Full 2008 Volvo S60 Review
What's New for 2008
For 2008, the high-performance "R" model has been dropped. S60s get a standard auxiliary audio jack and MP3 capability for their audio systems, and the options packages are simplified.
A midsize entry-level luxury sedan, the 2008 Volvo S60 stands apart from its rivals in many ways. Whereas most of the cars in this segment are powered by normally aspirated V6 engines, the S60 offers turbocharged five-cylinders instead. Styling is also left of center. Even as it enters its eighth year of this model cycle, the S60 still sports a distinctive Scandinavian flavor. The cabin is more functional than flashy, but you'd be hard-pressed to find fault with its solid ergonomics and comfortable, orthopedically correct seats. Where the S60 falls short is in performance -- the Swedish sedan's handling dynamics are a bit dull compared to newer rivals -- and in the backseat, where the S60 has less real-world legroom than Volvo's compact S40.
As the S60 relies upon a turbocharged inline-5 for power, its acceleration can feel a little sluggish compared to competitors like the Acura TL, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G35 and Lexus ES and IS sedans. All those rivals offer the broader power deliver of a larger-displacement six-cylinder engine. And although the S60 rides smoothly, it's not as composed over bumps as its competition. Though likely satisfying to own thanks to its comfort, safety and Scandinavian personality, we suggest taking a look at newer, better-performing sedans populating this price range before closing a deal on this aging Volvo.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
A midsize entry-level luxury sedan, the 2008 Volvo S60 comes in three trim levels -- base 2.5T, 2.5T AWD and the more powerful T5. The 2.5T comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, a power driver seat with memory, dual-zone automatic climate control (with a pollen filter), an audio system with CD player and auxiliary audio jack, a telescoping steering wheel and faux wood interior accents. As its name implies, the 2.5T AWD adds all-wheel drive. Stepping up to the S60 T5 provides a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, leather upholstery, a power passenger seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Options, which mostly come bundled in packages, include an excellent 13-speaker Dolby sound system with an in-dash CD changer, a navigation system, Bluetooth, Sirius Satellite Radio, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and an interior air quality system (which monitors contaminant levels in incoming air and closes the vents as necessary). Eighteen-inch wheels and a two-tone interior are available on the T5.
Powertrains and Performance
The S60 2.5T has a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder rated for 208 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard with this engine, and it routes power either to the front wheels or all four on the all-wheel-drive (2.5T AWD) model.
The S60 T5 has a slightly smaller 2.4-liter inline-5 but uses a higher-boost turbocharger, helping it produce 257 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The T5 is front-wheel-drive only and comes with a five-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, anti-submarine seats with whiplash-reducing head restraints and Volvo's OnCall telematics are all standard. Rear parking assist is optional. In government crash testing, the 2008 Volvo S60 earned four out of five stars for the driver and front passenger in the frontal-impact category. It earned five stars for both front- and rear side-impact protection. In frontal offset crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Volvo S60 received a "Good" rating overall (the best possible). Side-impact tests resulted in a second-best rating of "Acceptable."
Interior Design and Special Features
The Volvo S60's interior is functional but doesn't feel upscale unless you order the leather upholstery and Dolby Surround Sound options. The controls are nicely weighted, but the pictograms depicting the various functions can be difficult to understand at first. There is seating for five, and although front occupants will bask in the comfort of the Volvo's orthopedically designed seats, rear passengers will likely find the legroom tight. Trunk space measures just under 14 cubic feet, and the rear seat folds in a 60/40 split on all trims.
The 2008 Volvo S60 2.5T offers adequate power for most drivers, while the T5 model is quicker but heavy on turbo lag off the line. Both S60s provide a ride that veers more toward comfort than sport, but they aren't as composed as similarly priced rivals over bumps and expansion joints. Handling is competent but limits are modest. S60s are known for their strong brakes, and they indeed exhibit impressive stopping ability.