Test Drive: Volvo drops thrifty engines into S60 line

Test Drive: Volvo drops thrifty engines into S60 line

June 14th, 2014 by Mark Kennedy in Business Diary

Volvo s60 T6

Photo by Mark Kennedy/Times Free Press.

FAST FACTS

* Model: Volvo S60 T6

* Exterior color: Seashell Metallic

* Interior color: Soft Beige

* Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged

* Horsepower: 302

* Transmission: six-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 35 mpg highway

* Dealer: Chattanooga Volvo

* Price (as tested): $46,474

Some of the specs on this week's test car, the Volvo S60 T6, almost look like misprints.

How on earth, for example, does the Swedish car-maker squeeze 302 horsepower out of a small-displacement (2.0-liter) engine, while returning 35 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Isn't technology something?

Volvo continues to improve its bread-and-butter S60 almost every year. In 2014, the S60 got a major redesign with tweaks to the fascia, hood and tailpipes. For 2015, the S60 gets two new Drive-E four-cylinder engines which offer both astonishing power and great fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, the company is phasing out six-cylinder engines in the S60.

Mike Nichols, sales manager at Chattanooga Volvo, says the 2015s have recently begun arriving at the dealership and he loaned us the keys to a Seashell Metallic S60 T6 with a sticker price of $46,474. Without options the T6, which comes equipped with an engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged, has a base price of $38,150. The S60 T5, by contrast, comes equipped with a 2.0-liter, 240 horsepower turbocharged engine, and has a base price of $34,225 before options.

STYLING AND FEATURES

To my eye, the 2015 S60 is one of the best-looking sedans on the market. With its broad shoulders and sculpted hood, the S60 manages to look both refined and athletic. Handsome Continental all-season tires on nine-spoke Diamond Cut alloy wheels add to the aggressive stance of the car, and tailpipes deftly integrated into the back bumper show that great care was taken to ensure a buttoned-down appearance.

Inside, the S60 has understated lines and high-quality materials. Our test car was outfitted with sumptuous Soft Beige leather seating surfaces with contrasting Charcoal headliner and dash. The seats are designed with thick bolsters that hug your torso and invite you to drive the car hard.

The dash is simple, with a beefy steering wheel and an easy-to-read gauge cluster. The center stack puts all the control functions of the climate and telematics systems within easy reach. Cosmetic touches, such as leather inlays in the doors and expensive-looking plastics in the dash construction, help create a luxury vibe.

Our test car came with a $3,150 platinum package which includes a power glass moon roof, the leather upholstery, keyless start and bright-work on the side windows. A climate package ($900) gives you heated front and rear seats, a heated windshield, heated steering wheel and an upgraded air purification system. For $900 more, Volvo adds safety features that monitor your blind spot, assist with lane changes and parking and alert you if you're about to back into a cross-traffic collision.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Sliding into the driver's seat of our S60 test car, I was immediately reminded of a word that leaps to mind when piloting a Volvo -- the word is "solid." There's something about the structural rigidity of the car that instantly communicates that you're safe inside a vehicle in which no expense has been spared to ensure your safety.

To wrap this sedan in a sexy skin and harness it to a high-performance engine is a compelling combination.

On a short test drive last week, I was instantly smitten with the 302-horsepower Drive-E engine. Power spools up effortlessly, making merging and passing a breeze. It inspires confidence to know that the S60 will respond with ample power in emergencies, while still returning spectacular fuel economy.

The steering and suspension offer nice feedback when pressed on twisting roads, while delivering a serene comfortable ride as you pile up highway miles. (Volvo still makes S60 all-wheel-drive models if you need the added security of all-weather traction.)

BOTTOM LINE

If you still think of Volvo as a safety-first brand, where performance and design take a back seat, you haven't been paying attention. The New S60 T6 combines Volvo's legendary safety premium with cutting-edge engine technology and eye-catching design -- a formula for success that will delight and amaze you.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.