I happen to like Volvos. When I first started in this industry nearly 10 years ago, I equated them with elderly businessmen apt to play golf on the weekends and sport potbellies draped in pastel-coloured polos. Slow, sturdy, and safe, Volvos carry a certain stigma, one I’ve come to truly appreciate and rather like over the years.
They aren’t the most intense, riveting vehicles on the road but can be made slightly more intriguing with a Polestar badge. Even without the blue square in the back, Volvo’s latest lineup of vehicles is great -- and in all the right ways. Although the S60 is the current “baby” in the lineup, it has plenty of redeeming qualities that make it well worth the dollars needed to own one.
But, it’s a Volvo
And that’s what makes it great. Draped in a tone of silver given a fancy name to make it seem more exciting, my 2015 S60 T6 Drive-E admittedly wasn’t the most enticing to look at.
Thankfully, this second-generation S60 looks much more modern, and much more in tune with current automotive styling. Previous generation Volvos were boxy, and well, humdrum. Sleek and sophisticated, the new S60 almost looks (dare I say it?) sporty. And in R-Design guise that sporty aggressive nature is taken up a few notches.
As a T6 Drive-E model, my 2015 Volvo S60 was fairly plain to look at, but its what lay beneath the blandish bonnet that was really the interesting part.
Drive-E: Does that mean it’s electric?
No. Well, yes, but not here in North America, at least not yet. Basically, the monogram stands for “Drive Efficient” and that means their new line of powertrains offer up their most efficient drives ever. The entire lineup (as there are more options in other markets) is based on Volvo’s 2.0L 4-cyl.
How does the T6 Drive-E engine work differently than the previous generation? Well, for starters it has a turbocharger and a supercharger. That’s right, both. They work together to produce 302 horsepower over the T5’s 240 ponies. How do they do that? Well, the supercharger supplies immediate acceleration, and the turbocharger keeps it merrily plowing along. Instant power, zero lag, in any situation.
That means your Volvo will go from 0-100km/hr in approximately 5.6 seconds. Read that sentence again. That’s right.
At the moment, the Dive-E engines are only available in FWD models, however, Volvo plans to change that in the future and let the mill trickle into all its models.
If it’s so fast, how is it E-fficient?
Volvo claims that their new lineup of Drive-E engines (which can be modified for gas, diesel and hybrid offerings) are the world’s cleanest combustion mills relative to their power output. There’s also the ECO+ feature that shuts the engine on/off when you stop at a light or in traffic.
A note on that: It’s really, really aggravating. I drove the Volvo in stop-and-go traffic on one particularly blocked artery for nearly two hours. After an hour of the engine sputtering on and off, shuddering and shaking, and turning off even if I was only stopped for 2-3 seconds, I switched the entire system off and just let the engine idle when I was fully stopped. The ECO+ mode is not a smooth operator by any means, and I foresee owners seeing it as more of an annoyance than a bonus.
But is it really that quick?
Thanks to the near-linear power from the Drive-E mill, this S60 T6 rockets from place to place in quite a quick fashion. The 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission is smooth and effortless, which might make you think it would feel too soft and/or disconnected and thus fall into the Volvo stigma of bland and boring to drive. However, I’d have to disagree with that. Yes, it is nearly flawless, but there’s enough of a gear-change “blip” to make you feel something a bit more and remind you that you are driving a 300+ horsepower vehicle that’s highly capable.
Now, where I did wish the vehicle were a bit more Volvo-like was in the ride comfort. For some reason, I felt the S60 T6 was a wee bit rough. Uneven surfaces were much too noticeable, and larger imperfections were uncomfortably jarring.
Highly livable Volvo
The interior is typically Volvo, which means super comfortable with plenty of room. My son’s car seat fit beautifully in the back and was easy to install. He had lots of legroom, even with a passenger up front. And the trunk is spacious and able to swallow up everything from weekend getaway bags to groceries and the entire contents of a fridge when one loses power at home for three days … but that’s for another article.
With a starting price just over $43k, the 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E FWD sits in a segment with some heavy competition such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. And while the Volvo engine might surpass the others ever so slightly, they offer up AWD that the Volvo lacks (at the moment).
What it really came down to is this: Volvo has made some stellar upgrades to the S60 that’s made it so much more than ever. From a new infotainment system to the Drive-E mill, it’s all been tweaked to make Volvo more relevant. And it has.