2015 Volvo S60: What's It Like to Live With?
Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2015 Volvo S60 as our editors live with this car for a year.
What do you want to know about?
- Speed Limit Can't Keep Up
- Good Audio Display
- Fuel Economy Update for February
- Get the Sport Seats
- Finger-Pinching Door Handles
- Persistent Heated Seats, Steering Wheel
- Five-Star Safety Rating
- Performance Tested
- Active Headlamps
- Road Trip to San Jose
- Auto Braking by City Safety
- Rear-Facing Convertible Car Seat Installed; Some Pros, Some Cons
- Why I Might Not Share It
- Reconfigurable Instrument Panel
- Fuel Economy Update for March
- Seats Don't Fit Me
- Light Steering Effort Benefits Broken Old Man
- In-Car Tour Guide by WikiLocations
- Interior Elegance Makes Up For Performance Gap
- Taming the Hills of San Francisco
- 5,000 Miles of Praise, A Few Peeves
- That Familiar Swedish Competence
- Double The Boost, Double the Trouble?
- Safely Hauls Home The Bacon
- Fuel Economy Update for May - Best Tank Yet, But Still Can't Crack 30 MPG
- Mixed Feelings on Driver Assist Features - Best Tank Yet, But Still Can't Crack 30 MPG
- Smaller Than Others, Roomy Enough for Most Adults
- Sleepy Style, Luxury Appeal
- Going for 35 MPG Gold
- The Windshield Squiggles
- Sextuple Washer Jets
- Do Canadians (and Minnesotans) Really Appreciate This?
- The Nosy Passenger Speedometer
- New Best MPG, But Average Still Far Below EPA
- Seats Feel Comfortable to Me
- A Few Too Many Buttons
- All the Power It Needs
- Let's Internet Like It's 2008
- Good Sound System Options, Just Average Quality
- Fuel Economy Update for July - Small Dip in Lifetime MPG
- Daddy, Your Car is Broken
- No Longer Under the Radar
- A Smart and Safe Helicopter Car
- Never Have to Apologize for the Ride Quality
- Overly Sensitive, Questionably Helpful Distance Alert
- Hey, Don't Hit the Road
- Love Those Big, Modern Wheels
- Nicks-n-Cuts on the Center Console
- Fuel Economy Update for August - Combined MPG Falls Short of City Rating
- Those Little Things That It Do - And Don't
- Auto Start/Stop Slow to Reignite Engine
- I'd Leave Off the Auto-Braking
- Best Steering Wheel Controls in the Fleet
- Suburban Defense Vehicle
- Fuel Economy Update for September - Lifetime Average Falls Again
- Road Trip Regret
- Exploring Divided Opinion in 700 Miles
- Interior Storage Report
- Fuel Economy Update for October: Overall MPG Picks Up
- Sensus Interface Satisfies
- Finding the Meaning of the Power Meter
- Twin-Charging That Just Works
- 15,000 Miles, Trouble-Free
- Fuel Economy Update for November: Average Fuel Economy Barely Budges
- Quick, Painless 10,000-Mile Service
- Adaptive Cruise Control, The Savior of Sanity
- Stop-Start Won't Go
- Observations From a First-Timer
- Trying to Match EPA City Rating With Eco+ Mode
- Fuel Economy Update for December - A Twincharged Increase
- Top-of-Class Audio System
- Engine Still Impresses
- Wiper Sprayers Need Adjustment
- Almost Makes the Grade
- Sun Visors Don't Extend
- Not the Slickest Oil Check
- What's New for 2016
- Fuel Economy Update for January - Home Stretch Boosts Final Lifetime Average
- 20,000-Mile Sendoff for the Swede
What Did We Get?
There are many good reasons to consider a new Volvo. Style, comfort and safety all spring to mind, but a uniquely engineered four-cylinder engine is typically not one of them.
Small, efficient, four-cylinder engines are more important than ever these days, but instead of picking between supercharging or turbocharging to boost the power of its new direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder, Volvo decided to do both. To the same engine. At the same time.
The result is a small engine that puts out a big 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. And that's in a safe, handsome sedan that comes with a warranty, free scheduled maintenance for three years and an EPA fuel economy estimate of 28 mpg in combined driving.
Sure, we could have opted for this engine in the XC60, but we've already had one of those. And it's available in the upcoming XC90, too, but that SUV's release is too far away. Sedans are still relevant, especially midsize sport luxury ones, and this is the most interesting one in years.
What Options Does It Have?
Volvo doesn't give a turbo- and supercharged four-cylinder to just any Joe off the street. The base model 2015 Volvo S60 gets a turbocharged-only version of the same engine that makes 240 hp. It starts at $34,890.
Our new long-termer is the top-of-the-line 2015 S60 T6 Drive-E. It features the 302-hp version of the 2.0-liter engine and a $40,190 starting price. Standard equipment includes paddle shifters, leather-covered sport seats and unique 18-inch wheels.
Since we like to test as many options as possible, we ticked some additional boxes. The first is the Platinum package ($3,750) that bundles the Technology package (adaptive cruise, collision warning with auto braking and lane-keeping assist) with the Convenience package (retractable sideview mirrors, rearview camera) along with a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system and xenon lights with washers.
From there we added the $1,550 Climate package that heats the front seats, rear seats and steering wheel, and the $925 Blind Spot Information package. Bright Silver paint added $560.
Add it up and our new Volvo wears a sticker price of $46,975.
Why We Got It
The new engine in our S60, dubbed Drive-E by Volvo, will be the backbone of Volvo's engine lineup from here on out. Every car Volvo makes will eventually have some version of this engine, so its importance to the brand can't be overstated.
This is our first chance to see how the innovative new power plant works in the real world. It certainly delivers impressive numbers on paper, but unless it feels powerful and sounds refined on the road, it won't make Volvo's cars and crossovers very competitive.
Efficiency is certainly a big part of the equation, too. There's no reason to stake a future on four-cylinder engines unless they deliver great mileage. After 12 months and more than 20,000 miles of service, we should have a good idea just how efficient the S60 T6 is around town and on the highway. Along the way we'll also test this sedan's comfort, technology and overall reliability as well.
Follow our Long-Term Road Test page to see how well this sedan delivers on its promises.
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.
Some cars display the current speed limit based on GPS data and some read the street signs. Our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 obviously reads the street signs. The problem is that in Los Angeles you don't always get a street sign.
Our Volvo changes immediately when you pass a speed limit sign on the street, but if it doesn't see another one, it continues to display the same speed. The reading you see in the photo above is when I was on the 405 freeway. Speed limit is 65 mph. But the Volvo still says 30 mph from the small street I used to turn onto the freeway. And as you can see from my actual travelling speed I'm stopped still in traffic. Yay, L.A.
The moral to this story is that in our 2015 S60 this feature is completely useless until Volvo updates its technology.
Here's another photo of our Volvo telling me the speed limit in our parking garage is 30 mph. Nope. It's actually 5 mph. And there are signs posted, but they do not look like official street signs, so the car didn't notice them. Neither does anyone who works in this complex by the way.
I like to listen to my iPod in the car. I'm not real fussy about the sound, so this is not an audio review of the 2015 Volvo S60. As long as it's playing, I'm happy. I'll be singing along anyway, so the sound quality is not an issue.
However, I do appreciate a good audio display. I like to see the name of the artist, the album, and the song. When it can display the cover art, even better. I really like to see the progress bar. Some cars will display the length of the song, but they don't always show its progress in numbers. Our 2015 S60 does, and it does so in full color, which is also nice.
It's also easy to skip songs. Just press the right or left arrows below the screen. In some cars, when I try to advance to the next track, my songs suddenly start playing alphabetically. The Volvo doesn't get confused and continues to the next song in my selected playlist.
During the month of February, our first half-month or so with the 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E, we put on 910 miles. We averaged 22.2 mpg on the required 91-octane fuel.
Obviously these are still wicked early days for us in Volvo's new turbocharged/supercharged four-cylinder S60 sedan, with only a few fill-ups so far. But it will be interesting as we get deeper into the test to see how our fuel economy stacks up against the EPA's rating of 28 mpg combined (24 city/35 highway) for this car .
Worst Fill MPG: 19.6
Best Fill MPG: 23.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 22.2
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/35 Highway)
Best Range: 327.9
Current Odometer: 1,184
"Schmidt, have you spent any time in a Volvo with the sport seats? They are amazing. We need to test one just so we can sit in those things for a year." Thus began my begging crusade to add any Volvo to our long-term fleet as long as it had the sport seat option. Luckily for me, Volvo just loaned us a 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E, which comes standard with the ultra-comfy buckets.
Not all seats fit my 6'4" frame comfortably. The Volvo's are perfect for me for several reasons. The side and thigh bolsters keep the driver and passenger planted, but are squishy enough for long-distance driving. The seat bottom angles up enough to keep my thighs supported. The back rest cushion nicely straddles the line between hardcore firm and a La-Z-Boy recliner. And the non-adjustable headrest kisses the back of my noggin in just the right spot.
T6 Drive-E owners aren't the only ones with access to these sport thrones. T5 and T5 Drive-E shoppers can have them for $500 on top of the cost of leather seats. The option is not limited to the S60 model line, as they can also be ordered on several variants of the V60 wagon and XC60 crossover.
The first time I opened a door on our 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E down in the Edmunds parking garage, I pinched my finger.
Vehicle Testing Assistant Cameron Rogers was down there with me, laughed, and asked if I needed a tutorial on door opening.
Now I'll give you that one pinch of the finger is probably a fluke. But when it happens a second time (as it did this past weekend), well, that's when it starts to become a "hmm..." kind of moment. Three times? I'm sorry, but there is something a bit off about the S60's door handles.
So like a mad scientist I performed a test. I was visiting a friend at her condo and asked her to open the S60's door. Yep, first try and she pinched her finger.
Next question was why was this happening? What is it about the Volvo's door handles that, on occasion, pinch fingers? Because the truth is, it is a rare occurrence. But even if you want to chalk it up to "opening the door weirdly," or grabbing the handle differently than "normal," pinching your finger's skin seems like something that should never happen.
I started wandering around my friend's parking lot inspecting the door handles of other cars. First of all, turns out people don't take too kindly to some stranger looking closely at the door handle on their car. Who knew?
But thanks to my extensive research I think I've figured out what is triggering the odd pinch: Volvo didn't contour the door handle to wrap around your index finger enough. At least that's the conclusion I came to from looking at other door handles. This lack of contouring, or lack of finger protection, makes it easier than it should be to catch part of your finger as the door handle ratchets back closed while you're still opening the door.
Compounding matters here is that the S60's door handle springs back with more force than most.
So the mystery has been solved. Now I just need to figure out how to hold the door handle so this never happens again.
Last Tuesday night I drove home from a bike ride in our 2015 Volvo S60. When I jumped in the car the temperature was in the low 40s. It was chilly. I activated the heated steering wheel and driver seat.
The next day I got a surprise.
I didn't drive the car until the next afternoon when the temperature had climbed into the high 60s. It was then that I realized that 67 degrees is too warm for a heated seat and steering wheel. Both remained on through the key cycles. I'll let you argue the merits of this feature.
The experience made me remember how much I appreciate our Ram's "Auto-On" feature, which activates the heated or ventilated seats based on ambient temperature.
Crash test results are in, and the 2015 Volvo S60 earned the top five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The 2015 S60 received five stars in the front, side and rollover crashworthiness tests.
The rating applies to front-wheel-drive (like our long-termer) and all-wheel-drive versions of the S60.
2015 Volvo S60 front crash (NHTSA)
2015 Volvo S60 side barrier crash (NHTSA)
2015 Volvo S60 side pole crash (NHTSA)
The most significant feature on our 2015 Volvo S60 is its new powertrain. Its eight-speed transmission is new as is its 2.0-liter inline-4. The new engine is both supercharged and turbocharged which, on paper, promises a wide torque band to maximize the S60's 302-horsepower. Our track day put the forced-induction duo to the test.
The owners' manual didn't specify an engine break-in period so we followed our internal guidelines, driving carefully for the first 1,000 miles. Once we broke through our self-imposed barrier, it was time to go to the test track.
Vehicle: 2015 Volvo S60
Driver: Chris Walton
Drive Type: Front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Eight-speed automatic
Engine Type: Super- and turbocharged inline-4
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1969 / 120
Redline (rpm): 6,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 302 @ 5,700
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 295 @ 2,100
Brake Type (front): One piece ventilated disc with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): One piece solid disc with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type (front): MacPherson strut, antiroll bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, antiroll bar
Tire Size (front): 235/40R18 95H M+S
Tire Size (rear): 235/40R18 95H M+S
Tire Brand: Continental
Tire Model: ContiProContact
Tire Type: All-Season
As-Tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,664
0-30 (sec): 2.6 (w/ TC on 2.6)
0-45 (sec): 4.0 (w/ TC on 4.0)
0-60 (sec): 6.0 (w/TC on 5.9)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 5.7 (w/TC on 5.6)
0-75 (sec): 8.6 (w/TC on 8.4)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 14.3 @ 99.1 (w/TC on 14.2 @ 99.5)
30-0 (ft): 31
60-0 (ft): 120
Slalom (mph): 64.4 w/ESC on
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.84 (0.80 w/ESC on)
RPM @ 70: 1800
Acceleration comments: The S60's traction control system is quite good, allowing just enough wheelspin but maintaining traction with an aggressive start. And because there's plenty of power going through only the front tires, that's a good thing. I couldn't match the run with traction control enabled with my own run with the system disabled. The wheelspin is rather robust and a little unpredictable. The transmission makes exceptionally smooth upshifts in Drive and slightly less smooth in Sport Drive, but we saw no improvement in acceleration times in this test. Power delivery isn't exactly what we'd call linear with a noticeable surge as the revs reach redline. Still, it's nothing like a turbo from previous Volvos where there was a huge lag until the turbo came into play. The supercharger does what it has been engineered to do and that is to fill in the dead spot below the turbo's effectiveness. Finally, the terminal speed at the end of the quarter-mile remained strong demonstrating ample engine/turbo cooling despite the excessive demand of seven passes.
Braking comments: The brakes, however, were less up to task and heated up and produced a very noticeable odor. Initially, the brake pedal was firm and confident, but after just one simulated panic stop from 60 mph, the feel and effectiveness began to wane. From the first (and shortest) stop to the last (and longest) of four stops, the distance required grew by 11 feet and the pedal grew soft and less effective. Despite this, the car tracked straight and exhibited little nose dive. Not a great showing, but not completely awful either.
Handling comments: There is no dynamic electronic stability control (ESC) mode, so we performed the slalom test with it fully engaged. What we found was a pleasantly sporty sedan with responsive steering that, in the intermediate setting, provides just enough weight to maintain a steady line and just enough feel to detect what the front tires were experiencing. The chassis is extremely neutral, meaning neither the front nor the rear of the car lose grip first. This conveys confidence, poise and control to the driver. Eventually, the ESC would respond to the front tires' minimal slip and correct the course with minor brake applications. Very nice to see a non-R Volvo with this amount of athleticism. In the skid pad, we ran it both with ESC off and on and observed a pretty large difference. With it disabled, the car is agile and even a bit playful, allowing the driver to manipulate the heading with the throttle which is exceptionally responsive. However, with ESC fully engaged, the throttle grew less responsive as the tires began to howl, limiting the ultimate speed and thus lateral g-load. Again, nice to see a Volvo with some swagger here. Good showing.
Our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 test car has optional bi-xenon active headlamps. It's not earth shattering technology. Even the famed Tucker "Torpedo" had at least one headlamp that followed the direction of the steering wheel back when the earth was still cooling.
But what's nice about our Volvo is that owners may choose to disable this functionality, as well as others, on this screen. Although we can't think of a reason we'd like to de-select this light show, so click through to see video of exactly how active these Volvo active headlamps truly are.
Compared to others I've observed, these Volvo headlamps are pretty darned active, requiring very little steering input to produce a noticeable wiggle in the headlamp pattern.
Would you ever disable this feature?
I attended the 2015 Nv idia GPU Tech Conference in San Jose, CA recently. This conference is further proof that cars are no longer mechanical devices and are instead becoming advanced computers on wheels.
I took the long-term 2015 Volvo S60 because it was quiet, comfortable and had plenty of power for highway passing. Here are a few impressions, my road trip fuel economy and a slight issue that happened on the way back.
As Cameron Rogers has noted, the S60's seats are very comfortable. I didn't experience any back pain and the seat bolsters felt good over the five-hour trip.
I encountered a lot of bugs along the way, and I'm not talking about the electrical kind. Bugs smashed into the windshield on a regular basis as I cruised past the farms along California's Interstate 5. The S60's wipers and washer fluid weren't up to the task of cleaning the slimy mess that had accumulated. I had to pull over and use a gas station's squeegee. A touch of aftermarket washer fluid in the reservoir may solve the issue in the future.
The S60 does read speed-limit signs, but you can't rely on the technology too much. There were a few times when the system mistook the 55-mph speed limit for trucks as the overall speed limit on that stretch of road.
And you will have to watch your speed, because the S60 has no problems passing cars on the highway. If you're not careful, you'll be doing 90 mph and not even notice. There's hardly any lag when you hit the accelerator and there's a nice linear feeling of power delivery.
My fuel economy for the trip north was 27.8 mpg. I averaged about 26.6 mpg on the return. These numbers, while being the best we've recorded, fall short of the EPA-rated 28 mpg for combined driving and way short of the 35 mpg highway number. But there's still plenty of time left for us to improve on that.
On the way back, I noticed that the tire pressure warning light was illuminated. I pulled into the nearest gas station and used the air compressor to try to get the tires back up to spec. Problem was, the station's tire pressure gauge was broken and there wasn't one in the car.
Further, the display did not tell me which tire needed attention. (Automakers, can we stop cheaping out on this stuff? Just give us a number for each tire!) All the tires seemed OK to me, but I still put air into each one and hoped for the best. I made it home without issue. Cameron checked the pressures the following day and aside from some over inflation (um, my fault), things were fine, so he reset the warning. We'll keep a close eye on it in the coming days.
Minor hiccup aside, I enjoyed my time in the Volvo S60 and I'd definitely recommend it for a road trip. Here's hoping it sees many more highway miles.
Caroline and I were driving into our office complex after a lovely lunch when we were met with a rather abrupt surprise.
I was driving our 2015 Volvo S60 and as we approached the security arm at the entrance to our parking garage, the Volvo came to a loud halt.
The Auto Braking by City Safety kicked in even though I wasn't that close to the arm yet. Perhaps I was approaching it too quickly? Certainly, there was no danger of me hitting it. But it sure scared the bejesus out of Caroline and me. I almost bumped my face on the steering wheel. It was like a phantom stomped onto the brake pedal. And I actually had my foot on the brake and was slowing down at the time.
I understand how this could be helpful in a near-crash situation. But its reaction in this incident was overly cautious and not at all graceful.
You expect a rear-facing convertible car seat to be easy to install in a car like the 2015 Volvo S60, right?
And sure enough, it took me very little time and minimal brainpower to get my child's oversize seat nice and snug using the LATCH anchors in the passenger-side rear position. The rolled-up towel helped me achieve the desired seat-back angle while compressing the seat during the installation, but otherwise, there's nothing difficult about it.
Predictably, lower anchors for LATCH are present only in the outboard rear positions. Hooking the connectors onto them is a blind exercise, but the anchors are a little wider than most and not too buried between the seat-back and seat-bottom cushions. Overall, this is a good setup.
The real issue in the S60 will be familiar to any Volvo owner: lack of legroom. To accommodate my child's First Years True Fit C680 SI (which is on the large size as convertible car seats go), the front passenger seat has to come all the way forward on its track and the seat-back angle has to be adjusted pretty upright. Partly, this is due to the head restraint on the Volvo's passenger seat not playing nice with the head restraint on the car seat.
This arrangement makes the front-passenger seat all but uninhabitable for your typical 5-foot, 10-inch-tall adult. My knees were so snug with the dash that I didn't even bother with a photo. This seat is now strictly for storage. My better half made himself at home in the backseat with no complaint. In my family of three, the S60 would strictly be the second car.
So what else is good about this arrangement? Well, with the car seat in the passenger-side outboard position, there's adequate room to accommodate both a (small) occupant in the rear center and an adult behind the driver.
Also, quite unusual for this particular car seat, there's no blind spot when it's installed in the passenger-side outboard position. Due to the size of the S60's doors and the relatively small glass area, the seat covers very little of the side glass. This is awesome for lane changes. (In our Mazda 5, the seat covers a large part of the rear side glass, so we had to put aftermarket fish-eye mirrors on the side mirrors.) No doubt, it's also good for side-impact safety (not a strong suit of the aforementioned Mazda).
For kicks, I also tried installing the seat in the rear center position using the seatbelt.
It's possible but not ideal with this particular car seat, which is really too wide to wedge between the front seats.
If I owned the S60 and had to have my car seat in the center, I'd choose a narrower seat (like a Diono Radian).
Even then it's not an ideal situation for driving, because with a rear-facing car seat, the car seat and front-passenger head restraint combine to form one giant blind spot.
Another issue (and admittedly one which might be solved by using a narrower car seat), is that my kid's car seat blocks the female end of the rear driver-side seatbelt buckle.
Bottom line, if you have a really wide convertible car seat, it'll need to go in the passenger-side outboard position in the 2015 Volvo S60.
After a week with our long-term 2015 Volvo S60, I believe it may be my new pet car in the long-term road test fleet, i.e., the one I'll be loath to share with my colleagues. It's a superb car for commuting and not just because of its fantastic driver seat.
To start, the twincharged (supercharged + turbocharged) 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is more enjoyable than I thought it would be. The audible supercharger whine gives it a little bit of character when you're diving into holes in traffic, and when you really need torque for passing, it's there just like it was when "T6" designated a car with a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine (of course, the all-wheel-drive Volvos still do have five- and six-cylinder engines).
When we performance-tested our 2015 S60, it hit 60 mph in 6.0 seconds. The last six-cylinder S60 T6 we tested ran it in 5.9 seconds, albeit with a six-speed automatic instead of the new eight-speed.
I also like the balance of ride quality and handling on this car. For the most part, our S60 gives you a composed yet forgiving ride. It's never too harsh. In normal driving, it feels good going around corners, too. It's almost athletic and the steering is precise. Really, the only time you're reminded that it's front-wheel-drive (rather than rear-drive like a few of its rivals) is during abrupt acceleration in a straight line. There's just a bit of torque steer, but not enough to be a nuisance.
I remember a Volvo official from Sweden making a big fuss over the new instrument panel in the 2015 Volvo S60 at the launch event in Spain. It was understandable. Previously, the S60 had pretty conventional looking (but attractive) gauges with equal-size dials for the speedometer and tachometer. As is fashionable these days, the new gauges are reconfigurable.
Volvo gives you three different motifs: Elegance, Eco and Performance. Then you choose Color or Contrast mode.
It's a nice idea, but ultimately, the Performance motif in Contrast mode is the only setup I can stand to look at for longer than 60 seconds. Performance is just too red in Color mode, for example.
Meanwhile, the Elegance motif is too plain (or maybe "austere" is the nicer way of putting it) and the tach is too small to be useful over there on the right.
The Eco instrument panel is a little more interesting to look at, but the tach is still undersized. Plus, I find any kind of instant fuel economy coaching (the meter on the left) pressuring and distracting to watch while driving.
Ultimately (and this is going to make me sound hopelessly old and out of touch), I prefer the more traditional instrumentation we had in our long-term 2012 S60. Note the bitmapped font! Good thing Volvo didn't consult me before updating the IP for modern times.
The 2015 Volvo S60 barely sat still in its first full month with us. Overall economy increased from 22.2 to 23 mpg, slightly less than the EPA city rating of 24 mpg. New best and worst tanks were also set. That guy averaged 17.4 mpg on the low end and Ron achieved 27.8 mpg on his trip to San Jose.
Ron didn’t try to set a fuel-sipping record, but the number was still disappointing compared to the highway rating of 35 mpg. We have 11 months to close the gap between the EPA estimate and our real-world results, so no cause for alarm yet.
Worst Fill MPG: 17.4 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 27.8 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 23.0 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/35 Highway)
Best Range: 360.9 miles
Current Odometer: 3,048 miles
There's no more difficult part of a car to evaluate than the seats. For example, Cameron's frame fits nicely in the sport seats of our 2015 Volvo S60 while I would rather sit on the floor.
Okay, that's a little extreme, but I do have some serious issues with the seats that keep me from driving it more often than not.
First up is the seat height. For the benefit of shorter drivers and those moving from crossovers into a sedan, the seat height of our Volvo is quite high. This makes getting in and out easy and gives you a commanding view of the road. But it's about 3 inches higher than I prefer. I just feel like I'm riding the car, not riding in the car.
In the same vein, the bottom of the driver seat simply doesn't tilt back enough. I can tilt the seat bottom forward to simulate the experience of a dunk tank, but I can't tilt the back down to, you know, make it comfortable. There's also no thigh support. C'mon. Even the Mini's got extendable thigh support.
Next up: Bolsters. They're incredibly aggressive and they don't fit my shoulders, which means I get to hunch while driving the Volvo. Turns out, hunching is a good thing because it's the only way for the back of my skull to clear the headrests which, like everything else about these seats, offer no adjustments.
These heated-but-not-cooled seats also don't breathe well, trapping all of your precious sweat in a pool by your crotch where it belongs.
These seats either fit you or they don't. Other cars in this segment offer multiple adjustments for height, seat-bottom angle, headrest height and intrusion, bolster aggressiveness and thigh support. The Volvo's seats, on the other hand, go backwards and forwards, up and down(ish).
These seats look great, the material is beyond reproach and the seat heaters work well, but for me, the negatives outweigh these very strong positives.
With fractured fingers and shoulder earned from crashing my motorcycle on a track day, I needed a car that required minimal effort. Remembering that our previous long-term S60 had adjustable steering effort, I signed out our new 2015 Volvo S60.
As far as easy steering, the Volvo definitely met my needs. I can drive just fine, but I'm trying to reduce the likelihood of re-injuring myself. With the steering effort set to Low, multiple-point turns backing into parking spaces are noticeably easier than on the High setting. And in my backyard, I was able to turn lock-to-lock very quickly, rotating the wheel with just the palm of my hand.
I also appreciated easy entry and egress in my broken-old-man man condition. As much as I enjoyed these aspects of the S60, however, I was still rather disappointed by the S60's drivetrain. More on that in another post.
Traffic is just a way of life in Los Angeles. Sure, it can be inconvenient or maddening sometimes, but that's the price of living in a place where a lot of people want to live. I have several ways of coping with it, one of which is to see what sorts of extra features a car might have. One night, I was barely moving down Santa Monica Boulevard when I found our Volvo S60's in-car apps.
The WikiLocations app is a thoroughly engrossing discovery. Using the navigation system, the app lists several nearby points of interest, some of which I've been curious about for years. It displays the Wikipedia description for a selected POI, which can be scrolled through using the dash-mounted dial.
I knew that my favorite market, Bristol Farms, used to be the site of one of LA's former hotspots. Chasen's was a throwback to a time when restaurants in this town would stay in vogue for decades rather than months. I didn't know that the market has remnants of the old restaurant, including some booths and paneling.
Our 2015 Volvo S60 really wants to you to think of it as the Scandanavian alternative to the 3 Series or A4. It's trying very hard. In testing, we've found it has pretty neutral handling and balanced grip for a sporty front-wheel-drive sedan. It even sends enough power to the front tires to induce a little playful wheelspin if you jump on the gas from a standstill.
But power delivery isn't all that linear or smooth, and that's maybe no surprise given the four-cylinder engine's complicated twin-charged (turbocharged and supercharged) design (but still leaps better than old Volvo turbos, we say). That playful wheelspin all too easily turns into torque-steer, with the front end pulling hard to one side and forcing a firm steering correction. Nor are the brakes quite up to benchmark standards for sport sedans.
Ultimately the S60 has its work cut out to convince us that it's able to hang with the established rivals, at least in its performance.
One area that won't require much persuasion is the cabin. The verdict on the seats is trickling in (Cam says yes, Magrath says no), but the overall fit and finish of the interior is impressive. My particular favorite element: the Shimmer Graphite Aluminum center stack inlay.
I'm not convinced this inlay is actually aluminum, as the feel and texture seems pretty petro-chemical to me. But it looks the part, with hairline vertical striations that catch and amplify the ambient light. For some reason, it reminds me of a kind of metallic stranded bamboo. This inlay comes standard with the S60. You can also order Piano Black or "Urbane Wood" for an additional $400, but I prefer the Shimmer Graphite to both.
This natural warmth and ergonomic flow, with the classic center stack canted toward the driver, is one thing the Scandanavians have all over the smart, minimalist art school movements reflected in the German cars.
In Los Angeles, we don't really get to try out features like hill-start assist. But when I drove our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 around San Francisco recently, I tested that feature like crazy. It was a godsend there, especially considering that my best friend who I visited lives on that insanely steep hill in the photo.
If you're unaccustomed to driving in hilly cities then you know that moment of panic when the car rolls back as soon as you take your foot off the brake while on a hill. It feels like a split-second of freefall before the car catches itself. I'd arrived in the city in the S60 and completely forgot that's a thing that older and newer cars without hill-start assist do.
The S60 made starting from a stop on one of those infamous hills a non-event. But when I jumped in an Uber, a nondescript sedan from the early 2000s, and the car rolled back what felt like two feet, I instinctively gripped the O-S handle and held on. Naturally, the San Franciscan Uber driver mocked me for that.
For those not familiar with the function, hill-start assist applies pressure to the pedal for a few seconds while the driver moves their foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator. This braking effect then releases after several seconds or as soon as the driver accelerates. I had experienced this feature in manual transmission cars, but never an automatic.
It's not something we use much in the flat sprawl of Los Angeles, but if you live somewhere hilly it's a feature you won't take for granted.
Our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 just cleared 5,000 miles. We normally try to capture the moment when the odometer clicks over, but the jet-lagged editor who took this photo didn't notice the five-grand mark until his personal fog had cleared 100 miles later.
Taking a look back at our Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E, so far there have been zero mechanical failures and zero reasons to visit the dealer. For the most part, this Swedish sedan has been easy to live with, praised for its powerful engine, good handling-to-ride compromise, classy interior and comfy front seats. It should be noted the S60 has also been panned for its seats, but Mike Magrath is an "outlier," as we say. I don't want to imply his opinion doesn't count, but...
Truth is, we don't love everything about Volvo's new supercharged/turbocharged four-door. In fact...
...the first nuisance to crop up was the laggy current speed limit indicator within the instrument panel. This is a great location for this feature, right near the large digital speedo and easy to see and read quickly. But if the speed limit is wrong half of the time, how much help is it really?
One of our more whiny editors complained of pinching his delicate fingers on the Volvo's door handles as he'd enter the car. He wasn't the only one to notice this, though. It's an imperfect design for sure.
And then there's Volvo's Auto Braking by City Safety feature, which apparently hates the Edmunds parking garage gates. Or maybe it's just messing with us when it suddenly slams on the brakes long before the car reaches the barrier arm.
But overall, these are relatively minor issues in what is proving to be a comfy, everyday sedan packing good sauce under the hood.
I grabbed the keys to our 2015 Volvo S60 recently and one of the first questions that popped in my head was: Didn't we just have an S60 in our fleet? The exact details were fuzzy, but when I checked, sure enough there it was: our 2012 S60, a T5 model highlighted by its spiced pumpkin latte-hued color.
Both our 2015 car and the older 2012 are of the same generation, but the new T6's main differentiating quality is its 302-horsepower four-cylinder engine. To the mainstream, it's a small difference, but to Volvo the turbo-four represents its future, as the engine will proliferate across the automaker's lineup.
My lack of immediate recall on the old car also speaks to an inherent quality of the S60. This is not a shock-and-awe sedan that addles your memory synapses. Instead, it just stays in the background to deliver a balanced luxury sedan experience.
Our 2015 S60 still has the same overall interior design that debuted for the 2011 model year. There's the main waterfall-like center stack highlighted by four main dials, the "mode-man" climate air flow controls, the old-school keypad button layout and the 7-inch information display.
It looks handsome, interior quality is high, and build-quality is solid. It still whispers "Sweden," even if that's now being translated from Chinese.
The driving experience is still low key, too. There's definitely more pop from the new, more powerful engine when you put the hammer down, but otherwise it just thrums away quietly and efficiently. When commuting around town, the S60 offers composed ride quality complemented by fairly nimble feel around turns, as long as you're not really pressing for maximum G-loads.
Overall, yes, it's still very much an S60. To me that means a richer and more pleasing experience than you'll get from a workaday midsize sedan, but not so much to be possibly pretentious or overbearing. There's certainly some appeal in that.
Turbocharged and supercharged. It still sounds a little ridiculous, like some sort of powertrain combo your little brother cooked up in Gran Turismo for his fully-modded 600-horsepower Toyota MR2. But a real world car? A front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder Volvo no less? No way.
Yet here we are in our 2015 Volvo S60 T6, a car that doubles down on boost like a card shark in Vegas with an 11 at the blackjack table.
Volvo says the supercharger kicks in first at low rpm (superchargers are inherently good at developing immediate power), doing the hard labor until the turbocharger is primed and ready to take over applying the majority of high-rpm boost. No doubt there's a lot of complex job-duty sharing going on in the middle of all that, but the power baton handoff isn't noticeable at all.
The S60 T6 moves off right at idle and doesn't feel slow at low rpm. Punch the gas and the S60 is smooth and strong. Put a typical motorist in our S60 and I guarantee that he or she would have no idea of the alchemy happening under the hood.
Fuel economy is the main driver behind Volvo's new line of engines. The older twin-turbo inline-6 (which is still used in the all-wheel-drive S60) is rated at 21 mpg combined. For our car, it's an EPA-estimated 28 mpg. We're not seeing that number yet, but our year-long test is still young.
One thing we won't be able to evaluate with our car is long-term engine reliability and durability. It's a new engine family for Volvo, and added complexity can mean added problems when you're keeping a car for many years. From a car purchasing standpoint, and not necessarily leasing, it's something I'd consider.
But I'd also give Volvo some benefit of the doubt. The company plans to fit this engine in most of its new and upcoming vehicles. Given how important it is, I'd like to think that plenty of thoughtful R&D is behind it.
I often do the grocery shopping for my family. I realize this is mundane personal trivia, similar to revealing that I also wear a giant banana costume and dance around to Metallica when no one is home, but it provides an opportunity to learn how our long-term cars handle this common task (the grocery-hauling that is, not the fruit-shaking to "Harvester of Sorrow").
I've found that our 2015 Volvo S60 stands out as one of the better ones.
The main reason why is the S60's trunk grocery bag holder that's part of the optional Convenience package (which came as part of our umbrella Platinum package). It's nothing high-tech, just a flip-up lid that forms a barrier wall. But you don't need much. Lift it up and it stays in place, providing a shorter trunk area that keeps the bags and their contents from sliding forward.
There's also a yellow elastic band mounted underneath the lid that you can use to secure a bag or two plus two hooks if you want to hold up plastic bag handles. When you're done hauling home the bacon, you just flip the lid back down and it sits flush with the trunk floor.
Because of the intrusion from the trunk lid hinges, there's only enough space for about four reusable bags going across. But that's enough for my typical weekend haul. Plus, the pop-up wall is quicker and easier to use, making it a superior alternative to the more common cargo net.
In May, we achieved the best fuel economy of our 2015 Volvo S60 long-term road test so far. About midway through the month, we filled up after 316 miles of driving and recorded 28.9 mpg. That's our best tank yet, so some mild golf clapping is in order. But we're still not seeing what the EPA says we should.
We drove about 1,000 miles and averaged 25.7 mpg in May. That's better than our lifetime average, which increased from 23.0 to 23.8 mpg. But the EPA says our S60 Drive-E should return 28 mpg combined. Should we be worried?
On one hand, we're still pretty early into our test of this car. On the other hand, we made trips to San Jose and San Francisco last month and didn't get more than 28 mpg for any of those fill-ups. The EPA highway rating is 35 mpg.
I hope to log some additional highway driving this month with an eye towards maximum fuel economy. Hopefully we'll see some 30-plus mpg soon.
Worst Fill MPG: 17.4
Best Fill MPG: 28.8
Average Lifetime MPG: 23.8
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/35 Highway Combined)
Best Range: 410.5 miles
Current Odometer: 5,751 miles
There's the argument that if you position your vehicle's mirrors properly, you don't need a blind-spot monitoring system. But a lot of drivers don't set their mirrors to provide the right fields of view, which is why these systems can be useful. And as blind-spot monitoring systems go, I happen to like the one on our 2015 Volvo S60.
The main reason is that the indicator lights are mounted inside the car and are easy to see with peripheral vision. The more common setup for automakers is to mount the indicator lights in the mirror itself, and those lights are harder to see. With Volvo's system (called BLIS), it's easier to keep your eyes on the road ahead.
It also comes bundled with rear cross-traffic alert, which is the system that helps detect oncoming cars when you're backing up out of a parking space. When you're boxed in by big SUVs and can't see much as you're backing up — even with the rear-view camera — cross-traffic alert can really help you out. It's one of my favorite convenience/safety features.
Both blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert are optional for the S60.
Also optional on our T6 Drive-E car is lane departure warning and intervention ("Lane Keeping Aid"). Here, the system uses cameras to monitor the positioning of the car within the roadway lane markings. If the S60 drifts out of its lane, the system either alerts the driver by vibrating the steering wheel or adds steering input itself to keep the car between the lines.
Within the S60's settings, you can choose if you just want the alert or if you want the intervention system active as well. For a distracted or drowsy driver, it's potentially a great feature.
I've tried to see how the lane departure system works by purposely letting our S60 drift a little on empty roads. It's a pretty subtle system. The steering wheel's vibration alert is gentle, as are the potential automatic steering nudges to keep you within your lane. It works, but because it's gentle, it's not going to save you from impending doom.
The departure intervention does very little if you're dedicated to drifting out of your lane and, depending on the lane markings, weather and the vehicle's speed, it can't work in every situation. Volvo is clear about this in the owner's manual, however, and clearly states that it's just an assistance system.
I'd definitely opt for BLIS if I were buying an S60, largely because it includes rear cross-traffic alert. I'd be less inclined to get lane departure warning/intervention since I don't see as much value in it. But as it's bundled within the Technology package, you might end up with it anyway. I suppose it's nice knowing it's there.
Compared to other entry-level luxury sedans, the 2015 Volvo S60 doesn't have the biggest back seat. A BMW 3 Series, for instance, gives you a couple more inches of legroom and a Lexus ES 350 is palatial in comparison. But unless you plan to use your S60 as an Uber car, I suspect this smaller-than-average backseat will still be effective enough.
I've sat in the back of our S60 with the driver seat positioned for me. I'm 5'10" and there's enough legroom and headroom to keep me comfortable. There's always going to be some variation based on how the front seat is positioned and your relative body proportions, but I'll say that adults shorter than 6 feet won't complain at all.
The seating itself is also pretty comfortable. There are some nice seat-back and cushion contours that help keep you in place, and thigh support is sufficient. The center armrest is nicely padded. I also like the Volvo tradition of the B-pillar-mounted air vents. It's more of a straight shot to get some air flow to your face rather than the more typical console-mounted rear vents. Our car is also equipped with rear seat heaters.
On the other hand, getting out of the S60's back seat isn't the easiest motion, as those nice cushions and contours, and rear wheel cutout, conspire to make the door opening sort of small. You can't just slide right out. But for the typical daily use of shuttling kids or hungry coworkers, the S60 is just fine.
Recently, I was talking with a fellow parent after dropping my kids off at school. "What are you driving?" he asked. "A Volvo S60," I replied. He paused for a moment, brow slightly furled. Presumably, he had to mentally call up what an S60 was. And I don't think he knew much.
"Huh. What do you think of it?" he finally asked.
"It's pretty nice," I replied. "It's got a lot of what people shopping for a car like this will want." But as we were standing there looking at the car, I added, "It just doesn't stand out all that much."
I suppose part of that is the styling. The S60 is handsome enough, but it doesn't immediately boast the prestige of a C-Class or the stylish flair of a Cadillac ATS. Also, the Volvo brand itself is a little mixed in its messaging. Safe? Sporty? Both?
Nonetheless, the S60 T6 Drive-E is a nice addition in our long-term fleet. It's quick when you want it to be, enjoyable and comfortable to drive every day, and packed with features that reinforce the luxury sedan experience.
For our most recent fuel economy update on our 2015 Volvo S60, I wrote that we had yet to get more than 30 mpg on any of our fill ups so far. At the time, I wanted to know if we could do better. So I set out in our S60 for an approximately 230-mile highway drive to see how close I could get to the EPA's 35-mpg highway estimate.
If this were the Olympics, you could say that my effort to get maximum fuel economy was more collegiate than world-class. While my drive was almost all on the highway and I used cruise control as much as possible, I also was driving around 70 to 75 mph on California's Interstate 5 and Highway 99. I made one stop for food and had the air-conditioning on almost the whole time.
The Volvo's in-car fuel economy gauge, at 33.2 mpg, looked promising with as I pulled in to the gas station to fill up at the end of the drive. Then I calculated the actual fuel economy based on the trip odometer and gallons required to replenish the tank. The result was 30.5 mpg.
So, we've got a new best-fill record for our S60. But I'm hoping somebody else on staff can do even better.
As noted in the intro, we checked the box for the $1,550 Climate package on our long-term 2015 Volvo S60. The package includes heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, heated washer nozzles, an active cabin filter that Volvo calls IAQS (Interior Air Quality System) and...drumroll...a heated windshield.
That last item is why our S60 simulates the experience of having a lot of long squiggly floaters. From the driver seat, the windshield's embedded heating elements are everywhere you look. It's annoying at best, and I can see how it could be distracting, too, since it puts an extra layer of visual data between your eyes and what they're supposed to be looking at.
I would definitely want the Climate package in my S60 if I lived in a sometimes-cold place, but the windshield squiggles kill the mood for me. Unfortunately, only the heated front seats are offered separately, so I'd be missing out on the package's other features.
Shoppers shouldn't have to choose between this generally desirable bundle and a squiggle-free driving experience. Volvo could solve the problem by breaking out the heated windshield as a standalone option going forward.
That's a lot of tuples. I didn't expect to get fired on from six different angles when I sprayed our 2015 Volvo S60's windshield for the first time. I was so fascinated by the barrage that I let it flow for like 20 seconds (two videos' worth), so if any subsequent drivers were wondering about the residue on the Volvo's roof, well, now you know.
Seriously, this must be the highest jet count on the market, right? It's like a stimulus package for washer-fluid manufacturers. I think it's safe to say that Volvo leads this segment in at least one category.
It was obvious as soon as I sat behind the wheel. Our 2015 Volvo S60 was anxious to tell me that it needed windshield washer fluid. Its prominent warning message even included a helpful underhood diagram to show me where to put it.
So I drove to my local filling station and bought a gallon jug of the stuff. At this point, I started having flashbacks.
The voices of Canadian product quality engineers began to ricochet around my skull. They dated back to the mid-1990s when I was working as a vehicle development engineer for the Toyota Technical Center.
It was early February in a tiny frozen town north of Lake Superior, and I was there for a winter suitability test. It was a new 4-Runner, I think. A crew of Toyota Canada product engineers was there too, of course. One of their gripes concerned windshield washer fluid.
The fluid itself was fine, and they approved of the nozzles and the spray pattern. It was the size of the 4-Runner's washer fluid storage bottle that was the problem. It wasn't big enough. It hadn't been big enough in the last model and still wasn't big enough in this new-generation prototype we were testing. They weren't impressed.
Apparently they had a stack of customer complaints about the issue. Washer fluid was, and still is, sold in 3.785-liter bottles (one U.S. gallon) up there, but the 4-Runner held something like three liters. Their customers didn't much like having a partial bottle of the stuff rolling around in their trunk, but they didn't want to chuck perfectly good washer fluid into a gas station trash can either. They wanted to dump in the whole enchilada, throw away an empty bottle and get on with their day.
This seemed reasonable to me. And I assumed that Alaskans, Minnesotans, North Dakotans and anyone else that burned through a lot of washer fluid in the winter months might take a similar position.
But I was the suspension-and-tire guy from Arizona, so I just watched and grinned from a few yards away as a Toyota Canada engineer opened a fresh bottle, poured it in and let the excess run out everywhere to make his point to the bemused, note-taking engineers that had flown in from Japan.
All of this replayed in my head as I stood in front of the Volvo with my new purchase. The gas station clerk had given me a handy paper funnel, which was a help in the early going when the jug was heaviest. I had no interest in making a mess.
Sweden isn't part of NAFTA, of course, so it seemed unlikely they'd sell washer fluid in 3.785-liter/1 gallon bottles over there. But what size are the jugs they sell in Gothenburg? Would I be able to pour in the whole thing?
Gripping stuff, I know.
Near the end, the blue fluid started to foam up like an inexpertly-poured draft beer. I didn't think I'd make it. But with a couple of pauses to let the foam die back, it all went in without spilling a drop.
I can only assume the S60's washer fluid capacity is 4 liters. Would this factoid have appeared in the owner's manual? Maybe, but where's the suspense in that?
I've never understood why Garmin-sourced navigation systems display vehicle speed within the map. Is this in case your speedometer isn't working? Is it for your nosy or nagging front passenger to easily keep an eye on your speed?
"Lester! You're going 8 over the speed limit! Stop driving like a maniac! Watch out for that pickup over there! And Lester, when are we going to visit my mother?"
Either way, the 2015 Volvo S60 has the same, curious secondary speedometer within its display's audio screen. I just can't fathom why this is helpful or why someone thought it was worth the effort to put it there.
The miles aren't piling up as quickly as we figured. Our crack driver squad added 1,212 miles to our 2015 Volvo S60 this month, bringing the grand total up to 6,692 miles. But we'll need to average more 1,800 per month from here on out if we're to reach our 20,000-mile goal. Good thing summer road trip season is just around the corner.
Much of our driving has been local. Sure, we've taken it on a couple road trips, but mainly north on Interstate 5, a visually uninteresting and maddeningly competitive stretch of freeway where the prevailing flow of traffic will bowl you over if you don't keep up. This route is not conducive to kicking back and letting the scenery glide past while your car sips fuel, even if that's your style.
Perhaps that's why the Volvo's average fuel economy continues to lag behind its EPA combined rating. The feds say it should be hovering around 28 mpg, but our Volvo's lifetime average is just 23.7 mpg with June factored in. This barely matches its EPA city rating.
Brent Romans took it to Fresno this month, and he tried hard to conserve on the way back. His 30.5-mpg effort is a new best tank for the S60, too, but even he admits he didn't get the most out of it thanks to the I-5 shuffle.
A new worst-fill of 14.9 mpg came courtesy of Mark Takahashi, who lives deep within the impacted road system that is west Los Angeles. But his new low hardly counts. This was an abbreviated tank of just 42.9 miles, all of it in the worst traffic imaginable. We usually prefer to let things play out over a couple hundred miles of varied driving before filling up.
But Mark was on a mission. He tanked up when he did because he was starting an official lap around our vehicle evaluation loop. Fuel economy isn't the main point of the exercise, but it's something we track with care. His lap amounted to 27.8 mpg, a virtual match of EPA combined.
The stats break down like this.
Worst Fill MPG: 14.9 (new low, but an abnormally premature fill)
Best Fill MPG: 30.5 (new high)
Average Lifetime MPG: 23.7 (4.2 gallons per 100 miles)
EPA MPG Rating: 28 combined (24 city / 35 highway)
Best Range: 410.5 miles
Current Odometer: 6,692 miles
Why have the seats in our 2015 Volvo S60 received such mixed reviews? I have no idea. After driving the S60 again last night, I found no problems with the comfort of the driver's seat.
They have plenty of adjustments to fit my 6-foot 2-inch frame comfortably and the bolsters aren't overly intrusive. There's been considerable talk about the height of the seat, but that didn't bother me either. Throughout a two-hour slog through afternoon traffic, I never felt the need to shift around to remain comfortable, which is rare.
Then there are the headrests.
Some people on staff have complained that you can't escape their reach, and that no matter what you do, the headrest pushes on the back of your head. Those people must have some odd driving positions because when I'm driving the headrest is several inches from the back of my head.
I tried to get in a position where the headrest felt intrusive. I couldn't find one.
Although I agree with most of the other editors on staff that the interior of our 2015 Volvo S60 is elegant and functional, the cluster of buttons you see here is not its best design feature.
Too many buttons that look too alike is the short version of my complaint. Even after driving it for a while, I'm still not used to where everything is at first glance.
All the buttons are roughly the same size and shape with no logical groupings. And then you get a knob for the fan, the pictograph thing for the vents and the largely useless phone keypad.
The fact that the whole setup is fairly compact keeps the annoyance to a minimum. I also like the large knobs for the volume, tuning and temperature adjustments. If those weren't done right it would be a deal breaker. As it is, I just find it less impressive than some of the other well-thought out aspects of the car.
Many luxury buyers scoff at the notion of a four-cylinder under the hood. It sounds low-budget, both literally and figuratively. This 2015 Volvo S60 will make people think twice about that preconceived notion. It may only have a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, but it sure doesn't feel like it from the driver's seat.
Thanks to a little help from both a supercharger and a turbocharger, our S60 feels as quick as any six-cylinder in the segment. And it has the numbers to prove it.
Whether you're easing into it from a stop or mashing the gas to make a pass on the highway, it responds quickly and maintains a steady stream of power all the way to its 6,500 rpm redline. Add in the fact that it's working with an eight-speed automatic transmission and there's rarely a situation where it feels out of its element.
This engine's only real drawback is the sound. You won't get a deep, throaty roar from the engine no matter how hard you hammer on it. I'm guessing most Volvo buyers won't mind this aspect of the S60's four-cylinder-only lineup.
The infotainment system in our 2015 Volvo S60 goes deep with options. I spent a good amount of time digging through each one, and then I stumbled on something I didn't expect: A Web browser.
I don't remember when this system arrived in Volvos. It couldn't be recent, considering the mobile Wi-Fi is on a 3G network, whereas all modern cell phones are on 4G LTE or better. Also, the browser makes sites look like they're from 2008.
Nevertheless, I did what anyone would do when faced with a web browser in your car:
The controls are cumbersome, but they work. You move the cursor with the keypad beneath. Pressing and holding "2" moves the cursor up, for example. You can type in addresses by using the keypad or with the dial to the right.
Of course, the cumbersome interface and dated graphics mean passengers will prefer using their smartphones. But it's neat that this browser exists. It reminds you what the internet was like in 2008.
While I'm not an expert and wouldn't classify myself as an audiophile, I have an appreciation for sound quality and enjoy exploring the options of different stereos. The good news is that our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 Volvo S60 has quite a few options.
Dive in and you'll find your standard treble, bass, and mid adjustments. But there's also an equalizer (60 Hz, 200 Hz, 1 kHz, 3 kHz, 12 kHz) if you want to go a bit more granular. On top of that, you can adjust the overall level of Dolby Pro Logic II and the influence from the center speaker.
I was impressed that, along with the balance and fade options, the audio system offers preset settings for sound position, called Sound Stage. The driver can set the audio for the driver's seat, back seat, or all seats. These presets are great if you don’t want to spend time fiddling with the others.
The bad news is that the sound system is merely okay. I expected a bit more from this $1,200 Harmon/Kardon option, particularly where bass is concerned. The absence of a subwoofer makes the lower end frequencies sound muddled and hard to clarify. The options are nice, but there are better factory systems available.
Our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 continues to stay close to its 24-mpg EPA city fuel economy rating. In July, the S60 traveled 1,331 miles and consumed 66.4 gallons of gas, meaning 20.1 mpg. This brought its lifetime average to 23.6 mpg, down a negligible 0.1 mpg versus last month.
Considering the amount of city driving we've been doing, the fuel economy shouldn't be too surprising. Also, the ample torque out of the twin-charged engine can attract longer periods of acceleration.
This month Ed Hellwig found much to like with the seats, but thought the instrument panel had too many buttons. Brent Romans still holds the best tank record at 30.5 mpg after a determined, fuel economy-minded stint.
Worst Fill MPG: 14.9
Best Fill MPG: 30.5
Average Lifetime MPG: 23.6
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/35 Highway Combined)
Best Range: 410.5 miles
Current Odometer: 8,360 miles
At two hours, my commute home was yesterday extraordinarily long. What I really needed was to pull our 2015 Volvo S60 into the driveway and decompress a bit. What greeted me at my sanctuary instead was a four-year-old staring, pointing, and asking "Daddy, what is that thing sticking out of the bottom of your car?"
With a sigh I rolled up the windows, turned off the car and climbed out. Sure enough, there under the front of the S60, still attached by a few tabs that secure it to the car, was a three-foot-or-so wide plastic cover. On closer inspection I found only minimal wear on the side that was hanging down. So this must have just happened. That was a plus.
I poked my head under the car to reinstall the cover. A couple of things were evident. One, this cover allowed access to the bottom side of the radiator but not too much else. Two, and more importantly, all tabs and their associated slots were unharmed. The cover snapped back into place in somewhat flimsy fashion, which might explain why it fell off in the first place. Still it was there. And on my commute back into the office this morning, it stayed in place.
I had a weekend road trip planned and had my eyes on our long-term Sonata. That didn't pan out, and neither did the road trip unfortunately, but in lieu of the Sonata, fleetmaster Mike suggested the 2015 Volvo S60 instead.
Thank goodness he had. I'd been missing out.
I hadn't spent much time in the S60. Our long-term Volvo has never really been on my radar and up until I grabbed its keys this time, I'd only been in it once — and that was just because Cameron Rogers made me sit in it to show off how comfy the seats are.
Blame it on my past life as a car salesman.
Meeting with customers and trying to close deals, shoppers would often talk about the other cars they needed to drive before making a purchase. For a dozen years, my shoppers brought up the usual suspects: Audi, Lexus, Toyota, BMW, and Ford. Rarely did my customers mention Volvo, with the exception of the XC90.
Where I sold cars, it seems that many shoppers didn't have Volvo on their radar, either. At least the ones I met.
That's a shame, because the S60 is pretty sweet.
In 2014, 16.4 million new cars and trucks were sold in the US, and the average price was about $32,600. With a starting price slightly north of $34,000, the S60 is reachable territory for many new car buyers. My guess is that many people just didn't know how nice the Volvo product, outside of the SUV, really was.
But there's some evidence that's changing. The model year 2014 S60 sold a respectable 15,078 units. Model year 2015 has already sold more than 20,800 units. That's a pretty healthy jump.
Makes sense to me. This S60 has the goods to satisfy most shoppers. It moves well, looks good, and even the base model comes with a slew of standard features. The S60 is definitely on my radar now.
I will pay closer attention to the Volvo over the next 12,000 miles — assuming I can get the keys before Erin.
As a recovering helicopter parent, I recognize hovering. I spent years hovering over my kid. And I tell you what, our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 does its fair share of hovering, too. In the Volvo's case, that's not a bad thing.
Our S60 T6 Drive-E is equipped with a slew of features intended to make driving easier (rear view back-up camera, adaptive cruise), safer, (blind spot information system, collision warning with auto-braking), and easier to park (retractable side view mirrors, rear view back-up camera). Its convenience features — 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, heated seats and steering wheel — make ownership more enjoyable.
Hover, hover, hover.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Even though these systems aren't always graceful, on the whole I'm glad for them. And there are two very minor convenience features in our S60 that I'd like to have in my own car.
First, I want our S60's keyless entry that operates the rear doors. Touch the handle of the Volvo's rear door with the key on your person, and boom, the door unlocks. Sometimes you just need to throw something in the back seat or grab a jacket. Easy. In my car, you have to go the front door to unlock the rear door or click the key fob. Hassle? No. But the Volvo system is one less step.
The second feature is auto engine-off.
While driving the S60 over the weekend, the coolest thing happened. It seemed so natural that I didn't notice it the first time. I pulled into my parking spot, slowed to a stop, put the car in park, unlatched my seat belt and then opened the door. And the S60 killed the engine for me. Awesome. Nine out of 10 times when I follow that sequence, I'm hopping out of the car.
The only downside is that if you do this sequence with the driver window rolled down, you have to hit the ignition button to roll the window back up. Is it too much work for me to hit the start/stop button on the dash? No. But again, it's one less thing to do.
Would I buy a car because of these features? Absolutely not. Would those minor conveniences help me enjoy my car more during ownership? Absolutely yes.
Never Have to Apologize for the Ride Quality
If I was about to buy an entry-level luxury sedan, I'd be wary of getting one with 18-inch wheels and tires. I generally like the way our long-term Audi A3 rides on its 18s, for example, but could I deal with its occasional semi-harsh impacts over neglected surface streets day in and day out? I'm not sure I'm tough enough anymore.
Since our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 is a Drive-E T6 model, it has 18-inch wheels and 235/40R18 95H tires (Continental ContiProContact in our case) as standard. And I have no problem with them.
Honestly, I never even remember that our S60 has 18s until my eyes land on those fancy wheels while it's parked in such idyllic spots in my neighborhood. They look like such large wheels for a Volvo.
But they don't ruin the ride. This car is superbly comfy over most roads, and it's in keeping with the S60's easygoing personality.
Easygoing might sound like faint praise, something you might say about a Camry. But I mean it in a nice way. Even with the switch from six-cylinder to four-cylinder power in front-wheel-drive T6 models, there's nothing frenetic or annoying about driving this car.
The power comes together so easily with the supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that you never have to work for it, at least not during normal driving on public roads. Alongside that, you have an agreeable ride and steering that's maybe a little too light but still precise.
I wish I had more time for road trips.
Overly Sensitive, Questionably Helpful Distance Alert
Among the suite of advanced safety technologies in the 2015 Volvo S60 is a Distance Alert. Using the same sensors and orange flashy warning bar employed for the forward collision warning, Distance Alert warns you when it feels you're too close to the car ahead. Well, in Los Angeles traffic, that orange flashy warning bar is pretty much going to be illuminated 97.9 percent of the time.
Take a look at the photo. I'm not exactly glued to the Benz's bumper. And yet Grandma Volvo feels I'm too close.
I'm not sure which of my fellow editors felt this was a useful feature to turn on, but I immediately turned it off. Perhaps I'm missing something but it seems like an inherently flawed feature. If you're paying enough attention to see the orange light, you should therefore be paying enough attention to see the car ahead.
And if you need the car to tell you how close is too close, well, just go ahead and cut up that license right now.
Hey, Don't Hit the Road
My house has a moderately steep driveway. It's steep enough that I have to angle the front wheels of most cars when pulling out or backing in (and I'm not sure if I ever had a perfectly clean exit in our SLP Panther Camaro).
It's also steep enough to trigger the front parking sensors every single time I pull out in our long-term 2015 Volvo S60. After closer inspection of the front bumper, I think this has more to do with the location of the four sensors than any oversensitivity.
The sensors are mounted very low on the bumper. Although the frequent alerts could be an annoyance if you, too, must negotiate a driveway with a significant elevation change (and decide to leave this parking aid turned on), the upside is that you'll probably never run aground on a high parking block.
I know a thing or two about Volvos, as I happen to own one. No, I don't own a current-gen car like our 2015 Volvo S60. Instead I have a "classic" 1998 V70 GLT hidden in my garage. With just 57K miles on the odometer, my wagon is patiently waiting for my 15-year-old daughter to get her driver's license.
One thing my kid has already taken notice of is the difference in wheels (both size and style), between our S60 test car and my personal V70.
"Why are the wagon's wheels so teeny-tiny?" she asks. Um, because they're stock at 15 inches, I tell her. Despite my husband's urging to upgrade them years ago, I never saw the need.
"And they're so boring," she says. Yep, I acknowledge. The staid six-spokes aren't nearly as appealing as the 18-inch multi-spoke alloys that roll under the S60. But despite its understated wheel-n-tire package, my Volvo has been nothing but good to me. I hope the S60's future owner can say that about the sedan 17 years from now.
I like to think we're mostly respectable people here at Edmunds. The editorial staff is used to driving test cars, we respect all of our vehicles, and do our best to keep them up to snuff.
That's why I was disappointed when I noticed a few deep nicks in the center console of our 2015 Volvo S60.
I don't expect that there was any unusual "wear-n-tear" going on in the Volvo's stylish cabin — especially with fewer than 10,000 miles on the odometer. Could it be that the semi-soft touch material is that sensitive?
Fuel Economy Update for August - Combined MPG Falls Short of City Rating
August wasn't a particularly exciting month for our 2015 Volvo S60. We drove it 787.4 miles and, by looking at the numbers, those miles weren't fuel-economy runs.
The EPA rates the S60 with its unique multi-charged engine at 28 mpg combined (24 city/35 highway), to see our August and overall results, click....
For those paying very close attention, note that neither the best nor worst fills changed, nor did best range. The only thing that moved was our average lifetime MPG which dropped from 23.6 to 23.1 mpg. But hey, during that time a plastic cover under the car fell off and we grew tired of the constant warnings of the Distance Alert.
Worst Fill MPG: 14.9
Best Fill MPG: 30.5
Average Lifetime MPG: 23.1
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/35 Highway Combined)
Best Range: 410.5 miles
Current Odometer: 9,005 miles
Volvo makes pretty good cars. So it's the little things that start to matter. I collected a few on a recent trip to Las Vegas in our 2015 Volvo S60 to cover the unveiling of the 2016 Toyota Prius.
1: The A/C works really well. That may not sound like much, as most modern cars have air conditioners that function well. But when it's 108 outside, the system's ability to maintain a nice, even 69 degrees inside is something you notice
2: The Volvo S60 is a lot prettier than the new Prius, IMO.
3: The S60, outfitted as ours is (fully loaded, of course), is a wonderful car for a long-distance drive. We've got a number of long-term posts attesting to this, so I won't go on except to say, again, that this is a great road car. The sport seats are also superb.
4: The lane keeping assist system is helpful, but can toss you an unwelcome surprise now and then.
One of those "now and then" surprises occurred as I was humming along an unusually traffic-free patch of the interstate and decided to test the system by intentionally drifting (the slow, inattentive driver kind of drift, not the tire-smoking, donut-making kind).
The Volvo's sensors picked up the white lane marker separating my lane from the adjacent one almost every time, and took corrective action after flashing me a warning.
But when I positioned the car in the fast lane of the divided road (a wide strip of dirt separates the east- and westbound lanes most of the way to Vegas) and drifted to the left, the sensors mostly ignored the yellow paint that marks the dividing line between asphalt and dirt.
Sometimes the left lane icon on the driver info screen would turn red, and on a very few occasions the system twitched the steering to push me back into my lane. But mainly it just ignored the lane limit line.
As Brent Romans pointed out in his S60 driver assist piece, the system doesn't work all of the time and Volvo is clear about this in the owner manual. But you'd think that a system that can tell you when it's time to pull over and maybe drink a cup of coffee (one of the warning messages that displays if you repeatedly drift into other lanes) could also tell you with some degree of consistency that you're about to drift off the road and into the dirt.
Another surprise happened when I started to correct a lane drift while heading around a gentle outside curve. The combination of the Volvo's automated steering input and my own last-minute adjustment of the wheel apparently generated enough extra input that the car snapped back toward the center of its lane rather fiercely.
I wasn't in danger of losing control and it wasn't that sharp of a movement, but it definitely caught me off guard after my multiple experiences with the S60's otherwise gentle steering corrections.
5: The S60's door handles do pinch if you are not careful. Mike Monticello warned about this, but his caution was penned six months ago and slipped my mind. I caught my index finger in the handle several times (yes, I'm a slow learner).
6: The auto stop-start feature, which saves fuel and cuts emissions by shutting down the engine at complete stops and instantaneously restarting it when you lift off the brake, is one of the roughest I've experienced. The engine shuts down with a noticeable "clunk" about half the time and restarts with an annoyingly loud and lengthy shudder.
7: The hinky speed limit display seems to take forever to find the correct speeds to display when you get on the freeway. It is annoying to be driving in what you know is a 70 mph zone and notice that the speed sign reader hasn't updated yet and still shows a 30 mph limit. Perhaps worse is when the system does finally read and display the correct speed limit info and you have a constant reminder in front of you that you just might be speeding.
8: I don't know how the EPA came up with a 35 mpg highway rating for the twin-charged S60. None of the previous road trips delivered anything near that and mine was no different: I averaged 30 mpg on the first 113 miles of the trip and 28.5 mpg on the last 410 miles, which included about five miles of city driving.
9: The S60's windows reflect the sun almost as nicely as do the collection tower mirrors at the Stateline Solar Farm near the California-Arizona border.
Auto Start/Stop Slow to Reignite Engine
I'm ok with the fuel-saving auto start/stop in vehicles as long as they don't impede the driver's commands. Unfortunately, our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 is prone to big stumbles and delayed reactions.
Some of the better systems detect when pressure on the brake pedal begins to decrease and trigger the startup. The Volvo doesn't start up until the pedal seems to reach a certain point in the stroke. There were several occasions while driving recently where I needed a quicker than normal launch and the S60 was far too slow to get moving. In some cases, I'd also get an unexpected lurch forward.
So I'll be driving with auto start/stop disabled or in Sport mode from now on.
I'd Leave Off the Auto-Braking
As I pulled up to the exit of the Edmunds parking garage in our long-term 2015 Volvo S60, I rolled down the window and extended my arm, parking pass in hand.
I intended on pulling all the way up to the exit arm, waving my parking pass at the high-mounted sensor, and exiting the garage in the sort of graceful fashion that befits an Edmunds automotive editor. The Volvo had other plans.
SCREECH. The Volvo abruptly stopped from about 7 miles per hour. I lurched forward in my seat, nearly dropping my parking pass. Many expletives came to mind.
Apparently, the S60 decided that I needed the full force of its brakes at these break-neck, single-digit speeds. Its City Safety system surmised that I'd otherwise run head on into the parking arm. Never mind that the parking arm would easily clear the Volvo's hood or the fact that I was more than 10 feet away from it.
Clearly, this system is far more cautious than I am, or it just has an overly-sensitive front sensor. Either way, I'm turning the system off next time I drive the S60.
Best Steering Wheel Controls in the Fleet
A weekend in the 2015 Volvo S60 has convinced me that it has the best steering wheel controls in our fleet. The S60 steering wheel incorporates buttons that control only the most commonly used features. That may seem obvious or redundant to say, but many automakers can't pull off this simple design.
Let's look at the buttons that the S60's wheels has and how the controls differ from other manufacturers.
The six buttons on the left side of the wheel operate the adaptive cruise control. In contrast to other systems, the S60 does without a traditional "Set" button for engaging cruise control, because tapping the + or - buttons sets cruise at the current speed. There's also no Cancel button because the On/Off switch takes handles that function.
The buttons on the right side of the wheel control the infotainment system. The thumbwheel allows for scrolling through available radio stations, songs in a playlist and through phone contacts. There's also a button to activate voice control functionality, while another steps backward through menus. You can almost hear the frustrated Volvo engineer slamming his or her head against the desk after failing to draw an appropriate pictograph.
If a steering wheel must have buttons, they should only control frequent actions that would otherwise take attention away from the driver if placed elsewhere. With that in mind, the S60 steering wheel is notable for the buttons it doesn't have. When a car has an information screen in the instrument panel, many manufacturers put the buttons that control that screen directly onto the wheel.
Some Fords, like our old long-term 2012 Ford Explorer, even have two menus in the IP, with a total of 10 buttons that just control directional and confirmation actions. Volvo has a very simple info screen controlled by two buttons and a scroll wheel, located on the turn signal stalk.
Most cars keep advanced car settings buried in the IP screen, but that's unnecessary. Drivers don't need to adjust minute settings, like footwell lighting, on the fly. Volvo keeps these rarely-changed functions in submenus in the main infotainment screen away from the driver, where they belong.
Other features, including lane-keeping assist and steering wheel heating, are controlled with buttons located on the center stack rather than on the wheel itself, as in other cars.
The S60's steering wheel offers a great deal of functionality with few buttons. By only controlling the most often-used features, the wheel is easy to use and looks clean. It's one of my favorites.
Suburban Defense Vehicle
My spouse turned up his nose at a ride in 2015 Volvo S60 on Saturday.
"It's a mom car, isn't it?"
You say mom car, I say suburban defense vehicle. The burbs seem benign, but little dangers lurk for drivers and cars. In addition to the peace of mind that came from knowing that the Volvo had a thorough safety system covering me, here are a couple features that stood out for me in neighborhood errands recently.
1. Cross traffic alert. There's no worse threat to the backing driver than a Trader Joe's parking lot, where people apparently have put their brains on hold. I also like the level of illumination that the back-up camera offers at night. There's a restaurant parking lot nearby that's unpaved, tight and treacherous. The camera helped make a confident exit.
2. Automatic folding driver-side mirror. A thoughtful touch for anyone who lives on a narrow street and has to use a gym parking lot with undersized spaces and careless patrons.
What's your preferred aid for navigating the suburbs?
Fuel Economy Update for September - Lifetime Average Falls Again
September proved to be a little more exciting than August for our long-term 2015 Volvo S60. We traveled 2,031 miles in September, yet despite a couple of highway-heavy road trips, our lifetime average dipped to 22.4 MPG, down from 23.1 MPG.
On a trip to Las Vegas for the debut of the new Toyota Prius, Senior Editor John O'Dell eked 410.8 miles from a single tank in the S60, the furthest we've stretched a single tank by 0.3 miles. We calculated 26.2 MPG for the trip.
Editor-in-Chief Scott Oldham averaged 27.5 MPG over 319.6 miles on a return trip from San Jose, the month's best average MPG.
In September, we started to notice some wear inside the Volvo while a lazy start/stop system is the source of some frustration.
Worst Fill MPG: 14.9
Best Fill MPG: 30.5
Average Lifetime MPG: 22.4
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/35 Highway Combined)
Best Range: 410.8 miles
Current Odometer: 11,036 miles
Recently one of our editors drove our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 round-trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and upon his return wrote that "the S60, outfitted as ours is (fully loaded, of course), is a wonderful car for a long-distance drive. We've got a number of long-term posts attesting to this, so I won't go on except to say, again, that this is a great road car. The sport seats are also superb."
Having read that, I jumped at the chance to road-trip the S60.
I won't be doing that again. The Volvo and I just didn't get along.
This round-trip covered about 700 miles of California, from Silicon Beach to Silicon Valley and back. The Volvo and I left L.A. for Google headquarters in Mountain View on Monday afternoon and arrived back home Tuesday night.
You learn things when you drive a car that far that quickly. After about 150 miles, I learned that the Volvo's seat and seating position were beginning to work against me. Cramps in my legs and numbness of the buttocks plagued me for the majority of the drive.
I also learned that the armrest on the driver's door is hard as a rock and the arch enemy of my elbow. And I learned that the Volvo rides too roughly (probably due to its large 18-inch wheels and tires) and neither is its cabin as quiet as I expected or would have liked.
Generally I found this car uncomfortable and fatiguing to drive.
Then there's the fuel economy. The EPA rates the S60 at 35 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in the city. The Volvo averaged 26.5 mpg for this trip. Now, I did mix in some city driving, about 100 miles worth, and I've never claimed to be a hypermiler. Still, 26.5 mpg after hundreds of miles of nothing but interstate is nothing but disappointing.
Exploring Divided Opinion in 700 Miles
After reading Scott Oldham's recent regret update about taking our 2015 Volvo S60 on a road trip to northern California, I began to have my doubts. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to head out with my wife and two small children on a 700-mile road trip to visit my in-laws over a weekend.
But I was already booked for the car and figured, if nothing else, the drive would give me an opportunity to expand on our previous updates.
I wrote an earlier post about the S60's adequate rear seat space. That opinion held up after making the drive with my two kids in booster seats. They had enough legroom, and they used the fold-down center armrest (with cupholders) as a sort of "He's touching me!" demilitarized zone. The rear door pillar-mounted air vents must have also worked well since I didn't hear any complaints about being too hot.
We left on a Friday afternoon and returned Sunday afternoon, so the trip was short. That helped cut down on the stuff we needed to bring. We haven't written much on our S60's trunk other than how it carries grocery bags, so here's a photo of the 12-cubic foot trunk with a couple of small suitcases, a cooler, a duffle bag, a PC laptop bag and a few other miscellaneous items.
The covered trunk lid hinges mean no chance of crushed luggage (also, let it be known that no family road trip is complete without a purple unicorn stuffed animal.)
Scott mentioned three main things he found uncomfortable: the driver seat, the door-mounted armrest and the S60's ride quality. We've already covered the driver seat in other updates (for example, Ed Hellwig liked it, Mike Magrath didn't). Personally, I find the seat's comfort to be OK, but nothing more. I agree with Scott that the armrest is overly hard for a luxury-branded vehicle.
As for ride quality, that's an interesting one. Erin Riches wrote recently how she thought our S60 is "superbly comfy" over most roads. On this drive, my family seemed fine and could sleep at various points, but I noticed how our S60 gets a bit "clompy" over broken pavement at highway speeds. This could be what Scott was referring to.
There seems to be some differing staff opinion here, but my takeaway is that for a car without an adaptive suspension, the S60 strikes an agreeable balance of ride comfort and front-wheel-drive sportiness.
I do like the supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Put it in Sport mode or click off a few downshifts using the paddle shifters to boost the revs, and then mat the gas. The Volvo whooshes forward with authority. It's great for quickly getting up to speed on highway entrance ramps or passing dawdling motorists.
As we've reported these past few months, fuel economy remains below EPA estimates. I averaged 29.6 mpg over approximately 700 miles of driving. The EPA estimate is 35 mpg highway. But considering my speeds (typically 70 mph-plus) and frequent use of air-conditioning, getting 30 mpg from a 302-hp sedan is still respectable in my book. Also, the S60 has a useful amount of range. I got almost 450 miles out of one tank, our farthest yet.
Interior Storage Report
Besides testing out some divided opinions on my recent family road trip, I also had the opportunity to find out how well our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 could handle the various drinks, snacks and personal items that are part of such trips. An exhaustive report equal in size and importance to the Warren Commission's follows.
Here are the two main cupholders up front. The rubber tabs work well for securing average-sized water bottles or Starbucks cups. If you want to go bigger, the S60 will accommodate as well.
The white water bottle doesn't fit in all vehicles in my experience, so advantage S60. You can also cover up the cupholders with the sliding lid when they're not in use.
But because the S60's center stack design doesn't have a front storage bin, I'm often using the cupholders to hold my cell phone, keys, wallet or other small personal items.
There is a shelf hidden behind the "floating" center stack control layout. You can put your phone here, but it's not easy to reach. I rarely use this.
More useful is the center console bin. It's not huge but it's enough for typical items. It's also where the S60's USB port is.
You can also place water bottles or other items in the front door bins. They're fairly deep and are useful for holding wrappers or trash.
The glove box holds the owner's manual and our fuel log book. There are also clips and a bin mounted on the lid, which can be useful for holding pens.
In back, there are also rear door bins, but they're not as deep or useful as the front bins.
Rear passengers have two cupholders mounted in the pull-down center armrest as well as a bin below the lift-up lid. Unbeknownst to me, one of my kids left some snack wrappers in the bin, including a spent Baby Bel cheese wax casing. I discovered the melted, blobby mess when taking the photos for this update. Good times.
Finally, the S60 has rear pockets behind the front seats. If you're rocking a road trip with kids in back, the pockets are big enough for said kids' magazines, modest-sized books or tablet computers.
Overall, I'd say the S60 fares quite well for interior storage other than its lack of a center cubby. But realistically, most entry-luxury cars don't have one either. High marks.
Fuel Economy Update for October: Overall MPG Picks Up
The headlines in our 2015 Volvo S60's mpg category are dreary.
"Combined MPG Falls Short of Even the City Rating."
"Still Far Below EPA."
"Lifetime Average Falls Again."
Reading them is like reading the continually downward, depressing trend of 2015 Yahoo stock price reports. But hey, sometimes you drop so low there's nowhere to go but up, right? In fact, our S60 did post better numbers from last month.
Part of that could be the high percentage of highway driving we did as part of the 2,500 miles logged last month. Within that, for example, we had a couple big 400-plus mile drives that yielded approximately 30 mpg. For the month, we averaged 25.1 mpg, a few mpg better than what we'd been getting. Our lifetime fuel economy has now edged up to 22.9 mpg.
Of course, that's still way below EPA combined. But I'll be driving our S60 for a few more days and I've got a plan to see if I can tease out some better fuel economy.
Worst Fill MPG: 14.9
Best Fill MPG: 30.5
Average Lifetime MPG: 22.9
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/35 Highway Combined)
Best Range: 460.7 miles
Current Odometer: 13,760 miles
Sensus Interface Satisfies
I've been driving our 2015 Volvo S60 quite a bit recently, which has given me plenty of time to play around with its "Sensus" tech interface. We've written a few prior updates about some of its features, but here's a more general opinion about how well it works for controlling the car's entertainment and operation features.
Operation: Much of S60's interface runs through this dial-and-button interface. The "tune" knob allows you to cycle through on-screen lists or options, while the "menu" and "exit" buttons are used to dive deeper or move back up through menu structures.
Surrounding the keypad are the main menu buttons: Nav, Radio, Media, Tel, My Car and the globe icon for apps and the web browser. Pushing one of these brings up the associated system.
I prefer button-and-dial interfaces over touchscreens because they allow me to keep my eyes on the road more easily, and that's an advantage here.
The main knob controller knob is easy to reach, and I can keep my hand on it by resting my wrist on the gear shift lever.
S60's hooded display screen doesn't wash out in sunlight.
Plenty of customization choices for controlling or activating/deactivating the car's various features.
Preset buttons. The S60's keypad looked a bit dated, but it's nice to have some physical radio preset buttons.
In general, it takes a bit longer to access what you want compared to some rival systems. If you want to tune a satellite radio station using the knob, for instance, you have to turn the knob one "click" first to bring up the station list, then again to find the station you want. Or, as another example, the voice control system. Though it recognizes my voice well, it typically requires an extra confirmation step or two to get what I want.
There's no writing touchpad, so if you want to input a name, you'll be doing it via the old-fashioned alphabet wheel.
The 7-inch display screen is competitive in terms of size and graphics, but the rearview camera display lacks the crisp detail I'd expect for a luxury vehicle.
Overall, though, I've found our S60's interface to be likable, especially since I've been able to spend some quality time with it.
Finding the Meaning of the Power Meter
What does this gauge mean? I spent the weekend in our 2015 Volvo S60 trying to figure that out. It says "Power" — which I take to mean a good thing — but it offers no other identifying information. No other text or numbers.
There are just two elements: A yellow line on the left and the yellow arrow on the right. Oh, and they move. The non-descriptive nature reminds me of the boost gauges you'd see in old Saabs. They didn't show psi in numbers; the needle simply went from white to red.
I took this picture of the S60's gauge while blipping the throttle. The arrow jumps when you do this, but the line only moves when the car does. When it does, the line always chases the arrow. What does this mean? Enter the owner's manual.
On page 130, manual outlines the Power Meter.
Apparently, the arrow on the right shows available power. "The higher the reading on the scale, the greater the amount of power remaining in the current gear," the manual says. While the yellow line shows how much power you are using, "the larger the gap between the two indicators, the greater the amount of power remaining," the manual continues.
This is great at explaining what the gauge shows, but I still have trouble finding the purpose. The arrow and line dance around when you hit the gas, but to dubious effect.
To be fair, Rolls Royce does the same thing. The needle goes to 100 percent when you turn the car on and dips when you apply the throttle.
What would I rather have? A boost gauge. With indicated psi.
Twin-Charging That Just Works
Computer graphics in film work best when you don't see it. Mad Max: Fury Road used tons of CG, but it wasn't obvious. The effects improved scenes in ways you didn't notice while sitting in the theater watching a rad movie. The engine in our 2015 Volvo S60 is less rad, but similar. It is remarkably complex, but this complexity is invisible to its driver.
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is twin-charged, meaning it uses both a turbocharger and a supercharger. This has always been an interesting concept, but much like how Rube Goldberg machines are interesting. A few rally cars famously employed the concept in the 80's, though it's been uncommon in production cars.
What's the concept? Let's back up a bit.
Both a turbocharger and supercharger are means of compressing air before pushing it into the engine, but they go about it in different ways. This gives them different strengths and weaknesses, broadly speaking.
The compressor in a supercharger is driven by a mechanical connection to engine, so it starts turning immediately when the engine does. The downside is that this mechanical connection consumes some engine horsepower. The compressor in a turbocharger is driven by the exhaust gas your engine already makes, so it doesn't cost you any horsepower.
This is great if you're always at full throttle and producing a steady stream of exhaust. But when you're in stop-and-go traffic, your engine seldom produces enough of a stream to power the turbocharger effectively. Most modern applications use one method, leaning towards turbochargers because the "free" exhaust stream doesn't hurt gas mileage as much as a mechanically connected supercharger.
So why use both? Well, the supercharger starts working as soon as the engine turns, so it works well at low engine speeds. The turbocharger, conversely, starts working better when the engine is spinning at higher speeds. The twin-charging theory means getting the benefits of both.
Yes, there's a lot of stuff happening under the hood, but the S60's trick is that you don't notice it. You can't sense when the supercharger's working or when the turbocharger kicks in. To the driver, it simply feels like the work of a responsive and powerful engine.
It also feels like a larger engine, which it isn't. I constantly forget it's a small four-cylinder because it feels like a six (it doesn't help that Volvo retains the T6 badging). The power rating is also what you'd expect of a six-cylinder: 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
It isn't the power alone, but the character. At low speeds during traffic or from a stop light, where the majority of real-world driving happens, a light and quick press on the gas pedal wakes up the supercharger, and the engine immediately supplies power. If the engine were merely turbocharged, there'd be a small delay between pressing the gas and the rush of power.
While our fuel economy has consistently fallen under the EPA's rating, I still enjoy driving the S60 because the engine makes it feel so brawny. Nobody expects to get outmuscled up the on-ramp by a Volvo.
Too long; didn't read? Our Volvo S60 is like "Mad Max" because combining turbochargers and superchargers is cool.
As the odometer digitally "clicked" past the 15,000-mile mark, I realized our 2015 Volvo S60 test car is now in the final quarter of its year-long test.
The prior nine months have proven virtually trouble-free for the silver sedan.
The always capable Dan Edmunds added wiper fluid, and the equally handy Mike Schmidt DIY'd the reinstallation of a plastic underbody shield, but other than those two quick fixes, our Volvo S60 hasn't spent a single day out of service.
Fuel Economy Update for November: Average Fuel Economy Barely Budges
After a car has been in our fleet for a few months, its average fuel economy more or less levels off and stays consistent throughout the rest of its stay. Case in point: the 2015 Volvo S60. Even though we averaged 24.2 mpg over 1,381 miles in November, the S60's overall fuel economy increased by just a tick, from 22.9 mpg to 23.0 mpg.
That's about what the average has been since the end of April. The best fill for the month was 28.8 mpg over 425 miles, set by Messrs. Romans and Schmidt.
As Brent noted last month, we've produced our share of pessimistic headlines about the disparity between the S60's EPA-estimated fuel economy and our own fill ups. But as commenter prndlol noted on that post, our average of 23.0 mpg is fine for a car that makes 302 horsepower.
I agree. For comparison, our long-term 2013 Cadillac ATS had 272 hp on tap from a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. The ATS was less powerful and slightly slower than the S60 in a 0-60 mph race, and it finished its tenure with us with an average of 22.1 mpg.
Our last long-term S60, a 2012 model with a 250-hp turbocharged five-cylinder, averaged 22.8 mpg. On the other hand, our current 2015 Acura TLX comes with all-wheel drive, and a 3.5-liter V6 just 12 hp shy of the Volvo. It has returned 24.2 mpg so far and has achieved a best fill of 33.7 mpg versus the S60's 30.5 mpg.
So while our S60's real-life fuel economy falls drastically short of its EPA ratings, it is more powerful and efficient than a couple of past long-termers with turbocharged, small displacement engines. Unfortunately, the S60's trick super- and turbocharged engine hasn't yet matched or beaten the fuel economy of the TLX's naturally-aspirated V6 in real-life driving.
That said, I would still buy the S60 for its more responsive engine and fantastic seats.
Worst Fill MPG: 14.9 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 30.5 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 23.0 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/35 Highway)
Best Range: 460.7 miles
Current Odometer: 14,983 miles
Quick, Painless 10,000-Mile Service
Shortly before we hit the 10,000-mile mark in our long-term 2015 Volvo S60, a notification popped up on the infotainment system informing us that service was due. The S60 offered to search for the nearest Volvo dealer, but that wasn't necessary. We know there's a dealer mere blocks from our Santa Monica office.
Rather that scheduling an appointment, News Editor Kelly Hellwig dropped the car off at Volvo of Santa Monica's service department on her way into the office on a Monday morning. I arrived about 10 minutes after her and the car was still not checked in.
Once we finally met our service adviser, Carlos, we requested Volvo's recommended 10,000-mile service as well as a tire rotation. Carlos informed us of a service campaign that required a software update to the ECM . He estimated the job to take three hours.
The 10,000-mile service is fairly basic, including an oil and filter change, a fluid, tire and brake inspection, cleaning the inside of the windshield in front of the collision warning camera, as well as checking tire pressures. Starting with the 2015 model year, Volvo offers complimentary service for three years or 36,000 miles. The S60 has service intervals of 10,000 miles.
About two hours after we dropped off the car, Carlos called to tell us the car would be ready in an hour. Precisely three hours after we left the service — I checked my watch — we got another call telling us the car was ready. I hitched a ride back over to the service department and was pleased to find the entire car had been washed and vacuumed. I signed my name and was in and out in fewer than five minutes.
Total cost: $0.00
Total Days out of Service: None
Adaptive Cruise Control, The Savior of Sanity
Once or twice a week, I wind up commuting through Los Angeles's infamous rush hour traffic. I cover 45 miles in about two hours, staring at a sea of red brake lights and losing part of my soul in the process. That is, unless I'm in our 2015 Volvo S60.
Like many new cars, our S60 has adaptive cruise control. But unlike many new cars, Volvo's system works extremely well.
The plus and minus buttons adjust the target speed, while the buttons with the arrows on them set the follow distance. Once you get it going, the S60 smartly maintains speed and distance. When the car in front stops, so does the S60. When it's time to move again, the S60 gets back up to speed. No gas or brake pedal use required.
When I get on the freeway, I turn the system on and set the follow distance to as small as it gets. Then I rest my feet on the floor, and the annoyances of the SUV in front, politics, holiday shopping, and the social failings that cause traffic fade away. When the machine controls your space in line, the experience becomes less frustrating. You still pay attention to traffic, but you're less emotionally invested in the process.
The only times I have to intervene is when a car swoops in front or when traffic briefly opens up and I simply feel like going full throttle. Otherwise, I'm happy to hand the controls over to the S60. On these rush hour commutes, it keeps me sane.
Most of my daily driving is done in stop-and-go traffic, whether on the freeway during rush hour, or neighborhood streets driving kids on a 12-mile round-trip to and from school. Those sound like the ideal conditions to benefit from the 2015 Volvo S60's fuel-saving stop-start system, but that's exactly when I turn it off.
Months ago, Automotive Editor Mark Takahashi voiced his displeasure regarding the Volvo's stop-start feature. While I was never fond of it myself, it wasn't until I needed to make a left turn onto a busy boulevard that I realized how vulnerable the "slow to reignite" system made me feel.
Now when I slide into the driver's seat, I hit the S60's Start button first, and the auto stop-start Off button immediately after.
Observations From a First-Timer
I'm not sure how I've managed to avoid our 2015 Volvo S60 for so long. It's a nice car — something I only discovered recently on my first trip home in the sedan. Following are a few thoughts after spending some time behind the wheel.
Certainly the most obvious piece of the car's character is its abundant, readily available power. With 302 horsepower, this shouldn't come as a surprise, but I didn't get into the S60 with any expectation. Volvo has done an admirable job (in most instances) of making this much power usable. I never wooded the throttle but always found the power delivery linear and intuitive.
I'd be surprised if there weren't some torque steer when using all the power, but hey, that just means there's torque. Overall, I'd say this is easily the most responsive luxury sedan in the class. What an engine.
I noticed and deactivated the auto start/stop feature almost immediately. My commute, like that of most folks here, requires enduring a lot of start/stop traffic. After the third awkward, stumbling restart (a drivability glitch we noted in our rating "B" rating of the S60), I figured saving the fuel wasn't worth it. After all, what are a few more drops in a car that's already missing its EPA estimated combined rating by 5 mpg (23 mpg overall vs. 28 mpg EPA combined estimate)?
I didn't toss the Volvo into any entrance ramps aggressively, but more modest maneuvers suggest that it doesn't inspire as much confidence as an Audi of equal size and cost (S4). Ride quality is admirable, though.
Trying to Match EPA City Rating With Eco+ Mode
The main takeaway from our monthly fuel economy reports on our 2015 Volvo S60 has been that we've largely been unable to match the EPA's estimates for fuel economy, even if relative fuel economy for a 302-hp sedan is still respectable. A while back I made a specific attempt to see how close I could get to the EPA's highway estimate.
For this update, I wanted to see how close I could get to EPA city.
This wasn't an official test since I only drove around for a week doing my normal routines. For that week I tried to drive efficiently, being gentle with the gas and coasting down whenever possible when approaching stop lights. I also selected and used the S60's Eco+ Drive mode for the entire time. That mode makes adjustments to throttle responsiveness plus a few other systems/parameters to help save a bit more gas.
The S60's engine becomes less responsive to your gas pedal inputs, certainly. The car is less peppy accelerating from a stop unless you press harder on the gas, and thus defeating the purpose of Eco+ mode. But I was willing to become a bit of a rolling chicane when leaving stop lights for my test. After a couple days, I got pretty used to it, actually.
I drove 158.6 miles in the city over the course of five days. I filled up and pumped in 6.901 gallons of gas, resulting in a calculated result of 22.9 mpg. Let's just call it 23 mpg. That's still 1 mpg shy of the EPA 2015 S60 city estimate of 24 mpg. Close, but not quite a Swedish cigar.
But wait! When you fail, just change the test. Interestingly, I've noticed that the EPA has adjusted the fuel economy estimates for the S60 from 2015 to 2016. The 2016 S60 T6 Drive-E has a 23 mpg city estimate (highway mpg is also lower for 2016 at 33 mpg).
I contacted Volvo to find out if anything on the car changed from 2015 to 2016. The company gave no specific reason. Maybe the 2015 EPA numbers are just overly optimistic? If you go by 2016 numbers, however, my week of driving around in the city with a conservative approach did result in meeting the EPA estimate.
Fuel Economy Update for December - A Twincharged Increase
We added 1,784 miles to our 2015 Volvo S60 in December, and the miles helped move the needle ever so slightly upward on our cumulative gas mileage. We now have a 23.1 lifetime average, up from 23 even.
While that 0.1 MPG uptick sure is welcome on our twin-charged Swede, our lifetime gas mileage number still lingers about a mile-per-gallon under that of the EPA's city rating of 24.
Worst Fill MPG: 14.9 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 30.5 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 23.1 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 28 Combined (24 City/35 Highway)
Best Range: 460.7miles
Current Odometer: 17,975 miles
Top-of-Class Audio System
Our 2015 Volvo S60 has a really nice Harman Kardon audio system.
"Fine, fine," I hear you say. "Define nice."
OK then, but all you get is my subjective opinion as a music nerd, a musician, and my experience in a past life writing about car audio geeking. If we wanted to, we could debate the output and frequency response specs of the S60's H/K system. Borrow someone's RTA to see the cabin's tuning curve.
But really, what does that all matter? We've noted before that cars are terrible listening environments. That hasn't changed. A confined space of plastic, glass and metal reflective surfaces is no place for good ears to hang out, even when idle, and it's a testament to the aftermarket and OEM installers, manufacturers, and audio engineers when they can pull off something that sounds almost like your living room.
So what makes the S60's system so good?
First, it's Harman Kardon. Almost everything H/K and its JBL child company touch is quality, especially their loudspeakers. Not always the best in its segment necessarily, but always good (H/K's customer service is another story, as I learned recently). And no secretive, proprietary cult-sauce like Bose. Just quality materials and engineering.
At home, I've got JBL studio monitors, JBL earphones, and Jennings Research speaker towers, a company started by a former JBL engineer. I've had JBL amps and speakers in my car systems, and rank JBL speakers just above my current favorites from Morel. Even their desktop computer speakers are good. I'm a fan.
Second, I'm a sucker for any audio system that not only gives me an EQ to futz around with, but a 5-band EQ at that. You rarely see this from any automaker these days, let alone one in the S60's class. I like bass, not to the exclusion of everything else, but I like it keyed up. I want to hear the rumble of a good Fender bass guitar, the punch of a large kick drum, and the legato throb of that Southern hip-hop drum machine bass.
This EQ lets me dial down the midbass and mid-highs, boost the vocal midranges, and add some sparkle on top with the 12 kHz band. The S60's cloth-dome tweeters help shave some of the top-end brittle, helpful when listening to digitally compressed files.
And yeah, I'm that guy constantly messing with the EQ while driving. Bad habit, old habit. At least the S60 makes it somewhat intuitive with its dial and "OK button" method of selection and confirmation.
Once you get the hang of it, it's easy, but still distracting.
The S60's 5-channel system is rated at 650 watts, and it's limited by its four largest speakers sizing in at just 6.5 inches. There's just not enough output or cone mass for its 12 speakers to compete with obnoxious boom-boom mini-trucks or clapped-out Maximas.
But there's plenty of power to crank it high and clean with the windows up, drowning out wind and road noise, or even with windows down. You won't impress anyone at a stoplight with power and dBs, but someone might take notice of the system's clarity at high volume.
It might be the best audio system in our fleet, although the TLX is also high on that list. I'll have to sit in them back-to-back one day. Overall, well worth the $3,750 for its inclusion into the Platinum package, which also bundles adaptive cruise, collision warning, lane-keeping assist, retractable side view mirrors, rearview camera and xenon headlights.
Since we're on the topic, and everyone looks for something different in an audio system (ranging from rabid to indifferent), what qualities impress you or do you look for in a car's audio system?
Let us know and we'll start drafting up a consistent protocol for reviewing the systems in our LT cars. We've done it before, but time and technology have progressed. Time for us to review and renew.
Engine Still Impresses
Way back in the early days of our long-term test of this 2015 Volvo S60, I heaped praise on the four-cylinder engine for its smooth, quiet power. I was a little shocked by its level of refinement and performance. I half-expected it to become louder, rougher and less energetic once the miles piled up, but that hasn't happened.
There are now more than 18,000 miles on the odometer and the engine still feels refined and surprisingly powerful. It hasn't developed any new rattles, buzzes or anything else that would indicate it's anything less than a true luxury car engine.
I'm continually impressed by how strong it accelerates at highway speeds. This is typically an area where four-cylinders struggle, but the S60 has passing power to spare at almost any speed. The eight-speed automatic is a big help in this area, as it keeps the engine in its sweet spot and always ready to deliver.
Looking at the S60 on paper, I wouldn't have picked it as such a strong performer. Having driven it numerous times over the last several months, however, I'm convinced that this engine is every bit as good as some of the six-cylinder power plants found in the S60's competitors
Wiper Sprayers Need Adjustment
The windshield wiper sprayers on our 2015 Volvo S60 need to relax. They squirt in such a tight, concentrated stream that the glass hardly gets wet before the wipers swing in to whisk it away. I find myself holding the trigger longer than I would for a misty-style nozzle to reach the same level of saturation. And I have a feeling I am not alone with this technique.
Maybe that is why this warning greeted me when I climbed into the car yesterday:
Coincidentally, I found a three-quarter full jug of wiper fluid left over from the cross-country Renegade road trip. So I emptied the bottle, closed the hood and the alert went out. Now if it was only that easy to adjust the sprayers.
Almost Makes the Grade
We didn't add the 2015 Volvo S60 to our fleet just to compare it to a BMW 3-Series.
Boring. Cliché. Overcooked. Been there, done it.
Instead we were more interested in its new four-cylinder engine that incorporates a supercharger and turbocharger and promises the best of both worlds: low-end bursts of power from the former, boosts of highway-passing speed from the latter, and hopefully pretty good fuel economy from both.
I'm still going to compare it to the 3-Series.
You could use 3 Series or C-Class almost interchangeably if you're talking about benchmarks for the no longer so compact luxury class. Audi A4 is climbing up there, too. Probably needs another decade of unblemished performance and innovation to muscle into that conversation. And the traditional thought is that the 3 Series is for driving enthusiasts and the C-Class for men and women of luxury and leisure.
These are pretty typical archetypes encouraged by the marketing wings of each organization, with varying incursions into each other's perceptions (no one would argue that a C63 is aimed at, and only at, the driving enthusiast).
So maybe no one except Volvo itself is expecting the S60, traditionally an also-ran in this segment, to truly match up to those franchise players. That's not a bad thing. Volvo once staked its reputation on innovative safety, but those features are now common among most automakers. Volvo still has an icy modernist cool about it, however. Even if the product doesn't hit all the points on the competitor's star charts, it has enough of its own mojo for a compelling alternative (witness the brisk sales of the new XC90).
As always, price helps here.
To near the S60's engine performance (302 horsepower, 295 pound-feet of torque), you'll need the new 340i's six-cylinder (320 hp) or an older 335i (300 hp). Our S60 as optioned lists at around $47,000. A similarly-equipped 340i runs almost $56,000. Shop around and you can find a recent 335i for high-$30k/low-$40k.
Your money buys a lot of S60.
What it doesn't buy is the handling. While I love pegging the throttle in the S60 from a standstill, I don't love its squirming front-end torque-steer. It's pretty well-controlled when dealing with 300 horsepower, but it's still unavoidable. Front-wheel-drive platform, loads of power through small engine, squirmy front end. None of the tail-dragging fun you can have with a 3 Series. No surprise there, but also a clear example of what you sacrifice in the cost savings.
Nor is the S60's engine nearly as refined as the BMW's six- or even four-cylinder engines. Innovative, sure. Fuel-efficient, not so much. Butterly, linearly smooth with a side of exhaust growl? No. BMW's been doing it well a long time. Natural advantage there.
It sounds like faint praise, but the S60 is the sensible alternative. Dynamically it doesn't reach the 3 Series bar, but you'd have to go in craving that for it to matter. Our opinions vary on the S60's comfort and ride quality. The S60 isn't a car that inspires me personally (I'd buy a Challenger instead), but if I were shopping for a premium small sedan and not fixated on badge or perception, I'd strongly consider it. It makes a strong case for itself with value, style, performance and daily drivability.
Sun Visors Don't Extend
Occasionally, we'll have a long-term test vehicle that lacks sliding/extendable sun visors that provide full side window coverage. Complaining about it can perhaps come off as nitpicking. But if this were my 2015 Volvo S60, I'd still be irked that I couldn't extend the visor.
Admittedly, it's largely down to expectations here. More often than not we're praising workaday vehicles that do have them. Our recent 2015 Chevrolet Colorado had them and we wrote that the extendable visors were fantastic. It's the sort of thing that makes me think, "Hey, Chevy sweated the details for its new truck."
But then there was our 2014 Acura MDX and we deemed its fixed visors as inadequate. (Note Dan Edmunds' clever engineering fix in the photo!)
It's the same with our S60. So, yeah, I have an expectation that a luxury-branded vehicle should have this convenience feature. The lack of it just reinforces the vibe that Dan Frio recently touched on about the S60 not quite being at the same level as other top small luxury sedans.
Not the Slickest Oil Check
The long-term test of our 2015 Volvo S60 is nearing its end. Service intervals are every 10,000 miles and, as we haven't quite cleared 20,000 miles yet, we're unlikely to take it in for its next service. I was curious what the engine oil level has been during 10,000 miles of driving though, so I went to take a look.
Cue minor frustration with electronic engine oil monitor.
There's no dipstick underhood for the four-cylinder Drive-E engine. Instead you get an electronic oil level monitor that can be summoned in the gauge cluster display. Unfortunately, it's not immediately clear how to use it.
Sometimes these indicators work while you're driving along, so I tried that. But the result was the above photo: blanked out. Pushing various control stalk buttons did nothing to change this. Hmm. OK, how about when stopped and the engine switched off? Same result. I eventually gave up and looked in the owner's manual.
After reading, it seemed pretty clear that I needed to check the oil level with the engine off. But didn't I try that already? The manual does mention that you have to be in "Ignition Mode II," which I took to mean pushing the engine start button without my foot on the brake (i.e., accessory mode). Still no luck. Hmm.
I did more research and discovered that you can't access Ignition Mode II with the remote access ignition key in your pocket, which was the way I was trying to do it. The fob has to be in the holder slot. After realizing my mistake, I was finally able to activate the oil level monitor.
The oil level in our S60 is just fine. But getting this information was more of a hassle than I expected.
What's New for 2016
If you've been reading the long-term test of our 2015 Volvo S60 and have decided to buy one for yourself, you've got a choice to make. You could walk into a dealership and possibly get a smoking deal on remaining inventory of 2015 models, or you could purchase a newer-than-new 2016 version. Sometimes waiting a year can make all the difference and sometimes there's no variation at all.
In a nutshell, the biggest changes for the 2016 Volvo S60 are the additions of the Inscription and Cross Country models and the T6 R-Design AWD's new engine.
The Inscription is basically a long wheelbase version of the S60 that increases rear legroom by three inches. It's like our departed 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo versus the 328i sedan, but without the weird hatchback design.
The Cross Country is an all-wheel drive S60 raised 2.6 inches for extra ground clearance and possibly to lure people who prefer small crossovers to sedans because of the elevated driving position.
Finally, Volvo drops the T6's turbocharged six-cylinder engine and replaced it with the same turbo- and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder found in our tester. It's down 23 horsepower and 59 lb-ft of torque, but EPA-estimated fuel economy figures have climbed from 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway/21 mpg combined to 22/31/25. Long-time readers of this blog know that we've had trouble meeting EPA figures with this engine, however, so real-world gains may be slimmer than they appear.
Here's a more detailed list of changes for the 2016 Volvo S60:
-Long wheelbase Inscription added
-Cross Country model added
-T5 Drive-E FWD Platinum dropped
-T5 Drive-E FWD Inscription Premier added
-T5 Drive-E FWD Inscription Platinum added
-T5 AWD Platinum Dropped
-New wheel designs for T5 models
-T6 R-Design AWD gets a new turbo- and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
-Quick-fold passenger seat dropped
-Automated parallel parking system available for R-Design model
-Power Blue dropped except for R-design
-Dropped colors: Caspian Blue, Ember Black, Black Sapphire, Electric Silver
-Added colors: Magic Blue, Osmium Grey, Onyx Black
-Prices increased slightly across the board
-Prices for T6 R-Design AWD models increased by $600-700 due to new engine/transmission combo.
Fuel Economy Update for January - Home Stretch Boosts Final Lifetime Average
Our 2015 Volvo S60 left the fleet just a few days ago. We hit our target of 20,000 miles, but in its last month in our garage, the S60 didn't see much action, just a lot of commuter miles. Brent did, however, take it out for a final little adventure, which you'll read about later.
We'll miss the S60's very excellent sound system, but we bemoaned that it just never quite measured up to the high standards set by its European compact luxury rivals. And while we remained impressed with its engine, we found its method of checking the oil a bit cryptic.
In January and the first two weeks of February, we added nearly 3,400 miles.
And in February, we actually set a new best fill record at 31.5 mpg, although that tank was a bit of an outlier. We covered 225 miles before topping up again, but the S60 consumed just 7.2 gallons of 91 octane to cover those miles, so still an impressive effort.
And some of the longer-haul trips helped to boost the lifetime average up a couple of points, from 23.1 to 23.5 mpg. Still woefully short of the 28 mpg combined promised in the EPA results, but we've come to expect this now; the S60 has never come close to hitting its EPA numbers.
Worst Fill MPG: 14.9
Best Fill MPG: 31.5
Average Lifetime MPG: 23.5
EPA MPG Rating: 28 combined (24 City/35 Highway)
Best Range: 460.7
Current Odometer: 20,414
20,000-Mile Sendoff for the Swede
Our time with our 2015 Volvo S60 is up. It's been a year and the S60 has left our long-term parking garage. We'll have a final wrap-up article soon, but overall I think our S60 was an enjoyable addition.
Before it left, I noticed the S60's odometer was approaching 20,000 mile, our typical minimum goal for a long-term vehicle. My colleague Mike Schmidt suggested I give our S60 a final send-off by driving it to Kingsburg, also known as Central California's Swedish Village. I'd never been there, so it seemed fitting. Plus, it'd be an excuse to listen to some ABBA on the Harman/Kardon sound system.
Back in the day, the town had a high Swedish immigrant presence, or so says Wikipedia. But truth be told, it became readily apparent that the "California's Swedish Village" hook is more tourist-baiting marketing than actual Swedish reality. There's a yearly Swedish festival in May and many of the buildings in town have the kind of Swedish exterior look you might expect from Disney's Epcot. Oh, and there's a water tower that's been styled to look like an antique Swedish teapot.
But otherwise my mid-February visit to Kingsburg could have been to just about any other small central California town. I soaked up the ambiance for a bit, then headed out of town.
The S60 easily cleared 20,000 miles from the Kingsburg trip. More significantly, I came away with some greater appreciation of Volvo's small sedan. It doesn't have the dramatic visual presence or curbside prestige of some other rivals, but it's also surprisingly good natured with no deal-breaking faults. For the money, the S60 is a very solid pick for a small luxury sedan.