Automotive

Review: 2020 Volvo S60 PHEV hits a sweet spot for luxury sedans

Review: 2020 Volvo S60 PHEV hi...
The Volvo S60 is the automaker's midsize luxury sedan, built on a modular platform to share four powertrain
The Volvo S60 is the automaker's midsize luxury sedan, built on a modular platform to share four powertrain options
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New Volvo S60 T8 Plug-in Hybrid chassis is built on the Scalable Product Architecture the S60 shares with the V60 wagon
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New Volvo S60 T8 Plug-in Hybrid chassis is built on the Scalable Product Architecture the S60 shares with the V60 wagon
The Volvo S60 comes standard with a 9-inch tablet-oriented touchscreen interface, using Volvo's latest Sensu
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The Volvo S60 comes standard with a 9-inch tablet-oriented touchscreen interface, using Volvo's latest Sensus design
The 2020 Volvo S60 has a luxurious interior, even in basic black as shown here
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The 2020 Volvo S60 has a luxurious interior, even in basic black as shown here
The 2020 Volvo S60 becomes the first generation of the sedan to not include a diesel engine option
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The 2020 Volvo S60 becomes the first generation of the sedan to not include a diesel engine option
Volvo calls its plug-in hybrid a "Twin Engine" system, offering high performance and low emissions
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Volvo calls its plug-in hybrid a "Twin Engine" system, offering high performance and low emissions
The unusually well-bolstered interior of the Volvo S60 with optional upgrades allows for adjustment for nearly any driver
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The unusually well-bolstered interior of the Volvo S60 with optional upgrades allows for adjustment for nearly any driver
The Volvo S60 is the automaker's midsize luxury sedan, built on a modular platform to share four powertrain
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The Volvo S60 is the automaker's midsize luxury sedan, built on a modular platform to share four powertrain options
The Plug-in Hybrid option for the Volvo S60 offers up to 400 horsepower in total output
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The Plug-in Hybrid option for the Volvo S60 offers up to 400 horsepower in total output
The 2020 S60 PHEV won’t win any awards at the drag strip, but 0-60 mph (92 km/h) is in the 6 second range on public roads
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The 2020 S60 PHEV won’t win any awards at the drag strip, but 0-60 mph (92 km/h) is in the 6 second range on public roads
Rated at 28 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway (gas only), we averaged an easy 52 mpg overall in a week’s worth of driving (which included a lot of highway time) with daily plugging in
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Rated at 28 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway (gas only), we averaged an easy 52 mpg overall in a week’s worth of driving (which included a lot of highway time) with daily plugging in
The base model 2020 S60 starts at about US$36,000 before destination fees and our upgraded Inscription PHEV model rang in at $64,000 and change with delivery
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The base model 2020 S60 starts at about US$36,000 before destination fees and our upgraded Inscription PHEV model rang in at $64,000 and change with delivery
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Volvo is generally known for safety, but consistently delivers some of the more well-designed luxury vehicles in the American market as well. With the 2020 S60, Volvo has found a sweet spot that combines luxury, safety, and daily driveability in a small sedan.

Getting into the 2020 Volvo S60 shows, right off the bat, that the Swedes had a clear focus in mind for this sedan. It’s comfortable and it feels luxurious without being overdone, exuding class in a way that isn’t pretentious. Much like the German makes it competes with, the Volvo somehow manages to hint at austerity without actually depriving the driver or passengers of anything.

New Volvo S60 T8 Plug-in Hybrid chassis is built on the Scalable Product Architecture the S60 shares with the V60 wagon
New Volvo S60 T8 Plug-in Hybrid chassis is built on the Scalable Product Architecture the S60 shares with the V60 wagon

From the start, at the base model level, the 2020 S60 includes a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel (newly standard this year), several active safety features including forward collision warning and drowsy driver monitoring, a panoramic sunroof, and dual-zone climate. There are four trim levels in all and four powertrain options. We drove the Inscription model with the plug-in hybrid (“T8 Hybrid”) drivetrain – a configuration that is all-wheel drive only. Other options include a 2.0-liter turbo (“T5”) and a higher-output turbo-supercharged version of that 2.0L in the T6. The T8 Hybrid can be upgraded to the T8 Polestar Engineered, which adds more power output to the PHEV.

Our test model, which we drove for a week, uses the turbocharged and supercharged T6 2.0-liter four (316 horsepower/236 kW) matched with electric motors in the AWD version of the Volvo’s standard eight-speed automatic transmission. This combines for 400 horsepower (298 kW) and boosts torque from 295 pound-feet to an impressive 472 lb-ft (400 to 639 Nm). The fact that much of the torque comes immediately when accelerating is important to keep in mind – it’s the reason the S60 feels so performance-oriented despite being a highly efficient plug-in.

The 2020 S60 PHEV won’t win any awards at the drag strip, but 0-60 mph (92 km/h) is in the 6 second range. That’s very peppy for a luxury plug-in and comes with solid engine growl thanks to the supercharged six. With a more judicious foot, though not enough to make the S60 boring in any way, fuel economy remained high in the S60 plug-in. Rated at 28 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway (gas only), we averaged an easy 52 mpg (4.5 l/100km) overall in a week’s worth of driving (which included a lot of highway time) with daily plugging in. That’s under the sticker estimates for the car, but makes the 69 mpg-equivalent rating realistic with some light footed driving and a heavier city mix. There’s also potential for about 21 miles of all-electric driving at low speeds in the S60 plug-in.

The 2020 Volvo S60 has a luxurious interior, even in basic black as shown here
The 2020 Volvo S60 has a luxurious interior, even in basic black as shown here

The base model 2020 S60 starts at about US$36,000 before destination fees and our upgraded Inscription model rang in at $64,000 and change with delivery. For that extra outlay you get the plug-in drivetrain with AWD, LED fog lamps, added wood interior trim, leather upholstery, more adjustable driver and front passenger seats (with ventilation and adjustable side bolsters as an option), and several added convenience features like keyless entry and auto-dimming mirrors. Upgrades also include the premium Harmon Kardon audio and added navigation to the 9-inch vertical touchscreen interface.

That touchscreen was the first (and only major) negative we found in the car. The Volvo Sensus infotainment system is not terribly intuitive, nor is it quick to respond. Setting up basics like Bluetooth connections, integrating Android Auto (or Apple CarPlay) and so forth is pretty straightforward, but most everything else becomes tedious. Even changing stations on the radio can require more than one input and looking at the low-mounted screen means taking eyes completely off the road. Add in that there are only two USB ports, even with all upgrades, and there’s a lot lacking on the tech front.

On the driver’s front, things get far better once you get past infotainment. The Volvo S60 comes with a lot of goodness as a driver-centric car from the get-go. It feels solid, steers intuitively, and never loses confidence.

Parking is made easier thanks to good driver visibility and the 360-degree surround-view camera, and the optional park-assist feature makes even tight parallel slots a simple thing. Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-automated driving system brings both adaptive radar-controlled cruise control and lane centering assist together to ease the stress of long highway drives. The system works very well, holding center of lane without trouble in most clear and even lightly inclement weather situations. Even on snow-blown roads in Wyoming, the Volvo S60’s system did a fine job of finding and keeping the lane.

The base model 2020 S60 starts at about US$36,000 before destination fees and our upgraded Inscription PHEV model rang in at $64,000 and change with delivery
The base model 2020 S60 starts at about US$36,000 before destination fees and our upgraded Inscription PHEV model rang in at $64,000 and change with delivery

There are a lot of luxury sedans to choose from in the S60’s class. Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz make solid competitors in the 3 Series and C-Class, and Genesis has the new G70 as well. The Volvo S60 fits in well with these options, offering both efficiency and a great drive without compromising luxury or safety in the process.

Product Page: 2020 Volvo S60

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2 comments
IvanWashington
luxurious, eh? yet no description of NVH, no description of how well its suspension soaks up bumpy roads? i wanted to hear more about the daily livability of this vehicle.
Kevin McCarthy
Problem... no Volvo has a "six". Every engine is a 2.0 liter turbo four. The T6 designation adds a supercharger to that. The T8 adds battery and an electric motor to the mix. In response to the other comment, I LOVE this car. I ordered it in March of last year and (sadly) got it at the end of January. So far, I'm at 69.5 mpg. I can all the daily tasks of kid to school, groceries, etc in pure electric mode. If you are in heavy traffic, you can go a long way on the battery. This car was built for heavy traffic commuting. You set the cruise control to the distance you want to keep from the car in front of you, take your foot off the gas and keep a finger on the steering wheel. It'll do the rest. The seats are supremely comfortable. I got the optional heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, which my boy appreciates. There is a fair bit of tire noise, however, I wonder how much of that is me not having the gas engine running. At low speeds, wind noise is almost non-existent. At higher speeds (75mph+) the wind noise can be annoying. But the entertainment system automatically compensates by turning the volume up for you. The suspension is excellent, though keep in mind, I'm coming from a WRX. I would suggest getting the standard tires instead of the optional ones. The optional 19 inch tires are noticeably harsher than the 18s. Be sure to test drive both versions. This car will never compete with a BMW on a twisty mountain road. But I will take it every time over the BMW for the 400 mile trip to that windy mountain road... or my daily commute.