2011 Volvo S60

2011 Volvo S60 Expert Review:Autoblog

How Volvo Got Its Groove Back

2011 Volvo S602011 Volvo S60 – Click above for high-res image gallery

During the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show keynote, Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby discussed his plans to shift the Swedish automaker away from the rest of the premium segment. This doesn't mean that the quality of materials or craftsmanship is going to suffer, but instead of creating products that are specifically engineered to compete with the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Volvo will be working to reaffirm its own unique Swedish brand identity.

The 2011 Volvo S60 points the way forward for the brand's new groundwork. The 'naughty' new sedan is stylish, luxurious and has the guts of a true sporting sedan, but it just doesn't come close to the sort of precision we find in an Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series. Fine, then, that the Volvo has plenty of other impressive qualities to give it a unique edge over the competition. Consider it a premium sport sedan for people who don't want the stereotypical premium sport sedan.

We recently welcomed a Blazing Copper S60 to the Autoblog Garage to see if Volvo's recipe for uniqueness has created a delicious dish of Swedish engineering.

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Photos copyright ©2011 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

Volvo's quest to create something unmistakably Swedish begins with the S60's exterior design. So many of the styling attributes found on the Volvo simply wouldn't work on a traditional German sedan – things like the seven-spoke turbine-inspired 18-inch wheels, chunky headlamp design with LED fangs (Volvo's new corporate face) and thin-topped eagle's head taillamps. Even that Blazing Copper paint color ("fluorescent brown," as a friend called it) would seem off on a BMW or Benz, and the end result is a luxury sedan that is sleek and stylish in its own unique way. And it's even better in motion. If this Volvo passes you on the highway, you certainly won't mistake it for anything hailing from Germany or Japan.

Similar things can be said about the S60's interior, where a general theme of Swedish simplicity takes the Volvo in a different direction than most European sedans. There's no funky all-seeing, all-knowing control system like Comand, MMI or iDrive on tap, just a single screen with a vertical row of buttons on the "waterfall" center stack. The gauge cluster is a breath of minimalist fresh air, too, with two small display screens for vital information housed within the large speedometer and tachometer. We certainly wouldn't ask for more pushbuttons or information clusters, and the less-is-more approach to the S60's design is refreshing.

2011 Volvo S60 side view2011 Volvo S60 front view2011 Volvo S60 rear view

As much as it makes us seem like hypocrites to praise the S60's interior layout and then immediately point out its shortcomings, the fact of the matter is that all of this work to minimize switches and knobs has made the car's technology somewhat difficult to use. Control settings for the audio and navigation functions take a moment to completely figure out, and while it's not nearly as complicated as the many layers of iDrive or Comand, the Volvo's interior design would lead you to believe that managing all of the tech functions would be a bit simpler. If we're honest, we'd almost prefer a few more buttons if easier-to-use infotainment was the end result.

The overriding factor, though, is that the S60's cabin is indeed a nice place to spend time, with supportive leather seats placed in an interior made of well-crafted materials. Every touchable surface feels exactly the way you want it to – there are no rough plastics or moments of, "well this could certainly be better." The refinement found in the Volvo is simply soothing without appearing or feeling over-the-top. There are no big surprises inside the S60, and the end result is a cockpit that's genuinely comfortable and pleasantly sedate.

2011 Volvo S60 interior2011 Volvo S60 gauges2011 Volvo S60 multimedia system2011 Volvo S60 intrument panel

A sedate interior may be well and fine for the S60, but we wish things were slightly more energetic under the hood. Our top-end T6 tester is powered by Volvo's 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six, producing 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, running to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. No manual option is available, and while we appreciate the addition of up-and-down gear selectors on the transmission stalk, a set of paddles would be welcomed for when we feel like swapping the cogs ourselves.

First-time S60 drivers will be quick to note the car's power delivery isn't as aggressive as, say, a BMW 335i or Mercedes-Benz C350, but if we look at the Volvo's dynamics in a less sporting light, it's a lovely package. The S60 isn't extremely enthusiastic with its power delivery, mostly due to the fact that the six-speed autobox doesn't like to hold gears all the way up to the 6,500 rpm redline, and when shifts are fired off, the transmission's goal of smoothness means gears aren't changed as quickly as you might like, even when using the +/- option on the shiftgate.

2011 Volvo S60 engine

That sounds like a bad thing, but some people want a premium sport sedan to act less like a performance car and more like a proper luxury vehicle. In this regard, the Volvo is spot on with its more relaxed approache to performance, though don't get us wrong, there's still plenty of power and prowess to keep things interesting if pushed hard. Mid-range thrust is never lacking, with the highest amount of torque being delivered between 2,100 and 4,200 rpm, and off-the-line punch is perfectly adequate. Volvo claims that the S60 T6 AWD will sprint to 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds, meaning that if a snobby 3 Series driver pulls up at your side, the drag race will be pretty evenly matched. Stay easy on the throttle and you'll have no problem hitting the EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon on the highway. In fact, during our week of mostly enthusiastic driving, we averaged 22.4 mpg on a pretty even city/highway mix, which isn't bad for a 3,900-pound vehicle with all-wheel drive.

Volvo's splendid Haldex all-wheel-drive system keeps the car steady and stable through turns, even when you're carrying a good dose of speed upon entry. And even though there's a hefty front-end bias to the Haldex system, there's neither noticeable understeer nor nose-heavy characteristics when dancing through the bends. Our test car's 235/40-series Continental all-season rubber offered plenty of grip when needed, and while the S60 isn't the best-handling sedan we've ever tested – an xDrive 3 Series will certainly teach the S60 a lesson in handling – we enjoyed the Volvo's dynamics. It's easy to drive smoothly, but still offers a dollop of fun when provoked.

2011 Volvo S60 rear 3/4 view2011 Volvo S60 headlight2011 Volvo S60 wheel2011 Volvo S60 taillight

So, why buy an S60?

Let's be honest – premium sport sedan buyers who want the best option for driver engagement will always buy a BMW 335i or Audi A4. Volvo knows this, and that's this approach to create something unique with the S60 really works. Instead of trying to be a Bimmer-beater, Volvo crafted an emminently handsome, luxurious sedan that offers plenty of driving enjoyment for the vast majority of sedan shoppers. People expect you to buy a 3 Series in this segment, but the Volvo's more unique packaging works well for an automaker that's trying to reinforce its one-of-a-kind image.

The price of entry for the S60 T6 AWD is $38,575, including $875 for destination and delivery, and with nearly all the optional trimmings, our test car rang in at a dear $47,675. That's about what you'd pay for a similarly equipped 335i xDrive, and while the BMW is certainly the driver's choice (in case we haven't made that clear enough already), we actually prefer the S60's interior refinement and unique style. If there are enough people in this world willing to sacrifice a bit of behind-the-wheel enthusiasm for a piece of slightly tangier pie (and we think there are), Volvo's objective of creating something special with the S60 will be a recipe for success.

Photos copyright ©2011 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

Redesigned version shooting for the stars.


The Volvo S60 is completely redesigned for 2011. The all-new 2011 Volvo S60 is clearly a car with beautiful lines that have been carefully drawn. It's stylish, clean and sophisticated. Those same words can be used to describe the interior, which features standard leather seating and aluminum trim that in some spots looks like sculpture. The dashboard and center stack, with the optional 7-inch display screen, make the driver feel successful and in command. 

The 2011 S60 chassis has been done over to deliver the best handling possible. The all-wheel-drive technology offers secure cornering and features a new system called Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring, which moves torque to the outside wheels to help steer the car around a turn without understeer. 

There have been many suspension changes for this new S60, which was tested on old roads in the UK. Shorter stiffer springs, and stiffer bushings. More travel in the shock absorbers. New suspension components, working with front MacPherson struts and rear multi links. A new steering column with faster steering ratio. 

There are two optional suspensions, the Touring Chassis for those wanting a softer ride, and the Four-C active chassis offering Comfort, Sport and Advanced settings. 

The new engine is a 3.0-liter turbocharged intercooled inline 6-cylinder, making 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque at a low 2100 rpm. It's wonderfully smooth and quick when passing on two-lanes. It gets 18 city and 26 highway miles per gallon, an increase of 10 percent over the previous S60 with a less powerful engine. 

Volvo has broken new ground in safety yet again. There's an optional system called pedestrian detection, which brings the car to a halt at any speed below 22 mph, without the driver's involvement, when a pedestrian is in the vehicle's path. 

Finally, the S60 carries Volvo's Safe and Secure warranty plan, with free scheduled maintenance for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles, and 5 years of Wear and Tear coverage and roadside assistance. 


The 2011 Volvo S60 T6 AWD ($37,700) uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine, 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, and and 18-inch wheels. Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, sport seats front and rear, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power driver seat, 7-inch color display, dual zone climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, 160-watt 8-speaker CD/DVD/MP3 sound system, Bluetooth. 

Premium Package ($1500) includes power moonroof, power front passenger seat and Xenon headlamps. Climate Package ($800) includes heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, rain-sensor wipers, headlight washers and interior air quality system. Multimedia Package ($2700) includes 650-watt Dolby Surround Sound 12-speaker audio system, navigation system, and split-lens rearview camera. Technology Package ($2100) includes pedestrian detection with full auto brake, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, alert driver control, lane departure warning. Stand-alone options include metallic paint ($550-$675), interior wood inlays ($300), blind spot warning ($700), front and rear park assist ($500), Four-C active chassis ($750), and 17-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires ($500). 

Safety equipment includes Dynamic Stability and Traction Control with sport mode, corner traction control, Side Impact Protection System (SIPS), Whiplash Protection Seating System (WHIPS), dual stage front airbags, side curtain airbags, side impact airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, and anti-lock braking system with hydraulic brake assist, optimized hydraulic brakes, ready alert brakes and fading brake support. 


The chief designer of the S60 says that his mission was to pump up the volume, to make it look more like a coupe. Mission accomplished, we'd say. 

We've been saying it for years, that gone are the days when Volvo styling reflected stodgy Scandinavian practicality, so it's a cliche to say it now. We'll say it another way: the S60 is as sleek and stylish as sedans come. Great care went into the details, for example the symmetrical angles of the trapezoidal air intakes in the front fascia, two in the corners under the headlights, and the long horizontal intake at the bottom of the seamless nose. The Xenon headlights mirror those shapes, and the tidy grille is perfectly appropriate to the small size of the car's forward-leaning face. Small vertical trapezoidal LED parking lights snuggle up against the grille. 

There are no bulging fender flares to overstate or even brag about performance. Just smooth lines from the front fenders to rear, where the hips meet the graceful coupe roofline. The only chrome on the side of the car is a thin strip surrounding the windows and stating the grace of their outline. The standard 18-inch wheels are split seven-spokes, nice but we've seen better, on the C60. 


The snug and comfortable leather seats in the S60 are gorgeous in Beechwood Brown, and they're standard equipment; if we weren't so cautious about hype we'd put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence. Some of the shapes inside, for example the slightly shiny trim on the doors, could be sculpture. Shimmer Graphite aluminum inlays, they call it, which sounds better than our shiny trim. Lovely little touches, such as strips of Beechwood Brown leather over the seatback pockets. 

The interior is well thought out, from cupholders to storage compartments. That's because it's only slightly changed from recent Volvos; they've had some years to make it all work. The instrumentation is clean and stylish like it's always been, the tach and speedo having a black background, white lettering, red needles and brushed metal rings. The headliner is a rich fabric. 

At the rear, the trunk is a spacious 12 cubic feet, with enclosed hinges and a pass-through to the 60/40 rear seats. There are 2.1 inches more rear legroom than the previous S60, with a longer wheelbase but the same overall length. But that still isn't a lot or rear legroom, only 33.5 inches. The S60 is a sports sedan, not a roomy one. 

Our test model had the Premium, Technology, Multimedia and Climate Packages, totaling $7100. So we had a nice big power moonroof to add spaciousness to the interior, 650-watt Dolby Surround Sound with 12 speakers, rearview camera and navigation system, among quite a few other things. The rearview camera screen is the 7-inch navigation screen, and it's split, angled in the center to give a view off to the sides of the car. 

The navigation system worked well for us, with that 7-inch screen in the top center of the dash. It has far more options and capabilities than we were able to try out, driving from the Oregon wine country east to the high desert, for a few laps at Oregon Raceway Park to further test the cornering and brakes. But we can say it didn't confuse us, which is more than we can say for many. Meaning, it's intuitive, as far as we got into it. 

The screen displays more than rearview and navigation. It's home to the information from the new DCI, or Driver Control Interface, including audio settings. Functions can be operated by a thumbwheel on the right steering spoke, or with buttons on the center stack. 

Volvo invented that center stack that's like a thin wall with storage space behind it. The face of the wall is like a neat keyboard, with dials and buttons mostly for radio tuning that are easy to understand and use. 

The Technology Package includes pedestrian detection with full auto brake, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, alert driver control, and lane departure warning. It's not hard to find arguments that Volvo engages in overkill (no pun intended) with safety systems. Engineers burn the midnight oil to find new ways to reduce the driver's responsibility in the control of his or her car, although Volvo would never word it that way. There's also the flipside and maybe stronger argument that such systems can save the driver from making a fatal mistake. Their latest invention is pedestrian detection, which brings the car to a halt at any speed below 22 mph, without the driver's involvement, when a pedestrian is in the vehicle's path. 

We tested the system on a dummy named Junior. Foot off the brake, holding the speed at 20 mph. The car came to a halt, but we knocked Junior over, just barely (he forgave us). A Volvo engineer said it was because there were raindrops on the car's windshield, obscuring the sensor's visibility. We've found that raindrops sometimes set off another Volvo safety system, the optional BLIS, or Blind Spot Information System. 

The Lane Departure Warning system is intended to alert the driver whenever he or she has unintentionally drifted into another lane. An alert sounds off when a camera senses the car is crossing lane dividers without a turn signal from the driver. It's quite useful for alerting drivers who are drifting off to sleep or are distracted by cell phones. That's a good thing. However, we found the system can be annoyingly aggressive at times. It was going off constantly while motoring along Southern California's Pacific Coast Highway, causing us to search for the off switch. PCH is a busy, mostly straight four-lane road, but the dotted white lines separating the lanes weave back and forth in many areas to make room for left-turn lanes, and in this situation, Volvo's Lane Departure Warning system was beeping at secondary intersections where we were cheating those apexes and touching the leading and trailing edges of some of those lines. Pressing a button on the center stack turns the system off in those situations when traveling below 40 mph, but you're stuck with it at higher speeds. 

Driving Impression

The all-new 2011 Volvo S60 T6 uses a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder, making 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, which is as much torque as the 4.4-liter V8 engine used in other Volvos. What's more, that torque is fully there at 2100 rpm, all the way up to 4200 rpm. 

So when you floor the S60 to pass on a two-lane, as we did on our drive over remote Oregon roads to the wonderfully twisty new Oregon Raceway Park, it will be tremendously satisfying in its quickness and smoothness. You can't ask for much neater and safer passing than this. You can find more awesome acceleration, but no better in the affordable real world. 

The 6-speed automatic transmission is controlled manually at the lever. Volvo boasts that this is the sportiest Volvo ever made, yet there are no paddles to shift by, because, Volvo replies, their customers haven't asked for them. 

There have been a lot of suspension changes for this new S60, which was tested on old roads in the UK. Shorter stiffer springs, and stiffer bushings. More travel in the shock absorbers. New suspension components, working with front MacPherson struts and rear multi links. A new steering column with faster steering ratio. 

Another new system is the Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring, which moves torque to the outside wheels to help steer the car around a turn. It solves understeer, not that that's a big problem with the all-wheel-drive Volvo. 

There are three chassis choices. Our test S60 was equipped with the standard Dynamic Chassis, but there's a Touring Chassis with softer shock absorbers, not that the ride in our S60 was too firm, because it wasn't. But some people might want a cushy ride more than they care about precise cornering. The third available chassis is Volvo's FOUR-C, or Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept, which is active, meaning sensors change the settings depending on the road and driving style. The driver can set Comfort, Sport and Advanced. 

We were fine with the standard Dynamic Chassis, both on the road and the track. In fact, the two-lane roads to the track were a better test than the track itself, because in a few short laps you couldn't learn the track well enough to push the S60 to its limits. It strolled through the easy challenges to cornering and brakes, on the track. And on the highway it gave nothing but pleasure, but proved that it can handle rough surfaces while cornering tightly. In short, the S60 felt solid and precise without feeling heavy. 


The redesigned 2011 Volvo S60 hits the mark everywhere it aims. Its styling is beautiful, its leather and aluminum interior satisfying, and its function flawless. Superb power and cornering with all-wheel drive, with unmatched safety and warranty. The base price of $37,700 buys an awful lot of car, although the luxury options mount up. 

Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the S60 T6 AWD near Newburg, Oregon. 

Model Lineup

Volvo S60 T6 AWD ($37,700). 

Assembled In


Options As Tested

Premium Package ($1500) with power moonroof, power front passenger seat, Xenon headlamps; Climate Package ($800) with heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, rain-sensor wipers, headlight washers, interior air quality system; Multimedia Package ($2700) with 650-watt Dolby Surround Sound 12-speaker audio system, navigation system, split-lens rearview camera; Technology Package ($2100) with pedestrian detection with full auto brake, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, alert driver control, lane departure warning; Metallic paint ($550). 

Model Tested

Volvo S60 T6 AWD ($37,700). 

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