2012 Volvo S60 T5: Road Trip Report
September 06, 2011
Last week I wrote how I'd be using our Volvo S60 for a family road trip over the holiday weekend. Volvo + family + road trip; it's a combination that can result in nothing other than awesome...right?
At first, my wife was excited about the S60. I think she had envisioned tweed jackets, an old boxy 850 wagon with New Hampshire plates and maybe even two golden retrievers jumping in and out of the back. But that was before I had packed the S60 to the brim, and there was still gear left over that we couldn't bring. In fact, the combination of a smallish entry-luxury sedan and our growing family (4-year-old daughter, 4-month-old son and all of the crap you need to bring along for a 4-month-old) was not a particularly good one.
(Contents: large suitcase, small suitcase, kid suitcase, tote bag and play pen (Pack N Play). I stuffed soft things in after the photo.)
Of course, we made it work. But we did move the front passenger seat up in order to make room for the rear-facing child safety seat, and that meant my wife wasn't particularly comfortable for the drive. This made her irritable, as did the S60's lack of telescoping sun visors. For the latter, I made a temporary fix by finding a rubber band, having her loop it around the visor, and giving her some sheets of paper to make a temporary extension. Classy.
The road-trip experience was certainly better for me. I do like the S60's front seats and found the driver seat comfortable for the five-hour drive each way. It's firm but supportive, though I will note that drivers with wide butts might not like it as much as the seat cushion bolsters are pronounced.
Commenter stoppre75 had asked about how the steering wheel felt. It has a nice shape to it, but over time I found it to be not all that comfortable. From a cross-section standpoint, it's more oval than circular, and there's a ridge on the facing side that I found distractingly pressed into my palms over time. It reminded me of the wheel in our departed Chevrolet Camaro in this regard, though not nearly as bad.
In terms of the highway mechanical experience, the S60 fared well. I like the turbocharged five-cylinder; it's got nice midrange power and sounds kind of cool in that odd, sort of grumbly five-cylinder sort of way. Refined? No. But I like it anyway and wouldn't have a problem picking it instead of the S60 T6. (My total combined fuel economy average after 600 miles of driving was 28 mpg.) As for ride quality, the S60 was comfortable, though it seemed to me that sharp impacts were more pronounced in the cabin than they would be in some other competitive sedans.
Overall, I enjoyed driving the S60. But it was pretty obvious that sedans like this might not work too well for family road trips. I've done it before when we just had one child, and that's been fine. (I made the same trip in our Camaro one time, in fact.) But two small children makes it much trickier. A Volvo XC60 would have been a more proper choice, and my wife would have been a lot happier, too. Or we could have just left the kids at home and driven the long-term Porsche 911. Now that would be the stupendously awesome road trip.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,298 miles