By on April 28, 2014

2014 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

To the pro audio crowd, boom and sizzle is a descriptive insult. The extreme overemphasis of low and high frequencies makes a strong first impression that often wows the uninformed. The 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design is a boom and sizzle kind of car.

Let’s review for a minute what an S60 is underneath all the Norse mythology. A Ford Mondeo. Other EUCD platform-mates include luminaries such as the Land Rover LR2 and Ford Galaxy. All are fine enough, but only Audi has been able to transform similarly modest front-drive roots into a credible premium European luxury brand.

side view of 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design

The Volvo S60’s basic engineering is good stuff. Compared to the original S60 the structural rigidity is up overall, the suspension’s springs, bushings, dampers and mounting points are stiffer, and Volvo says it paid particular attention to removing flex from the steering column. This information is old news; the second generation of the S60 debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010. Since then, Volvo has been tweaking and tweezing a little bit every year. The tinkering has culminated in a new front end for 2014, which makes the newest S60s easy to spot on the road. “There goes a Volvo fan,” you’ll say.

The S60 T6 R-Design AWD is the ultimate Volvo fan’s Volvo. The new front end sheetmetal wraps around the big-honker 3.0 liter turbocharged inline six cylinder. This is the engine that lets Volvo brag about kicking BMW’s ass. By the numbers, it’s a solid upper-cut. The transverse six peaks at 325 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, enough that you can show the small blue Polestar emblem on the trunklid to just about anyone.  It’s a powerful, responsive engine, with a lot of midrange guts thanks to the turbine-fed lungs. The engine is the boom, a piston-powered subharmonic synthesizer to shake the room, if you will.

front view of 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design

The sizzle is delivered by the styling. More specifically, the R-Design gingerbread. The standard S60 tries its best to be distinctive, which mostly means it’s got front- and rear-end treatments evolved from the now-seminal 1998 S80. In between are slabby doors with as much sculpting as Volvo could muster. The new-for-2014 front end is made up of larger headlights, a bigger, re-shaped grille, new quarter panels and a hood that’s got more figuring stamped into it. It helps the S60 banish the occasional whiff of anteater you’d glance in the 2011-2013 models. It’s the sharp end of bland styling.

To make it look more special, Volvo gives the R-Design the Euro-equivalent of a 1950’s chrome bonanza. That means metallized accents like the mirror caps, a chrome accent around the windows, a special R-Design grille with a badge denoting its specialness, diffuser-ish looking trim on the rear bumper and dual exhaust tips that are more better-er than other S60s. I was also treated to the upgraded 19” Ixion wheels. This made the Haldex all-wheel drive system work extra-hard in the winter, thanks to the ridiculous aspect ratio and tires without a snowflake on the sidewall.

close up shot of Volvo Ixion wheel

The only option for shifting is a pity of a six-speed automatic. You do get the obligatory manual gate so you can pretend you’re in control, but shift paddles or no, the transmission is in charge and response is slow. Leave it in Drive and don’t expect too much and you’ll be fine. The all-wheel drive tames the Scandinavian wrestling match that used to happen in the feisty T-square days. One thing I was surprised to learn: The S60 will hang its tail out in the right conditions. You have to tell the stability control to stand down first, but it’s a bit of behavior that lends credibility to the performance overtures Volvo is making here.

The turbo six is very responsive, and it’s maybe too much engine for the rest of this car. The power is all-in quickly, with a torque response plot that looks like a line drawing of a sofa table. I never wanted for power, and the R-Design trim comes with a sportier chassis tune and a strut tower brace to work in tandem with the stiff structure. The spec sheet looks good, but it doesn’t gel as well as the numbers might suggest. Remember, the competition is Audi, BMW and Mercedes, along with Cadillac, Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti, too. Tough room.

Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design engine

The S60s competes on its wits and value more than its capabilities as a sedan that can hang with the high-performing competition. In other words, it’s like a wheeled pop song with smiley-face EQ. The numbers are one thing, but you have to endure a stiff-kneed ride and dull steering. The sporty all-seasons on the S60 I drove probably didn’t help steering feedback during a deep winter cold snap, either. The big wheels clop about tangibly, even if the S60 stays stuck pretty well to the road. There’s head-toss, and my admittedly overabundant supply of body fat took to jiggling uncomfortably thanks to the suspension tuning. For all the turgidity, there’s still more body roll than I expected. The back seat is tight, so is the trunk, and the joie de conduissez isn’t as deep or accessible in the Volvo, even as competition like the 3 Series is getting knocked for going soft. The S60 T6 AWD is a hell of a drag racer, though.

The interior is done with Volvo flair. That means great basic ergonomics, though there are a lot of small buttons on the center stack. Platinum-package outfitting in my test car means I got to experience all the options, from a great-sounding 12-speaker premium audio system to power-retracting side mirrors to navigation. I also spent the first few hours figuring out how everything works – Volvos remain quirky that way. I never did warm up to the navigation and infotainment interface. It’s laggy, slow and cumbersome. Redundant controls on the steering wheel spokes help. Otherwise, you’re left adjusting stuff with a rotary dial and multi-layered menus.

Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design instrument panel

The instrument cluster is driver-oriented. A large central speedometer and left and right LCDs display information clearly. You can select between display themes, which will also change the information displayed. The choice of information display is a nice touch, and I was most amused by the “Power” modulometer. My test car had all sorts of stuff, driving the price up. It had the Climate Package, Technology Package, Volvo Sensus Connected Touch with Navigation, Blind Spot Information System with Front and Rear Park Assist, and those 19″ wheels with summer tires. The result of all that up-fitting is a price tag around $54,500.

Materials in the R-Design are top-notch for the class. This is where some of that Volvo value proposition comes shining through. You get leather seating, classy textured metal and tasteful satin-finish trim rings. The seats are generally very comfortable, but the overly-aggressive head restraints force weird posture and they’re non-adjustable. This has been an unfortunate Volvo trait for a while. In the R-Design, the seats get handsome contrast stitching and R-Design logos embossed in the seatbacks.

Volvo S60 interior

In practical matters, the S60 T6 R-Design is solid for the class. The 12 cubic foot trunk is small, but so is everyone elses’, and the rear seatbacks do fold down. Good luck with that tiny trunk opening, though. Fuel economy was 22 mpg during my time with the car, or what you’ve been able to expect from turbo Volvos since forever. You could crest 30 mpg on the highway pretty easily, especially if you keep your boot out of the power and let the adaptive cruise control handle things. The self-regulating cruise control is admirably well-tuned, though it’s still more herky-jerky than an attentive driver. It’ll bug you if you abhor the use of brakes as a speed-control technique on the highway, as I do.

rear view of 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design

You’ll have a hard time getting a BMW 3 Series, Audi S4, or Mercedes C Class as well-equipped and muscled-up as the S60 T6 R-Design for the Volvo’s price tag of $43,000 to start. Even though my test car was loaded, it’s still price-competitive when you compare the competition with all those features piled on. It’s easy to appreciate the high-quality interior, the distinctive styling, and solid value.

The S60 is a well-built car, my flip comments about its platform origins aside. Most people will be easily wowed by the impressive engine and wouldn’t know what to do with a competent chassis, anyway. For those that know, however, the S60 T6 R-Design is a 7/10ths execution on performance measures. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just not as satisfying as the excellence available for similar money in this class. Volvo earns a 9/10ths on the luxury car side of things, though, which is where you’ll sacrifice in other brands for a better driving experience. It’s a valid tradeoff, and for the public at large, the S60 T6 R-Design has got it where it counts. A four-on-the-floor disco track is never going to impress a Jazz Cat who wants nimbly-executed changes in 11/4 time.

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24 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar...”

  • avatar

    I test drove the T5 in both the XC60 as well as the XC70 wagon. Both were great. I am waiting for the T6s to arrive.
    The MPGs are amazing for their size wagon/SUV…over-all at 27(T5) and 25(T6)
    …not bad, huh? Hell…fantastic for a turbo AND supercharged SUV!
    Looking very much to this XC60 T6.

    I actually fell in love with the wagon…but again have been reminded by the wife…a wagon will NEVER sit in our driveway.
    Will such a threat work for me in divorce court?

  • avatar

    This is probably the last hurrah for Volvos with I-6 engines now that the new E-Drive series is in production. E-Drive seems very cool in concept, but I want to see if it’s actually as good as Volvo would have you believe.

  • avatar

    “R-Design” Volvos just don’t do it for me. To me, a Volvo should be set up as a comfy cruiser with a nice tan leather interior.

  • avatar

    Interesting review. The sceptical baseline aside, the melody up front is positive.

    This thing is getting old and I haven’t even tried it. With R-trim Volvo sold its technocrat soul to marketing, in my eyes. R used to mean something, now it’s stitching and decals. Meh. A nod to the Apple-crowd of look-what-I-boughts.

    • 0 avatar

      More repeating of cliche’s the knowledgeable Volvo enthusiast is ‘supposed’ to say. It’s a LOT more than stitching and decals. For 2015 on…
      1. 354 lb ft of torque vs about 290 tops in the 4 cylinder T6 fwd models available, or even older 6 cylinder T6 awd versions with only 325 lb ft. O-60 time is .3 to .9 seconds better. Some reports have it doing 0-60 in just 5.0 seconds and this is WITHOUT the ability to turn off stability and traction control which keeps one from using the power braking cheat techniques used to achieve sub 5.0 second times on cars like the 3 series. Real world, it feels just as quick.

      2. Stiffer lower springs, stiffer bushings, wider rear roll bar, and an overall stance over half an inch lower.

      3. Shift programming is more aggressive than Volvos of old and the transmission has a new “quick shift” controller attached to it.

      4. The ONLY way one can buy a 6 cylinder Volvo anymore is to get an R design.

      4. Btw, it BLOWS AWAY those old creaky Volvo “real R’s” of old in every way possible.

  • avatar

    “…a price tag around $54,500.”

    Ay, there’s where Volvo loses the crowd. They offer plenty of features on an old [FWD] platform, and a design which [though new] has been on the block since the 90’s. Nobody will know your new Volvo “Are those Chinese now?” from the 8 year old one they saw yesterday in the Target parking lot. Nobody knows what Polestar or R-Design means either. Does it mean prestige like Audi or BMW or Merc? What they will know is that your new car doesn’t have tinted windows, but does have black trim, a black grille, and black Auto Zone wheels like a 3rd owner Galant. I was put in mind of the Galant when looking at the pictures.

    I had such a hard time reading this review, Winston! The paragraphs switch topics back and forth as fast as an ADD kid on Mountain Dew. The photos could benefit from some light assistance, and a clean car as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Winston Braithwaite

      You know – the clean car thing – everyone has been conditioned to expect studio-quality photography from every review. I made a decision that this car with its wintry patina looked good in the shots, especially with the lens flare arty stuff.

      I’ll work on jumping around less

    • 0 avatar

      FYI, I DROVE OUT a 2015 S60 R design PLATINUM with 19″ wheels, heated seats, and metallic paint added to that, for a whopping $45,000. MSRP was a little over $49,000.

      Real world prices and MSRP are not the same thing.

      Wheel design is subjective of course, but before buying I read about 20 reviews and you are the first person to equate them with cheapness. They are very strong and light weight, unlike many wheels, btw. Most reviewers say the car is attractive, and the wagon version “stunning”. Maybe your sense of taste is the problem.

      Any grown man who buys cars for “prestige” is pathetic.

  • avatar

    There are so many things wrong with this review, I just give up.

    When is TTAC going to employ a proper car reviewer? Or even a news reposter who has at least some clue about cars and basic math?

    This site is fast heading towards the bottom unless someone in charge wakes up and pulls things together.

    • 0 avatar
      Winston Braithwaite

      Whatever do you mean?

      Can you explain your frustrations?

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t even see any math in the review so it looks to be just arbitrary ranting. I’m guessing he wants laundry-list reviews to compete with Car&Driver.

        Generally it’s a bad idea to clash head-on with an established competitor, especially in a blog format like TTAC. That’s my main suggestion for this one; it could use more sizzle and do its own thing. IOW, focus on a few key traits to expand on instead of doing a checklist.

  • avatar

    Just wanted to say that I enjoyed the review and the pictures. I have a soft spot for these cars. They look good (to me) and have interesting interiors and comfy seats. I came pretty close to buying a 2011 T5 s60 recently for these reasons.

    • 0 avatar

      And the reasons you “came pretty close” but didn’t buy are probably the same ones causing everyone else -not- to make the purchase.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, brand-conscious guys who are trying to use a car badge to get laid in their leased luxury brand cars, and the same women who want shiny things to put on their hands because they heard someone say they’re expensive. Having owned 3 BMW’s already, I wrote a check for my Volvo R design, didn’t lease it, am not making payments on it, and have owned two 5 series and a 3 and like this car better than the E90 3 series so far.

        The very “status” desperate payment buyers seek to obtain via their car I cringe at. I prefer a car nobody wants to cut off in traffic or key in a parking lot. I have nothing to prove. Americans need to grow up and get beyond that whole “I live in a 1 br rental apt but I drive a leased $55,000 car” joke.

    • 0 avatar
      This Is Dawg

      I also liked the review, but the linking to images was a bit bizarre. I can’t get over that center button panel though. Really? 6 dead buttons just to complete a rectangle that already looks bad? Spread that crap out, no one wants to remember the recycled air button is 6(5?) buttons down on the right. Unless they think empty, glossy surfaces are appealing? In which case, smush those floating circles into a concentric rectangle! Boom, you could put a full refridgerator down there!

  • avatar

    I like the S60 and have had several as loaners. I would consider one to go alongside my XC90 but I found it way to difficult to load my kids into their car seats due to the chopped rear roofline.

    Otherwise, I think $55k is a bit too high in this class but everyone knows the sticker price on a Volvo is nowhere near the actual transaction price.

    • 0 avatar

      I guess I don’t understand the 55K price. The XC60 and XC70 wagons I looked at all had the T5 and were pretty nicely loaded for 41K.
      As I said above, I did not get a chance to test drive or look at the window stickers of the T6s in these…but I thought the prices were similar except for the engine upgrades and a few packages.

      And I liked the review. But there will always be Volvo haters and the same old bashing of the tech. I guess nobody but the Germans can share chassis and parts and get away with it.

    • 0 avatar

      The R design is pretty well equipped at $10K less than that price, which was the top trim plus a suite of techo gadgets to help one drive the car. Any other Euro brand with similar options would be $5K more.

      And yes, discounts and incentives abound.

  • avatar

    I don’t know about this particular version, but the one with the twin charged 302hp I4 seems like an interesting way to spend $39K.

  • avatar

    The S60 and V60 alike are marred by substandard rear headroom.

    • 0 avatar

      Unlike the limo-like ATS, A4, C class, etc. (and prev gen 3 series)

      They’re small sport sedans. Buy a bigger car if you need to haul your basketball buddies around.

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