I have reviewed hundreds of tech products over the decades on my blog, but none as big – literally – as this. For the first time ever, I am actually given a car to review for 3 days. Coincidentally, this request came on the day after I fixed my current car’s oil pressure indicator. Was that a sign on what my next car could be?
For the past years, Volvo Singapore (with Wearnes Automotive as authorised car distributor) has actively engaged local lifestyle and family bloggers like The Wacky Duo, Ms. Skinny Fat, A Winsome Life, Ed Unloaded to review the S60 D2. This is a great strategy of Volvo to reach out to the younger generation who mostly regard Volvo as an old brand and boxy (albeit safe) designs.
It’s exciting for me to be involved with this wave of Volvo’s media engagement campaign.
I arrived at the Alexandra Road showroom on a Tuesday lunch hour and was received by the PR agency who contacted me for this review opportunity. While waiting for the product specialist to attend to me, I took a brief tour of the showroom.
1. Prominent Reception to tend to walk-in customers (to the left of photo)
2. Play area for children, allowing parents to take their time to shop
3. Bistro offering beverages and freshly-brewed coffee
Alan, the Volvo product specialist arrived soon after and gave me a walkthrough of the S60.
- Engine: 4 cylinders, 16 valves, Direction injection turbo
- Engine capacity: 1969 cc (2.0 L)
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic, Geartronic with Sport Mode
- Max output: 245 bhp / 180 kW @ 5500 rpm
- Max torque: 350 nM @ 1500-4800 rpm
- Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 6.3 sec
- Fuel consumption (combined): 6.0 L/100 km
- Carbon emission: 139 g/km
- CEVS rebate: $10000
Premium Luxury Interior
The Volvo S60 has a luxurious cushiony interior, with contoured sport leather upholstery for comfort and durability, accented metal finishing.
The 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system produces pristine audio quality with clear treble and clean bass which you can finetune to your preference using the graphic equalizer. Electronic seat adjustments are available for both front passengers with 3 memory presets.
There are ample leg room at the rear (I’m 1.75m), with air-conditioning vents at the 2 side pillars for cooling comfort.
There is even a 12-volt plug for rear passengers consumption.
The S60 comes with electric parking brake via a button to the right of the steering wheel, below the headlight switch.The brake auto-disengages if you have put on your seatbelt and moved the gear to D.
I have often noticed people inside their cars at my office car park. Now I know why: to enjoy the comfortable seat, chilling air-con, great-sounding music.
Personalising the Car
Like most modern premium cars, the S60 personalisation system – Volvo calls it Sensus – manages your in-car experience via the 7-inch colour display at the centre of the car. While many other brands opt for a single navigation knob next to the driver to operate the on-screen menus, Volvo opted to design navigation knobs in multiple locations to achieve the purpose.
There are also dedicated hardware buttons at the console to access the primary features like Radio, Media, My Car, Telephone, Internet. With so many ways to access the menu and controls, it took me a while to get familiarise with what does what, but I can see the design rationale, because different knobs are used by different users. The knobs on the centre console are meant for front passenger while there is another set of controls on the steering wheel is for driver.
Inside the Sensus system, I can customise a loadful of features, and to name a few interesting ones:
- Lock settings: how you want the car to be unlocked or locked. You could configure such that the driver door must be opened first before other doors can be unlocked. This is to prevent thieves from sneaking from other doors when your key is in proximity. You can also disable auto-locking when car is on the move. The test unit has a lock sensor in every door, front and rear.
- Side mirror settings: enabling the side mirror to tilt towards your rear wheels to aid in reverse parking. Interestingly, when you shift from reverse to drive, the mirror does not immediately tilt back, in case you want to reverse again moments later.
- Steering force level: select low, normal, or heavy. At low level, the steering wheel does not feel feather-light, so no worries about losing control. You can adjust the setting as long as the car is stationary, but once the car moves, the option will be greyed out.
- Configure wireless settings like Bluetooth and WiFi. When you pair with your smartphone, you can stream music from your smartphone, and the centre display screen shows the song details. You can also make voice calls, and the mic and sound quality is excellent based on comments from the other party. When you activate WiFi hotspot on your smartphone, the S60 can connect to Internet for web browsing and Internet radio, but the browsing will be auto-disabled when the car is on the move.
- Voice command: the car lets you call out actions like turning on radio, make a call. navigation.
Driver Dashboard and Steering Controls
Like many other recent Volvo cars, the S60 comes with adaptive digital display which shows your driving information like speedometer, odometer, fuel consumption. You can also customise the theme from ECO to Performance, and the display will show different information accordingly (ECO displays energy savings while Performance displays potential power for every gear).
Using the buttons and thumb wheel located on the left lever (signal indicator), I can access the display menu to change the theme or display important information. For instance, it shows all the door statuses so you know easily which doors are opened.
On your steering wheel, there are also 2 sets of controls. On the left are buttons for Cruise Control. On the right are buttons for controlling media (tracks, volume) as well as activating voice control. The thumb wheel together with the exit button at the lower left are for navigating the centre display screen. To select an item, press the thumb wheel.
Responsive Sporty Drive
You would not expect a luxury sedan like S60 to hit 100km/h in 6.3 seconds, but that is what this S60 T5 can do, achieving a torque of 350 nM. After driving my basic Chevrolet Optra sedan (a mere 150 nM) for 8 years, I realised how easy it can be to overtake vehicles on the road given the right cars. I enjoy the relaxed steering response, again fitting my style of driving. The car won’t go into sudden swerve if I were to steer too aggressively.
The S60 acceleration power meets no resistance even with a full load of 5 adults. I have no problems going beyond 100km/h within seconds on expressways. As a non-aggressive driver, I appreciate the smooth pick-up, but when I require a little haste, I simply push the gear stick to S mode, and the S60 will maintain the gear as low as it can hold, ready for your foot to hit the pedal anytime to deliver the necessary horsepower.
I feel the cabin does not isolate the road noise as aggressive as higher-tier luxury car models, but is good enough to keep noise to a comfortable level. The test unit is fitted with 19-inch wheels (225/40 R19) which provides better road holding at the expense of tyre noise and less cushiony ride. Personally, I prefer that because I can feel the road better.
The test unit comes with paddle shifters at the steering wheel (- and + metal pads located behind the wheel) for you to change gears manually. I didn’t try that feature extensively because I felt the auto mode is good enough for me, but driving enthusiasts will gawk at this cool feature. S60 will automatically downshift the gear even in manual mode to prevent car stall, and you can revert to auto mode by tapping both paddles at the same time.
There is even an option to further tame the S60. Engage the ECO+ button and the car goes into power saving mode, literally. The aircon becomes less cooling, the engine throttle reaction is eased, and when you release the accelerator, the engine brake is disengaged to allow the car to roll freely (it’s like putting your gear in neutral). I like that Volvo placed the “Auto Start/Stop” button on the centre console for me to disable. It can be rather annoying for the car to stop and start the engine too often during urban traffic jams.
That is one of the best driving aspects of the Volvo S60 T5 Drive-E: it delivers the comfort of a luxury sedan with various driving profiles from a cruiser to a speedster.
More Feature List
Here are some other features I find interesting on the S60 test unit:
- The rear view mirror auto-dims to prevent glare from headlights of other cars at night.
- Cup holders with additional rubber flaps to keep drinks in place regardless of the size.
- Ample storage compartment between the front seats. I can even fit in a Sony Alpha A7 mirrorless compact camera with 24-70mm f/4 full-frame lens. That is where you also find the USB port and AUX-in for media playing.
- Hidden storage area behind the centre console.
- The front seats have whiplash protection system which reduces whiplash injuries during head-on collision.
- You can start the car in 3 ignition modes. 2 of the modes switch on the in-car electronics without starting the engine.
- The car key has a “valet lock” feature. When you remove the key blade and pass the key to valet, the rear boot compartment cannot be electronically opened.
- When you steer your car, additional cornering light turns on to help you see better.
- City Safety feature auto brakes if the driver fails to react in time when the vehicle in front slows down or stops. Works at speeds up to 50 km/h. (I didn’t test this feature in case for whatever reasons it didn’t work and I damaged the car)
Here are some optional features that can be indented at factory:
- Engine remote start: allowing you to cool your car up to 15 minutes before you enter the car.
- Road sign information: the car can detect physical speed limit signs and displays on the driver dashboard.
- Suite of proximity-related radar features like
- Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection: car will auto brake when it detects moving obstacles. This is a more advanced detection system from the already-included City Safety feature.
- Park Assist Pilot, also known as auto park.
- Lane Keeping Aid: car detects lane markings and applies extra steering torque to prevent car from going unnecessarily out of lane.
- Blind Spot Information System: monitors and alerts the driver when it detects vehicles around the car.
- Cross Traffic Alert: alerts the driver to crossing traffic when reversing car out of parking space.
As a conservative driver, I always prefer Continental sedan cars. They are built for long-distance travel hence more focus on comfort and stability, the cars have a tougher body to withstand collisions.
To me, the Volvo S60 feels pretty much at home compared to my current Chevrolet Optra, only more comfortable, more responsive, and more fuel efficient. As a sedan, it provides sports driving capability, satisfying the urges of the occasional rush.
One area I need to get used to is reversing the S60. When turning my head to look behind, I can’t see obstacles like pillars or other stationary vehicles because the windows at the rear doors are smaller. The side mirrors can be auto-tilted to let you see only the rear wheels, so I guess S60 owners would have all the time to get the hang of it.
After offering my dad to test drive the S60, he felt the car is adequately responsive, and shared with me his experience on a Volvo car 40 years ago, on how powerful and reliable it was. He further enlightened that the primary reason for paying good money for a car, besides the upholstery and hardware features, is the engine responsiveness. It is the feeling of power and control in acceleration that makes it worth paying for.
On the third day, I returned the car with a heavy heart, but at the same time I am glad to get back to my old trusty Chevy. A sense of familiarity and comfort gradually creeps back to me, as I floored the accelerator to exit from the Volvo showroom.
Will Volvo Be My Next Car?
I am generally brand loyal, but occasionally I switch when given opportunities to try out other brands. Now that I have test driven the S60, I will definitely consider Volvo, with 2 years left before my COE expires. With the SEA Games hype in Singapore and Volvo being the official car, I might consider going for an early purchase, if the price is right.
Check out Review by The Claudia Post, who offers another family-oriented perspective.