Volvo S60, V60 & XC60 Details:
- New engines | New auto transmission | New wagon available | Sport options available
- Hybrid style Drive-E economy functions | Turbo/supercharged engine
- Collision avoidance features | Semi-automatic parallel parking assist
- V60 T5 from $36225
Electronics: Internet access with optional Sensus infotainment
+ Positive: More thrust, less thirst | Many safety features available | Cool wagon | Modern styling
- Cons: Start/stop function not quite seamless | T6 needs more refinement
Let's get the confusing stuff out of the way because Volvo's familiar alphanumeric naming system for its engines, such as T6 for its six-cylinder turbo, is going to be carried over to its new powertrains. However, the company's two new drivetrains deploy four cylinders, yet are still called T5 and T6. So going forward from the 2015 model year, these designations will denote the level of power rather than the number of pistons. Confused?
Once you get past that, everything seems rosy. So while Volvo didn't thrive under the Ford umbrella, its 2010 acquisition by Chinese company Geely seems to have had a more positive impact. The Swedes benefited from a cash injection of billions of dollars, so were obliged to come up with their own material rather than relying on parts from the Blue Oval.
It turns out that the new stuff is mighty impressive. At Detroit 2014 we saw the handsome XC Concept, based on the company's new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA).
And we have two new powertrains from the new Drive-E family. The thinking here is that the smaller, all-aluminum four-cylinder engines weigh less, require less space and allow room for an electric motor in the future.
The power is dependent not so much on displacement but by the amount of air that can be fed into each cylinder. So the new T5 is a 2.0-liter four with a turbo, direct injection and continuous variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust. The result is 240hp and 258 lb-ft (with a 10sec, 280 lb-ft overboost function). Drive goes to the front wheels (AWD isn't yet available) through a smooth-shifting eight-speed Aisin automatic transmission.
The T6 uses the same basic architecture but the 2.0L develops an intoxicating 302hp and 295 lb-ft thanks to both a turbo and supercharger, with the latter added for greater low-end punch before the turbo kicks in.
Such technology is unusual but not revolutionary. Several companies have experimented with it, including VW's compound induction on its 1.4TSI Twincharger engine. However, it's only possible when packaging permits, or where the added complexity and cost can be overcome.
Although "Drive-E" sounds as if an electric motor is involved, that's not the case. Both the T5 and T6 use functions usually associated with hybrids, like a start/stop function and "coasting" feature, where the engine is turned off on downhill stretches.
Again, Volvo isn't alone in using these technologies but it's putting the ingredients together in an intelligent way. The consequence is that the 2015 Volvo S60 can hit 60mph in 6sec but return 25mpg city and 37mpg highway consumption figures. These stack up well when compared with rivals such as the Audi A4 2.0T (6.6sec, 24/32mpg) and the BMW 320i (7.1sec, 24/36mpg). On the road, the T5 delivers plenty, with an accelerative burst to join a freeway or overtake as simple as flexing your right foot.
We first experienced this new motor in a rather remarkable car: a 2015 Volvo V60 T5. The "V" designation indicates it's a wagon, and sees US drivers finally able to own a Volvo wagon again, and it's a complete joy.
It's often said that the only people in the US who like wagons are car journos, but Volvo has a rich tradition of making sturdy and reliable wagons that have had a strong following in the past. And Volvo is doing its best to attract these drivers back to the fold because the 2015 V60 works well on so many levels. Sit in the optional sports seats, for example, and enjoy extra lateral support through the corners, yet they're as comfortable as Volvo seats have always been. The Volvo V60 manages to combine practicality with personality, which isn't an easy feat.
The steering, although electrically assisted, has some weight and feel. We also liked the optional sports suspension, which provided stability and composure both at three-figure speeds and under heavy braking.
The cabin design is understated but the materials and finishes are first class. Noise levels are low and it exudes an air of quality.
Then there are wagon attributes that include retractable luggage (or pet) netting and a flip-up section to portion off a section of the load space to secure the week's grocery shopping. The rear seats split 60/40 and fold flat, creating a maximum cargo volume of 15.2cuft, while the rear passengers get decent legroom for a compact wagon.
Climbing into a Volvo S60 T6, that 302hp motor can deliver 0-60mph in 5.6sec as well as 24mpg city and 35mpg highway. But after experiencing it in both the 2015 XC60 crossover and S60 (both extensively refreshed), it seems there's still some work to be done here...
There's some twitchiness to the steering under acceleration. This is surely torque steer being tamed by the steering software but it appeared as if the throttle mapping needed some recalibration to prevent the power coming on as strong at low revs. No doubt AWD will resolve this tendency and allow more of the power to be unleashed in all conditions.
Another issue concerned the start/stop function on all three vehicles. It appears that when you lift your foot from the brake to pull away, the engine starts up again but if you need to turn at the same time, it takes a moment for the power assistance to return. It should really be seamless, especially with electric steering but hopefully they'll work on that.
Otherwise, both the Volvo S60 and V60, in particular, are good-looking cars with handsome lines. The 2015 engineering brings a quality look and feel with new technology, plenty of power and good economy. Perhaps the only hesitation was that our S60 T6 test vehicle with blind spot monitoring, rearview camera, plus pedestrian and cyclist detection (with full brake function) was priced at almost $48000. That's rather pricey but we'd be tempted towards the V60 T5 anyway. It felt better balanced and is gentler on your wallet in every respect.
2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E
Layout front-engine, FWD
Engine 1970cc four-cylinder 16v gasoline with variable valve timing, direct injection, turbocharged
Drivetrain eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters
Brakes single-piston calipers, 12.4" rotors f, 11.9" r
Suspension McPherson struts f, independent r
Wheels & Tires 19x8" Bor wheels, 235/40 R19 all-season tires
Max Power 240hp at 5600rpm
Max Torque 258 lb-ft at 1500-4500rpm
Top Speed 130mph
Weight 3530 lb
Economy 25/37/29mpg (city/highway/combined)
MSRP $36225 (inc D&D)