2019 Volvo S60

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There’s a lot about the car business today that’s depressing; relentless nannying, pushy electrification. So here’s something that will make you feel better   . . .

Maybe even make you feel like buying a new car.

Well, a new Volvo.

No kidding.

The new S60. It rolls – living up to what the Volvo name means, translated.

But what happened to Mrs. Doubtfire?

What it Is

The S60 is a new kind of Volvo. A sexy, fast and safe Volvo.

All the latest stuff is safe – meaning, it does well on government crash tests, has all the mandated equipment.

It’s a given today – because it’s mandatory.

It wasn’t, once.

Volvos touted crashworthiness before it became a federally required standard feature in everything. It used to be the main reason for buying a Volvo.

Today, there are better reasons for buying a Volvo.

Including, for instance, the only turbo-supercharged engine on the market. Available massaging seats – hard to find in this segment. A magnificent Bowers & Wilkins audio system.

Surrounded by that body.

Prices start at $35,800 for the base front-wheel-drive T5 Momentum trim, which comes standard with a 250 horsepower turbocharged four cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

T6 trims get standard AWD and a turbo-plus-supercharged version of the 2.0 liter engine, with output boosted to 316 horsepower. Base price for this one is $40,300 – which is several thousand bucks less than the cost of a 188 hp Audi A4 with front-wheel-drive and just a couple hundred bucks more than a 255 hp BMW 3 Series sedan ($40,250) without a supercharger or AWD.

But we’re not done rolling yet.

A top-of-the-line T8 Polestar Inscription ($55,400) comes with a 415 horsepower hybrid drivetrain, AWD, Ohlins suspension upgrade, Brembo brakes all around   . . . and a plug.

It can travel about 21 miles on battery power – or get you to 60 in 4.5 seconds.

Mrs. Doubtfire just dropped her plate of Jell-o

What’s New

The 2019 S60 is new from the wheels up.

New in attitude as well as sheetmetal.

It and other new Volvos are Ragnaroking around the turf once firmly held by Mercedes, BMW and Audi – which are looking more and more Doubtfirean in comparison with the youthful, tight-flanked, muscled-up stuff coming from the very last place you’d expect.

What’s Good

Just look at it.

Just drive it.

Exceptional Bowers & Wilkins audio rig.

Exceptional seats.

What’s Not So Good

Small trunk (11.7 cubic feet).

No USB ports for the backseaters.

T8 Polestar is limited to just 50 examples.

Under The Hood

T5 trims come with the 2.0 liter, 250 hp turbocharged four – paired with an eight-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive.

It’s almost the strongest standard engine in the class.

Zero to 60 happens in about 6.9 seconds. That’s not as speedy as the BMW 3 (5.4 seconds) but it’s right there with the CLA 250 (6.8 seconds) and ahead of the base-engined A4 (7.2 seconds).

This engine is a regular fuel engine, too.

T6 trims get the 2.0 engine with a turbo and a supercharger, the pair generating 316 hp – reducing the 0-60 run by one full second.

Why not use two turbos? Because turbos don’t build boost immediately; exhaust pressure has to build up first. So there’s always a slight lag between pushing on the gas pedal and being pushed back in the seat.

This has been greatly reduced in most new turbo’d cars by snugging the turbo as close to the exhaust port as physically possible, but even then, the turbo doesn’t spin – and so build boost – until after the exhaust gasses pass through it.

Superchargers are mechanically driven via belt-driven pulley, usually – just like a water pump or alternator – and so build boost immediately.

If the T6 is insufficiently exciting, there’s the T8. A pair of electric motors plus the supercharger and the turbo quadruple-down on the power production, which rises to 400 horsepower and 472 ft.-lbs. of torque.

From a Volvo.

If that’s not enough roll for you, select the highest-performance Polestar T8 to get another 15 hp – for 415 total and supercar acceleration with the potential for good gas mileage, too.

If your trip is within the battery pack’s approximately 21 mile range, you might even get there using no gas at all.

On The Road

Remember when Oldsmobile tried to rehab its image as an old man’s brand? This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile?

Well, this isn’t your mother-in-law’s Volvo.

She’d hate it – which is exactly why you will love it. You don’t even have to drive it to love it. The S60 complements its surroundings – makes them look better in the same way that a room looks better when Megan Fox walks in.

But the drive will cinch the deal. Because it doesn’t drive like a Volvo . . . used to.

Nor does it drive like the rest.

Because the S60 – T6 and up versions – is the only car on the market with a supercharged and turbocharged engine under one hood.

The surge of power is immediate; the characteristic boon of supercharging.

All that’s missing is the gear whine. But Thor is there, rest assured. To summon him, just step on the gas pedal.

Keep in mind – this is only the mid-range engine.

You can amp things up another 100 horsepower by selecting the T8. Mrs. Doubtfire just collapsed. Someone get a bucket of ice water. Now you have a Camaro killer with four doors, usable back seats, a serviceable trunk and it gets much better gas mileage, too.

Operating in temporary electric car mode, it uses no gas at all – but without the minimum 30-45 minute “fast” charge that you have to wait for if you sign up for a full-time electric car.

You can also use the tremendous torque (475-495 ft-lbs.) of the electric motors as much as you like without worrying about running out of charge – and having to wait – as is always your fate when driving a full-time EV.

If the S60’s batteries run low, you still go – so long as there’s gas in the tank.

No matter which engine/combo you pick, you can toggle through Eco Sport and Individual drive programs, each of which tailors throttle tip-in, shift characteristics and so on as you’d expect –  from less to more aggressive.

The LCD instrument cluster adjusts itself accordingly, too.

Though this is still a Volvo – and so does come standard with more than a dozen electronic safety features (you’ll see the menu at start-up in the center of the instrument cluster) these are all very background features that you won’t even notice are there unless you literally do fall asleep at the wheel.

Which you’re unlikely to do because this Volvo encourages you to drive it rather than nod off.

The safest car isn’t the one that protects you most if you pile-drive it into an oak tree. It’s the one you don’t pile-drive into an oak tree.

The S60 is also immensely comfortable – in part because of its exceptional seats. Lots of attention went into these and to appreciate them you will need to sit in them – for four or five hours, ideally.

If you do that, you may not want to get out of the S60.

At The Curb

The S60 is both a looker and a runner.

Still distinctively a Volvo – but a new kind of Volvo.

A young Volvo.

Inside, two very large LCD displays – the main 12.3 inch instrument cluster and a secondary (and vertical) 9 inch display that is entirely touch/swipe, which eliminates most of the usual knobs and buttons.

The array can be intimidating  . . . if you’re over 40 and didn’t grow up with smartphones. But Volvo is targeting buyers who did, which is smart policy because they’re the ones who’ll be buying cars tomorrow as well as today and this is what they are into.

The S60 is the only car in the class – and one of the only cars on the market – to have gone whole hog in this respect, which is bold and very much the opposite of Doubtfirean.

One knob remains, though.

It’s the one you use to start the engine. Instead of pushing a button – which has become generic and so boring – there’s a twist knob on the console that you turn to the right, just like a key – but without needing a physical key. It is pleasantly tactile, like a physical key – as well as unmistakably intentional.

As with turning a physical key to to the right start the engine, you can’t mistakenly turn off the engine as is very possible to do with push-button systems.

It’s impossible to do that with Volvo’s clever – and unique – take on turning the ignition on (and off).

The S60 feels like a full-size car up front – there’s 42.3 inches of legroom for the driver and front seat passenger, which is a couple of inches more than the in the Benz CLA (40.2 inches) and doesn’t feel like a subcompact car if you ride in back. It has 8.1 inches more legroom in the rear than the Benz CLA (27.1 inches).

The trunk however, is small for the class – 11.6 cubic feet (the CLA has 13 cubic feet; the BMW 3 sedan has a 17 cubic foot trunk).

One thing that’s still very Volvo is also in the trunk. Well, under the trunk floor – in the storage compartment for the spare tire (it’s a space-saver, which is preferable to no tire at all – and an inflator kit, which will help you not at all if a tire gets sidewall damage).

You’ll find a pair of yellow saaaaaaaaaaaafety vests – required by European law. You’re supposed to don these while changing a flat tire.

Send them to Mrs. Doubtfire.

The Rest

You can get massaging seats in the S60 as well as four-zone climate control – both of these features are unusual finds in the entry-luxury segment.

One thing you may not be able to get is the T8 Polestar, since Volvo is limiting availability to just 50 copies for the United States. By the time you read this review, they’re probably all spoken for.

It’s shame that this uber Volvo (or however one says it in Swedish) is so restricted. Also a shame is that Volvo intends to shoot itself in the foot by limiting the speed of all the cars it sells – except for Polestar models – to whatever the speed limit is. In other words, not just top speed – as is common practice, usually in line with whatever the speed rating is of the tires the car came from the factory with – but limited as you drive.

If the speed limit is 45, the car tries to prevent you from going any faster than 45 by cutting throttle or applying the brakes. You can “push through” these “assists” – as they are styled – by hammering the gas, but who knows how much longer even that will be allowed.

A few months ago, Volvo’s CEO Hakan Samuelsson said: “We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even the obligation to install technology in cars that changes their behavior.”

Except, apparently, the behavior of the lucky few who can afford the handful of high-performance Polestar Volvos, which will be exempted from speed limit “assistance.”

The Bottom Line

You’re much more likely to see the real-life Mrs. Doubtfires behind the wheel of something other than a new Volvo.

. . .

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  1. This isn’t the first badass Volvo, remember the 93 850 turbo? 222 go, 15ish qtr mile, 150+ top speed governed…..and 15K cheaper than comperables. And it was a much different look, the wagon was especially nice looking. They even raced the wagons in the BTCC.

  2. FWD based. No
    speed limiter. double NO
    doubt it will do well in the US.
    I feel bad for the buyers who take it on test drive, like it, buy it, and then ‘what the hell’?

  3. No station wagon offered?

    No problem, because Volvo; and Sweden in general, have already earned a well deserved spot on my BDS list.

  4. You’ll find a pair of yellow saaaaaaaaaaaafety vests – required by European law. You’re supposed to don these while changing a flat tire.

    Halloween is coming, save ’em for a gilets jaunes costume!

    This car has “swan song” written all over it. The last effort from a bunch of soon-retired designers and engineers, with the new electric and automation guys chomping at the bit to throw out the drafting tables and clay studios to make space for the foosball table and cold-brew coffee maker.

  5. Thought about this the other night. Anti-car people often blather on endlessly about how people lives are centered around their individual cars and how bad that supposedly is.

    They never get the part about just getting in the thing and driving, any old time you feel like it. Nobody else’s schedule, any old time, as much as you want etc etc. Total freedom of time.

    But wouldn’t your life be “centered” around your electric car way more using that logic? Like having to plan out things way more, just to accommodate when you could use your car. Want to go the mall, nope, just got home from work and the car needs to charge for the time being. Or you forgot to plug it in. You know public transit won’t pick up the slack, and uber and it’s ilk isn’t going to last much longer. And through it all, most people just prefer their own personal vehicles.

    Its how it is for my friend with the electric car. She commutes with it. Can’t use it at all after work, because it’s out of juice. If her husband isn’t home (with his V8 powered pickup), she isn’t going anywhere. Taxis and uber are spotty around here.

    • Statistics guys love to point out that an automobile is only used a few hours a day, a few days a week. Some automobiles sit for 20 hours a day. My personal vehicle sometimes sits for a week or more if I’m on call and stocked up on provisions. They should say the same thing about spare bedrooms, dining rooms, gym memberships and just about everything else we own, but they don’t. Because we all know that’s not the point.

      By the same token, we should all be driving around in Messerschmitt Kabinenrollers, not SUVs. After all, all that extra space isn’t used most of the time, until it is. If cars were more affordable maybe it would make sense to own a few, depending on the task. But having to keep track of registration, insurance, storage and upkeep on several vehicles quickly drives up costs to the point where only a few rich folks can afford to have a “collection” of cars.

    • We have five vehicles. One of them has been sitting for several years now because it needs an engine rebuild. But I don’t want to sell it to some kook who will convert it to a half ton and lower it.

      The others sit most of the time. Some days we don’t drive anywhere at all. The car gets driven to town once or twice a month and Buttercup drives it to church on Sundays (about 60 miles RT), except in the winter when she drives the Jeep. The jeep gets driven back and forth to the barn twice daily in the winter, and sometimes during the summer because we don’t drive the car on these rough roads at all anymore unless we are headed 10 miles to the highway to actually go someplace: to a town or out of state. The pickup gets driven randomly, to cut and haul firewood, fix fences, or haul garbage to the dump in town a few times a year (most stuff gets burned or composted). The Suburban hardly ever gets driven except to charge the battery, but it is our backup 4×4 and gets loaned out when our kids are here. It needs some work but it runs good and they don’t make them like that anymore (solid axles with front hubs).

      So whose fokking business is it how many vehicles we own and how often they get driven ????? I bought them and pay to maintain them and when you live way out like we do you need a backup vehicle and sometimes a backup-backup vehicle. They all have non-expiring plates now and the insurance on four is hardly much more than two. I just wish I had another big barn to keep them all out of the weather.

  6. How Green is this?


    However, the significant downside to using the gas is that it has the highest global warming potential of any known substance. It is 23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide (CO2).

    Just one kilogram of SF6 warms the Earth to the same extent as 24 people flying London to New York return.

    It also persists in the atmosphere for a long time, warming the Earth for at least 1,000 years.

    If global warming is the threat as advertised, where are the greenies on this stuff? Kind of makes EVs powered by windmills even more polluting than we have already learned regarding rare earths, bird kills, etc.

  7. I wonder how much electricity will be used to go that 21 miles on battery power. No doubt using far more BTUs than just having petrol engine in the car alone. And far more pollution created by the heavy metals used in the batteries. Cars like this are having far more destructive effect on the environment than IC powered cars alone. Pity that people are so ignorant that they cannot see this.

  8. You buried the lede about the cars being limited to the speed limit. Oh, fuck no. Seriously, what’s the point of 400 hp if they’re gonna try to make you drive like a Clover?

  9. What’s the use of having 415hp and gobs of torque if you have to beg the car to exceed the speed limit which one usually has to do when passing? Could be dangerous causing a head on. At least it’s a decent looking car. I guess you could burn the rubber off the tires to impress your friends so long as your not exceeding the speed limit. And those cool screens you can’t see in bright sun. I’ve seen idiots bent over swiping and whatever not even looking where they’re going. Doesn’t seem real saaaaaafffe to me.

  10. In 2020 or 2021 at the latest, this POS will top out at 110 mph in the name of saaaaaaaaafety. This is despite the fact that the base version can a minimum of about 140 based on specs alone.

    • “We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even the obligation to install technology in cars that changes their (the drivers) behavior.”
      Yeah. Fuck Volvo and their Chinese owners.


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