Volvo swings for the fences, but comes up a tad short with 2020 Volvo S60 T5 R-Design

When Volvo announced that it was preparing the all new S60, we were curious to see how it would fare out in the real world. The S60 represents the most serious effort that Volvo has put into dethroning segment benchmarks like the BMW Series, Mercedes C-Class, and the Audi A4. But while the rapid growth of crossovers has indeed put some pressure on this segment, the stakes are still very high in the luxury sport sedan segment, and bragging rights are still the ultimate trophy to strive for. But does the S60 have the tools to do what no other segment contender has done and snatch a place from the segment’s stalwarts? Or is it just short of completing a perfect game?


Sculpted Swedish Simplicity

When you look at the exterior styling of the S60, it’s very clear that Volvo designers have been on a roll as of late. The XC90 and the S90 are very potent design benchmarks, and the S60 manages to blend many of these basic traits together, while also managing to go about things in its own distinctive way. The front fascia for example embraces the now iconic Thor’s hammer lighting elements, but the front fascia does a very good job of using its dimensions very effectively, with the tidy front grille being nicely accented by a very aggressive front bumper design. R-Design models like our tester embrace a sportier motif, and as a result, they get some very cool trim exclusive features. This includes stylish 18-inch wheels which were replaced with the optional 19-inch alloy wheels on our example. Our tester also arrived with a bold coat of Fusion Red Metallic paint which really popped in the Michigan sunlight when viewed from certain angles. It also worked well with some of the mesh accents which are a telltale calling card for R-Design models.

The rear of our tester also has a very tidy setup, with the big taillights being accented by a sharp lip spoiler. R-Design models also swap the round exhaust tips for a set of integrated units. We actually like this setup better than the default rounded tips since they mesh better with the S60’s design language, and lend the R-Design more of a sporty flair. When viewed with some of its rivals, we think the S60 manages to score an upset victory. While the Volvo might not be able to outright claim victory over the Mercedes C-Class and the Alfa Romeo Giulia, it does manage to make a better presentation than the BMW 3-Series which has seen its iconic twin kidney grilles grow to increasingly massive proportions over the past few years.


Elegant Interior Hides Sensus Flavored Aftertaste

With the exterior doing its best impersonation of a Swedish bodybuilder, the interior prefers to be a clean and very elegant place to spend time in. R-Design models feature sportier front seats, and these leather bound thrones do an excellent job in providing exceptional levels of support and comfort on long hauls. Material quality is also very good, with our tester featuring metal trim accents that flow along the dashboard, and elegantly shaped speaker grilles that house the optional Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system. Minimalism is also reflected in the way Volvo approaches controls, with very few analog buttons being found in this Volvo.

Instead, the bulk of the functions are handled by Volvo’s Sensus Connect system, and here is where the S60’s quest to beat its rivals in infotainment technology rapidly and rather spectacularly falls apart. The screen is very vibrant and colorful, but the software, to put it mildly, sucks. There is plenty of lag when going between various menus, and sometimes, you have to go through several sub-menus just to access where you want to go. That includes the main home screen which was rather annoying, especially when we got lost and wanted to backtrack to try and find our way back to the main welcome screen. With i-Drive being just as slick as ever, the stark contrast you experience with a Sensus system that’s hobbled by numerous technological gremlins is very disappointing.

That’s especially true since the rest of the cabin is an otherwise solid effort, rear passengers have a healthy amount of room to stretch out, and while taller passengers do have to deal with tight headroom, that’s roughly typical of the segment, so we’ll give the S60 a pass in this regard. There’s even a decent amount of trunk space for groceries as well as stuff you would need for a weekend road trip.


Polished Driving Manners Amp Up The Fun:

While the interior of the S60 is a mixed bag, Volvo engineers thankfully managed to get the most basic aspect of a luxury sport sedan right, and that’s the exhilaration and the high amounts of driving fun that await you when you take the S60 down your favorite driving road. Our T5 grade tester was powered by a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that’s good for 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. In an interesting twist, all T5 models are front-wheel drive versus the rear wheel drive configurations that you see in lower grades of its chief rivals. We suspect that Volvo made this decision to get more buyers in snowier climates that might find a rear wheel drive vehicle hard to manage in the winter even with a good set of all-seasons on it. Buyers hoping for all-wheel drive will have to upgrade to the T6 which is powered by a twin-charged version of the same engine.

In our case, the solely turbocharged engine delivered adequate acceleration, and while there is a slight whiff of turbo lag, the engine manages to settle into its own distinct groove when the turbo has a chance to fully spool up. All S60s use an eight speed automatic, and the transmission delivered crisp shifts during our time with the car, and helped record a 6.3 second sprint to 60 mph. It’s also a good companion for the four cylinder, and seems to be in tune with what the engine has to offer. The steering in our tester was crisp, and it impressed us with the minimal amount of torque steer that it had to offer (a common flaw in performance focused front wheel drive cars.) As is the case with other R-Design models, the ride in our tester was very firm, but it still did a good job of inserting welcome amounts of comfort into the mix as well. That’s even more impressive when you consider that other vehicles with 19 inch and up wheels tend to ride with an unsettling harshness so we will give kudos to Volvo engineers on attacking that issue head on.

In our book, we reckon the S60 has a fighting chance of being able to keep up with its German competition. However, we say that with an asterisk since buyers will indeed have to upgrade to the twin-charged model to help them have more of a chance against a similarly equipped BMW or Benz in a dogfight. The Polestar version is arguably the only other model that can outperform the R-Design, but the 400 plus horsepower hybrid commands a considerably higher premium than its lesser cousins.


Value Quotient

Pricing for the Volvo S60 starts at $37,000 for the base S60 Momentum model which includes the $995 destination fee. R-Design models start at $44,145 with our heavily optioned tester ringing in at  just under $52,000. This is roughly on course with the rest of the segment, and also puts the Volvo in the sights of the BMW 3-Series and the Audi A4. While those two models are about as common as a dandelion or a TikTok meme, they also have the credentials and the performance to make them extremely popular with buyers. The Volvo will admittedly be a rarer specimen on the road, but we suspect that will mean that it will do a better job at drawing attention to itself, especially from curious observers.


With stylish good looks, an elegant interior, and very good driving manners on its side. The Volvo S60 certainly has many of the tools needed to make a splash in the luxury sport sedan segment. We hope that Volvo will eventually tame some of the ills that plague the Sensus infotainment system because we think that the S60 could pull an upset victory, and score a decisive grand slam in the minds of luxury car buyers.