By on March 21, 2008

12054_2_1.jpgThe S60 is Volvo's neglected middle child. Baby brother S40 is hipper, faster, and gets all the chicks. Older brother S80 is bigger and more luxurious. Where does that leave the S60? Not languishing on dealership lots, given that it's Volvo's best-selling sedan (if barely). But I'm hard-pressed to figure out why. Apparently, Volvo can't figure out why either– the S60 has purportedly been on the chopping block for a couple of years now, though no one seems willing to make that final cut yet. So let me take a stab at it.

From the outside, the S60's unmistakably a Volvo. It comes with the standard Volvo-esque design cues, with little to differentiate itself from the other sedans save subtle trim differences (the T5 gets a spoiler, this one gets bupkis). These cars are so anonymous they're part of the standard package you get when you enter a witness protection program. Maybe it's a safety feature: people are less likely to accidentally swerve into your car if it doesn't suddenly catch their attention (I'm sure people who drive Lambos and STIs get that all the time).

The interior is imbued with adequate, standard, not-an-inch-more-than-necessary luxury. The leather on our tester was unsightly and about as baby's-bottom buttery as a pleather diner booth. Don't look up; that rat-fur headliner will prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the beancounters had their dirty, dirty way with this car.

12048_2_1.jpgThe S60's premium package includes wood trim, which is a surprisingly nice fit for the taupe interior. A ginormous center stack dominates the dash, its glove-friendly, intuitive buttons lost in oceans of plastic. It also sports a vertical storage slot that defies understanding– anything you put in there slides out at the first press of the gas.

Also incomprehensible: a flip-out rear seat cupholder in the armrest that renders the rest useless whilst deployed. Maybe I'm a big baby that wants to put my elbow somewhere comfy.

And Junior doesn't need a big gulp anyway, if you can even fit him in the ridiculously undersized rear seats. This is bigger than the S40? No way. The larger proportions seem to mostly go towards trunk space instead of rear seating room; disappointing for anyone shopping for a "family" sedan.

Starting up the S60's engine reminded me a lot of my mother, if only because she grew up driving tractors. I apologize and retract my earlier dismembering of the Ecotec in the G5. Only John Deere himself would enjoy the unholy racket the five-cylinder turbo makes. While the engine makes entirely satisfactory loud rumbling noises during brisk acceleration, it also makes them all the rest of the time, even at idle. 

12053_2_1.jpgSo on one hand, there's nearly no turbo lag, it being mitigated well by high torque at low RPMs. On the other, it's the noisiest turbo I've ever encountered (or I'm just a spoiled enthusiast who likes the turbo magic of a Subaru or Volkswagen). Sure, the S60's mill provides an appreciable amount of propulsion, but Nine Inch Nails concerts are easier on the eardrums. Anything this loud should sport a sub-five-second 0-60 or STFU.

Handling-wise, the S60 is safe, in the "nothing special" sense of the word. The sedan does a great job handling average bumps on average roads in average conditions. The steering is numb, but not in an overly disconcerting way. Even without any road feel, you still feel in control of the car. There's nothing to be excited about, or anything to truly hate. I would wager that the power and handling are perfect for 90 percent of the general driving population. More demanding drivers would pick it to pieces.

And speaking of safe, the S60's technologically advanced safety features rule the roost. Unfortunately, those same features push it to a punishing 3500 lbs. A few hundred pounds less in steel and safety features might just make this ugly duckling into a swan, but something has to set Volvo apart. Too bad the Subaru Legacy GT scores higher on crash tests and is a thousand times more fun (and only marginally cheaper quality-wise). Even Ford touts safety as a selling point. And let's not talk depreciation. The S60 tanks faster than Ikea furniture.

12055_2_1.jpgThe S60 falls short on the luxury features, too. A new IS250 costs the same as a leathered-up S60 and comes with some truly indulgent options. (Forget grocery bag holders, why doesn't the Volvo have pre-collision avoidance and parking assist?) I don't even know how it competes with the S40 turbo unless you're too wide for the S40's seats. 

Maybe the Volvo S60 is a great car and I don't get it, but I can't think of anything that this car does that someone anyone else doesn't do better, including Volvo. 

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60 Comments on “2008 Volvo S60 2.5T Review...”

  • avatar

    Still a decent car. Volvo makes a decent basis for future Fords.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    The tractor engine is a homage to the old Redblocks. Brilliant!

    I’d rather take the V70 though. An ’06, not the new bulbous one.

  • avatar

    Yeah, a complicated one this S60…

    Originally it was designed as the real sedan version of the V70, although the at that point already existing S80 kind of was that already, especially in the US market (IMHO)…

    It was meant to compete with 3 series, hence the sporty sloping C-pillar, that was meant to be coupe like, although with all the 4 door coupes brought to market now it doesn’t really show anymore.

    But now, the new S40 tries to play that role…and the S60 is outdated, I think it will go in one year.

  • avatar

    I have no problems with this review, but I came in with my teeth clenched due to the nasty aftertaste from the Altima coupe review. Give out your stars wisely, or I can’t read these things seriously.

  • avatar

    On paper, the total front and rear legroom in the S40, S60, and S80 is nearly identical. They differ by about an inch. Subjectively, the S60 is roomier than the S40, and the S80 is roomier than the S60, but the differences are not nearly what they ought to be.

    This brand is in the process of falling entirely off the public’s radar. Others are catching up on safety, and Volvo has nothing else going for it aside from “anonymous semi-luxury.”

    TrueDelta has some reliability info. Newer ones are okay so far, but older ones can be quite troublesome. More info with the May update.

    [url=]Vehicle reliability research[/url]

    • 0 avatar

      How can you say other companies are catching up on safety? I certainly see others implementing safety features, but I don’t see many prioritizing safety the way Volvo does. For example, I just researched SUVs and purchased an XC90. Now, I’ll admit I’m biased toward Volvo after many years of ownership, but I’ll make the specific point that the XC90 was designed with many safety features that other SUVs STILL do not implement, even thought the XC90 came out about 7years ago. For example, the side impact air bags extend to all 3 rows, whereas the 2010 Toyota Highlander does not. The roof is strengthened by a boron steel element which Ford fought Volvo over, looking to reduce cost. So the Explorer, despite its rollover issues in the past, still doesn’t have the roof strength of the XC90. The list goes on and on. I made the point the other day on another post that Volvo is committed to interior materials which are non-toxic. All of these things are not important to everyone, but I think credit is due to Volvo for keeping their focus on safety, despite the market trends, etc.

  • avatar

    I guess Volvo buyers want blah. It’s funny. I’ve checked S60s out on a couple of occasions, and I’ve got a Volvo freak friend who drives an S60R, and it seems like the driving experience in anything other than the R or the T5 is just kind of blah, just as Ms. Benoit says.

    On the other hand, the S40 is a great looking car, and I saw my first C30 on the street yesterday and it was positively hot.

    On an agreement/semantics/readability note, Megan: The car can’t be both “unmistakably a Volvo” and “so anonymous.”


  • avatar

    Three stars is appropriate, maybe even generous. No rational, sensible consumer (Volvo’s target market, yes?) looking at a 3-series, G35, or the rest has much incentive to buy this numb-handling, busy-riding, ear-splitting S60. Even the Safety First folks will note that its crash test scores are nothing special (4 stars for driver and passenger).

  • avatar

    To take a broad swipe at Volvo, I’ve found their market position as the “safety” brand to be inadequate and somewhat false.

    A whole gaggle of cars at this price point offer the same protection in addition to superior handling and power that might even help you avoid an accident in the first place.

  • avatar

    Absolutely right, Cookie.

    The list of cars I would consider before an S60 is long…3 series, G35, TL, Passat, Legacy…and it goes on. It many cases, a buyer probably stands to save some cash buying something else, too.

    …Mazda6s, V6 Accord. Heck, how much less is an absolutely decked-out Fusion?


  • avatar

    I’m not sure you’re getting it, at least entirely.

    The Volvo might not be as flash or sporty as the competition, but it’ a pretty solid vehicle for those interested in long-term ownership. Many of the mechanics I’ve talked to rave about the Volvo inline five’s durability and have enthusiastically recommended the S60 as a good long-term buy after the initial lease returns.

    I’m a little surprised to see the engine characterized as agricultural-sounding. The old B-series engines certainly did, but the inline-five always struck me as sounding like a rabid sewing machine with a healthy bit of turbo whine. It’s a bit disconcerting if you’re not expecting so much top end noise, but it’s really no big deal when you consider how well the engine is built.

    If I’m not mistaken, that 2.5T is just an evolution of the same modular engine Volvo’s been building for the past decade-plus. If that’s the case, I can personally attest to the strength and reliability of the engine and turbo – mine’s still running strong at 300,000 miles.

  • avatar

    Regarding the captions for the photos:

    Ok, I get it. It doesn’t stand out from the S40 or the S80. But can you confuse it for anything but a Volvo at ten meters? Even if the style itself is rather staid, Volvo has been very successful at keeping their styling plot together over the years. Since the 1970s there’s been a pretty gradual evolution, which makes it easy for people to identify the cars on the road. Can’t say that for the schizophrenic styling decisions many companies have been plagued with over that period of time, including Volvo’s spastic corporate parent.

  • avatar

    A 2004 2.5T is my daily driver. I bought it used in Dec.2006 with 34K on the odometer. Some thoughts in my 30K miles since:

    Megan’s right when she states there’s no turbo lag; I don’t think it’s because of the torque at low revs, as I’ve driven the non-aspirated version of this car and found it to be a pig at low revs. Instead, the turbo is a “low-pressure” unit that provides boost at low engine speeds, enough that pickup from a standstill is quite good. This car feels unlike any other turbo car I’ve driven, and that’s a good thing IMHO. My milage has been very good as well; I get around 26 MPG in mixed driving.

    Steering is direct and feels quite solid; I like it but those looking for a BMW experience won’t. I would not call the car “numb-handling.” It’s not on rails, but I think it handles well for a car of this weight, and more importantly FEELs like it handles well from the driver’s seat.

    I honestly don’t understand the claims that the engine is loud; that’s certainly not been my experience in my ownership time. It’s not as smooth as a six in order models, that much is quite apparent, and you can feel the 5 vibrate in a way that V6s don’t. But loud? I don’t hear it.

    The seats are the most comfortable I’ve ever ridden in. Othopedically designed, I believe.

    I would agree with her claim that “the power and handling are perfect for 90 percent of the general driving population.” Can’t see how that’s a problem. It’s not a BMW, on that we can agree.

    I’m unsure which tires come on the car straight from the factory. I put on new ContiExtremeContacts recently and they provide a much better driving experience than I had on the OEM tires.

    The car in its current iteration is 7 model years old; I agree with some observations that it’s getting long in the tooth in some ways. There are some annoying oversights: no interior trunk release button, for example. The back seat legroom is laughably small. And the turning radius is large, much bigger than one would expect from a car this size.

    The car is unmistakably a Volvo in styling. Calling it “anonymous” is inaccurate IMHO. A Taurus is anonymous. A Fusion is anonymous. This car ain’t anonymous. The C-pillars and the “shoulders” leading into the rear corners of the car are distinctive and recognizable from a good distance as a Volvo.

    Overall I’m very, very happy with the car. Of course, I spent $19K on mine, not $30K+ for a new 2008 model. To follow up Michael Karesh’s comment regarding reliability, I’ve had no problems so far in my time with the car, knock on wood accents.

  • avatar

    The 5-banger worse than the Ecotec from the G5? Surely you jest!

    Good review Megan, writing off the S60 of my choices to import to Europe this July…

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    On an agreement/semantics/readability note, Megan: The car can’t be both “unmistakably a Volvo” and “so anonymous.”

    It’s a Volvo, but *which one*? Yes, it can be both a volvo, and anonymous.

    I did not find the seats to be terribly comfortable… any luxury automaker has better seats. If you drive a car with truly sharp handling, you’ll see why i call it numb… but like i said, it’s not overly so. I practically had to shout at my husband to be heard over the engine. I think it’s a good deal used, and an average car overall… but only used. You’d be insane to buy one new when you could get anything else.

  • avatar

    I practically had to shout at my husband to be heard over the engine.

    I think that’s called “spousal hearing.” Strange, my wife has it too, heh.

    As for the seats, I think we’ll have to agree to part ways there. I do a lot of long distance driving and I find that they are great for me. But I haven’t test-driven all the car’s competitors, so I wouldn’t be able to compare them to others in the segment.

  • avatar

    I practically had to shout at my husband to be heard over the engine.

    What, did the thing have straight pipes? Seriously, there had to be an issue with that individual car for it to be that loud. Volvos aren’t vault-silent, but they’re not that loud.

    I’ve found that the seats don’t really strike anyone as any more comfortable on short jaunts than what you’d find in a Mercedes, Lexus, or whatever. But drive the car for distances over 300 miles in a single trip and I think the results change a bit. For long road trips, they’re fabulous. I’ve drove from Denver to San Diego and San Diego to Chicago and arrived with all my vertebrae in the proper place and feeling pretty chipper to boot. I’ve heard Saab seats are pretty impressive in this regard as well, but I can’t speak from any personal experience.

    As for the steering, sure, it’s not a sports sedan, but it’s not Toyota Camry-numb, is it?

  • avatar

    Odd that there should be so little difference in interior space between the S40, S60, and S80, but maybe that explains why a couple of Volvo dealers I talked to last year bemoaned the loss of the S70. The friends I was shopping with ended up buying a used S70 that I’ve spent considerable time in, and I’m with salhany when he calls these the best seats ever, especially over long distances.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    I saw the CEO of a local billion-dollar-a-year corporation driving an S60. Good car to be inconspicuous in, I guess.

  • avatar

    In my country (Sweden) the Volvo S60 is popular in the 2.4 diesel version, due to the price of gas in Sweden, SEK12.64 per litre as I write. And the diesel version does have the constant sound of ballbearings rolling down a corrugated tin roof. However I have to disagree that the unleaded version is loud.

    This is not a ‘pistonhead’ car. It is meant for the slighty older sensible driver and in this category it has lots of competition. Without the safety image this car has nothing to make it stand out from the crowd. We long for the days of the “Birkenstock” 240, when you could identify with your car, plus it was hard to kill one. Now there is little reason to pay SEK260,000 when other cars offer a little dose of something special, have more personality or better reliability.

    Since Ford took over the safety image has been de-emphasised. Now, in Sweden the car is being sold for its ‘snabb acceleration’ (speed), which it does reasonably well, but not enough to excite.
    This will appeal to the older generation of Swedes, kind of like your Buick.

    I agree with the comments about the styling, I think slow sales in Sweden because of it (it is cheaper to go to Germany and get a C class Merc). It is obvious that Ford do not have the cash to put Volvo onto the next level, nor are they European enough to understand that priorities have moved on over here. I think they have Volvo in a holding pattern until they find a buyer. Ford do not want to starve of it of money because it will kill the brand quickly, nor do they want to infuse lots of cash because they are strapped for cash and not sure if they want to keep the company. I really think they have dropped the ball with this brand, when it could have been the Honda with European styling and handling. This is a gas guzzling, dated design that is up against smaller, smarter competition that are better on gas and more fun to drive (even though we are boring, in the forests we have a dark side).

  • avatar

    A post got it right-on above: Volvo’s main selling point was safety (and longevity). But safety isn’t exclusive anymore, so neither is Volvo. And lotsa cars last forever nowadays. Volvo should dump all its FWD platforms and move to RWD. Abandon all engines over 5 cylinders, to appeal to the Greenies and sandal-crowd (its former base). Position its cars as cheaper, more durable alternatives to Bimmers.

  • avatar

    Back in the 80’s, Volvo built a roomy 5-passenger car, it had 6 cylinders, got 32mpg around town, and ran forever.

    How do I know this? I’m still driving my 1984 245 Diesel wagon. It has 240,000 miles.

    This S60 proves they *still* can’t top my car.

  • avatar

    There’s a lesson in here somewhere about restricting the trickle-down of features from the show-car precursor. Summary of my S60R after 40 K miles: great on long trips for the front seat occupants, especially with the softer Atacama leather package. All seats are better bolstered on the sides than in the regular S60s. I don’t sit in the back…
    No scary handling quirks, even when pushed. AWD a real plus. Winter tires a must where it snows.
    Decent mileage, up to near 30 mpg on interstates at sane increment over the posted limit, even with A/C.
    Trunk big enough for two overpackers.
    No service issues yet, beyond a lightbulb.
    Minuses: a lot of road roar through the stiff low-profile tires; turning circle of a 747, ground clearance of an Austin-Healey.
    Seems to be worth the big price jump over the FWD lower models. It’s too bad they’ve already axed the model — I hope mine lasts a long time.

  • avatar

    My mom’s got a 2001 2.4T s60.

    Anyways, if I remember right, the reason she got the Volvo over the BMW3 series was that the Volvo had air conditioning vents for the back seats. A requirement for any hot place like Texas.

    I was like 14 then, so I don’t really know if the bmw did or didn’t have vents back there.

  • avatar

    I’ve heard that the turning circle is horrendous for this car. Did you find the same?

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    eggsalad :

    Back in the 80’s, Volvo built a roomy 5-passenger car, it had 6 cylinders, got 32mpg around town, and ran forever.

    How do I know this? I’m still driving my 1984 245 Diesel wagon. It has 240,000 miles.

    This S60 proves they *still* can’t top my car.I thought you diesel 240 guys got more than 32MPG. My B230FT gets maybe 24 if I’m lucky.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Well, let me the umpteenth person to thank you for an excellent review Megan. Let me also be one of the first here to congratulate you on the other recent joys of life as well.

    A lot of well thought out answers… I’d like to add a few more to the mix.

    The 5-cylinder engine in this model is among the most durable you will find anywhere in the world. It’s based on the modular 5-cylinder that graced the FWD & AWD 1990’s Volvos (S70/V70/XC70/C70), that was, in my humble opinion, Volvo’s best moment in the last decade and a half. Other than the 4.0L V8 in the Lexus and the Mercedes inline-6 in the 1987-1992 E-Class, I don’t think that any other engine of that period is as well made as the Volvo. Even today, it’s an excellent match for 90+ % of the general public.

    I’ve had dozens of the FWD Volvos over the years and thought so well of them, that I actually have my wife and mother use them for their daily travels. In my wife’s case it’s an S70 T5 and in my mom’s until recently, it is a 1998 XC70 (okay, it’s a damned Haldex AWD) that has been officially owned by two Grandmas. The 243 hp is a great match for both cars and both drivers. However most folks would be perfectly happy with the single turbo variant which is usually less maintenance intensive.

    That brings me to my big point about the S60. It’s pretty much a mature ‘keeper’ type of vehicle. Folks looking for a more athletic feel will opt for the VW’s, Subaru’s, and BMW’s, and those looking for luxury will grace the Mercedes and Lexus showrooms for a C-Class or E330. Acura and Saab are most likely the closest competitors to the S60, but I just don’t see owners keeping those vehicles for as long as they would keep this Volvo.

    The ‘minor’ advantages of the Volvo are fuel economy, durability, the seats (which are still the best in class on the more upscale models), and the safety factor. In otherwords, it’s pretty much for the conservative person who is really enamored with the idea of long-term ownership.

    Related to that, most folks in the market don’t take into account is that this model has been made for a long time. On average, the S60 will likely have fewer quality and defect issues than most other comparable European models. If you’ve ever dealt with European anything over the last ten years you’ll easily understand the enormous benefit of this.

    Like most of Ford the Volvo brand is being starved for product. I would have loved to have seen a Volvo minivan, a Volvo 260 (based on the Five Hundred/Taurus), or even a greater focus on the wagon side of the equation. Unfortunately I don’t think any of these developments will have a snowballs chance in hell of coming true until Volvo becomes well-funded AND independent.

  • avatar

    @ Jordan Tenenbaum and eggsalad

    This is the first I’ve heard of a 240 diesel still being on the road. Usually the cylinder head blows and turns the motor into scrap metal pretty quick.

  • avatar

    @ Steven Lang

    Indeed. Here’s to pining for the days of Volvo’s independence. May they return again soon.

    (And for any Saab lovers in the audience, I wish you the same.)

  • avatar

    32mpg in horrendous city traffic strikes me as swell. 40mpg on the open road does too.

    Yes, 80’s era oils and poor operation & maintenance killed many of these cars young. Fortunately, my car was loved. Modern synthetic oils help a LOT.

  • avatar

    I have a delightful Volvo dealer within walking distance of my house. For this reason, I have diligently sought every excuse to conclude that the S60 was for me. But two things bring me up short:

    1) For a practical car, the rear seat headroom is disgraceful. I understand the brand’s mavens felt they needed a signature look, but getting it by chopping off the rear-seat occupants’ heads linewide was an unacceptable price for it.

    2) The 5 just doesn’t cut it, even with the turbo band-aid. Virtually any V6 you can buy slaughters it for the combination of performance and NVH.

    On the positive side (other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?), I do have to call out the top-line taupe interior for major praise. While I haven’t throught through the usefulness of its various cubbyholes, I think it presents the most tasteful and upscale appearance in its class. I’d love to get this interior inside various other sets of mechanicals.

  • avatar

    Based on conversations i’ve had with Finnish taxi drivers they pretty much seem to agree that Volvo has the best seats, and MB has the worst, and i have to agree. Most common taxis are Volvo, MB, BMW and Toyota, though pretty much everything from Prius to S-Class is represented.
    Volvo seats don’t have the best lateral support available, but i would take volvo seats any day over the optional alcantara/leather sports seats in the A6 S-Line any day, having driven both a new V70 and an A6 in the last few weeks. The Audi interior is nicer however, apart from the seats. But the 2.0TDI is rougher than the Volvo 2.4D.
    So anyway, nice review. Though i would have to disagree about the noise too.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Unfortunately I don’t think any of these developments will have a snowballs chance in hell of coming true until Volvo becomes well-funded AND independent.

    I don’t think Volvo will ever be independent again. I do think it’s a question of when Ford sells them off….it would be great if someone like Honda picked them up. I do believe Ford has done a credible job over the past 10 years with Volvo (much better than GM:SAAB) – certainly has brought them forward in the styling and reliability areas.

    We had an S70 for 5 years – boxy (as God intended Volvos to be), roomy, solid as a tank, most comfortable seats. Also slow, and hugely unreliable (unloaded it when the AC and ABS systems both went out on the car at 60k). It was not sporty, but I always marveled at what a great little sedan that was to tool around in.

    With the lack of a huge distinction in size differences, the S40 and S80 pretty much cover the spectrum of sedans….the S60 really isn’t needed.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    I agree with this review completely. Seven years ago I test drove a 2001 S60 with a 2001 Passat. Even then, the Volvo had an unusually un-smooth engine and spartan interior. But in terms of smart understated style, the S60 ranked way above most other midsized sedans. In 2005, I again test drove an S60. This time with my mother. She ended up with an S40 T5 because of the better interior and the more nimble driving dynamics. The S60 still looks fantastic. But seeing it stacked against newer cars in the Volvo showroom, this eight year old car is really a lame duck. Honestly though, this car will always sell well because it’s a solid import car that isn’t Japanese or German.

  • avatar

    detlef: “I’ve found that the seats don’t really strike anyone as any more comfortable on short jaunts than what you’d find in a Mercedes, Lexus, or whatever. But drive the car for distances over 300 miles in a single trip and I think the results change a bit.”

    I agree. For the long haul, Volvo seats do very well. As did our VW seats. One thing those two cars had in common was that I could set the mirrors at the beginning of a 700-mile day and never fiddle with them again for the rest of the day. In all other cars, I’d twitch and fidget and move around a lot and my posture changed over the course of the day and I’d fiddle with the mirrors perhaps a couple times per hour. Some of those seats weren’t “uncomfortable” but they also didn’t seem to do the job quite the the same way.

  • avatar

    Very nice review. I quite agree about the anonymity. You can’t tell one Volvo from another these days. Furthermore, whereas the Volvos of the ’50s and ’60s were (and are) stunning looking cars, and the Boxes of the 70s to the end of the 90s has character that went so well with the people who purchased them, the current styling is B- or C+.

  • avatar

    This is what a Volvo salesman said to me. “People come in to lease an S40, I tell them they can have the S60 for $30 more a month and they take it.” So there it is. The S60 is for upselling.

    Beats me why anyone would buy a Volvo that wasn’t a wagon. Or any car that wasn’t a wagon.

  • avatar

    After leasing a 2003 Passat – I didn’t care for the new (06) design so I moved into a 2006 S60 2.5T which I’m close to end of the lease on. I don’t care for the new design (again) however I would not want to lease another one. I do think its (the 2006) really handsome compared to ANYTHING in its price range – especially in Magic Blue, a dark deep purple metallic navy. Its way quick – still burns rubber and I’ve had no major problems cept for an under the warranty leaking radiator. Gas milage with the turbo is not great – and the handlings kinda numb (better than the Passat).
    The two major flaws:
    the turning radius – which is ridiculously bad
    and visibility – 60k miles and I still can’t figure out where the car starts and ends.
    Looks like they didn’t address my main gripes and just made it ugly.

  • avatar

    That “vertical slot” in the center stack may be the scar left by deletion of the previously-available integrated cell phone unit. When introduced, the S60 offered a communications package like those offered by GM that could communicate not only hands-free phone calls, but also motor-club trip services and accident reports and supply GPS-enabled theft tracking. Unfortunately, the termination of analog cell service led to the demise of the whole kaboodle. GM offered a quad-band upgrade to OnStar® systems for a price; Volvo could have done the same thing, but the tiny installed base meant too high a unit cost and the user fee would have been extreme without major corporate participation. Now, I have a dead handset in the center console, and a speaker embedded in the driver’s headrest. Bluetooth pretty well takes care of the functionality with the cell phone in my pocket. Bye-bye LoJack service.

  • avatar

    I am an owner of a Volvo s60 T5 and love the car, imperfections included. I enjoy the reviews on TTAC, but found this one a little over the top — but it seems common of the gearhead view of Volvos. I guess you either get Volvos or you don’t. The s60 drives well enough, has terrific seats (and yes, I’ve sat in most of the other luxury brands and they don’t compare), a fantastic stereo, is quiet (seriously, where did you drive and what kind of tires?), and plenty of power with the turbo. The T5 in particular is pretty fast while getting great mileage — how many cars get better than advertised highway mileage (under the old formula)? The little pocket in the dash holds a phone on European models — in the US, it is a great holder for pens and parking passes (and no, things don’t go flying out when you hit the gas — one of the most ridiculous comments in this review). Compared to the s40, the S60 has a luxury worthy interior with thicker leather and better seats — and comes across as a little better screwed together. (And no, the leather is not butter smooth, but I like that.) The s60 is wider than the s40, giving a roomier and more comfortable ride for interior occupants. The interior is well finished throughout, making the s60 a step up from the Altimas and Accords of the world, yet costing less than most comparable luxury models (particularly at the real world transaction price compared to the list price). Only the Acura TL is a better value on price, but frankly I find Acuras a little antiseptic. And let’s talk about the anonymous styling — you mean, Volvo has a coherent brand style that is distinguishable from anything else on the road? If you know your Volvos, you can tell the models apart, and if you don’t, you can instantly recognize its a Volvo.

    The biggest limiations of the Volvo are the small back seat and lousy turning radius if you have a model with wider tires. But, I didn’t buy the car for the back seat (nor did those IS250 buyers either), and I can live with the turning circle.

    I guess — keep bashing Volvos folks — I’ll keep buying a solid, reliable, distinctive luxury car that can last a long time at a discount price.

  • avatar

    wjo –

    You find the Acura TL and TSX’s a little “antiseptic”, but not the Volvo S60? I’ve test driven both the new S40 T5 AWD and the S60 (before settling for a 07 Audi A4 for… $1k less than the Volvo S40?), and they are the very definition of dull/neutral (looks, ride, acceleration, handling)… yes, they are decently nice and are a smooth ride but 1.) I am NOT paying that much for a Volvo and 2.) They are an absolute bore for an enthusiast like me to drive.

    It’s pretty easy to find much better values out there – tough to get customers (esp. in America) for the prices they charge when you can purchase a new Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Acura or Lexus for the same amount of money.

    I know owners like to defend their purchase and I agree with most of your points but I think you went a little overboard towards the end.

  • avatar

    Let me solve Volvo’s marketing woes right now. Why force it when the targets have already selected the cars themselves?

    S80: Senior Partner Attorneys too cool for Lexus
    S60: Junior Attorneys trying not to outdo their bosses
    S40: Daughters of Attorneys trying to impress the sorority

  • avatar

    You find the Acura TL and TSX’s a little “antiseptic”, but not the Volvo S60?

    When I was in the market for a car just before I bought my ’04 S60, I thoroughly looked into the current-era Acura TL. Really nice cars, but several factors prevented me from choosing it over my Volvo:

    – ’04 TLs were consistently several thousand dollars more than ’04 S60s with similar equipment and milage.

    – there are no Acura dealers here in Maine, making service somewhat problematic.

    – and oddly enough, the ’04 TLs did not come with either a fold-down rear seatback or a passthrough from the truck to the passenger compartment. Given that I play hockey and have to tote hockey sticks around, the lack of a pass-through was a significant mark against the TL.

    The TL is a fine car, but it didn’t fit my needs when I was in the market. The S60 did.

  • avatar

    The only thing I can say about Volvo it is a pretty darn fast car.

    I like the review and especially the interior of this Volvo. The car seat is two tone. a rare seat style for cars.

  • avatar

    @ ash78

    I really hope Volvo doesn’t keep trying to claw its way upmarket or many traditional Volvo buyers won’t be able to follow them. The marketing scheme you laid out is great for Audi or BMW, but I think a good many long-time Volvo customers would prefer that Volvo back away from the continuing upmarket trend.

    I’m not advocating an all-out move toward mass market appeal, which would probably suck the lifeblood out of the company. But there’s plenty of reason for Volvo to find itself a better niche than the overly-saturated import luxury segment.

  • avatar

    Agreed. Looking at the prices of many of the Volvos from the past few years, it’s getting out of hand. Even without leaving the European import arena, there are better competitors for basically every car they offer.

    Though I am seeing a ton of S40s these days, probably more than every other Volvo combined. I guess somebody sees the value in driving an upmarket Focus :D

  • avatar

    An Acura TSX (for those who like nimble well handling cars) or an Acura TL (for those horsepower fans who want luxury) will beat this Volvo and its baby brother(S40) in nearly every department.

    Price-wise, I have to agree, Acuras are highly in-demand and offer less negotiation power, but oh well, there’s a reason for it. They last forever, they look hot and are as safe as cars come.

    oh yeah, an Acura will retain its value. A Volvo doesn’t.

  • avatar

    Acruas are good cars, technically excellent, but for me at least a little antiseptic — no character. But I recognize that is a style thing.

    For what it is worth, any turbo Volvo will go a lot faster than a normally aspirated TSX (particularly a TSX with an automatic). My s60 T5 will run with most larger displacement engines under real world driving conditions. You need to reach a much higher tier of pricing to go much faster.

    I also find it curious to compare Volvo list prices with the other cars — in the US at least, Volvos can be had with a significant discount. Not a great trait for a luxury brand, but one I can live with. And as I plan to keep the car for a good while, I don’t mind the depreciation.

  • avatar

    red60r :
    March 22nd, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    That “vertical slot” in the center stack may be the scar left by deletion of the previously-available integrated cell phone unit. When introduced, the S60 offered a communications package like those offered by GM that could communicate not only hands-free phone calls, but also motor-club trip services and accident reports and supply GPS-enabled theft tracking. Unfortunately, the termination of analog cell service led to the demise of the whole kaboodle. GM offered a quad-band upgrade to OnStar® systems for a price; Volvo could have done the same thing, but the tiny installed base meant too high a unit cost and the user fee would have been extreme without major corporate participation. Now, I have a dead handset in the center console, and a speaker embedded in the driver’s headrest. Bluetooth pretty well takes care of the functionality with the cell phone in my pocket. Bye-bye LoJack service
    the crazy vertical slot used to be a pop out cupholder that refused to hold any cup sold in the USA.

  • avatar

    I think this review is a pretty good assessment of the S60’s strengths & weaknesses. No it’s not a 3-series or A4; it’s also costs less. The S60 doesn’t excel in any one area (except its seats) but does fairly well in general, with the exception of backseat legroom which I agree is laughable, but not an issue for our 16-month old. We bought an 07 S60 2.5 as a second car; our other is an 06 XC70. I looked at the Legacy as an alternative to the S60 (AWD for less money than our FWD S60) but couldn’t get past its interior. Our Volvo dealer is excellent too, which probably tipped the scales in favour of the S60. That and the fact that we felt right at home in the S60, given that its interior is almost identical to our XC70.

    Re: The useless cupholder next to the radio: Our XC70 has it; our S60 doesn’t. I think it comes with the convenience package (homelink, folding mirrors, etc.).

    All in all, we’re happy with it, but those looking for a Volvo sedan as a primary car, or those with older kids should consider the S80 instead.

  • avatar

    We acquired a 2002 S60 AWD thinking it would replace our 1996 Volvo 850. The S60 was our 4th and last Volvo–we will never buy another one. We sold the S60 after only 16,000 miles; we still have the 850 it was intended to replace because the 850 is a vastly superior car.

    Volvo did everything wrong with the S60. It was too small to be a family car, too big to be honestly sporty (not that the handling or the slushy automatic inspired sporty driving anyway). After driving a Volvo 240, Volvo 740, and Volvo 850 for many years, it was clear that the S60 violated the design principles that made us love Volvos. The visibility was terrible, whereas previous Volvos all had a legendary greenhouse with honest views in all directions. The taupe colored dashboard reflected on the inside of the windshield. The B-pillar had a sharp edge on it that dug into my upper arm while driving. There was no good place to rest your arm on the door–the armrest was too low and the shelf at the bottom of the window curved too much (counter to all previous Volvos which have fantastic, level door sills. The rear seat had less leg room than our MINI Cooper. The seats are not nearly as comfortable as those in earlier Volvos (I’m not talking about the first few minutes but about how they feel several hours into a long trip). I could go on and on.

    Meanwhile, we still drive the 850 every day, and we’ll keep it indefinitely. After the bad experience with the S60 we went from over a decade of being a 2-Volvo household and switched to Honda and MINI. They lost us forever; we will never buy another Volvo–we don’t even look at them anymore.

  • avatar

    First of all, cars are like ice cream flavors. If that weren’t the case we’d all be driving the same car and there’d be no Baskin-Robbins.

    Secondly, there is no one car that does it all. One would have to own several cars to fill all needs.

    That said, I own a 2004 BMW 330i and a 2006 Volvo S60. Two different cars. Yet car reviewers are always comparing cars to each other in so-called “classes” of autos (these “classes” are more marketing terms than anything real) The reality is each car has its own identity and fills certain needs in its own way. And each fall short in various ways.

    My BMW (my second one, both bought new) is great for driving hard on mountain roads. I throughly enjoy driving it. It’s a car with a perfect balance of handling and power. But on a long trip from LA to SF, it tires me out with its road noise and vibrations and stiff suspension. It’s really not a long distance freeway car.

    The Volvo, on the other hand, is a dream on the freeway with its comfortable and supportive seats and roomy front interior (yes the back is small but so is the BMW’s.) I feel refreshed on long trips. It has enough power and good brakes and a decent suspension. It’s a Euro car and I don’t get the feeling that I’m in some sort of sterile, cheap environment. I dislike the design and sensibilities of Japanese and American cars for that reason.

    Anonymous? Well, if you live in Southern California you are anonymous in a BMW. Everybody and their dog has one. There are more BMW dealers here than probably anywhere else. In the Volvo, I feel like I’m standing out.

    This is not my first Volvo. There are what they are and they do what they do well. A solid car that is sensible and very comfortable and with a solid engine. Maintained well, they will last a long time. They aren’t for everybody but that’s also part of their attraction.

  • avatar

    Just a p.s. to my previous post:

    Getting the 17″ wheels and premium package on the 2.5T version of the S60 makes a big difference. It then comes with better handling, better bolstered seats, etc. The T5 version also has 18″ wheel option and 257 hp with excellent low end torque.

    Volvos are also great cars to modify once the warranty is over. Upgrading the ECU, adding stiffer struts and shocks, free flow exhaust, air intake, lowering springs, etc., you can turn it into a Swedish sleeper.

    And that kind of anonymity is always great fun.

  • avatar

    A friend brought over his girlfriend’s older Volvo S60 to see if I could get the damn key out of the ignition where it was completely stuck.

    I had no luck, but in the process started the engine several times. The first time I thought the engine was in the passenger compartment with me! A loud snarling throb reminiscent of a bus diesel. The second and later starts I paid particular attention to the noise because of this review. I cannot imagine what the noise would be like from a cold start. Good god!

    I haven’t been in any car for decades that sounded like this! The Yaris I was in recently was almost as bad, but not quite! At least it was fun bobbing around town in that thing.

  • avatar

    My 2003 S60 2.5T was my first car at 16. We bought it new with the premium and cold weather packages. I’m an avid car enthusiast so the search for the perfect model was extensive and involved. My top choices were an Audi A4, Bmw 325xi, and this. Honestly, I would have loved the BMW. Though, as a new driver eager to get on the roads, my parents were apprehensive, to say the least, of the me having a performance sport sedan. I’ll be the first to admit that the styling is a bit lacking and the power could be a little more responsive. However, there is a demographic that pursues cars just like this. As a method to get from point A to point B safely and with a little style, this is it! This car has fantastic cargo space. I’ve moved my dorm room and fratnerity rooms in one trip(granted we stored the big stuff). As for the power, it’s lagging, just as the review said, but I have no problem passing or getting on the highway in traffic.

    There is no question that this car has it short-commings, but it has its niche in the market. Honestly, I will be surprised if this car is pulled in the next five years. It’s ideal for the average consumer who likes a touch of luxury, but isn’t craving a roaring M5 V10. Along the same lines, the s80 is almost overkill for many drivers. My family has had Volvos for about 15 years and when I drove the 80, I felt like I was driving a boat. Now it pales in comparison to our 750Li, but for that average consumer, they don’t need a full size luxury sedan! Volvo is doing a brilliant thing by appealing to a general populus that appreciates luxury.

    Their demographic is a buyer who doesn’t need a performance tuned suspension or variable transmission ratios. They need a car that can be a daily driver and still fit in at the club!

  • avatar

    My wife and I just chose, for her, a used 2008 S60 2.5T (FWD) under the certified pre-owned warranty program (6 years/100K miles); it has a little over 12K miles on it. She was just coming out of a 7-year ownership of her Nissan Altima where I definitely did not want to make the same mistake again with a new one. Additionally, I’m a big fan of the Infiniti G35 so I understand what a performance car is. The S60 is no performance vehicle like the Infiniti, but it’s not supposed to be. The styling caught my eye, this car is in absolutely mint condition, the interior and leather seats are lovely, the kids like the rear air vents, and we love the CPO warranty (there’s 4.5 years and 88K miles left on it). Like someone else said, our choice, after the years with the Altima, seems to be more rooted in a dependable way to get from Point A to Point B with a bit of style at a very reasonable cost.

    I think the car is smooth enough, the engine and turbo has a nice little purr, and the 7th year of this design means that all bugs should have been eliminated by now (now sure if there were ever any). As for the cons, I’m not really even sure what the complaint is with the wide turning radius – I really didn’t notice. The only thing that concerns me is the blind spot which seems to be due to the high headrest on the seat not leaving enough gap to turn back to see what’s on the left. She doesn’t think it’s an issue; she loves the car.

    In closing, I think this was a fantastic purchase for $23K where I was able to let the guy before me take the $9K hit in depreciation for the first year. At $32K I would not be a buyer of this car. For $23K, it’s a steal.

  • avatar

    I considered a Volvo S80. It has a surprising amount of room in it, which as a tall person I need.

    Where Volvo went wrong:
    -Not as good options as the competition, although most of them are there.
    -The options it had did not work up to par. For example, it plays mp3 cds but does not let you skip albums, just orders tracks from 1 to however many are on the CD. Even the Ford Focus lets you skip albums.
    -The car was sluggish (not the v8 model), and gets the same or worse gas mileage than most v8s that have a lot more power. I could totally forgive the car for being a bit sluggish and not fun to drive if it got 30+ mpg.
    -The engine was loud when I gave it gas — which was quite often because it accelerated pretty slowly.
    -While the interior is extremely roomy — something I never would have guessed from the outside, I could not see overhead redlights.
    -The seat likes to tilt back at a funny angle, and the controls at the side of the seat are nnot only hard to use, but the seat moves way too fast to be able to stop it where you may like it. I found that to adjust the seat I often had to move it all the way forward in order to move it back, and all the way back in order to move it forward.

    Everything I did not mention, Volvo did right –which is a lot, so it’s certainly not a bad car. However, having to wait for the guy behind me to start honking his horn so I know the light turned green because I can’t see it is kind of a major problem.

    I actually liked the car a lot more than I thought I would. I learned to drive in a Volvo 740. A large midsize car with absolutely no room inside it — I could actually see better in that car when I opened the moonroof and stuck my head out the window! My sister’s first car was a Volvo 240 that needed brakes and rotors every 5000 miles, a new distributor cap every other month, and every month inbetween something else would always break and leave her stranded. Between the two, and between always thinking Volvos are simply overpriced, I did not expect to like the S80 at all.

    It is true that Volvos all look very close to each other, but at least they have their own look to them at the same time.

  • avatar

    I have a 2001 S60 which I purchased used with about 143k on the odometer. I mainly purchased it because I find it to have been one of the best looking cars on the market. It looks good from EVERY angle and you can’t say that about every car. When comparing it with other near luxury cars that stickered in the high 20s to high 30s back in 2001, the Volvo’s styling WAS very trend setting and cutting edge as was the interior design (they were the first to do HVAC controls with the little guy too!) Looking at the same year BMW 3 series or Mercedes C Class the Volvo wins hand’s down as staying the most modern out of the three. Yes it is front wheel drive which is good for some, the rear seats suck and the leather is cheap. However, mine has not one rattle and is still tight as a drum. It was also 3k less than a similarly equipped BMW of the same year and mileage. Also, let’s not forget that the base engines in the 325 and C240 were gutless at 170 and 180 hp or so respectively, the Volvo has about 197 and way more torque. So, comparing the car to the peers that it was up against in 2001 when it was launched it was modern and fresh. Yes, it has lasted far too long (9 years) without a major redesign (now taken care of in 2011) as the competition was updated in 2006. Regardless, my 10 year old car looks far more modern than most and for 5k I can live with it. Had I paid 37k, the sticker when new, I would be pissed but I consider this to be a great used car bargain!

  • avatar

    I own a Volvo S60 and can honestly say that this REVIEW STINKS and is BORDERLINE TROLLING of what is a great, robust, reliable, comfortable and HANDSOME CAR with serious ROAD PRESENCE.

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