Volvo has been on a mission to prove it can build sporty and stylish cars that are built in China but have all the meticulous detail of its Swedish ancestry. And it seems to be working.
The Volvo S60, with all the enlightened and delicate design elements and occupant conveniences for which this brand so thoroughly completes, proves that no details were left behind.
The S60 is a midsize sedan sold in front- or all-wheel drive. For 2016, the engine choices are a 240-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder or a 250-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, both with an eight-speed automatic transmission. In 2017, the powertrain lineup will be two four-cylinder engines: the current turbocharged 2.0-liter, and a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter.
Pricing for the 2016 S60 starts at about $35,090. There’s also a high-performance Polestar S60, starting at about $60,000, and an S60 Cross Country, starting at about $44,000. Pricing includes the basic warranty of four years or 50,000 miles with roadside assistance, and free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles.
New for 2016 is the S60 Inscription, today’s test car. The Inscription starts at almost $40,000 and was $45,925 as tested.
The Inscription wheelbase is long, stretched by 3.1 inches, which went toward back-seat legroom. Volvo says there’s now room for occupants to cross their legs. The stretch added 95 pounds, pushing the curb weight to 3,528 pounds, but there’s no feel of mass.
The S60 Inscription Platinum tester had the immaculate appeal and presence of a full-luxury vehicle, but even more refinement throughout the cabin. While some of the European brands cut corners in the back seat, the tester was fully fettled, including its full-leather upholstery (not just leather-trimmed.)
The interior has a crisp, tailored appearance — fine stitching, brushed metallic trim elements and a natural wood grain.
Most cars today are a global melting pot of materials, textures and electronic partnerships. Cover the name badge on the steering wheel, and identifying the carmaker becomes a “Jeopardy”-worthy challenge.
But even for those who have never been in a Volvo, the S60 cabin owns a Scandinavian presence of light colors, natural elements and sturdy construction. The wood veneers appear to be artfully crafted with book-matched graining.
The steering wheel fits the hands fully and is wrapped in neatly stitched glove leather. Even the appealing grain of the dashboard plastics is unlike others in this entry-luxury segment. There was not a misaligned panel or a ragged seam. And all the controls, buttons and switches felt robust and durable.
The center console is busy with the shifter, cup holders (with a roll-top lid) and a small armrest cubby. The visors are deep but do not slide or have extenders, which are always handy.
The exterior styling is contemporary without exaggerated swoops and angles. Sightlines are unobstructed over the hood, over the shoulder and at the side mirrors. The turning circle is an enabling 37.1 feet.
The back window seats are elegant and comfortable, but the center position is kid-class and narrow. There is good footroom and legroom with the longer wheelbase (36.5 inches), but roominess depends on how far back the front occupant moves the seat. There are side sunshades, as well as good door storage and a padded pull-down armrest with can holders and room for a slim tissue box.
At 12 cubic feet, trunk space is not huge, but it is easily accessed with a modest liftover. There’s also a ski pass-through and seatback releases. The Platinum trim (a $3,000 package) adds a nifty lift-up grocery bag panel to corral items and hang a bag or two. Why don’t more makers include this smart extra?
The Inscription’s turbocharged 2.0-liter and the eight-speed transmission gave strong and immediate acceleration — plenty of kick for passing power. EPA fuel economy ratings are 25 mpg city, 37 highway and 29 mpg combined on 87 octane. I averaged 25 mpg with heavy use of the Sport mode. The engine also has auto stop-start at idle.
There is sporty engagement for the driver, but the suspension may be too stiff for the nonsporty driver. While the spring rates seemed compliant, the shock absorbers felt stiff and kicked up some ride harshness.
It is somewhat astounding to experience how thoroughly Swedish this car seems, considering it was built in China and just a slim percentage of parts came from Sweden.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage