By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.2
In summing up the 2011 Volvo S60 it is tempting to play the safety card early. After all, the Volvo brand has become synonymous with safety, and the S60 offers one of the most innovative safety systems ever introduced. Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake won't win many "catchiest name" contests, but it will save lives. Simply to dwell on the car's considerable safety initiatives, though, wouldn't do it justice. "Dynamic' and "emotional" are the key words Volvo engineers and designers use to describe their newest creation, and after driving it we can certainly understand why. Not only is the S60 the most attractive Volvo sedan ever, it is also much more fun to drive that the brand's safety reputation might suggest.
If you're not a slave to vehicle stereotypes we think you'll like the Volvo S60 for its combination of unprecedented safety, substantial fun-to-drive and crisp interior and exterior design.
If all you have on your mind is performance from your expensive European-built sedan, then you will find other choices that better fill your bill of fare.
Volvo would like its S60 to become its bestselling nameplate, and to aid that effort the company has filled it with innovative safety features and dressed it in un-Volvo-like styling.
Driving Impressions Seeking to increase the S60's visceral appeal, Volvo engineers created a chassis, suspension and steering system designed to give cars like the 3 Series and Audi A4 some competition. The...front suspension is McPherson strut and the rear a multi-link, but it is the tuning that sets the S60 apart from other Volvo sedans in the handling department. The front struts have thicker piston rods than the larger S80 sedan, the bushings are stiffer and the springs are both shorter and stiffer, resulting in more ability to handle lateral loads. These efforts are most notable in the standard version of the three chassis setups available, which Volvo calls "Dynamic." Those seeking a gentler, boulevard ride might well opt for the no-extra-cost "Touring" suspension, while those seeking leading-edge tech might prefer the three-setting-adjustable FOUR-C. (There has been no explanation on why a three-way suspension is called FOUR-C.) All S60 models available in the United States for 2011 offer Haldex all-wheel-drive. The result of the engineering efforts is a level of fun-to-drive that exceeds any Volvo sedan we've driven. We had the opportunity to drive it on dry pavement, wet pavement, rain-slick gravel roads and even a racetrack, and in all situations the S60 was predictable, stable and unflappable. Braking is sure, traction is never an issue, and the steering is precise.
Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake
Collisions with pedestrians often result in a fatality, so we cheer this innovative system. The radar's job is to detect objects in front of the car; the camera's job is to determine if the object is human. Once the object is determined to be human, the S60 gives a warning and then stops the car if the warning isn't heeded.
Front Camera System
The front-grille-mounted camera that offers a 180-degree field of view is especially effective in helping prevent accidents when emerging from limited-vision areas like a parking garage.
As has been our habit with recent Volvo models, we are impressed with the interior's clean, contemporary design. Volvo stresses the Scandinavian ideal of simplicity, and that is expressed well throughout the cabin. The instrumentation is straightforward and legible, and the "waterfall" center dash area provides an array of controls for navigation, climate control and entertainment. In the all-new infotainment unit, navigation and other functions are presented on a seven-inch color monitor in the upper part of the center dashboard. Volvo has eschewed touchscreen operation, choosing instead to provide a fully functional set of steering wheel-mounted controls plus redundant controls under the display. All five passengers will find comfortable seating, and the rear seat offers substantial bolsters for side support. Due to the 2.4-inch increase in wheelbase versus the previous generation, leg- and knee-room in the rear seat area are both much improved.
Volvo exterior designer Orjan Sterner told us his task was to design the sportiest and most dynamic Volvo ever, a tall order since Volvo has a convertible coupe in its arsenal. To accomplish his task he and his team conceived "a coupe with four doors." While previous Volvos have had strong vertical lines, the overall look of the S60 is close to the pavement with the wheels moved to the corners and a double beltline that gives the impression that the car is even lower than it is. At the rear Sterner's team moved away from the giant vertical taillights that typified recent Volvos toward a more refined – if not more anonymous – design. But the overall look is anything but anonymous, because it is one good-looking Volvo.
All 2011 model S60s feature City Safety, which helps prevent low-speed rear-end collisions, and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA), Optimized Hydraulic Brakes (OHB), Ready Alert Brakes (RAB) and Fading Brake Support (FBS.) Of course, as a luxury vehicle the S60 is fitted with a wide variety of comfort and convenience features.
The headline-grabber in the S60 is "Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake." The camera- and radar-enabled system goes beyond Volvo's City Safety system that was introduced on the XC60 crossover to identify pedestrians in front of the car and, if necessary, apply the car's full braking power to avoid a potentially fatal collision. Pedestrian Detection isn't the only high-tech safety feature the new S60 offers either. Driver Alert Control helps determine if the driver is too tired or too distracted to control the car properly, and Blind Spot Information System helps you avoid colliding with vehicles that are beside you but in your blind spots. The S60 also offers niceties like adaptive cruise control, parking sensors and a rear park-assist camera. The top-of-the-line 12-speaker audio system features a digital 5x130-watt amplifier with circuits from Sweden's Anaview, Dolby Digital in combination with Dolby Pro Logic II Surround and MultEQ from Audyssey Laboratories. Integrated features such as Bluetooth, USB port and auxiliary input are also included.
The 2011 Volvo S60 handles so well, we can't help wishing it offered more horsepower. But the S60 walks on the tightrope between green responsibility and pure driving hedonism. The in-line six-cylinder engine offers less than 3,000 cc of displacement, but with turbocharging, it whirs out 300 horsepower at a relatively steep 5,600 rpm. Happily, the 325 pound-feet of peak torque are available from 2,100 rpm all the way to 4,200 rpm. That means the S60 has sufficient low-end torque to accelerate briskly. A bonus is that the engine requires only "regular" grade gasoline, and the fuel economy (18 mpg city/26 mpg highway) is laudable in the luxury class.
3.0-liter in-line 6
300 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
325 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2100-4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/26
By Tex76 on Wednesday, March 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 19,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfortable seats, safety, stylish looks, handling"
Cons: "back seat is small, radio interface needs improv."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We bought this car and picked it up in Gothenburg, Sweden using Volvo's European Delivery Program. We got a great deal on the car and got to drive it around central Europe for a couple of weeks. The S60 is the single most comfortable car I've ever driven. The seats are firm, supportive but supple. They grab and hold and support you. We have a baby, and if I had one criticism about comfort it's that the back seat does not have that much room when you put the car seat in. It forces the passenger to move his/her seat up to accommodate the car seat. Performance-wise, it's great. It's nimble and fast and has great handling. Sometimes it "jumps" through gear changes and sorta jolts/jerks you, but other than that, it's great. I also feel incredibly safe in it. This won't be our last Volvo, though we do plan to drive it until the wheels come off."
By Marsha on Friday, January 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,600overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Definitely a fun car to drive."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car moves like greased lightening! It's important to have a light foot on the pedal and not let all that power and agility go to your head. It hugs the road with a bear hug and has all the maneuverability of a world-class athlete, combined with all the sportiness and comfort you could want in a car, topped off with all of Volvo's world renowned safety features. What a car!"
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Phil on Friday, November 29, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "The Emergency Brake"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"No complaints except I'm still learning the electronics. I could do without the electric emergency brake and would like a real spare tire. The car is fast, comfortable, and has style. Yes, I may buy another in the future."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Raindances on Wednesday, November 27, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,500overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "Could be fun to drive, comfy, great seats"
Cons: "Quality control, dealer service and Volvo NA"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I have never had a vehicle with as many issues out the chute as this one. It takes many visits to the dealer to get them to address any issue; they tend to deny that the problem exists and hope you run out of time and don't come back. Volvo of North America has been inept and pathetic in handling my case. They are just not interested in customer service. These are issues that were resolved: - pressure release valve in a/c causing loud metallic noise. - bad fuel pump causing hard starting from cold. These are the issues that are unresolved: - Wobble in steering around 40mph. Dealer cannot detect any issue. - Surging and jerking in all gears and at all speeds. Volvo tells me this is normal. - Brakes are weak and appear to be losing vaccum. Volvo tells me this is normal. - Delayed engagement of first gear when pulling away from a stop. Volvo informs me that this is normal. I had a C30 before. None of these issues. Great car."
9 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By bogolf on Sunday, November 10, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great driver, quick and handles well."
Cons: "Back seat and trunk space limited."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Not your Grandfathers Volvo, this T6 can really go. Performs as good or better than my wife's BMW 382XI. The Volvo is definitely faster, the BMW may get a slight nod for steering response. A must for a test drive if you are in the market. The AWD is awesome in the snow."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By annas on Tuesday, August 27, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Top-notch interior, different styling"
Cons: "MPG, smallish trunk, smallish back seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Full disclosure--my last car was as 98 S70 turbo. Full disclosure 2.0--I really thought I wanted a BMW 3 series. Having a little too much librarian blood, I researched the heck out of the sport sedan segment. Yeah. I like sport sedans. No, I love them. I want a peppy ride, but also a back seat that folds down so I can haul my music equipment. Why not get an SUV or crossover? I hate the handling. I am the quintessential sport sedan owner. All indicators said BMW 3 series. It is the benchmark. I know you all read those reviews, too, since you're bothering to read this. So, I test drove all potential rivals, excluding the Volvo because I was ready for a change. The rivals, I admit, were somewhat limited due to geographic limitations...what dealerships were in my area. My test cars: Passat TDI. I wanted to love this car since it has fabulous MPG. Handling was OK, but not great. Impressive torque, though. Exterior bland. Interior blander. What is it with the pleather? Kia Optima Turbo. This car is a gizmotron. The sunroof was cool. Handling was pretty sharp. Acceleration adequate. Exterior on the turbo was ugly. Interior was uglier. I am just not the demographic for this car. It is made for some 25-35 year old dude who for some reason wants a sedan. If I was that dude, I would go with the Dodge Charger. Ford Fusion Ecoboost. Hubs wanted to test this car. It gets great reviews. They didn't have a six, so I drove the four. It is noisy. Sure, the car is a gizmotron like the Optima. But, I don't really care about giving voice commands to my car. Just give me an easy to reach dial for the climate. The interior is spacious, but not appealing. I hate the much-lauded exterior. The grill looks like a catfish and the rear has those squinty Audi taillights(like the Kia Optima). I know other people love this look, but it makes me wince. I headed to the BMW dealership ready to buy. Already, I was sold on the the 328i's exterior. But, something unexpected happened when I got in the car. The interior was...strange. The info screen was kind of propped up on the dash. The cup-holders had a weird tray over them. What am I supposed to do with this tray when I have a coffee? Toss it in the back seat? It was all a bit unsettling. But, drive it. The steering is, indeed, wonderful. As is the braking. But, I just couldn't love the 8 speed automatic. Getting on the freeway, tearing through an awful lot of gears on an on-ramp, just wasn't pleasant. Then, there was the gas-saving feature. The engine turns off at stop-lights. Wonderful in theory. Annoying in practice. Sure, you can turn that off, but why pay extra for something that annoys you? Ditto on the heads-up display. Fine. I'm going to go look at the Volvo S60 because it is just down the street from the BMW joint. The S60 has a great eye-catching exterior with the sweeping line of the trunk and the bold grill, but I really wanted to move into another brand. Ugh. I got into the car and absolutely loved the interior. It is elegant and simple. The ride is miles superior from my old S70. It was smooth, but had just the right amount of road feel. The 6 speed automatic handled a quick shift from 0-65 with pleasant ease. I knew after five minutes in the car that it was "The One." Sometimes, you just know. I can't vouch for reliability since I've only had it for a month. So far, so good. Oh, and when an artist friend saw the new car, she said, "I don't usually notice cars, but that car is beautiful.""
28 people out of 30 found this review helpful