2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Inscription Review - A Numbers Game

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

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.
2018 volvo s60 t5 awd inscription review a numbers game

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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2 of 44 comments
  • Rogueagent71 Rogueagent71 on Jan 15, 2018

    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.

  • Von Von on Jan 17, 2018

    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.

  • ToolGuy VW (marque not group) and Tesla very nearly switched positions on a YTD basis.
  • RHD Inexpensive gasoline appears to be a thing of the past. ILO is correct - we have enough sunlight, wind and emerging ocean wave energy to power the entire country and then some. Clean air is nice, and being free of the whims of OPEC, geopolitics and hugely profitable oil companies will do all of us a world of good.
  • Raymond Segura Can you tell me where I can get the rear bumper for 69 impala?
  • Art Vandelay some of the crazy numbers I get. Percentages look bigger with any fluctuations with low volume makes and brands leaving the market will see massive month over month changes. But what’s with Buick? I still see the occasional ad on TV and yet the drop is disproportionate even compared to all the other GM brands.
  • Master Baiter "There is no mandate for consumers to buy EVs, not in any country or state. That’s made up."Right. And you are not mandated to purchase a toilet that only uses 1.6 gallons/flush. You could choose to not have a toilet--just go in the woods, like the bears do.