Driven: 2019 Volvo S60 R-Design, The Swedish American Sweet Spot

By Author: Harvey Briggs, Date: Nov 15, 2019
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If car buying were a rational, intellectual exercise, there wouldn’t be need for sites like this. You could pull up a spreadsheet of specifications, features, and performance data and then objectively decide which car is best. But car buying isn’t rational. In many cases we look at the numbers to narrow our choices but then let our hearts take us to the car we end up in.

The Volvo S60 R-Design isn’t a numbers car. It’s not the quickest in its class. Not the most affordable, efficient, or practical. The Swede’s own XC60 probably makes more sense for most people. Yet, when I get behind the wheel of the sporty, R-Design version of the S60 with its T6 AWD powertrain, I’m moved. This is a really engaging car in the way it looks, the way it feels, and the way it drives.

The Volvo S60 is one of the best looking sedans on the road. With a longer wheelbase than the BMW 3-series and Mercedes-Benz C Class, its proportions are elegant and sporty at the same time. The front end is distinctive without a lot of extraneous lines and unnecessary embellishments. The Thor’s Hammer headlights and diagonal trim piece across the grill are all you need to identify the S60 as a Volvo.

In profile the V60 R-Design is well balanced with the wheel height, greenhouse and overall height working in harmony. A subtle character line rises from the top of front wheel arch through the door handles before fading into the slightly flared rear quarter panel. Sculpting on the doors creates dimension and depth and the slight flip at the tail adds a dynamic feel to the short rear overhang. It all adds up to a sophisticated silhouette that manages to feel classic and contemporary at the same time.

Now assembled in South Carolina, the S60 R-Design is as Scandinavian as a lingonberries and akvavit. There’s a confidence and cleanliness to the interior that’s aided by the large Sensus touch screen interface in the center of the dash. The black Nappa leather seats with charcoal textile trim and white contrast stitching offer excellent support and plenty of adjustability for drivers of all sizes to find a comfortable seating position. There’s plenty of room in the rear seat for adults to ride comfortably and the optional Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system is worth every one of the 320,000 pennies it adds to the sticker price.

Fire up the S60 and the digital instrument panel comes to life with a bit of animation. The center display between the speedometer and tach allows you to show various information including media, phone, driver assist features, and navigation. Overall the system is easy to set up and change while you’re driving.

Pull the leather wrapped R-Design shift lever into drive and the S60 moves from a stop both quickly and smoothly. That’s the benefit of having both a supercharger and turbocharger mounted on the 2.0-liter four. The supercharger begins adding boost at lower RPMs while the turbocharger spools up, thus there’s no discernable lag. Peak torque comes on at 2,200 RPM and pulls all the way up to 5,400 RPM. The eight-speed transmission shifts appropriately left to its own devices in normal and sport mode, but if you’re so inclined you can flick between gears with the paddle shifters. And while I said numbers don’t really matter in this car, they are competitive when you’re looking at a corresponding BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Audi. Zero to sixty in 5.3 seconds is plenty for a sporty family sedan.

The suspension is nicely balanced between comfort and sport. Cruise around town or at higher speeds on the interstate and the S60 R-Design is compliant and quiet. Take it out on your favorite and the double-wishbone front suspension keeps the tires firmly planted, and the anti-roll bars front and rear do exactly what they’re designed to, keep the car level through the corners.

You won’t confuse the S60 R-Design with track-capable sedans like the ATS-V, M3, or Mercedes-AMG C63, but that’s not its intent. It’s a daily driver that can take you from your crowded suburban streets to twisty mountain passes and back without any drama. And because it has all-wheel drive, the S60 can do it all year ’round, something I’ve always appreciated about Volvos.

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
Four-door, five-passenger premium mid-size sedan
Base price: $36,050
Price as tested: $56,290
Major options: R-Design package ($7,495), T6 AWD drivetrain ($4,500), 19-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels ($800), Heated steering wheel and rear seats ($750), Advance package – 360º camera, full LED active bending headlights, Pilot Assist, headlight high pressure cleaning, head-up display ($2,500), Fusion Red Metallic paint ($645) Destination fee ($995)
Engine: Supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Power: 316 horsepower @ 5,700 RPM
Torque: 295 pound-feet @ 2,220 – 5,400 RPM
Curb weight: 3,700 pounds
0-60 MPH: 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 130 MPH, electronically limited
EPA MPG: 21 city, 32 highway, 25 combined

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Harvey Briggs

Harvey Briggs is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Rides & Drives. He has also written for Car and Driver, Winding Road, and the luxury lifestyle blog, Pursuitist.com. His passions run from fast cars, small planes, boats and motorcycles to music, travel, and sports. When he's not on the road testing the latest cars, he been known to turn up on stage playing rock and blues guitar at clubs around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Follow Harvey's adventures on Instagram and Twitter @harvey_drives and find him on Facebook. Though keeping up could be a problem. As Harvey says, "If I don't slow down, time can't catch me."

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