KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
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.
You'll Like This Car If...
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.
You May Not Like This Car If...
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.
What's New for 2011
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.
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.
Notable Standard Equipment
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.
Notable Optional Equipment
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.
Under the Hood
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
While the S60 offers styling and performance with great emotional appeal, it is still the cold, hard rational aspects of superior safety that make the 2011 Volvo S60 stand out among the crowd of mid-size luxury-brand sedans. With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just around $38,500, the S60 is priced under all-wheel-drive competitors like the BMW 3 Series and Lexus IS 350. The Audi A4 is less expensive than the Volvo, but it gives up nearly 90 horsepower to the S60. On the resale value front, though, the A4 offers better numbers, as does the 335i. Check our Fair Price to see what consumers are typically paying in your area.