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First Drive: 2014 S60 T5 AWD

Chris Stewart

Jul 29, 2013 - 11:16:30 PM

My recent road trip to Volvo headquarters provided an opportunity to spend a few hours with Joe Haslem, Volvo’s 60 Cluster (S/V/XC) Product Manager. We discussed various automotive subjects including his previous S60R and the “joy” of summer tires in mid-western snow. He is an admitted car enthusiast and enjoys the interaction between man and machine. He would love to see a manual transmission like so many of our swedespeed readers but the majority of the buying public want to keep it simple with automatics. While a manual transmission is not possible, he is planning other options for MY14 and MY15 that will please Volvo enthusiasts.

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After a tasty lunch at a local eatery, Joe offered the keys to his personal 2014 S60 T5 AWD. After six hours of driving our long-term 2013 S60 T5 AWD, this was a great back-to-back opportunity. The interior photos do not do the new sport seats justice. The traditional Volvo comfort is retained yet the larger bolsters wrap the torso and provide additional lateral support. The 2014 sport seats are superior in both style and comfort to previous generation R or R-Design seats with just enough support without being overly aggressive. The optional Beechwood brown leather is even more attractive wrapping the larger bolsters.

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New for 2014 are the long-desired paddle shifters. The paddles improve the enthusiast experience with nearly instantaneous shift responses. When you pull the paddle, the transmission responds. The 2014 S60’s transmission programming holds a gear on a downhill sweeping S-turn without throttle input. The car does not shift in the middle of a turn or coast down – Volvo nailed the programming! The latest software does not rely on just throttle or brake input, it also calculates for g’s. The car is smart enough to know not to take over when the only input is lateral g-forces. A rev matching down shift is not part of the 2014 configuration but this capability is on Joe’s wish list. The paddles work with both Drive and Sport mode programs. The paddles do not activate the Sport mode. The driver must move the gear selector into Sport mode for more the aggressive shifts. After eight seconds of no use, the programming transitions back to fully automatic.

When the eight-speed transmission arrives next year, it will not be available for the T5 and T6. Integrating the transmission for engines in their twilight was not a realistic option. The six-speed Geartronic remains a solid transmission and the latest quick-shift programming and use of paddles brings a new level of enjoyment to T5 and T6 owners.

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The all-new Adaptive Digital Display is simply gorgeous. The crisp active TFT (Thin Film Transistor) display offers three graphic themes, Elegance, Eco and Performance. Elegance has an almost Timex watch classic appearance. Eco has a green color theme and encourages fuel-efficient driving.

Performance offers a red illumination with a vertical RPM scale on the right side and a large speedo front and center. A very interesting, attention-to-detail design element is a circular glow around the end of the speedometer needle. The glow follows the needle as it moves around the dial within each theme. The text is crisp similar to high-definition television or a high quality computer screen. The technology geek factor is through the roof with this new display and I recommend spending a few minutes getting familiar with how to operate the controls before your first drive.

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The refreshed front and rear designs are masculine enhancements, especially when parked side by side with our 2013 S60 T5 AWD. Overall, the 2014 S60 has a more aggressive and contemporary appearance. The refresh has received mixed feedback from swedespeed readers but I think as additional colors and trim levels arrive at local dealers, more readers will appreciate Volvo’s design direction. I was pleased to confirm Rebel Blue will be offered for 2014.

The T5 engine enhancements from the 2013 model year carry over into 2014. The 2.5L 5-cyl turbo will move the S60 to 60mph in 6.4 seconds for the FWD T5 closely followed by the T5 AWD at 6.6 seconds. Fuel economy for the T5 AWD is 20mpg city, 29mpg highway, 23 combined. My spirited 607 miles to and from Volvo’s North American headquarters averaged 28mpg, which is good for an AWD sedan and my heavy right foot.

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For shoppers deciding between a leftover 2013 or a new 2014, the decision really comes down to the new cosmetics. If the exterior refresh, optional sport seats, paddles and the TFT display are not critical, have the dealer install the new accessory Sensus Connect package to a 2013 and take advantage of the Volvo Summer Sales event and not have a payment for the first three months.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the past year in our long-term 2013 S60 T5 AWD and the 2014 T5 AWD merely improves on an already marvelous sedan. I want to thank Joe for the opportunity to drive his personal 2014 S60 T5 AWD. He provided insight into the product planning process for the 60 Cluster vehicles and some of his challenges as a car enthusiast in a data-driven consumer marketplace. I’ll have more coverage on our road-trip to Volvo HQ in the coming weeks.

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