinity for the brand to choose it over something else.
All-wheel drive adds $1,500 only. Mileage goes down, but I think buyers would be happier overall. The new R-Design with the turbo I6 costs more than $40K, which might be too big of a jump for customers. As an enthusiast, that's the one to buy.
2014 Volvo S60 T5 Premier Plus
Base Price: $33,315
As-Tested Price: $38,715
Drivetrain: 2.5-liter turbocharged I5; FWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 250 hp @ 5,400 rpm, 266 lb-ft @ 1,800-4,200 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,528 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 21/30/24 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 21.7 mpg
Options: Premier plus package including power moonroof, leather seating surfaces, keyless drive with car communicator, power passenger seat, auto dimming rearview mirror with compass, side windows Brightwork, adaptive digital display, HomeLink integrated garage door opener, rear park-assist camera, grocery bag holder ($3,150); sport package including sport seats, paddle shifters, 18-inch Titania alloy wheels, dynamic chassis ($1,200); metallic paint ($550); heated front seats ($500)
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