For those not paying attention, Volvo has updated its S60 sedan range for 2015 with a new range of engines under the Drive-E label. Wearing the same T5 and T6 badges to note the relative levels of power under the hood, both engines are 2.0-liter four-cylinders, with the lesser being turbocharged and the greater being both supercharged and turbocharged.
Both Drive-E variants are currently only available in front-wheel-drive flavor, though Volvo will still happily sell you an S60 T5 AWD with the older 2.5-liter turbo five-cylinder, or a top-of-the-line S60 T6 with a turbo'd 3.0-liter six-cylinder and all the wheels turning.
The car I drove for a week is perhaps the most balanced version of the S60 range, with that exotic sounding twin-charged 2.0-liter mill planted happily in the attractively sloping nose. Provided you're not hung up on front-drive dynamics, the T6 Drive-E might be a solid candidate for your next premium small sedan shopping list, as well.
At 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, the output of Volvo's twin-charged 2.0-liter mill is damn close to that of the outgoing turbo-six, while weighing close to 150 pounds less. The engine feels meaty down low, as you'd expect, with audible whine from the supercharger never letting you forget about the forced induction at low rpm.
With the transmission slotted into normal Drive mode, throttle response is pretty great when forcefully pulling away from stoplights or entering the highway. Moved into Sport mode, the programming becomes downright aggressive, and the torque available is palpable through your toes. Speed doesn't pile on instantaneously when passing on the highway at 70 miles per hour, but simply tap the throttle from 10 mph around town, and Sport mode will launch you gleefully past your neighbors if you aren't ready for it.
Past experience with the S60 had me expecting that this car would be a bit less engaging than it turned out to be. The single-mode suspension is pretty well balanced between a compliant ride and tight handling, unless you really push the car. At a good pace, there's more lean in the chassis than I'd like from a sporting tool, but not so much that I think it detracts from the mission of this laid-back yet quick sedan.
The steering isn't particularly meaty or full of feel, but it is quick. On bendy roads, the S60 changed direction in short order, and didn't feel to be overly heavy in the nose – thanks here again to that lighter engine. Go hard and the front-drive S60 will push wide, sure, but handling feels balanced in everyday, lukewarm corners.
Noted supercharger whine to the side, the confines of the S60 are mostly hushed at a cruise. The fast-moving Volvo sets a nice stage for conversation, listening to your favorite tunes – I found the Volvo Premium Sound System to be clear, if not rich – or generally making light time of long commutes.
The increased fuel efficiency of the Drive-E engine should also be friendly to posh commuter types. Volvo and the EPA quote 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on the highway. Those numbers put it well ahead of the curve for most smaller engined versions of primary luxury competitors – BMW 320i, Lexus IS 250, Audi A4 2.0T, etc. – while offering a lot more power. Looked at conversely, it competes almost toe-to-toe on power with the more potent versions of all those sedans, while being priced lower (sometimes a lot lower).
I actually think that BMW's 328d would make a really interesting head-to-head comparison with this T6 E-Drive. Both start in the high $30k range; the Volvo has more power and (I believe) a slightly more refined driving experience; the BMW has better fuel economy, newer tech and the benefit of rear-wheel-drive dynamics.
You can decide for yourself about the aesthetics of the Volvo, but I still find this bodystyle to be completely lovely, a few years on from its introduction and having been grafted a slightly redesigned nose. Likewise, the cabin feels on par with the best in the segment in terms of design, materials and comfort, though the suite of technology powering its comparatively tiny-screened infotainment system lags the class. Personally I'd abide the slightly outdated tech for the tradeoff of the amazing front seats – and I work on the Internet, people.
Volvo has done a great service in keeping its mainstay S60 relevant with the new powertrain upgrades, overall. As ever with Volvo models, this is a car that should appeal to those drivers with a taste for luxury, indifferent attitude about at-limit handling (no rear-drive bias) and a vague notion that German cars are for "other people."
Volvo to Export China-Made S60L to the U.S. Next Year!
China will soon become Volvo’s export hub for most global markets, as the Swedish carmaker owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group wants to benefit from the country’s lower labor costs (is anyone surprised?).
Volvo will soon start exporting Chinese-made sedans, including the long-wheelbase S60L (pictured), to the United States, and the XC90 SUV to Russia as early as the end of next year.
Volvo targets exports of about 10,000 S60Ls and a few thousand XC90s each year from China. Last year, the company sold around 62,200 vehicles in the U.S., all made in Europe. Despite consumer concerns about the quality of made-in-China products, Volvo believes it could minimize exchange risks by making China its main production base.
“The dollar and the yuan have the best relationship, a more stable relationship than the euro and the dollar,” an unnamed Volvo executive was quoted as saying by Reuters. He added that Volvo wants to use two assembly plants in China to export to the U.S., Russia, and possibly Southeast Asia.
A Volvo plant in the city of Chengdu began making the S60L sedan late last year, while a second facility is building the XC90 in Daqing. By 2018, the two plants in China will achieve a full capacity of about 250,000 vehicles a year.
Volvo’s global head of media relations David Ibison confirmed that the company would start exports from China, but said timing and target markets had yet to be decided.
American Volvo buyers/fans rejoice - it's what you've been waiting for! As of 2015, you will be able to buy a Volvo-badged car made in China – the S60L (pictured), the long-wheelbase edition of the familiar Swedish sedan.
It’s going to be the first China-made car to be imported into the US, and at least it will be one with a recognizable badge.
Will this sit will with American buyers? We don’t know, but it is something that’s undeniably going to happen, according to Automotive News. The source article quotes Volvo CEO, Hakan Samuelsson, who, at a recent press event, said “we are not talking about 2020. We are talking about next year."
Obviously not a clearly defined time frame, but what is clear from the report is that it’s definitely coming no matter what.
The cars will be built at a new plant in Chengdu, where production is set to be ramped up to 120,000 units per year as of October.
What’s interesting is that Volvo will be merging the particularities and needs of the US and Chinese markets into one single direction designed to please both.
We were also left wondering by the final quoted statement from Samuelsson, who, the source says, was referring to the vehicle that is set to replace the final dinosaur in Volvo’s range, the S80. He said "The next time we present a car you will be surprised. We will take a big step forward in the sedan."
Volvo Says Chinese-Built S60L Coming To US In 2015, Made Better Than European Model
By selling the stretched Volvo S60L in the US, Volvo thinks it can satisfy a market for a plusher S60, while proving Chinese-made cars can be quality products.
Confirming a report by Reuters this summer, senior Volvo marketing exec Alain Visser told Automotive News last week at the Paris Motor Show the S60L would be in US dealers in the second half of 2015. The S60L with its wheelbase 3.2 inches longer than that of the car on which it's based would be cast as an "executive car."
“We believe it can be a key player," Visser told Automotive News, even though Volvo plans to import just 5,000 of the cars for 2015 – roughly a fifth of what the normal S60 sells in the U.S.
But Visser indicates Volvo dealers and customer test groups were enthusiastic about the S60L and its potential for more equipment and comfort, as well as the quality. In fact, another Volvo executive said the S60L scores better in the company's internal quality checks than the S60 that comes off of Volvo's Ghent, Belgium plant.
So if all goes well after the S60L goes on sale in the States next year, you could see more Chinese-made cars in Volvo dealerships.