Ever since Saab left the streets, Volvo has taken over as the "professor's car" of choice. Yet, the S60 sedan and its V60 wagon are some of the most driver-friendly and family-oriented vehicles we've encountered in the midsize premium segment. Our time with the cars reinforced that these are vehicles that should easily find a home outside university staff car parks.
Volvo is best known for the safety of its vehicles, of course, and its reputation there is well earned. Volvo vehicles usually ace crash tests and both the S60 and V60 include frontal collision mitigation as standard equipment, just as the 2016 XC90 we reviewed did.
That reputation for safety, however, meant that early on Volvo was also equated with plain looks and lackluster driving. Not so now, as the S60 is as competitive in driving spirit and finesse as other European benchmarks like the BMW 3-Series. Likewise, the 2016 Volvo V60 wagon is competitive with the popular Audi Allroad on the same fronts.
And no one can say that these cars are not lookers. The 2016 Volvo S60 and V60 have a clear style that carries throughout the Swedish maker's line. It's a clean, almost unadorned look that, when seen in its pure white paint option, is clearly worthy of my daughter's nickname for it: "Elsa's car."
The 2016 Volvo S60 is a five-seat midsize luxury sedan available in both front-wheel (called "Drive-E") or all-wheel drive (AWD). Two models are available, a standard and an extended wheelbase ("Inscription"), which adds about three inches (7.5 cm) of rear legroom to the car. Both the standard and Inscription models have two engine options and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The standard wheelbase has two more engine options as well. Trim levels and powertrain are denoted by model designation.
The base model S60 T5 Drive-E and T5 Inscription are both front-wheel drive and powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 240 horsepower (179 kW) and 258 pound-feet (350 Nm) of torque. The T5 AWD and T5 AWD Inscription have a slightly beefier 2.5-liter four-cylinder rated at 250 hp (186 kW) and 266 lb-ft (361 Nm).
The T6 models are powered by the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but supercharged to 302 hp (225 kW) and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of torque. This sportier model does not have an AWD option. The highest-output option for the S60 is the R-Design model, which is propelled by a 3.0-liter inline-six cylinder engine that is turbocharged to 325 horses (242 kW) and 354 lb-ft (480 Nm), mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The T6 R-Design is available only in all-wheel drive and has an estimated 0-60 mph (0-98 km/h) time of 5.4 seconds.
The 2016 Volvo V60 is a five-seat wagon that is also available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive. There are four engine choices, starting with the base T5 Drive-E with the same 2.0-liter also found on the S60. The V60 T5 AWD has the same 2.5-liter as the T5 AWD for the S60, while the T6 AWD R-Design model has the same 3.0-liter found on its S60 counterpart. A special V60 Polestar edition has the same 3.0-liter engine, but it's been tuned to deliver 345 hp (257 kW), giving it an estimated 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds.
Of these models, Gizmag drove the 2016 Volvo S60 T5 AWD and the V60 T5 AWD, both in the "Cross Country" package with the Platinum accessories addition. Prices were US$48,390 and $49,775, delivered, for the S60 and V60 respectively, however base prices for these vehicles begins in the $35,000 range. Fuel economy begins at 30 mpg combined (7.8 l/100km) in the S60 and 29 mpg combined (8.1 l/100km) for the V60. Both of our test models were EPA rated at 23 mpg combined (10.2 l/100km). Despite our high altitude and occasional crosswinds, during our week in these vehicles we met the estimated fuel economy numbers easily and expect that most will see better than EPA estimates in these cars.
Although their fuel economy is similar, on the road, the differences between these two vehicles become apparent. The S60 is decidedly more sporty and nimble, largely due to its slightly lower center of gravity and somewhat lighter weight versus the wagon design in the V60. Both are peppy and maneuverable, though, with high levels of comfort and ergonomic design about their builds.
In the V60, the lid for the center console storage box flips all the way back to become a convenient tray for rear passengers
On the interior, outside of the larger cargo area in the V60, both cars share the same design. It's a beautiful bit of Swedish craftsmanship, with quality materials everywhere and a few quirks that make a Volvo a Volvo. These include the "mode man" design for the climate controls and the throwback phone-like buttons for audio controls. Upper trim levels, such as those we drove, have user-configurable instrument clusters that allow a lot of personalization to the gauge displays and what's being shown. Presets that emphasize performance, fuel economy, vehicle functions, etc., make this a quick couple of button pushes to make big changes happen in the instruments.
Other signature Volvo technology features, such as the camera reading road signs to display the posted speed limit inside the instruments, and the excellent slider scale showing the speed of traffic ahead of you as the adaptive cruise begins to slow, are all nice touches that soon can't be lived without.
Comfort levels are very good in the S60 and V60. The back seats are a bit cramped, even for the midsize class, but those needing extra legroom can look to the Inscription in the S60 to remedy that. Sadly, there is no V60 counterpart. The wagon, though, has better than double the cargo room and some smart features for storage, like the roll-out dog security net (optional) and the pop-up grocery bag holder (optional). The wagon also retains the front passenger's seat fold-flat option, which is no longer available in the sedan. The S90 also has a ski pass-through not present in the wagon.
Finally, parents and grandparents will greatly appreciate the two integrated child seat boosters available for the rear seating in the V60, offering an easy, no-fuss way to get older children in and out of the car without need of a separate booster.
Really, the 2016 Volvo S60 and V60 offer a lot to love. We could see the queen of the ice being driven in one and any Disney Princess, wherever she lives, will love the comfortable interior and safe feeling a Volvo imparts to all. I know mine did.