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2021 Volvo S60 T5 Review: The Last of Us

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Auto123 reviews the 2021 Volvo S60 T5.

This particular T5 edition of the Volvo S60 sedan is a bit of a rare beast these days, and one that may be soon going the way of that rarest of beasts, the dodo. Like that beautiful extinct bird, the S60 in this T5 form is not long for this world, for the simple reason that it has not been blessed with any form of electrification. There’s no 48V mild hybridity, no plug-in port, no battery under the floor. It’s a red-blooded (and, in my case, red-painted), sports sedan that needs gas and gas only to get it going. And already, if you visit Volvo Canada’s website, it is no longer there, nor is the T6, other non-electrified variant of the model.

2025 or bust
Simply, it does not fit into the “full electrification by xxxx” rules that Volvo and pretty much every other manufacturer is committing to these days. And since Volvo has claimed full electrification by 2025, they’re on a schedule that’s tighter than most.

For this year, though, the S60 in T5 form is still there, and it serves as the entry-level model in the S60 lineup, starting at $54,168 (MSRP) for the FWD Momentum model. My AWD R-Design version, however, stands a level up from that in the T5 lineup, clocking in at $62,120.

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2021 Volvo S60 T5, profile
Photo: D.Heyman
2021 Volvo S60 T5, profile

While R-Design doesn’t add anything in the way of engine performance – it gets the same turbo- and supercharged 4-cylinder the other T5 models get, good for 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque -- it adds all sorts of great exterior visual cues outside, and a more robust feature set inside.

Those esthetic adds include black mirror caps, 18-inch double-spoke wheels (upgraded to 19-inch wheels on my tester, at a cost of $1,000), dual integrated tailpipes, special grille, active/bending LED headlights and foglights and body-colour door handles with puddle lights. Add the metallic red paint on my tester ($900), and you’ve got a handsome, athletic looking thing that can go toe-to-toe with the best Mercedes, Audi and BMW have to offer.

Frankly, visually, it’s underrated versus the competition. A big part of that great look has to do with the Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights, which are a Volvo signature and a great one, at that.

2021 Volvo S60 T5, interior
Photo: D.Heyman
2021 Volvo S60 T5, interior

Inside, R-Design spec adds some style in the form of metal mesh inlays, Nappa leather upholstery and special pedals, but the real meat on this bone comes in the form of the added features. These run the gamut from harmon/kardon premium sound (upgraded to Bowers & Wilkins on my tester for a cool $3,750), to front and rear park assist, to navigation, to four-zone – four! – climate control, to a panoramic sunroof and the list goes on. There’s very little that I found myself looking for during my time with the Volvo. That’s saying something, as usually I can find some—oh, right. The storage thing.

Shortage of storage?
This is a bit of a nitpick, but the centre console is a cramped area with two cupholders and sort of a flat surface for your phone that doubles as a charge pad. That would be fine, but that spot is tiny and it wouldn’t work with the plus-sized newer iPhones and such – the space barely fits my standard iPhone 12 and its case. It’s also quite shallow so I ended up using one of the two cupholders for my phone most of the time. And those are small, too. That’s about the extent of the negatives, though, because the seats are super comfortable and supportive, the seating position is a good one and the steering wheel is nice and chunky and falls easily into one’s hands.

The S60’s infotainment system is the same as you find in most every Volvo, and will until Google-based Android Automotive arrives en masse to the lineup. For now, what we get is a 9-inch vertical display that is navigated either by touch or a scroll wheel. It’s fine, and when you activate Apple CarPlay it takes up half the display, leaving the other half filled with hotkeys to other in-car services.

2021 Volvo S60 T5, screen
Photo: D.Heyman
2021 Volvo S60 T5, screen

It’s fine, but a vertical screen seems tailor made to support a full CarPlay display, considering that’s how most mobile devices and tablets are aligned. Thing is, Volvo is one of just a few manufacturers that uses a vertical screen in their cars (although that number is increasing) so you can understand why a company like Apple would design their app to be compatible with as many vehicles as possible, meaning horizontal wins the day. For now.

Otherwise, it’s a fine infotainment interface, albeit one that has a few text-heavy menus you need to access in order to activate or deactivate certain driver aids and so on. That can be a bit of a problem when at speed. You’ll eventually get the hang of it but it’s somewhat less intuitive than it could be.

One aspect of the cockpit I I love for its intuitiveness is the shift lever; in many Volvos, it’s an electronic affair that could be more responsive. Here, it’s a proper mechanical auto gear lever (attached, by the way, to an 8-speed transmission); just slot drive, and go. It’s too bad, though, that there are no paddle shifters, even in sporty R-Design spec.

2021 Volvo S60 T5, front
Photo: D.Heyman
2021 Volvo S60 T5, front

Supercharged
And go, you will. Keep in mind that while the S60 T5 is turbocharged, it’s also supercharged meaning you get a great boost of power all across the rev band. Acceleration is smooth and robust, making that 250 hp count seem a little more. Makes a great sound, too, while it goes about its business. I don’t know about you, but “good sound” and “2.0L turbo four” don’t often go hand-in-hand for me, although it’s gotten better lately with the sound augmentation tactics being employed by many manufacturers.

Either way, brisk forward progress is accompanied by some great noise, and it really lends a sports sedan air to the drive.

While the steering could do with just a little more feel, it is precise and responsive and does well to showcase that in addition to this car’s peppy powertrain, it has the chassis to match. In addition to the responsiveness of the steering, the AWD system is good at metering out the power to the wheels that need it and can really provide a nice rear-wheel-drive feel on dry tarmac. Which, of course, is the calling card of any good performance vehicle. The result is a car that rides well but is also lots of fun to pilot; It’s especially impressive considering this is essentially an entry-level model.

This S60 doesn’t drive like one, though, and it comes nicely equipped as well. The fact that this is one of the last “pre-electrified” Volvos, meanwhile, may actually count for something to a lot of people.

Volvo S60 T5 2021, three-quarters rear
Photo: D.Heyman
Volvo S60 T5 2021, three-quarters rear

We like

Great drive
Athletic looks
Well-equipped
    
We like less

Busy infotainment menus
Steering lacks feel
    
The competition

Audi A4
BMW 3 Series
Cadillac CT4 / CT5
Genesis G70
Infiniti Q50
Lexus IS 300
Mercedes-Benz C-Class

2021 Volvo S60 T5, rear
Photo: D.Heyman
2021 Volvo S60 T5, rear

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Photos:D.Heyman
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