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Wed, Sep 17, 2014

Volvo comeback starts with new engines and S60 sedan

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Volvo comeback starts with new engines and S60 sedan | volvo, auto digest

The 2015 Volvo S60. Photo courtesy of Volvo

Remember Volvo?

Volvo was that safety-obsessed Swedish car company that was swallowed up by Ford in 1999, stuffed into a box with some big ticket brands (Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin along with Lincoln and Mercury) in what was called Premier Auto Group (PAG).

Then when Alan Mulally became President and CEO of Ford in 2006, PAG was dismantled and sold off in parts.

Then Volvo became a foster child of Ford until 2010 when it was sold to Chinese carmaker Geely for a fraction of the original price.

In what would seem to be a risky move, Geely gave Volvo money to work with and then got out of the way. Now we’re starting to see a new Volvo and we like what they’ve done.

Volvo already had some excellent building blocks, especially in the 60 Cluster of vehicles – the S60 sedan, the XC60 crossover and V60 sport wagon. Plus, they had also pioneered most of the best automotive safety technologies in the business.

Rather than making lots of quick flashy changes that weren’t necessary, the typically conservative Swedes set out to reinvent the heart of the brand, the engine. The first wave of new engines is gasoline powered, but will soon be followed by a series of powerful diesel engines based on the same architecture and displacement as the gas engines.

We recently had a chance to spend a week driving the 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E with one of these new engines. The front-wheel drive car is powered by a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine which is rated at 302 horsepower. A little four-cylinder engine producing that much horsepower conjures up thoughts of rough, noisy racing engines, but this Volvo Drive-E is super smooth, quiet and very powerful when we needed it to be. It’s very impressive that they get so much power and refinement out of such a small engine. The engine is mated with a quick shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, which comes with steering wheel mounted paddle shifter for even better driver control. 

The engine uses the supercharger to provide the instant response at low rpms, then as the engine speed climbs the turbocharger pressure builds and enhances the performance even more.

The fuel efficiency is further improved by a nearly seamless start-stop and brake regeneration system. While at a stop the engine uses an electric pump to keep oil pressure up in the transmission. The T6 engine is rated at 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined.  We actually averaged 27.7 mpg during our week of local driving. The 0 to 60 mph acceleration time is best in class at 5.6 seconds.

Volvo is staggering the introduction of the new engines into the 60 cluster cars, so the Drive-E engine is only available in front wheel drive models, currently. All-wheel drive T6 models are powered by the existing turbocharged six-cylinder engine. It’s an excellent engine but doesn’t have the advantage of being smaller, lighter, more powerful and more efficient like the new four-cylinder engines.

Another variation of the new engine family is available in the form of the T5 Drive-E. The less powerful engine is also a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with all the enhancements, but with only a turbocharger. Rated at 240-hp, the T5 allows the turbocharger to overboost for 10 seconds to produce an extra 22-ft.lbs. of torque when requested by the driver’s right foot. In the Eco+Mode, the T5 start/stop system will actually shut the engine down at 4 mph to take advantage of the extra engine down time to increase the fuel economy. The T5 has an EPA fuel economy rating of 25/37/29 mpg. Volvo says it will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds making it one of the quickest cars in its class which includes cars like the BMW 320i, Audi A4, Mercedes C250 and Lexus IS250. The Drive-E engines will also be the basis for some planned plug-in hybrid models.

The S60 sport sedan mechanicals or underpinnings are basically unchanged but create a sporty, agile road feel with flat cornering and a quiet, comfortable ride.

Like with all Volvo models we’ve driven, one of our favorite features is Volvo’s amazing seats which continue to be the most comfortable seats in the business. The T6 trim levels are outfitted with new sport seats which have that same trademark comfort and support along with added side bolstering to provide more lateral support during spirited driving.
The 2015 Volvo S60 has a new digital adjustable instrument cluster that allows the driver to select from three themes – elegant, eco and performance to best suit the driver’s driving style.

Volvo’s legendary safety system is called IntelliSafe. The system is built around the world’s first City Safety technology. Introduced originally on the 2010 XC60, City Safety is a low-speed collision-avoidance technology that works at speeds of up to 31 mph to prevent crashes. There’s also a Pedestrian Detection system that will automatically stop the car should a person or a bicyclist move in front of the car.

Volvo was one of the first automakers to offer a Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) in 2007.  Originally a camera based system, it’s now a radar-based system and part of a package that includes cross traffic alert, lane change merge aid and front and rear park assist. We think this is a “must have” option.

Other helpful safety equipment is Lane Keeping Aid, which is part of the Technology package. It will actually guide the car back into the lane when it starts to drift outside the lane lines. The Road Sign Information system helps the driver by displaying road signs, like speed limits, on the instrument display. The unique camera based system even picks up temporary sign changes. There’s also a new Park Assist Pilot that helps the driver automatically parallel park.

Inside the new 60 cluster cars, the Volvo’s Sensus system helps the driver manage information from the audio and navigation systems. The available Sensus Connected Touch connects the car to the Internet using various helpful embedded applications. The seven-inch touch screen can even be used while wearing gloves.

The 2015 Volvo S60 model prices range from $34,215, including the destination charge, for the T5 Drive-E FWD to $43,615 for the T6 R-Design AWD. Our fully loaded S60 T6 had a bottom line MSRP of $47,925.

The investment and efforts that have gone into the new Volvo are starting to pay big dividends. The new S60 car is impressive, fun to drive, and very much a Volvo.

We remember Volvo, and are looking forward to watching the brand grow.   

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