With the introduction of the new Volvo XC90, the Swedish manufacturer of safe and stylish vehicles is making a bold movement forward, and it's easy to cast off the rest of the Volvo lineup, not using their new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), as being outdated and arguably undesirable. However, it appears Volvo hasn't abandoned its love for the aging second-generation S60 lineup, and the company is introducing some face-lifts to prove it.
In the five years since the latest generation's introduction in 2010, the S60 has seen considerable competition with the usual suspects from Germany and Japan, especially when it comes to occupant luxury.
Enter the new S60 Inscription, Volvo's first car made entirely in its Chinese plant in Chengdu. Before snickers and jokes begin about owning a car carrying the epitome of cheap branding, "Made in China," there's apt defending to do. The factory has been purpose-built for Volvo and has been designed to identically represent existing Volvo factories elsewhere. In addition, Volvo has sent its factory elite to train the personnel. The result is effectively a Swedish Volvo factory in China, maintaining the same quality of product one would expect from a European-built model.
If it were placed next to the S60 Premier, one would find subtle differences in the exterior of the S60 Inscription. The rear side windows have sunshades and a rear window power sunshade; there would be chrome accents on the bumper, an extended roofline, and a marginally longer wheelbase.
The longer wheelbase, however, features one of the best updates to the S60—3 additional inches of rear legroom. While it may not sound much, a person of my height (6 feet, 2 inches) could sit comfortably both in the driver seat and in the seat directly behind it at the same time. Try that in the non-Inscription S60 and you'll find your knees jammed into the back of the seat. The resultant 36.9-inch rear legroom makes the space best in class, even larger than the new Audi A4 coming out next year.
Inside, you'll find the same rich linear walnut wood inlays found in the XC90, contoured seats, upgraded interior lighting, and soft leather seating. Overall, the fit and finish of the interior is well done. While the Inscription is designed to replace the prior Platinum edition, the Platinum name is now a $3,000 optional package in addition to the Inscription base and includes such additional appointments as a Harman Kardon premium sound system, dual xenon headlights, and safety features such as adaptive cruise control, collision warning, and pedestrian/cyclist detection with full auto brake. In addition to the Platinum option, our test vehicle also came loaded with a climate package ($1,300) featuring heated everything, from seats to windshield, and the Park Assist Pilot with Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) Package ($1425), which will helps set up your perfect parallel parking job and, as the name suggests, informs you of dangers in your blind spots. Our metallic paint was another 560-dollar feature but looks quite nice in the sunlight.
The S60 Inscription tested was the T5 front-wheel-drive version with its 2.0L 16-valve inline four-cylinder Turbo engine mated with the eight-speed geartronic auto transmission, although a 2.5L 20-valve, five-cylinder Turbo mated with a six-speed automatic transmission is available in the all-wheel-drive variant. The FWD model is claimed by Volvo to do 0-60 in a flat 6 seconds, and it felt accurate. While it won't be the fastest in the market, it's a respectable time. Around corners the car felt well balanced, but there were, however, some niggling complaints.
For one, even with the steering customized to the most firm of customizable steering wheel force, it still felt incredibly light, with very little road feedback generated to my hands. And though the car is claimed to have upgraded interior soundproofing, I felt the road noise was still a little too high for a luxury sedan. Plus, while my longer legs were given ample legroom, headroom was tight, even with the seat in its lowest position. The ride, however, was overall smooth and comfortable.
Next up is the quirky S60 Cross Country. An extension of the popular Cross Country edition found in their V60 wagons, the S60 CC is its own strange breed. Part off-road, part luxury sedan, to say it is niche is an understatement. Furthering its rare appeal is the fact that it'll be limited to only 500 in the United States. The exterior is certainly eye-catching, especially with the optional 19-inch BOR diamond-cut alloy wheels ($750) fitted on our test vehicle. The vehicle only comes in one color option—osmium gray, but that's OK because it suits the car perfectly. The nearly eight inches of ground clearance gives the car the appearance that someone has lifted the car, perhaps some spinners on the wheels will be added as a later feature. Kidding aside, however, the car is surprisingly fun to drive.
Volvo says it's targeting the weekend warrior with this vehicle, one who works hard five days a week and plays hard the two days off. The company is envisioning roof racks lined with kayaks and mountain bikes on top of these vehicles, while still providing the luxury inside and safety all around that is synonymous with the marque.
Powering the CC is their 2.5L 20 Valve inline five-cylinder turbocharged engine with all-wheel-drive mated with a six-speed auto transmission, the car felt much sportier than the Inscription (yet it'll do 0-60 in 6.7 seconds), though certainly made the Pirelli Scorpion Zeros screech if any corners were taken with enthusiasm. The steering feedback also seemed stronger and the steering wheel itself was sportier as it featured more prominent thumb rests. Though not tested, the vehicle also comes with Hill Descent Control standard, making your downhill off-road trips much easier.
The interior is indeed well made, and features upgraded "Agnes" leather contoured seats. We had the optional urbane wood inlays (a $400 option) in our test vehicle, which was hard to decipher between plastic and real wood. In addition, the Platinum appointments optionally found in the Inscription are standard here, which means you get the Harman Kardon Speakers, which do sound nice though not best in class, and all their lauded safety features before-mentioned. Climate and BLIS packages are still optional, but were enjoyed on our test vehicle.
Neither cars feature the new Sensus tablet-style screen debuted in the XC90, and having experienced that it is missed in these vehicles. Instead, you'll find a recessed 3D navigation that requires knobs rather than fingers to operate and becomes slightly tedious to use. But there is one new technology feature that is certainly worth spending some time talking about.
It's the Volvo On Call app, found in both Android and Apple app markets. This cleverly-designed application allows the user to remotely turn their car off and on—convenient if you want to get a head start on heating or cooling your car before you get in to leave for work in the morning. Additionally, you can get a real-time display of your dash including maintenance warnings, fuel level, odometer, etc. If only we had that for refrigerators, telling us when we're running out of milk.
Safety features such as collision/theft detection, and roadside assistance also comes included in the app. It also includes a smart work around to navigation. Say you'd rather use your smartphone to discover your next destination and navigation, through the app you are able to send this destination directly to your car as soon as you get in to drive. It's a handy little piece of software, and certainly adds another layer of functionality to the vehicles.
The Inscription, while not as sporty as a BMW 3-series or as luxurious as a Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a perfect all-around option, as it fits right in-between those two vehicles, giving you a good amount of both features. The price-point for the Inscription starts at $38,700, just $200 less than the starting list price of the C-Class and several thousand more than the 3-series, but feels appropriate given the luxury and safety features.
The Cross Country is for the Volvo enthusiast looking for that unique S60 that will provide what Volvo has in mind - your weekday commuter and weekend getaway vehicle all-in-one. It's a fun car to drive and certainly stands out in looks, and we predict it will sell out even with its $43,500 list price.
In the end, both the Inscription and the Cross Country do a remarkable job at what they are set out to accomplish, giving the S60 line up a shot of Botox while we eagerly wait for the third generation to unveil in the near future.