More than halfway through its 40,000-mile test, Volvo's 400-hp plug-in-hybrid S60 sedan is one of the most requested vehicles in our long-term fleet for road trips. It's crossing more and more states off its bucket list as time goes on, with the S60 now having visited Michigan's Upper Peninsula; Wisconsin (several times); St. Louis, Missouri; Georgia; Colorado, and everywhere in between.
Why is it so popular for long-haul voyages? Praise continues to roll in for the S60's supremely comfortable front seats and their massage function, along with the car's settled highway demeanor. Multiple comments also mention the quiet cabin, which measures a hush 66 decibels at 70 mph, making it easier to enjoy the rich sound from the Bowers & Wilkins audio system.
Staff editor Connor Hoffman did remark that Volvo's Pilot Assist driver-assistance system could use some recalibration, as the S60's lane-keeping function tends to unnervingly pull to the left. The car's lack of cabin storage also drew ire, with complaints noting that even a Mazda Miata offers a bigger center console than the S60's paltry hold. Of course, a Miata doesn't have a 9.1-kWh battery filling its central tunnel.
When it's not on the open road, we try to plug the S60 in as much as we can during day-to-day use, which isn't all that often for those of us who live in apartments. Partially as a result, our car is averaging a disappointing 28 MPGe, despite its numerous travels. That's down from the 30 MPGe we saw at our last update and less than what the EPA estimates if the S60 were never plugged in at all (30 mpg). On the upside, some drivers have exceeded the car's advertised 22-mile EPA-rated electric range on a full charge. Assistant technical editor Maxwell B. Mortimer was even able to climb a steep mountain grade to a remote cabin in the S60's EV mode, which powers only the rear wheels.
Perhaps most important, especially for a vehicle that regularly ventures far from home, our Volvo continues to be reliable. A check-engine light cropped up around 18,000 miles and was found to be caused by a software issue; a quick reflash of the engine's computer at the dealership solved the problem. And a 20,000-mile scheduled maintenance visit included an oil change, replacement cabin air filter, and an inspection, which we weren't charged for. With the summer travel season upon us—and many of us itching to finally enjoy it once again—our S60 should have several more states crossed off its list soon.
Months in Fleet: 14 months Current Mileage: 25,778 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 28 MPGe
Fuel Tank Size: 15.9 gal Observed Fuel Range: 440 miles
Service: $32 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
Although we had to cancel most of our farther-flung travel plans this summer, our Volvo S60 T8 has had an eventful few months since it joined our long-term fleet in May. Thanks to its ability to swaddle its occupants in comfort, our South Carolina-built Swedish plug-in-hybrid sedan has racked up plenty of miles on the open road. And with a total output of 400 horsepower, it got a rigorous workout during its initial visit to the test track.
Our Volvo's odometer had 2754 miles on it when we first hooked it up to our testing equipment. Although the car weighs a hefty 4491 pounds, its 472 pound-feet of combined torque made short work of its bulk, launching it to 60 mph in a scant 4.3 seconds and propelling it through the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds at 109 mph. That's slightly quicker than the Polestar-tuned V60 T8 wagon we tested last year, which had 15 more horsepower but was saddled with a few additional pounds. The S60's weaker grip and braking results—0.84 g on the skidpad and a 175-foot stop from 70 mph versus 0.92 g and 152 feet for the V60—were mostly attributable to its Pirelli P Zero All Season tires; the grippier Polestar wore Continental PremiumContact summer rubber.
Being a plug-in hybrid, the S60 T8 is designed to be fuel efficient as well as quick. But we'll admit that we haven't been able to plug in the S60 to replenish its 9.1-kWh battery pack as much as we expected to. Under normal circumstances, we'd leave it charging during the day at our office. But that's not as easy to do now that we work mostly from home and don't always have an available power outlet or charging station nearby. (We presume many plug-in hybrid owners invest in home charging stations or at least have a garage with a 120-volt outlet.)
Yet, even without exploiting the car's claimed 22 miles of electric range as often as we'd like to, the S60 is averaging 30 MPGe, which is impressive for a heavy 400-hp sedan. That efficiency also provides the T8 with a good deal of highway range, with a few drivers recording 450 miles or more between fill-ups. The supple front seats that we expect to find in a Volvo have bolstered the S60's case as a prime choice for longer trips. Buyer's guide deputy editor Rich Ceppos put more than 1400 miles on the S60 in a week and praised its supportive thrones and their massage function, which he said helped reduce back fatigue after 10 hours on the road. Chief brand officer Eddie Alterman agreed: "I feel better after two hours in this car than I do before getting in."
The S60's first scheduled maintenance visit at 10,140 miles included an oil and filter change plus inspections and a tire rotation. That work was mostly covered by Volvo's free maintenance program, although rotating the tires did relieve us of $32. Since then, an approaching Michigan winter prompted us to install a set of Michelin X-Ice winter tires ($1029). Combined with its standard all-wheel-drive system, the snowshoes should help the S60 power through whatever slop accumulates on our roads over the next few months. If we have to cancel any more travel plans, it likely won't be because our Volvo got stuck in the white stuff.
Months in Fleet: 6 months Current Mileage: 11,693 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 30 MPGe
Fuel Tank Size: 15.9 gal Observed Fuel Range: 470 miles
Service: $32 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
Volvo is at its best when it's a little weird. The P1800, the C30 hatchback, the original XC90 with its optional Yamaha-sourced V-8. The company's situation is itself a little odd these days, being Swedish but owned by the Chinese and with a new factory in Ridgeville, South Carolina, which is mere miles from Wide Awake. (Please keep your "sleepy little hamlet" comments to yourself.)
But maybe its diverse roots will result in broader appeal for the brand's products. At first glance, they certainly deserve it. Redesigned for 2019, the S60 wraps a spacious, high-tech interior in sleek sedan sheetmetal that handsomely blends the upright boxiness of traditional Volvos with, um, curves. If this was Sweden's Got Talent, we'd mute the TV, close our eyes, and wave the S60 on to the next round. You just want to like it.
Keep Volvo Weird
So, we recruited an S60 for a 40,000-mile long-term test. Now, while the auto industry is still discovering new and more-confusing alphanumeric naming schemes, Volvo's powertrain designations, while also a bit weird, still make some sense—sort of. There isn't a turbo five in the base front-wheel-drive T5 model, nor is there a boosted six-cylinder in the midrange all-wheel-drive T6 or a turbocharged V-8 in the top-end T8 version. Instead, every S60 has a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four under its hood. In the T5, that's it. The T6 gets a supercharger in addition to its turbo, while the 2020 T8 model has the turbo and the supercharger and adds an electric motor that contributes 87 horsepower to the rear axle (another motor is on the front axle, but it doesn't add to the peak outputs), plus an enlarged 9.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack for up to 22 miles of pure-electric driving, per the EPA schedule.
This teetering cowboy burger of a plug-in hybrid topped with onion rings, chili, and pickled jalapeño is where we started our long-term configuration. Going all in greatly simplifies the ordering process, as your choices are limited to the sportier R-Design trim or the luxury-oriented Inscription—both of which have a combined 400 horsepower and cost $56,395 to start—or the hardest-core, 416-hp Polestar Engineered model for $65,795. We enjoyed a previous experience with the S60 R-Design but feel the more relaxed Inscription trim level better suits this Volvo's demeanor.
Polestar Dollars, but Softer Tuning
In keeping with its elegant positioning, the Inscription model fits open-pore driftwood trim to the dash, center console, and doors where the sportier variants have metal mesh. Leather upholstery is included, as are Volvo's Pilot Assist active-safety suite and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. We paid an additional $3200 for the 1100-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio upgrade, which boasts a one-speaker advantage over the standard system. A luxury seating upgrade with ventilated and massaging front seats added another $2200, while heaters for the rear seats and the steering wheel added $750. At least white paint isn't silver, the shade of modern automotive ennui, and our car's Crystal White Metallic cost $645. At just $200, the Park Assist Pilot automatic parallel-parking system is a steal—assuming it works well. We haven't tried it yet. And while we went with the softer-riding Inscription, we didn't go full marshmallow. We upgraded to 19-inch wheels for $800. (The 18s are standard and, in our experience, softer riding.) Total out-the-door price: $64,190.
The S60 entered our fleet just before our local testing venue temporarily closed its doors, but we'll report back soon with initial performance results and feedback from the car's first few ventures on the open road. In the meantime, reactions have been favorable out of the gate. The latest S60 is an attractive, capacious sedan offering either emissions-free commuting or 400-hp blazes as desired. The remaining 37,921 miles should be enjoyable.