Full 2012 Volvo S60 Review
What's New for 2012
The Volvo S60 gains two new models for 2012. The entry-level T5 comes with a turbocharged five-cylinder engine, while the T6 R-Design features a sportier look, a more dynamic driving experience and more power from the turbocharged six-cylinder. A dual-screen rear seat entertainment system is also added to the options list.
With the 2012 Volvo S60, you can cast aside any preconceived notions about Volvos being bland, boxy or boring. Volvo's midsize luxury sedan -- curvaceous, modern, coupelike -- is one of the snazziest in its class. No "for a Volvo" qualification is needed; the S60 is a good-looking car bound to attract new folks to the brand.
Volvo redesigned the S60 just last year, giving it new styling, an updated interior and a powerful, 300-horsepower turbocharged engine. There are still some traditional Volvo strengths, though, including a comfortable ride, cosseting front seats and a focus on safety. Although the S60 doesn't lead the way in airbag count, it does have a variety of available driver warning systems designed to mitigate inattention in a world filled with smartphones and misbehaving children. Volvo's City Safety system, for example, is a standard feature that can automatically stop the car if a low-speed collision is imminent.
A subset of traditional Volvo buyers expects turbocharged engines, and the S60 offers three of them for 2012. Joining the carry-over 300-hp T6 AWD model is a new base T5 model fitted with a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5 engine. The T5 is good for 250 hp and boasts class-competitive acceleration and fuel economy. Meanwhile, the new T6 R-Design trim gains an additional 25 hp and 29 pound-feet of torque over the regular T6, along with more aggressive styling, a sport-tuned suspension and special interior touches like the blue-trimmed metallic gauges reminiscent of past sporty Volvos. Regardless of trim, however, these engines have the energetic snappiness that turbo Volvos of old were known for, only without the wheel-wrenching torque steer.
We're impressed with the 2012 Volvo S60. It's priced competitively, often thousands less than the competition. And while it isn't a sport sedan like a BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G Sedan, the Volvo S60 fits right in against more comfort-tuned entry-level luxury sedans like the Acura TL, Audi A4, Cadillac CTS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. In other words, you no longer have to think outside the box to consider a Volvo.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Volvo S60 is a midsize luxury sedan available in three trim levels -- T5, T6 and T6 R-Design. The T5 comes standard with 17-inch wheels, heated mirrors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with memory functions and adjustable lumbar, power-folding rear headrests, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, T-Tec cloth upholstery, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The T6 adds a more powerful engine and standard all-wheel drive, plus 18-inch wheels, bigger brakes, sport-tuned suspension, different steering tuning (includes selectable settings), leather upholstery and the auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Premium package available on the T5 and T6 adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, a sunroof, an eight-way power passenger seat and, for the T5, the leather upholstery and auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The T6 R-Design adds more power, special styling, unique 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a rear spoiler, special interior trim, a sport steering wheel, sport seats and the contents of the Premium package.
The Climate package adds heated front seats, heated windshield washers, automatic wipers and headlight washers. The Multimedia package adds a rearview camera, a navigation system with real-time traffic and a 12-speaker premium surround-sound audio system. The Technology package adds adaptive cruise control, driver-attention warning, lane-departure warning and a collision warning system with auto braking and pedestrian detection. Stand-alone options include a blind-spot warning system, front and rear parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry and a dual-screen rear seat entertainment system (not available on R-Design).
Available on the T5 is the Dynamic package, which adds 18-inch wheels and the T6's sport-tuned suspension and selectable steering settings. Available on the T6 is an adaptive suspension called Four-C that includes three driver-selectable settings, as well as chassis tuning from the T5 Touring and (at no cost) 17-inch wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2012 Volvo S60 T5 gets a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5 engine that produces 250 hp and 266 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, the T5 went from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds -- a reasonable time for an entry-level engine. Estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined -- pretty thrifty given its power.
The S60 T6 AWD gets all-wheel drive and a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that produces 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed auto is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, the S60 T6 hit 60 mph in 5.9 seconds -- about the same as other AWD sedans with similar power. Estimated fuel economy stands at 18/26/21.
The T6 R-Design gets a more powerful version of the same engine good for 325 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive and the six-speed auto are still standard. Volvo says the R-Design should be three tenths of a second quicker than the T6 AWD from zero to 60. Fuel economy is also identical.
Upholding Volvo's sterling reputation for passenger protection, the 2012 S60 comes loaded with standard safety features that include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, whiplash-reducing front head restraints and City Safety. The latter can help the driver avoid rear-ending other vehicles or a stationary object at speeds of up to 19 mph by automatically applying the brakes if he doesn't react in time.
Optional (via the Technology package) is Volvo's new pedestrian detection feature, which can apply full braking force (reducing speed by as much as 22 mph) to help you avoid hitting pedestrians who are at least 31 inches in height. This package also includes electronic warnings for driver inattention, lane departure and impending collision, the last of which includes automatic braking. Other safety options include front and rear parking sensors and a side blind-spot warning system.
In Edmunds brake testing, the T5 came to a stop from 60 mph in a below-average 128 feet. With its bigger brakes, the T6 managed to stop in an excellent 114 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Interior materials in the 2012 Volvo S60 are on par with the rest of the entry-level luxury sedan class. The heavier graining on the dash and doors won't suit everyone, but there's no denying that the interior leather, vinyl and plastic are quality materials. Volvo's unique take on wood and metal accents also give the S60's cabin more personality than most rivals.
The straightforward dual-temperature adjustment dials and "mode man" pictogram make climate-control adjustments simple and intuitive. The audio system is fairly easy to use, too, though the array of small audio buttons is starting to look dated. The available DVD-based navigation system finally eliminates the complicated back-of-the-steering-wheel controls in earlier Volvos for a more conventional dial-type controller. The interface works fine in practice, although Volvo's navigation software still feels a few years behind.
As one expects of a Volvo, the front seats offer excellent long-trip comfort and proper support. Unfortunately, the backseat isn't quite as accommodating. The seats themselves are supportive, but legroom and foot room are tight for adults over 5-foot-8. Competitors like the C-Class and 3 Series are similarly sized, but an Acura TL or Cadillac CTS are more welcoming.
The trunk's 12-cubic-foot capacity is a bit small for the class as well, but a low liftover height makes it easy to access the space. Both the rear seats and the front passenger seat fold down, and there's a separate ski pass-through.
Volvo has gone to great lengths to characterize the 2012 S60 as "naughty," as if it's a misbehaving sport sedan. Really, the 2012 Volvo S60 is a comfortable, sophisticated and well-behaved luxury sedan with ample power whether you go with five or six turbocharged cylinders. It's a sure-footed handler with nicely weighted steering that feels substantial without being heavy.
Regardless of output, the T6 engines are smooth and powerful, and the all-wheel-drive system can transfer different degrees of power to individual wheels to maximize traction and grip through turns or on slippery roads. The new base T5 model, meanwhile, lines up favorably with other entry-level luxury cars like the 328i and C250 that feature turbocharged four-cylinders. Most buyers should be more than happy with the acceleration, response and fuel economy this engine returns.