Swedespeed S60 T6 Year In Review

Chris Stewart

Jul 17, 2012 - 7:37:48 PM

In 2004 the introduction of the 300hp, six-speed manual S60R, elevated Volvo to a new and noticeable level. Four years after the last S60R, the comparison was inevitable for the second generation S60 T6 AWD, also boasting 300hp. The performance difference between the 2004-2007 S60R is bested viewed as "evolutionary" and not revolutionary. The S60R offered a more visceral driving experience and remains a Volvo enthusiast favorite. The second generation S60, sets a new foundation for Volvo and after 17,162 trouble-free miles and a Polestar tuned ECU update, we are excited about Volvo's future. Except for visual appeal, brakes and a manual transmission, this S60 is better than the S60R in every measurable way.


After twelve months, our S60's elegant Ember Black metallic paint with contrasting the Beechwood Brown leather interior remained impressive with no signs of excessive wear. Volvo's most dynamic car introduced North America to new safety features such as Pedestrian Detection with full auto brake. The S60 delivered spirited performance numbers for the 300hp luxury sedan; 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds. The stock T6 acceleration performance compares to the S60R Geartronic but with the additional 25hp from the Polestar tune, we believe the T6 would keep pace with a manual gearbox S60R.


Our long-term S60 option list included "Urbane" wood trim ($300), Four-C active suspension ($750) and the Personal Car Communicator with keyless drive ($550), climate package that includes heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, headlight washers, heated windshield washer nozzles, and an interior air quality system ($800). The premium package added xenon lights, a moonroof and a power passenger seat ($1500). The multimedia package included a back-up camera and navigation ($2700). The total price for our 300-hp S60 T6 AWD totaled $45,725. A similarly equipped BMW 335i xDrive with comparable content would come in over $50,000. Volvo has produced a solid contender in the competitive mid-sized luxury sedan segment.


When we originally ordered the S60, we chose not to get the technology package. After driving the XC60 with Volvo's adaptive cruise control and collision-warning systems, we realize these are excellent additions for drivers who frequent long highway and city drives. Our interior material fit and finish was excellent with no rattles or defects during our 17,000 miles. Volvo designers integrated a sense of motion with the interior. The lines continuously flow without abrupt end points. The center stack is angled toward the driver and the three-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel and sport seats are athletically sized for the enthusiast in mind.


I appreciate Scandinavian design, and much focused was applied to the Human Machine Interface (HMI) in the new S60 but I find the placement of the storage space behind the center stack to be an oversight. Perhaps the waterfall design could flow backward under the controls and create an opening in front of the shifter. This would offer a practical storage cubby for sunglasses or tollbooth change. Unfortunately, the pseudo shelf in front of the navigation screen served as our default sunglass holder.


Of all the technological amenities in our S60, I was surprised by how much I grew to like keyless entry. Previously, I did not consider this an option I would select but after living with PCC I am sold. The PCC sensors in the door handles allowed for keyless unlocking at the touch of a finger; not fumbling to find the key fob improved the driving experience. Getting back into my 2000 V70XC reminded me how much I appreciated the keyless technology. Another modern feature was the backup camera with our multimedia package. The review video was most beneficial during parallel parking maneuvers in congested Washington D.C. An available rear seat entertainment option would have been a welcomed addition for several four-hour plus family road trips. Volvo modernized the infotainment options significantly for the second generation S60. The Sensus software's recent 3.0 continues improving the user interactions with the vehicle and we look forward to continued developments in the coming model years.

The Premium Sound System with 650 watts powering 12 speakers offers above average sound quality with strong mid-range bass. I would recommend the inclusion of an integrated subwoofer to fill-in lower frequencies. The SiriusXM satellite radio has become a family favorite on long trips. Parents may find themselves singing along to Radio Disney on the way to summer camp. The toe tapping rifts from boy bands Big Time Rush and One Direction may remind a few young parents of the 1990s choreographed groups New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys. Not to worry, after Volvo's six months of complimentary service you have the option of not renewing your subscription.


The S60 is a tremendous long road trip vehicle. With a pair of the industry's best seats, I drove hundreds of miles without back or leg discomfort. The adaptive xenon lights added to the comfort and safety whether we were driving the often-dark city streets of Detroit or the dark country roads of Virginia. 2004-2007 S60R owners will appreciate the improved xenon lighting output. After a year of enthusiast driving the 235/40 18-inch Continental tires had 6/32"(5mm) of tread depth remaining. Tire noise was minimal from the start and did not increase noticeably over time.

Our major critiques are the lack of a manual transmission and a more advanced twin clutch sequential automatic, which seems to be the way Europe is going. At minimum, we would like to see shift paddles as an option, especially on the R-Design trim package. The long-term S60 T6 AWD provided a year of true driving enjoyment and the six-cylinder torque will be sorely missed. There are few affordable sedans offering a similar array of safety technology and infotainment options in an innovative package. Time will tell if the second generation the S60 will offer the memorable edition for Volvo performance enthusiasts. However, the S60 T6 AWD enhanced with the 325hp tune by Polestar delivers more than ample performance for the majority of Volvo customers, and likely a few S60R owners.

Staffer Anthony Garbis counterpoint:
Last month I had the opportunity to test out our long-term S60 for a week. I have been excited to get some time behind the wheel of this car since it made its way into our long-term fleet. The new S60 caught my eye when it was first introduced thanks to its good looks, and coupled with the performance oriented marketing by Volvo, it appeared that Volvo may have a true contender to the mid-size German competitors.

The inside of the S60 is a welcoming place. The fit and finish appears top notch, materials have a good feel and sense of quality to them, and the seating position and ergonomics are good. At 6'2, I did find myself looking out the top part of the windshield, but that is par for the course with most cars at my height. The seats were comfortable, supportive, and offered ample legroom. The interior color combined with the black exterior with brown metallic flakes is one of my new favorite color combinations. As with most Volvos, the infotainment system leaves much to be desired, although the new S60 is a step in the right direction.

With the Polestar tune on our S60, the power is more than you'll ever need on the street. It really is surprising how deceivingly fast this car is. Add in the all wheel drive to securely plant the wheels to the pavement, and all 325hp and 355 lb-ft of torque move you forward like a freight train. The seat of my pants dyno tells me these numbers are a bit underrated, and I'm sure before and after dyno runs would prove the same. The Volvo ads were truthful, this car really can corner, and yet thanks to the adjustable suspension, the ride comfort isn't diminished.

The only thing that did not impress me with the S60 was the transmission. It was slow to shift, was sometimes confused about what gear to be in, and the lack of paddle shifters seems like an oversight. This car would be completely transformed with a dual-clutch automatic, or a true manual transmission.

With that said, for a daily driver that looks good, has ample power, and handles well, coupled with a moderate sticker price, the S60 shouldn't be overlooked.