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