By on January 9, 2018

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription front quarter

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, DOHC (245 hp @ 5,600 rpm; 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

25 city / 36 highway / 29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

30.2 (As tested, MPG)

Base Price: $39,945 (U.S) / $47,650 (Canada)

As Tested: $47,715 (U.S) / $55,265 (Canada)

Prices include $995 freight charge in U.S. and $2,015 delivery, destination and A/C tax in Canada, and because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

3.1 inches, and 4,529 miles. These two dimensions are what make this Volvo unique. If you’re not hip to the lingo, the “Inscription” label on this car has nothing to do with a scribbled authors’ note on the front page of a favorite book. Inscription means, oddly, an extended wheelbase. 3.1 inches, to be precise.

4,529 miles? That’s a bit more straightforward. This long-wheelbase Volvo S60 is built in a market where that extra rear passenger space is valued above all else: Chengdu, China – over four thousand miles away from the ancestral Volvo home in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Do these figures matter? Is the Sichuan-made S60 a credible competitor, or will the point of final assembly scare too many shoppers away?

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription rear seat

Both my wife and I are taller than average, and our kids tend to – as one would expect – fit our mold. As such, we can strain the limits of rear seat comfort in nearly any car, let alone a compact sedan. With a quoted 36.9 inches of legroom in the S60 Inscription, there is no chance of a knee to my back unless my kid suddenly grows taller than me – at which point, I’ll be driving her to a WNBA tryout. The rear seat comfort is better than any car I’ve experienced. As well, the optional heated front and rear seats fitted to this tester helped the kids drift off to sleep.

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription front seat

I didn’t like the front seat quite as much, but that’s down to my unusual body construction. You’ll note that the headrests are not adjustable, but they do protrude forward a bit from the lower section of the vertical cushion. I’ve a rather tall upper body, so this headrest catches me near the tops of my shoulders. It’s not overwhelmingly uncomfortable – it’s merely annoying, and does frustrate after a long day behind the wheel.

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription interior

The controls for both the audio and HVAC are clustered in a mass of buttons flanked by four large knobs controlling temperature and volume. It’s a bit overwhelming – who really needs a 10-digit keyboard on the dash unless you’re homesick for Excel while commuting? – but the audio controls are duplicated on the steering wheel in a more natural layout. The Harman Kardon-branded audio system (included in the $4,200 Platinum package) was a splendid-sounding companion to my questionable choices in music.

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription center stack

For my first day driving the S60 Inscription, I struggled with finding a suitable side mirror adjustment. I simply could not get the power mirrors to swivel outboard enough to get a proper blind spot view. Having not driven many Volvos since my brief dalliance with a Craigslist-special, $300 740 wagon many years ago, I chalked it up to a Swedish quirk that could be solved by the optional blind spot information system.

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription infotainment

That’s until I played with the mirror itself. The folding mechanism that allows the mirror to stow when parked in tight spots has a very weak spring (or a shallow detent) that makes it fiddly to get the mirror in the fully-extended position. It seems I’d been driving with the mirror partly folded. I had to re-adjust several times over the week after the mirror would get bumped in a parking lot.

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription front

Like I said, I once owned a Volvo – the boxy 740 wagon that many non-enthusiasts picture when imagining a Volvo. That brick may not have been styled in the traditional sense – rather, the body panels simply existed as a box to contain the mechanicals.

My, how times have changed. I’ll stop short of calling the S60 Inscription sexy, but the gently-rising line on the flanks that starts at the trailing edge of the headlamps and leads to the sculpted haunches over the rear wheels is a lovely detail. It’s a memorable design, at the very least.

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription rear quarter

If only they’d paint the car some sort of color. The Inscription is only available in various shades of white, silver, grey, or beige – the lovely bright Polestar Blue is only available on, you guessed it, the high-performance Polestar model. The silver suits the low-key nature of the car, certainly, but more interesting hues would be quite welcome.

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription trunk

Admittedly, interesting paint colors aren’t the only thing holding the S60 Inscription back from the realm of excitement. The long wheelbase, all-wheel drive, and relatively low power from the turbo four-cylinder do not a sports sedan make. It’s an excellent long-distance tourer, with minimal road noise, and excellent damping of road imperfections small or large. The ride is incredibly serene for a compact sedan. I averaged over 30 miles per gallon – which for my typical driving is excellent. It’s just not fast.

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription gauges

A couple of months ago, Jack rented the S90– the big brother to this S60, also assembled in China. He took issue with some details that betrayed the quality one would expect from a European-branded sedan. I’m not as equipped as Jack is to discuss the various concerns with China’s culture and treatment of low-wage factory workers, but I looked closely at this S60 Inscription. Beyond the VIN starting with “L” and the side mirror funkiness, I couldn’t spot anything that would tell me that the car wasn’t built in Sweden.

Would I buy the 2018 Volvo S60 Inscription? That’s another question altogether. I tend to want a little more fun out of my drive at times. The excellent fuel mileage and long-distance legs make it a compelling cruiser, and for many the numbers will add up in favor of this Volvo.

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription rear

[Images: © 2017 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

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44 Comments on “2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription Review – A Numbers Game...”

  • avatar

    I thought the LWB compact car was silly, but this thing makes total sense. Mainstream manufacturers should design their compacts to have ~37-39″ rear legroom… then you will really see the death of the midsizer.

  • avatar

    I struggle to find a reason to buy a Volvo unless the dealer is close by and extremely easy to deal with. I like the 120,000 mile warranty on the CPO models but other than that I can’t really figure out what a current Volvo does better than any of its competitors.

    Santa Fe has a Mazda/Volvo dealer and honestly I feel sorry for them. Must be a quiet lonely place to work.

    • 0 avatar

      Volvos aren’t really flyover state cars.

      • 0 avatar

        “Volvos aren’t really flyover state cars.”

        These days, they aren’t really any-state cars. They used to sell on safety and some luxury cachet, in the case of this S60 it’s just a perfectly mediocre warmed over too-small sedan that they’ve tacked on some much needed legroom to, and now make in China. Doesn’t sound compelling from any angle, except perhaps rustproofing. I think Volvo’s demographic has been almost wholly absorbed by Subaru for the utilitarian “smart pragmatist” set, and Audi for the “understated luxury” set.

        • 0 avatar

          @gtem bingo

          Having the Volvo franchise in Santa Fe in say 1985 to the early 1990s must have been awesome. Tweed jacket professor types, successful artists, scientists from Sandia Labs… Now the Subaru dealer in Santa Fe is a license to print money.

    • 0 avatar

      The seats. Really you need to sit in one, they are fantastic.

      • 0 avatar

        That. The seats are astoundingly comfortable – unless, as the author says, you have just the wrong build for the headrests.

        The headrests are doubtless Very Crash Safe, but in terms of comfort they’re the puzzling odd-man-out in Volvo seats.

        • 0 avatar

          Interesting… in our ’08 Volvo the head rests (along with the seats) were perfect. It is pretty much the ONLY vehicle in which both my wife at 5’3″ and me at 6′ found where the head rests are in the right place and actually comfortable.

          I love the interior and exterior design language Volvo uses. However ours (the rare C30 hatchback) broke so many expensive, random parts we had to say good bye to it. We saw one the other day and my wife raced up to drive along side… she really misses that little Swedish car.

  • avatar

    I find the griping about them being built in China to be silly – having owned a baker’s dozen of Volvos over the years I can assure everyone that the Swedes get no prizes for build quality either. But generally good, solid, if also stolid and dull cars. Saabs were always far more interesting, unfortunately in all senses of the word.

    Having had numerous rental S and V60s thanks to Sixt, I have the identical complaint about the seats to Chris. Horrid. Also, not a sports sedan at all, just a premium semi-lux sort of FWD car. No different than a Lincoln or an Acura. At a decent wedge off MSRP probably not terrible value, but not making the Germans sweat in any way either. But choice is good, no? For a tall family an interesting choice as long as everyone is long-legged and not long-waisted like me and Chris.

    • 0 avatar

      It might be awhile before China-built is not a go-to shtick. My Envision is very well built for it’s discounted price and is fun to hoon in the snow with the electronics turned off.

      • 0 avatar

        You feeding the communists. If you would know the government structure in China, etc. + for the world would be good if China cut their population in half. If you gonna buy their stuff it is not going to happen. Here is what you read in the news – Putin dictator. Oh, I heard senator saying, “Putin’s fascist regime”. But nobody say anything about China fascist regime. Because it will make corporations not very happy. Putin doesn’t shut down google or facebook, China does. And so on.

        Back to cars. The problem will be with tooling. In China the culture is such so they may simply skip tool tuneup. Or, if number is off by 0.1, they will say, “good enough”. And so on.

        And you drive your Envision for 1 year and declare it “very well built”. I’ve heard this one before.

        • 0 avatar

          Golitsyn Thesis.


          • 0 avatar

            At this time, the content you offer is just history and doesn’t represent current state

          • 0 avatar

            Many of his predictions did come true and the Russian government is run by ex-KGB with ex-KGB also heading up international organized crime. Conversely the United States has slowly lurched into a similar state to the USSR in the 1970s. None of this is by coincidence. They will demo this nation/empire as they did the Soviet Union and finally force East-West convergence. Take it to the bank.

          • 0 avatar

            Crap is flying everywhere. Make the best out of what’s coming your way. And don’t worry about them. Waste of time. everyone just a temporary fixture.

    • 0 avatar

      It might be a little petty, but living somewhere that wealthy Chinese have decided to use the local real estate as a dumping ground for their money (plausibly instead of funnelling it into humane working conditions for their employees), I’d really rather not send them any more money.

  • avatar

    Very few seams and gaps in the center console, especially where the gear selector is. It’s just one big piece of wood and faux metal. Totally not seen in new Jags or Land Rovers.

  • avatar

    The car looks pretty tight, considering it was assembled by 8 year-olds who weren’t being paid union scale. I thought Volvo wasn’t going to produce any more ICE cars.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t really consider the S60 to be a “compact” car. Perhaps to someone with a larger frame like Chris…but objectively this is more of a mid-size sedan, or at the very least a ‘tweener a la 2nd-gen CTS.

  • avatar

    I was a huge fan of RWD Volvo cars, but the new ones just don’t speak to me. Bread-and-butter brands have such high content levels these days that I would have trouble paying a premium for a “near luxury” brand. What does this do better than an Accord?

    • 0 avatar

      Offer RWD? Better seats?

      (Which Accord? The Touring accord is very high-spec … but also starts at $36K after upgrading to the 2.0T, which is the comparable engine to the T5.

      The Inscription needs packages to compete with the Touring on features – or the Platinum trim, at $41k, $43k with AWD. Add in climate and blindspot, and it’s $43/45. No HUD, but you get a heated wheel and washers.

      “Is it worth 5K more” is at that point a matter of deep personal preference and how you like the way they drive; after driving my XC70 I’d pay quite a bit just for Volvo *seats* in any car.

      Plus unless Honda’s radically improved their infotainment system since 2015 when I test-drove a Crosstour, their UI would make me want to tear out my eyeballs.

      Equally, if I just wanted a nice sedan to drive around and was very cost-sensitive, a base Accord would be a fine choice. And the S60 never even pretends to compete with a 1.5T Accord.)

      (And OH MY GOD, Honda’s website is uselessly broken in Firefox, and full of awful bloat. When did they ruin it?)

  • avatar

    “It’s a bit overwhelming – who really needs a 10-digit keyboard on the dash unless you’re homesick for Excel while commuting?”

    My XC70 has the same control panel, and the 10key is pretty useful for inputting addresses to the nav system (since who dials phones manually anyway in 2018?), since it can do text entry in the old fashioned way, too, which is faster than the dial.

    (The best part is the climate controls with the seated-human diagram for airflow, though. They should never stop using that.)

    • 0 avatar
      velvet fog

      Who uses in car nav anymore when Google Maps and Waze are infinitely better and never out of date?

    • 0 avatar

      Well Sigivald, if you can find a use for that freaking 10-key device, I’ll go out on a limb and say you are a CPA and getting caught up on work on the road. I assume that you use it while parked, but can’t you just tell Siri (or the Android version) where you want to go?

      I would drive that sucker off the road in a second if I tried to do ANYTHING with it while driving. It’s like having a flip phone on your console, hey Volvo, it’s 1990 and the interwebz is calling your name.

      Beyond that, I’m beginning to get more comfortable with the mindset that I might someday buy a car that was built in China, I think I’m still a couple of years off.

      Yup, certainly would go with the Accord loaded up to the gills before I’d spend this type of coin. Having driven a loaded Accord 3 weeks ago, while I haven’t driven this car, I know where my money would go.

      Lastly, update the Firefox browser. Loads fast on Safari, Chrome, and Brave – they do have a lot of moving parts on the site but it’s pretty zippy to me.

    • 0 avatar

      I will say the 10 keypad makes jumping between Sirius/XM stations super easy. Some cars have 5 or maybe 6 presets if your lucky, however if you’ve got a touchscreen that requires you to scroll thru a list you’ll be hating life.

  • avatar

    Tactical quality will likely improve under Chinese ownership and production. Euro-built models (like my S80) are known for their squeaky center consoles, fragile door lock actuators, and reading lamp switches that were apparently lifted from a 1991 Ford Tempo.

    What remains to be seen about Made-in-China Volvos is corrosion resistance. Swedish steel is hard to beat for longevity, and without it I would join the chorus of people who see no reason to own a Volvo.

  • avatar

    My father went from a V50 Wagon to an S60 T5 Wagon (this article IS about the S60, right? Because you keep talking about the S90, so you might want to proofread your stuff . . . anyways) without even cross shopping anything – that’s how much he loved his old Volvo (which I thought was horribly numb and boring).

    Much to my surprise, the S60 T5 is even MORE horribly numb and boring than his old Volvo. Which I guess is perfect for a 70 year old interested in transporting skis in the winter and plants in the summer.

  • avatar

    I’m not impressed. I see a ho-hum styled sedan featuring things you can get on any other competitor. It’s wrapped in a boring oval envelope, and has innards which were only new looking circa 2011.

    An Audi A4 is the same size, better looking, will be better made, has a nicer interior, and has a better badge on the front. It costs the same.

    • 0 avatar

      The A4 back seat doesn’t come close to this in space/leg room. The normal wheelbase S60 has an awful backseat. So pick your poison – nearly useless or ridiculously roomy.

      The S60 is old. It’s way past it’s shelf life. It’s an ok car, but marketing it as some luxury/sport sedan is overplaying what it delivers.

  • avatar

    I remember having a similar problem with mirrors on a rental V60 this summer. I think I solved it by turning off the automatic folding function.

  • avatar

    I’ve had 3 Volvos over the last decade (S60, XC70, XC60) and love them. The ergonomics take a minute to get used to but once you do they make perfect sense and other brands seem foolish. Seats are really comfortable and solid reliability. We’ll always have at least one in the garage. Looking forward to ditching the ML350 for a CPO XC90 soon.

  • avatar

    Interesting review. I like the way author flips between S60 and S90 with no shame. It makes you guessing all the time and never gets boring.

  • avatar

    An absolutely embarrassing review. How did this make it through editorial review before the publish button was pushed?

  • avatar

    The review is confused several times about whether the car is an S60 or S90.

    “For my first day driving the S90 Inscription”

    “I’ll stop short of calling the S90 Inscription sexy”

    Poor editing.

    European S60s are made in BELGIUM, NOT Sweden. Always have been. But the S60L is only made in China, presuming it was an S60. The author is obviously unaware of the Belgian reality, just as he was not clear what car he was driving.

    As for the usual China haters, and I may well be one philosophically but can at least recognize reality, the Volvo factory in China and the second new one being built and the Lynx one are FAR ahead of the Ghent Belgium facility. Full of new Swiss production machinery. Geely ain’t some cheapo outfit.

    Soon the uninformed pack of complainers here can start complaining about the new Volvo factory outside Charlotte SC where US made S60s will be churned out. Those are the ones I’d avoid in 2019 myself just because.

    As for the car itself, not a Volvo fan myself.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, I found that the most interesting and telling part of the article … the author couldn’t remember what car he was driving!!! I think that shows Volvo’s biggest sales problem right there.

      For the record, I am a little cautious about the “Made in China” cars, but I still find the S90 a bit interesting. The S60, however, much less so.

  • avatar

    That’s one ugly S90. They should have stayed with the 2017 S90 design. This one seems like a step back, but what do I know, I only edit other people’s writing all day.

  • avatar

    I know that Volvo still retains the “boxy” reputation and I know the public takes a long time to come around. But I’m tired of hearing this description when it comes from auto journalists.

    The fact is that the Volvo 200 series that earned the “boxy” description was introduced in the 1970s. It was more or less phased out by the late 80s with production finally ended in the early 90s. The 700 and 900 series were angular but not particularly boxy. And when Volvo started selling the S__ and V__ along with the XC__ models, most of the angles were gone and body styles started to border on curvaceous. In fact, Volvos by this point had curves and shoulder lines in places where no other manufactures had them. The newest Volvos are some of the most striking cars on the road. My point is that Volvo’s boxy reputation was well earned…40 YEARS AGO. And they’ve been cranking out more interesting designs that most manufacturers over the last 20 years. Note, I have no skin in this game. I grew up in a family with 200 series wagons and appreciate Volvo as a brand but have never considered buying one. But it’s time to stop telling people what they expect to hear and start telling them the truth.

  • avatar

    FFS, copy editors, where are you? This piece repeatedly refers to the wrong model, the S90 rather than the S60.

    When the S60 Inscription came out in the US, last year IIRC, it came with a screamin’ lease deal. I wonder if that’s still being offered.

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    Thanks, B&B, for reminding me that I need to properly sort my caffeine intake when writing and editing my work.

    You have to admit that S60 and S90 look remarkably similar when skimming through words on a screen. excuse. I’ve fixed my errors. My apologies.

  • avatar

    I have a 2017 S60 Inscription and so far after 7 months there’s been no issues. Previously, I had a 2012 S60 that was plagued by a handful of initial quality issues. I honestly couldn’t tell a difference between the Belgian assembled S60 versus the Chinese one. I’ve been very happy with it.

  • avatar

    Having worked in a Swedish manufacturing company in China, first in sourcing and then as the GM of the factory, let me just say that having machines made in China has a definite and negative impact on quality.

    And then there’s the new wave of planned obsolescence, and some engineers take it to mean it’s ok if some of the designs are not up to par; because it will bring the customer back for an interaction, and they hope it’s a positive one. Yeah…

    When you move production to China, it’s natural to try to source components as close to your assembly as possible, Toyota method and all. And quality has ALWAYS been a struggle, not only with the suppliers, but also internally. You have to spend so much time training and enforcing quality processes that it’s just unbelievable. People just love taking shortcuts because it’s the “smart” thing to do, as long as they don’t get caught. But for a product that’s going to be used for years, someone is going to catch it.

    Don’t let it be you, after the warranty expires.

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