2019 Volvo S60 R-Design First Drive Review


Over the past few years, Volvo has thoroughly transformed its car lineup. Its new and revamped models share the company’s modular car architecture, versatile powertrain family and clean, simple approach to design. All this newness has made the ancient S60 look, well, ancient. But the revolution has finally come to the S60the new model not only looks like a scaled-down version of its bigger siblings, it drives like one of them, too. That’s mostly good, but there’s some bad in there, too.

Out are the swooping curves of the old model, and in are the straight lines, upright grille, and traditional sedan shape. It looks athletic, thanks to subtle accents over the wheel arches, and a body that looks almost vacuum-formed around its mechanical parts. The front wheels are pushed to the far edges, far ahead of the A-pillar, reducing overhang as much as possible and giving it the appearance of a rear- car.

The interior follows the exterior’s lead, echoing the S90‘s themes in a slightly narrower package. The dashboard’s simple, wide design, the slender vents, and the elegant Sensus infotainment system look like carbon copies of the bigger sedan. R-Design and Polestar models add attractive leather surfacing with nice stitching on the dash, but low-end models make do with soft-touch plastics — albeit nice ones with attractive grain.

The higher-trim front seats are the best in the business, providing ample bolstering and thick, luxurious cushioning. Lower trim models don’t get as much adjustability or support, so this upgrade comes highly recommended. Space up front is ample too, while surprisingly, the back seat is actually comfortable for adults. I could sit behind my 5-foot-11-inch self with more than enough room to be at ease on a long drive, which isn’t something I can say for many cars in this segment.

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design2019 Volvo S60 R-Design2019 Volvo S60 R-Design2019 Volvo S60 R-Design

So the is beautiful to behold inside and out, but how does it drive? Well in the case of both the T6 R-Design and the Polestar, the answer is good but with some rough edges. In this , we’ll be focusing on the R-Design only, and you can read our impressions of the Polestar soon.

The R-Design we drove was an all-wheel-drive T6 model that has a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It’s the same engine available elsewhere in the line, and is similarly quite punchy and responsive. It doesn’t even feel that much slower than the Polestar Engineered S60, though it does lack the down-low torque provided by that model’s electric motor.

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design2019 Volvo S60 R-Design2019 Volvo S60 R-Design2019 Volvo S60 R-Design

On the flip side, since it’s shared with other Volvos, so too is its big downside: a lack of refinement. It’s coarse and loud, especially when worked hard. There’s no sweet-sounding intake, exhaust, or even blower sounds to drown it out. The soundtrack is just the gnashing of the four-cylinder being pushed hard.

The engine isn’t helped by the 8-speed automatic transmission, which is merely adequate. Push the S60 hard and the transmission waits for a few minutes before deciding to downshift. Shifting manually doesn’t really help either, as a press of paddle is again met by some consideration by the transmission before executing your request. Manual shifting loses a bit of smoothness, too. Key rivals such as the Mercedes C-Class with its 9-speed auto and the Audi A4 with its dual-clutch transmission beat the Volvo for both smoothness and speed. The engines in these cars, plus the BMW 3 Series, are far more refined, too.

Ride and handling put the S60 back in the win column, though. Its steering has excellent weighting, building resistance in a linear way as the tires see increased force. The R-Design has more feedback than the Polestar, likely due to a very stiff suspension in the R-Design and a more compliant Ohlins setup in the Polestar. That comes at the expense of some harshness over rough pavement, but the R-Design nevertheless turns in confidently and exhibits only a bit of body roll. Despite a curb weight of nearly 4,000 pounds, it feels light and tossable, though pushing it hard on a winding road revealed plenty of understeer. This is still a front-drive-based car and those with a penchant for rear-drive dynamics won’t be satisfied here.

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design

As for pricing, the S60 R-Design matches a few key competitors, but offers more power. With a base price of $36,795 for the base 250-horsepower Momentum T5, the S60 is actually a few hundred dollars more expensive than the 180-horsepower BMW 320i and $200 less than an 190-horsepower Audi A4 Premium Ultra. It represents a major savings over the 255-horsepower Mercedes-Benz C 300 that starts at more than $40,000. The 316-horsepower T6 in base Momentum trim starts at $41,295, which is again, within a couple hundred dollars of the BMW 330i and Audi A4 Quattro. Those offer 248 and 252 horsepower, respectively.

The Volvo S60 has a lot going for it. It’s one of the most beautiful sedans in the segment, sacrifices none of its practicality in the name of style, and represents a strong value against the competition. It could be a serious contender for the segment’s leader if it weren’t for its uncouth engine and uncooperative transmission. As it stands, the S60 will merely have to be content as a strong competitor.

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