• All-new 3rd-generation S60
  • First Volvo car built in the U.S. (South Carolina)
  • Now based on SPA chassis of the XC90 and S90
  • Standard LED headlights
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard
  • Pricing starts at $36,795, including $995 destination
  • Polestar model available, but only 20 of them for 2019

 

Given all the talk these days of import tariffs being levied on cars coming to the U.S. from the European Union, Volvo’s decision several years back to build the all-new S60 sedan at a new plant in South Carolina looks prescient. Whatever the case, Volvo has said it likes to build cars where it sells them, and Kelley Blue Book recently had the opportunity to test drive a new U.S-built S60, a 3rd-generation car that’s 4.9 inches longer than before and rides on a wheelbase that’s up by 3.8 inches, helping to increase rear-seat legroom.

S60s, for the record, are rolling out of the new Ridgeville, South Carolina, plant right now, but full-scale production won’t be reached until early 2019. KBB sampled the 2019 Volvo S60 on some delightfully twisty roads between Malibu and Ojai in Southern California. Competitors for the new S60 include the Audi A4 and A6, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C300.

New SPA platform

Volvo uses what it calls the “Scalable Product Architecture (SPA)” chassis for its new S60, which means this midsize sport sedan is now built on a variation of the same rigid platform that underpins the company’s XC90 SUV and S90 sedan. This is good. It’s a stout chassis, and the double A-arm front suspension (replacing the previous S60’s McPherson struts) allows for a lower dash, improving the driver’s view out the windshield. In back, a space-efficient multilink suspension employs a lightweight transverse composite leaf spring.

Under the hood

There are four powertrains are available in the new 2019 Volvo S60. With the T5, you have a front-wheel-drive S60 powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that produces 250 horsepower and mates to an 8-speed automatic transmission. T6, exclusive to all-wheel-drive (AWD) S60s, is a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that produces 316 horsepower and teams with the same 8-speed automatic. With both T5 and T6 powertrains, there are four standard Drive Mode settings: Comfort, Dynamic, Eco and Individual.

A new plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the 2019 Volvo S60 also is available. Its T8 AWD powertrain pairs a 313-horsepower supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 with a 10.4-kilowatt electric motor between the rear wheels. Total output: 400 horsepower. A lithium-ion battery in the center spine of the chassis provides the new S60 PHEV with an all-electric range of approximately 21 miles. Using a 220-volt power source and the onboard charging cord, the new S60 PHEV can be fully charged in 2.5 hours.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

At the top of the S60 lineup is the T8 Polestar Engineered powertrain -- essentially the T8 AWD hybrid powertrain but packing a more-powerful 328-horsepower version of the 2.0-liter gasoline engine, which brings the total horsepower output up to 415. Polestar, somewhat analogous to Mercedes-AMG or BMW M, fits the S60 with performance enhancers such as Ohlins dampers and big Brembo brakes. Only 20 Polestar Engineered S60s will be sold for model year 2019, each available exclusively through Care by Volvo, the company’s subscription service plan.

Trim level and features

The 2019 Volvo S60 is available in four trim levels: Momentum, Inscription, R-Design and Polestar.

Momentum
Starting MSRP: $36,795 (including $995 destination)
Front-wheel-drive T5 powertrain with 250 horsepower
All-wheel-drive T6 powertrain with 316 horsepower
18-inch alloy wheels
9-inch Sensus center screen
Panoramic sunroof
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
LED headlights
City Safety collision-avoidance features

Inscription
Starting MSRP: $43,895 (including $995 destination)
Front-wheel-drive T5 powertrain with 250 horsepower
All-wheel-drive T6 powertrain with 316 horsepower
All-wheel-drive PHEV powertrain with rear electric motor and 400 total horsepower
Leather upholstery with driftwood trim
4-zone climate control
Premium and Multimedia packages
Harman Kardon premium sound system
Dual exhaust
Chrome exterior trim
10-way power front seats

R-Design
Starting MSRP: $42,895 (including $995 destination)
Front-wheel-drive T5 with 250 horsepower
All-wheel-drive T6 with 316 horsepower
All-wheel-drive PHEV T8 powertrain with rear electric motor and 400 total horsepower
Paddle shifters
R-Design styling elements
Black headliner
LED front fog lights
Metal mesh decorative inlays

Polestar Engineered
Starting MSRP: Not available. Subscription only for 2019
All-wheel-drive T8 PHEV powertrain with rear electric motor and 415 total horsepower
Ohlins dampers
Brembo brakes with 6-piston front calipers
Front suspension tower brace
19-inch forged wheels
Sport seats with gold-colored safety belts

Abundant Standard Safety

The S60 being a new Volvo, standard safety features abound. It starts with the new SPA chassis, which features a strong passenger cell protected by crumple zones and other targeted areas of maximal energy dissipation. Standard safety features include stability control, a lane-keeping aid, a forward-collision warning, a drowsy-driver alert, seatbelt pretensioners, a blind-spot warning, and even a steering column and brake pedal that collapse in frontal accidents to dissipate crash energy. What’s more, the S60 has a full complement of airbags and special seats that absorb vertical crash energy that can compress spinal vertebrae in off-road accidents.

Then there’s City Safety, Volvo’s umbrella term for the S60’s standard collision-avoidance functionalities. City Safety -- which includes a system designed to help keep the S60 on the road -- automatically applies the brakes if it senses a car, motorcycle, bicyclist or large animal in its path, helping the car to avoid the collision entirely or at least lessen its impact. Standard Steer Assist also plays a role here: If it senses the S60 driver trying to steer away from a likely collision with a vehicle, cyclist, pedestrian or large animal, it helps the driver steer away as effectively as possible. Of note: Volvo cites studies that show 50 percent of U.S. drivers involved in collisions have not tried to avoid the collision.

Driving the S60 R-Design

We spent a morning in an S60 R-Design with the T6 powertrain, followed by an afternoon in the Polestar-Engineered S60, a PHEV with the top T8 powertrain.

First impression of the S60 T6 R-Design: It looks great, a handsome redesign that’s still immediately identifiable as an S60. It’s solid, quiet and roomy, with plenty of headroom inside in spite of the huge panoramic sunroof. Back-seat room is good, too, with a 6-foot-tall passenger being able to sit behind a driver of the same height. Moreover, the electric-assist power steering has a natural feel, and the ride quality of the S60 is outstanding -- supple but possessing well controlled body motions that make this midsize Volvo sedan feel totally composed on twisty pavement. In those situations, the sharpened throttle and transmission response of the Dynamic driving mode is most appreciated.

The turbocharged T6 powertrain provides good power and minimal if any turbo lag, and there’s no supercharger whine. Also, there’s no torque steer felt through the steering wheel, thanks to the new front suspension, and the fact that some of the power is going to the S60’s rear wheels. The 8-speed automatic transmission, from Aisin-Warner, does its job well, shifting smoothly and unobtrusively when you expect it to.

Inside, the look is Scandinavian simple, with a handsomely uncluttered design. Helping make this possible is the large 9-inch Sensus screen. Swipe the screen of this multifunction controller one way and you’ll see 19 vehicle functions, everything from ESC Sport mode and Active Bending Lights to cruise control and Road Sign Information. Swipe it the other way and you’ll see 22 Applications that range from stereo settings and Bluetooth to Spotify and Pandora. While Sensus is a great way to de-clutter dash (and the interface gets better with familiarity), it still causes the driver to look away from the road far too often. On a positive note, the Sensus chipset has been upgraded for 2019, which makes for faster boot times, quicker access to the back-up camera, and improved navigation recalculations.

Driving the Polestar Engineered S60

First impression of the Polestar Engineered S60: It’s firm, at least with the suspension settings chosen by Volvo for this press preview. It’s also a rocket ship. Volvo says the Polestar Engineered S60 hits 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, as compared to 6.2 for the T6 AWD S60. It plants you firmly in the unique seats, which benefit from deeper bolstering and gold-colored seatbelts that don’t look as garish as you might expect. Top speed of the Polestar S60: 155 mph.

Four drive modes are available: Pure, Power, AWD and Individual. Because this Polestar S60 is a PHEV, we put it in Pure, which prioritizes electric operation. We drive for perhaps a dozen miles on nothing but electricity, and the car reaches highway speeds with ease. With an average amount of accelerator pedal, the S60 stays fully electric, but if you floor it, the Polestar accelerates like the proverbial scalded cat. Also good: The interaction between the internal-combustion engine and the EV powertrain is impressively smooth, and the integrated starter-generator in engine makes automatic restarts hardly noticeable.

2019 Car Reviews: First takes on new models

We didn’t drive the Polestar hard enough to thoroughly probe the abilities of its 6-piston Brembo front brakes. But we can say this: While we love the behavior of the car on a twisty road, we can’t say the same about its brake feel, which can be difficult to master in a hybrid because it must blend regenerative with traditional mechanical (hydraulic) braking. Let’s just say this: The pedal is spongy, and we hope Volvo improves this soon.

As mentioned, the Polestar Engineered S60 is a rare bird, with only 20 being built for model year 2019. Although we’re not enamored of its brake feel, it’s nevertheless an impressive sport sedan that shows off the capabilities of the new chassis. It’s fascinating to note that the top performance model of the all-new 2019 Volvo S60 is a PHEV. Isn’t it neat how electricity can be used to improve efficiency, or dramatically improve vehicle performance?

How much does the 2019 Volvo S60 cost?

Pricing for the new 2019 Volvo S60 starts at $36,795 for a front-wheel-drive T5 Momentum. The better-equipped S60 T5 Inscription is priced at $43,895. If you want an all-wheel-drive S60 with the more-powerful T6 powertrain, they range from the $41,295 Momentum to the $48,395 Inscription. Expect to pay a $7,000 premium if you want a plug-in hybrid version of the new S60. The R-Design S60 PHEV starts at $55,395, the Inscription S60 PHEV at $56,395. As for the Polestar Engineered S60, all 20 being built for 2019 will be available exclusively through Volvo’s monthly subscription service plan. See the Care by Volvo iOS app.

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