Used 2011 Volvo S60 Review

Redesigned for 2011, the Volvo S60 regains its standing as the looker in the family. But it's what's under the sleek skin that impresses us the most.




what's new

For 2011, the Volvo S60 will be completely redesigned.

vehicle overview

When the Volvo S60 debuted 10 years ago with its muscular fenders and sweeping roof line, it was a radical, refreshing departure from the dowdy box on wheels it replaced. But 10 years is a long time, and this model has been desperately in need of a redesign for a few years now. So the 2011 Volvo S60 finally represents a makeover, and the resulting car once again claims the glamour standing in the company's lineup.

Based on a shortened S80 platform, the new midsize S60 remains on the small side of the midsize car spectrum. However, it's 1 inch longer overall, 2 inches wider and has a 2.3-inch-longer wheelbase than before. Inside, you'll find Volvo's understated but classy design aesthetic that includes the trademark "floating" center stack control panel. Under the skin, the 2011 Volvo S60 promises a more engaging drive thanks to quicker steering and a choice of suspension options that include a more firmly calibrated sport version dubbed "Dynamic" as well as Volvo's adaptive "FOUR-C" setup.

The company known for building safe cars hasn't forgotten its roots. As such the 2011 S60 boasts Volvo's latest advance in safety technology called Pedestrian Detection with full auto brake. This system has the ability to detect pedestrians who are at least 31 inches tall, then can apply full braking power to avoid a collision even if you take no action. At lower speeds (around 21 mph or less) it can bring the car to a full stop, while at higher speeds it slows the S60 to lessen the severity of a potential impact. You can, of course, take back control of the situation by steering around the danger.

The 2011 Volvo S60 will initially only be available in the top-of-the-line, highest-performing "T6" form, meaning it will sport a 300-horsepower turbocharged inline-6 and all-wheel drive. Later in the model year a front-wheel-drive T6 will become available, as will the T5 trim, the latter having the brand's familiar turbocharged inline-5 making 227 hp.

Despite Volvo's claim that the 2011 S60 is the sportiest sedan it has ever sold, it still doesn't exactly match the fun of a 2011 BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G37. Yet many buyers are more interested in the sort of comfortable, quiet and refined ride offered by a 2011 Audi A4 or 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and for them the S60 should be a smart, stylish alternative. It took awhile, but Volvo is finally back in the game.

trim levels & features

The 2011 Volvo S60 is a midsize luxury sport sedan currently available in a single T6 trim level.

The S60 T6 comes with all-wheel drive, a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, front sport seats (eight-way power with memory settings for the driver), leather upholstery, aluminum interior trim, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker audio system with a single-CD player, satellite radio, HD radio, an iPod/USB interface and an auxiliary audio jack.

Going for the optional Premium package gets you adaptive xenon headlights, a sunroof and a power passenger seat. The Multimedia package upgrades the S60 with a 12-speaker premium sound system, a rearview camera and navigation system with real-time traffic updates. The Climate package adds heated front seats, heated windshield washer jets, rain-sensing wipers and an interior air quality system, while the Technology package includes adaptive cruise control, collision warning with auto brake, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and driver alert control.

Individual options include the FOUR-C adaptive suspension, a more compliant "Touring" suspension (no extra charge), 17-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot alert, keyless ignition/entry and a rear-seat entertainment system with dual display screens.

performance & mpg

The 2011 Volvo S60 T6 has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder that makes 300 hp and 325 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission with sport and manual shift modes is standard, as is all-wheel drive.

Though we haven't yet track-tested the S60 T6, Volvo claims a 6.2-second 0-60-mph time, which feels accurate based on our seat-of-the-pants impressions. Fuel economy is average compared with other six-cylinder models in this class, with EPA mileage estimates of 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.

safety

Upholding Volvo's sterling reputation for passenger protection, the 2011 S60 T6 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 adaptive cruise control and a lane departure warning system. Other safety options include front and rear parking sensors and a side blind spot warning system. Furthermore, available as a dealer-installed accessory is a front blind-view camera that extends your field of vision when pulling out of a blind driveway.

driving

Though we wouldn't call it a sport sedan -- driving enthusiasts will still find the BMW 3 Series and the Infiniti G37 more involving -- the 2011 Volvo S60 T6 provides handling that is sure-footed, making it easy to find a rhythm as you go from corner to corner. The steering is precise as well as nicely weighted, feeling substantial without being heavy. Around town and on the highway, the S60 also provides an impressively smooth and quiet ride.

The power delivery is hard to fault, as the turbo-6 delivers the thrust in a smooth, aurally pleasing manner while the six-speed automatic furnishes equally smooth gearchanges.

interior

Interior materials in the 2011 Volvo S60 are on par with the rest of the entry-level luxury sedan class. You may not care for the heavier graining on the dash and doors, but there's no denying that the leather, vinyl and plastic used in this cabin are of solid quality. Volvo offers a different take on the expected wood and metal accents that give the S60's cabin more personality than most rivals.

The straightforward dual-temperature adjustment dials and the "mode man" pictogram make adjustments to the climate control system 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 thankfully does away with the complicated back-of-the-steering-wheel controls seen on previous Volvos and adopts a more conventional dial-type controller. In practice, this interface works fine, though Volvo's navigation software still feels a few years behind the times.

As one would expect in a Volvo, the front seats are excellent in terms of 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. Most competitors are slightly more accommodating.

Trunk capacity, at 12 cubic feet, 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.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.