2016 Volvo S60 Range Review

The Volvo S60 is a crisp looking sedan from a brand with an enviable safety reputation and rising cool credentials. It is stylish inside, handles well and is careful with fuel.

2016 Volvo S60 R-Design
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Handsome styling
  •   Cabin comfort
  •   Smooth, economical engines
Not so much
  •   Not as satisfying to steer as some alternatives
  •   Small boot

What stands out?

The Volvo S60 is a crisp looking Scandinavian sedan from a brand with an enviable safety reputation and rising cool credentials. It has a comfortable, minimalist-look interior, handles well, and comes with punchy petrol and diesel engines.

What might bug me?

Trying out a friend’s similar BMW, Audi, Mercedes or Jaguar and finding it feels even better to steer. The S60 is very good, however – it just has some tough competition.

Trying to squeeze the whole family’s holiday luggage into the boot. For a mid-sized sedan, the boot on an S60 is not very big.

Driving under 80km/h on your space-saver spare tyre until you can fix your full-sized flat.

What body styles are there?

Four-door, five-seat sedan only. (The Volvo V60 is the wagon equivalent).

Most Volvo S60s drive their front wheels, but the S60 R-Design T6 drives all four wheels.

The S60 is classed as a medium car, higher priced.

What features do all versions have?

Cruise control. Dual-zone climate-control (which lets you set different temperatures for each side of the cabin). A reversing camera, and rear parking sensors.

Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains.

Daytime running lights, and turn indicators, illuminated by long-lasting LEDs.

A multimedia system with a seven-inch colour screen, an AM/FM radio, a CD/DVD player, and internet connectivity. Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and Auxiliary and USB input sockets. Satellite navigation.

Connected Service Booking, which can transmit vehicle information to a service centre for scheduling routine maintenance.

Controls for the multimedia system on a leather-trimmed steering wheel that is adjustable for height and reach. Leather trimmed seats, with a power-adjustable seat for the driver that can remember your setting (making it easy to restore after a companion has driven the car).

Wheels made from aluminium alloy, which are usually lighter and better looking than the steel wheels with plastic covers found on some lower priced cars. A skinny space-saver spare wheel and tyre.

Low-speed autonomous emergency braking. Called City Safety, the laser-based system works at speeds up to 50km/h to alert you, and if necessary brake the car automatically, should you be in danger of rear-ending a car in front.

Six airbags: two directly in front of the driver and passenger; one on the outer side of each front occupant to protect the upper body; and airbags on each side to protect the heads of front and outer-rear occupants.

Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.

Every Volvo S60 carries a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

You can choose from four engines in an S60: an excellent turbo-diesel four cylinder, two smooth turbo-petrol four cylinders, and a quick supercharged turbo-petrol four cylinder.

The 2.0-litre D4 diesel uses the least fuel, consuming just 4.2 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined). The main reason you might not choose this effortless diesel is that you are seeking a sportier, more powerful drive.

The 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine comes in T4, T5 and T6 forms, each more powerful than the one before. The T4 feels less powerful than the turbo diesel, particularly from low speeds or when you first press the accelerator to overtake on the highway, but it is a nice, smooth engine. It uses 6.8 litres/100km.

The T5 engine nearly matches the diesel for effortless shove from low speeds, and builds up about 35 percent more oomph than the oil burner can offer if you hold down the accelerator pedal. It uses 6.4 litres/100km on the official test – less fuel than the less powerful T4.

The T6 engine adds a supercharger to the T5’s turbocharger to take performance to a much higher level. It has at least as much grunt as the diesel from any speed, and about 60 per cent more if you hold your foot down. The extra go comes with modestly increased thirst: 7.2 litres/100km.

Every S60 engine has an automatic stop-start system, which saves fuel in urban driving. It shuts down the engine when you stop, and starts it again when you take your foot off the brake pedal to drive away.

The T4 petrol engine comes only with a six-speed automatic gearbox. The D4 diesel, and the T5 and T6 petrols, are paired only with eight-speed automatics. Both auto gearboxes are conventional designs that work smoothly in all conditions.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly S60s are the Kinetic T4 and D4, which come with the features common to all S60s and wheels of 17 inches diameter. Engines are the least powerful petrol or the diesel, respectively.

Spending more for an S60 Luxury adds a third engine option: the more powerful petrol T5. It also gets you smart-key entry and start, which lets you open the doors and drive away with the key kept safety in a pocket or bag. You can control the satellite navigation with your voice, and the very bright bi-xenon headlights dip automatically for oncoming drivers. Powered seat adjustment is added for the front passenger. Wheel diameter is 18 inches, and tyres of a correspondingly lower profile make the S60 Luxury look sportier and sharpen the steering a bit.

Spending more again for an S60 R-Design brings you the option of the very powerful T6 engine and accompanying all-wheel drive, firmer suspension (for more stability when cornering hard), and a much sportier look inside and out. You also get perforated leather trim on all seats, and in front there are sports seats that hold you in place better around corners. A better infotainment system brings Harman Kardon brand audio. Wheels are 19-inchers, with tyres of a lower profile again.

Available at extra cost – about $4000 – is a Driver Support Pack, which bundles adaptive cruise control and highway-speed auto braking with a blind spot warning, lane-departure warning, and rear cross traffic alert. (For more on these systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The 19-inch wheels on the T6 R-Design ride a bit more roughly than the 17- and 18-inch wheels and tyres worn by an S60 Kinetic or Luxury. That’s because the lower-profile tyres on the bigger wheels have less rubber and air cushioning you from the road.

The sports suspension that underpins S60 R-Design versions detracts from ride smoothness also.

Of 14 colours available on a Volvo S60, three – black, white and red – are non-metallic and come without extra cost. Other colours cost about $1500 extra.

How comfortable is it?

The S60’s interior doesn’t possess the cocktail-bar-cool of an Audi, the stylised slickness of a Benz or the austere ambience of a BMW. Its Scandinavian minimalist cabin treatment isn’t like anything else, but it is bound to please on first acquaintance, with clean lines, rich materials and a fine finish.

The front seats are comfortably cushioned – with extra side-to-side support in the R-Design – and you’re well placed in relation to the steering wheel, pedals and minor controls.

The vibe goes in a subtly classier direction in Luxury versions, and takes on a sporty slant in the R-Design thanks to different trim colours and finishes.

The S60 rides with controlled absorbency, and handles bad country roads very well. The firmer sports suspension that underpins R-Design versions makes the ride a bit busier, and at urban speeds its low-profile tyres thump over sharp edged bumps.

The S60’s body feels strong and solid, and the suppression of wind and tyre noise is excellent.

What about safety?

Electronic stability control, a low-speed (sub-50km/h) autonomous emergency braking system, six airbags, a reversing camera, and rear parking sensors are solid safety fundamentals in all Volvo S60s.

The standard safety package can be enhanced with a Driver Support Pack that is optional on any S60 for about $4000.

This option pack brings adaptive cruise control, which will match the speed of a slower vehicle in front on the highway, maintaining a time-gap that you set. It also brings a more sophisticated, radar and camera based, automatic emergency braking system (called Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake) that is effective at highway speeds. A blind spot indicator warns when a vehicle is travelling next to you but out of view, and a lane departure warning monitors lane markings and sounds an alarm if you are drifting into an adjacent lane (perhaps because you are falling asleep). When reversing out of a parking spot, a rear cross-traffic alert warns if something behind is about to cross your path.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has not rated the current, four-cylinder, range of S60s.

However, in 2012 ANCAP awarded the very similar five-cylinder diesel Volvo S60 its maximum five stars for safety.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The Volvo S60 is composed, capable and enjoyable in isolation. It is an easy car to feel happy in, even if there are more engaging alternatives.

The S60 has assured and linear steering. It turns in eagerly and holds its cornering line with authority.

Its engines are a satisfying bunch. The turbo petrol T4 is a modest performer by S60 standards and its gearbox is short two ratios compared with the rest, but it still performs very comfortably on the highway. The turbo-diesel D4 is stronger, and is the engine of choice if a long touring range and low fuel costs are high on your priority list.

The T5 offers performance in the realm of a hot-hatch – a Volkswagen Golf GTI, for example – with all the effortless everyday responsiveness that brings. The supercharged and turbocharged T6 offers substantially more, so it’s quite quick.

The addition of all-wheel-drive in the T6 R-Design adds to already trustworthy and generously grippy handling in the S60, and helps it deploy the extra power without tyre slip, especially on slippery surfaces such as on wet roads or gravel.

Each engine and gearbox pairing is smooth and co-operative, and the addition of manual shift paddles in Luxury and R-Design versions adds to drivability and enjoyment.

How is life in the rear seats?

The S60’s rear compartment offers passengers a comfortable cushion, a well-judged backrest angle, and generous knee and head room. It’s a nice place to ride.

From this luxurious vantage point, back-seaters have a good view forward and out of the side windows, and are well placed to enjoy the S60’s solid feel, ride quality and refinement. They also get their own air-conditioning outlets on the roof pillars, at about the height of the front-seat headrest.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The S60 has a relatively small boot for a medium-sized car – at 380 litres, it’s not much bigger than that of a hatchback. In its defence, the Volvo’s boot has a fair sized opening, and gooseneck hinges that won’t crush your luggage.

A 40-60 split-folding backrest – the smaller side behind the front passenger – gives the S60 good luggage flexibility, because you can stow long items along the left side of the cabin, leaving room for two in the back.

There is also a ski port to let you lug long, skinny items.

Where is it made?

The Volvo S60 is built in Belgium.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Mainly, better dynamics. An S60 is nice to drive, but some key alternatives feel even better. A BMW 3 Series, an Audi A4, a Jaguar XE or a Mercedes-Benz C-Class will offer more steering feel, greater handling involvement, or both.

If you expect to use your mid-size sedan a lot for running around town, possibly the option of a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, for quieter running and reduced fuel use. Examples include the BMW 330e, Lexus IS300h, and Mercedes C350e.

Perhaps a longer warranty: the Lexus IS series is covered for four years.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

Our reviewers think the Volvo S60 T5 Luxury offers the most persuasive blend of power, economy, driver appeal, equipment and value.

Are there plans to update this model soon?

The current, second-generation, Volvo S60 arrived in 2011. An update for 2016 brought new four-cylinder engines, styling changes and price reductions. The six-cylinder engine and the high-performance Polestar versions were dropped from the range at this time.

The next-generation S60 model and its V60 wagon counterpart are expected in 2017. All will have four-cylinder engines, and a plug-in hybrid version is a possibility.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Handsome styling
  •   Cabin comfort
  •   Smooth, economical engines
Not so much
  •   Not as satisfying to steer as some alternatives
  •   Small boot


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