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2015.5 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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The Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E combines style, comfort, and safety with prodigious power and surprisingly good fuel economy

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

       • Volvo Buyers Guide


Volvo would like to remind you that the Germans are not the only makers of European sports-luxury sedans. The Swedes can play in that field just as well, as my recent week with a 2015.5 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E illustrated.

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The current S60 is the second generation and dates from model year 2011, with a front restyle for 2014. You might think that because Volvo is fairly small as automakers go, changes for 2015 would be minimal. You'd be wrong there… Since acquisition by the Chinese company Geely in 2010, Volvo has had a much larger development budget than it had under the previous Ford ownership. If changes between 2010 and 2014 were incremental, development since then has been much more important.

If the 2015.5 S60 looks unchanged since last year's debut, open the hood. Front-wheel drive versions get the Drive-E moniker, as in E for efficiency. Offered in both T5 and T6 form, which used to mean five- or six-cylinder engines, both now have a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with direct fuel injection. It's lighter and more compact, and with turbocharging in the T5 makes 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, that last from 1500 through 4800 rpm. T6 means "add a supercharger" to increase power below 3500 rpm, at which point the turbo takes over. Result? 302 hp and 295 lb-ft, with that torque plateau flat from 1800 through 5500 rpm. In both varieties, power is routed through a new eight-speed multi-mode automatic transmission. Automatic start-stop means that the engine may shut off at stops, like red lights, and restarts when the driver touches the throttle pedal. This helps city fuel economy. On the AWD side, T5 still means 20-valve 2.5-liter turbo five-cylinder with 250 hp and 266 lb-ft and T6 a 24-valve 3.0-liter turbo inline six with 325 hp and 354 lb-ft, both with the old six-speed automatic.

Also new for the mid-year, 2015.5, S60 is an increased level of standard equipment in the form of Sensus Navigation and the Sensus Connect infotainment and Volvo On-Call security and vehicle management systems with a free six-month subscription for both. On-Call allows a smartphone to perform some features usually associated with the remote fob, including remote start (useful in winter to turn the heat on before getting in), flashing of lights and/or honking the horn to find the car in a parking lot, and location and lock and running status.

My test car was a T6 Drive-E with metallic silver paint, the Blind Spot Information System package, 19-inch BOR alloy wheels with all-season tires, heated front seats, and the comprehensive Platinum option group of upgraded audio, xenon headlights, the Technology Package of adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full automatic braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection with automatic braking, and more, and the Convenience Package of power retractable exterior mirrors, grocery bag holder, and rearview camera. So all contemporary electronic safety and convenience features and a 302-horsepower engine that was surprisingly fuel-efficient and oh so enjoyable. Add the sport suspension tuning that came with the wheels, wrap it in a stylish and distinctive exterior and experience it in a comfortable Swedish Modern interior, and the result is a car that compares well with the best small luxury sports sedans from anywhere in the world.

APPEARANCE: No major changes here, but none needed. Don't mess up a good thing! Compared to the 2011-13 version, difference is merely in details, but attention to details makes a difference. The front of the car is slimmer and a bit longer, by less than half an inch. The grille is a bit larger, ever so slightly reshaped, and just a little higher. Add the reshaped headlights with LED running lights and a performance-looking lower bumper fascia -- which still has good clearance for obstacles like parking stops -- and the result is a lighter, leaner look. At the rear, twin exhaust finishers set into the lower bumper fascia give a sporty look and arching LED taillights stand out at night.

COMFORT: Minimal change inside since last year, and even then changes were mostly in details, such as a new instrument cluster and metal trim around the HVAC vents in the dash. Details… the basic Swedish Modern look is still there, with simple shapes and good use of color. It's just a little fancier. The new TFT instrument display is bright and easy to see in all light. Befitting the sports expectation of 300 forced-induction horsepower, a tachometer has been added to the right of the speedometer. The "flying buttress" center stack is a Volvo specialty, as are its iconic climate controls and self-explanatory system controls. The screen at the top of the stack displays system information, and navigation maps and info if that system is installed, as in this car.

There is ample storage space in the cabin, with a large, locking, glove box, good console box, storage in all doors, and of course behind the center stack. The standard power sports seats were very comfortable, with proper but unobtrusive bolstering. (And driver comfort contributes to safety!) The rear contoured bench features floor heat and B-pillar climate vents. A moderate central tunnel means some center usefulness, for small people and short times -- like nearly every other sedan made today. The seatback folds 60/40 for occasional cargo duty. The trunk is moderately-sized but does have a small opening -- again, like most sedans. Need more cargo and want something similar? V60 Wagon!

SAFETY: Volvo? Doesn't that mean "safety" in Swedish? The S60 has all of the required and expected safety equipment and construction for both passive and active safety. Its unibody structure was designed and built to protect occupants, and a full complement of airbags, the Whiplash Protection Seating System (WHIPS) for the front seats, and the City Safety System, which automatically applies brakes if sensors determine that a collision is imminent at speeds up to 19 mph (30 kph) and more handle passive safety. Good handling and maneuverability and strong antilock four-wheel disc brakes with a variety of assistance systems take care of active safety. The accident you don't have it always the best one… Electronic systems such as blind-spot warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning With Full Auto Brake, Driver Alert Control, Lane Keeping Aid, and more are optionally available, and most were fitted to my test car.




RIDE AND HANDLING: Even with the "sport chassis" tuning that comes with the 19-inch wheel upgrade the S60 is not harsh or uncomfortable. It firmly controls body motion under acceleration and braking, and in cornering. There was a bit of thumpiness at times, but that's not surprising with 40-profile tires. There's not much sidewall there -- all the better for precision in tracking and not expected to flex much. Suspension is fully-independent by MacPherson struts in front and a multilink system in the rear. Electric power steering assist is new in the Drive-E cars. Assist level is not overly high, so there is good feel and feedback. The S60 is comfortable and quiet on the highway and fun on the backroads.

PERFORMANCE: Volvo has joined an ever-increasing number of automakers in combining direct fuel injection and forced induction to get more power more efficiently out of a smaller-displacement engine. Although the cylinder dimensions are the same as those of the older 2.5-liter five-cylinder and 3.0-liter six engines, the 2.0-liter four is otherwise all-new. Efficiency was the goal, hence the "E" designation. All else being equal, a four-cylinder engine has fewer moving parts than a five or six, for less weight and less frictional loss. Think of forced induction -- turbocharging or supercharging -- as a virtual displacement increase. More boost equals more virtual displacement as it means more air into the cylinders. Yes, that also means more fuel -- but the amount of time an engine runs at full boost is usually minimal, at least in everyday driving.

The block and head are aluminum alloy, both camshafts have continuously-variable phasing, and dual balance shafts ensure smooth operation. Interestingly, in the T6 Volvo uses a supercharger for boost below 3500 rpm. The advantage is that since a supercharger is spun directly by the engine, there is no lag as can happen when a turbo spools to operating speed. Above 3500, the drive to the supercharger is disengaged and the turbo, already spinning, is activated. It's a seamless transition, and with maximum torque of 295 lb-ft available between 1800 and 5500 rpm -- pretty much at all real-world speeds -- shifting is pretty much optional. The eight-speed automatic does its job well, and smoothly, with manual "Geartronic" shift mode readily available if desired. The turbo kicks in unobtrusively in the midrange, but run the engine up to its 5700-rpm power peak and all 302 horses make themselves known. Hold tight! Yeah, at that point there is torque steer. Think of that as character, and the normally mild-mannered S60's inner Viking going berserker. Back to the E for efficiency part, mileage around town was in the low to mid-20s. A hundred miles of highway, at real highway speeds, brought that up to a 26-mpg average. Not bad at all for 300 horsepower.

CONCLUSIONS: The Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E combines style, comfort, and safety with prodigious power and surprisingly good fuel economy.

SPECIFICATIONS

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E

Base Price $ 39,000

Price As Tested $ 46,525

Engine Type supercharged and turbocharged 16-valve DOHC inline 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection

Engine Size 2.0 liters / 120 cu. in.

Horsepower 302 @ 5700 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 295 @ 1800-5500 rpm

Transmission 8-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 109.3 in. / 182.5 in.

Curb Weight 3472 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 11.5

Fuel Capacity 17.8 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires 235/40 R19 96V m+s Pirelli Cinturato P7

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, BA, RAB, and FBS standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 24 / 35 / 26

0 to 60 mph 5.6 sec

Towing Capacity 3500 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Platinum Trim Level Package -- includes: Harmon-Kardon premium sound system, active dual xenon headlights with washers. Technology Package -- includes: Adaptive Cruise Control With Queue Assist, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection w/Auto Brake, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control, Lane-Keeping Aid, Active High Beam, Road Sign Information Convenience Package -- includes: power-retractable exterior rearview mirrors, grocery bag holder, rear park assist camera, accent lighting $ 3,750

19" BOR diamond-cut wheels with Sport Chassis $ 900

Blind Spot Information System Package -- includes: Blind Spot Information System, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Change Merge Aid, front and rear park assist $ 900

Metallic Paint $ 550

Heated Front Seats $ 500

Destination Charge $ 925