For the Volvo Enthusiast

Driven: The 2019 Volvo S60

The launch of 2016 XC90 and Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) enabled a rebirth of the brand, record growth and profitability.   Three years later, Volvo delivers the last of the SPA vehicles with the third generation Volvo S60.   Building from the first generation S60 (2001-2009), which included the legendary 300hp S60R, Volvo’s last model to wear the performance focused “R” badge.  Many Volvo enthusiasts long for the return of a properly badged “R” performance model and I believe Volvo has an opportunity to do just that, but more on that later.   The second generation S60 (2010-2018) introduced the R-Design trim package with 325hp followed by Volvo’s mighty 362hp S60 Polestar.   Volvo’s third generation S60 takes a significant leap forward with technology and performance with an all-new 415hp S60 T8 Polestar Engineered.

The 2019 S60 is the first Volvo built in the U.S. from a beautiful new factory in Ridgeville, South Carolina.   While the new S60 is an impressive vehicle, I am equally impressed with Volvo’s approach to launching this sedan.  Volvo chose to include a rarely seen part of automotive manufacturing process, the individuals that build the vehicles.   At the S60 launch presentation, employees from the factory hid a cloaked sedan while speaking about their roles and contributions to deliver the first Volvo built in America.  While the teams spoke, Volvo pulled back the cover, and each department stepped behind the sedan.  The beauty of the moment went beyond the design of the new sedan.    The press vehicles for the drive included a photo and hand-written note from Christian M., a team member from final assembly.  I hope Volvo includes these personal notes with the production units.   I appreciate these personal touches in a world of anonymous swipes and clicks.

Comparing the dimensions to the previous generation, the new S60 is a total of 4.5 inches longer and 1.8 inch shorter.  The wheel base was extended 3.8”.  While the additional length provides more rear seat legroom, at 6’2” I felt a little cramped with the limited headroom.


Similar to the 2019 XC40, Sensus Connect gets an updated processor, which nearly doubles compute performance and provides a faster boot sequence, navigation calculations and rear camera accessibility.   Even with the performance increase, bootup times are not fast enough for drivers that want to start and go.  Some of the standard apps included in Sensus Connect are HERE Local Search, TuneIn, Pandora, Spotify, Glympse, Local Search, Yelp, Weather and Wiki Locations.    Some of our swedespeed readers stated they have improved initial boot-up time by deleting some of the applications.  The system lag is most noticeable when a driver starts the vehicle and within seconds expects to view the backup camera or to activate the heated seats.   The available 12.3-inch digital touch infotainment screen is gorgeous and presents a clean design while sacrificing tactile button functionality.  Voice commands help the driver interact with Sensus, however a few extra buttons would improve the overall user experience.

The S60 has Volvo’s new double wishbone front suspension. Volvo defines this as the wheel is attached to the car by two transverse links.   The low weight of the suspension components reduces ‘unsprung weight’, which is essential for both road holding and comfort.  The rear-wheel suspension is an Integral link design, which is a very advanced type of rear wheel suspension. Volvo explains the advantage with this design is that comfort and handling characteristics can be individually tuned. The transverse leaf spring (green in the picture) is very compact, lightweight and strong, replacing traditional coil springs.

The 2004-2007 S60R first offered the Four-C electronically controlled damping system replacing the traditional dampers/shock absorbers.  The new 2019 S60 can be ordered with Four-C offering electronically adjustable damping characteristics continuously and instantaneously.  This is a nice option for drivers wanting the ability to fine tune the suspension to a slightly softer setting while traveling pot hole riddled road surfaces.   In addition to Four-C, the S60 offers two chassis variants:  Dynamic and Sport.   The Sport suspension offers stiffer springs and dampers as well as a lowered the chassis by .47” (12mm).  The fifth generation Borg Warner AWD system distributes the engine’s power from the front to the rear wheels.   The system adjusts the power distribution based on road conditions for a maximum of 50% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels.

The new S60 is the entry level sedan into the Volvo family and offers the features and technology of the larger class S90.   The athletic design and performance carry through the 60-cluster and reflect what Volvo describes as a Scandinavian Grand Tourer, which include:

The trim strategy for the S60 will follow its 90-series siblings with the familiar three levels of Momentum, Inscription, R-Design and a fourth, 60-cluster only Polestar Engineered.  Power will also come in the now familiar and proven T5, T6 and T8 configurations.   T5 models offer 250hp and will be front-wheel drive only.  The T6 engine will deliver 316hp with all-wheel drive.  The T8 will be 400hp and electric all-wheel drive.  The T8 Polestar Engineered will deliver an impressive 415hp with 494ft/lbs through electronic all-wheel drive.

The S60 offers a sporty appearance with personalized driving modes and a tuned suspension more aggressive than the S90.  The S60 provides a balance of energetic driving and refined luxury, unique safety features and distinctive design features including the Thor’s Hammer LED headlights.  A Panoramic moonroof is standard and options include the 1,100 watt, 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system, 4-zone electronic climate control, ventilated Nappa leather and massage seating as well as the latest iterations of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with Waze and Google Map integration.

I had high expectations for the 2019 S60 T8 Polestar Engineered.   The T8 offers class leading power but the electrified powertrain does not deliver the same visceral response as the previous generation S60 Polestar.  The T8 Polestar Engineered supplies strong on-ramp entry and highway passing power but even with the fantastic Öhlins dampers its weight, 400lbs more than the R-Design, is apparent when diving around the popular canyon roads outside of Santa Monica, CA.  The Brembo brakes delivered less confidence than previous Polestar models due in part to being tied to the regenerative braking system.   Volvo should have this braking setup more dialed-in for the production models. In pure electric mode, the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered traveled 21 miles before running out of juice.

In contrast to the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered, the lighter T6 R-Design elevated the fun factor while only slightly slower in straight line performance, 4.3 seconds versus 5.3 seconds to 60mph.  The R-Design is more spirited than the T8 because it is a lighter, more agile vehicle.  At 415hp, the S60 T8 Polestar makes for a wonderful luxury sedan yet it’s not the sports sedan worthy to replace the previous generation S60 Polestar.  It is here where I see an opportunity for Volvo to bring back a performance focused R trim level.

Volvo product planners could use the 362hp Polestar T6 with its mechanical all-wheel drive configuration and market it between the R-Design and Polestar Engineered trims and badge it the S60R.   A higher performance sedan with the suspension and brakes from the T8 Polestar Engineered along with more aggressive styling cues similar to the 2018 S60 Polestar’s lower front facia and extended rear spoiler.  An active exhaust system when in Dynamic mode would also differentiate it from other S60 trim levels.  The R-Design provides a sporty drive whereas a R would deliver thrilling performance.  Since Volvo consumers no longer have the eye-catching Cyan Racing Blue in the color palette, exciting colors beyond the ho-hum Fusion Red Metallic could add an tip-of-the-hat to past performance Volvo models that wore Crème Yellow, Saffron Orange Metallic and the recently retired Passion Red.  I am disappointed Bursting Blue is not offered on the S60 R-Design in the United States.

There were just a couple technology related items that did not meet my expectations with the S60.  After two years of use in the 90-series T8s, I hoped the all-electric range would have exceeded 21 miles.  A S60 with a 21-mile hybrid powertrain may work for those living close to work or in a city, however it is not sufficient in the DC metro area where commuters often drive 40 to 50 miles one way in stop and go traffic.   Additionally, I wanted a wireless charging solution, similar to what’s found in the XC40.   I expect the upcoming SPAII platform will resolve of these minor complaints.

I may nitpick a few things with the new 2019 S60 Polestar Engineered but overall the new S60 is a fantastic sedan that is built here in the U.S. by very dedicated and proud employees.  As a former V60 Polestar owner, the S60 Polestar Engineered came up short but the DNA strands for a fun performance sedan are available in Volvo’s garage.  ( #BringBackTheR )

Owners holding on to their high mileage first or second generation S60 will be pleased with the SPA platform and the numerous advancements found in this generation S60.  The sedan delivers modern technologies, an athletic exterior design, increased rear seat legroom, and powerful engines for a comfortable and fun to drive experience.   The South Carolina factory started mass production of S60 sedans in September 2018.  As the global home for this vehicle, Volvo exports cars to markets around the world.   The S60 will be the last sedan introduced on the SPA platform.  For those consumers wanting a luxurious and sporty sedan, it is time to trade up to Volvo’s best sedan, the all-new 2019 S60.