When you sell a house, you usually spend some time sprucing the place up before putting it on the market. Ford probably didn't plan to sell their Volvo division to the Chinese car company Geely last year when mapping out product development schedules. Still, last year's XC60 compact upscale SUV and now the new S60 sedan are nice renovations that should have sweetened the deal.
The previous S60 was sold essentially unchanged since 2001, a feat of longevity matched by few other cars on the market. This was both good and bad. On the upside, the long-sorted-out S60 was one of the most reliable European cars you could buy. On the downside, the outdated design wasn't competitive, falling below Consumer Reports' threshold for recommendation.
But that's all in the past now. The new S60 has been well received by the public and motoring press, winning various "...of the Year" awards. While Volvo first launched the car in loaded T6 all-wheel drive form, we waited for the higher-volume version. That got us a S60 T5 with a turbocharged five-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive.
The S60 has some high-tech safety equipment available, including a pedestrian detection system that can automatically stop the car from low speeds if it senses someone in front of the car. However, we found it hard to get that feature on our S60 T5 so we skipped it. Our $35,100 car has the Premium Package (leather, power passenger seat, moonroof) and the Climate Package (heated front seats, headlight washers). Like several other European brands, Volvo charges you for painting the car something other than white or basic black, resulting in a steep $550 for Caspian Blue (some say navy) metallic paint.
First impressions? The sleek Volvo continues the flowing design language of the first S60; the days of boxy Volvos are long past. The same carries over into the interior. The front seats are accommodating and supportive. More surprising, given the previous car's unimpressive dynamics, is that this S60 is engaging to drive. Too bad it carries over the refinement issues of Volvo's growling five-cylinder engine.
We'll let you know more as we test the S60 to compare with the updated Audi A4 and Infiniti G25.