When I recently conducted what was essentially a blind test of the new Volvo S60 sedan, I blithely assumed that the name and numbers associated with this particular 2015 model — a T6 Drive-E — followed older traditions, indicating perhaps a six-cylinder engine with some sort of electronic doodads thrown in for additional whomp.
I think that’s what they’d like you to believe, as well, as the very impressive acceleration indicated that kind of deal under the hood. Instead, it’s a slightly misleading monicker for the more powerful of two new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines — the seemingly tiny displacement now at the core of many not-so-small cars from Ford to BMW.
While the basic, turbocharged T5 (and its four cylinders) will get you 240 horsepower and up to 37 mpg on the highway, the T6 takes the same displacement, adds a turbocharger and a supercharger, and creates a high-altitude-friendly output of 302 horses — but is still capable of getting better than 35 mpg on the open road.
The Drive-E part? That’s a further suite of fuel-saving engineering that includes a jarring stop-start function (practically standard on European cars nowadays), plus the ability to disengage the air conditioning compressor to get bigger boost out of that still-austere engine.
Mountain dwellers may opt instead for the all-wheel-drive T5, which really is a five-cylinder engine with 2.5 liters of displacement, making 250 horses. And speed freaks can go crazy with the T6 R-Design and its six-cylinder 3.0-liter engine rated for 325 turbocharged horsepower, plus standard all-wheel drive.
What does all this mean for the S60, given a moderately comprehensive set of stylistic revisions last year, but still more or less the same car I’ve driven in the past? Let me say that you won’t be disappointed by the power, or by the real-world mileage. The S60 is still very much a pleasant, smooth-riding, advanced-technology-integrated automobile whose graces are made all the more inviting by all of that once-Volvo-specific safety technology.
Some changes may still freak you out a little, such as the optional lane-keeping aid that will rather noticeably steer you a bit to get you back into lane. That’s all controlled by a large camera system in front of the rear-view mirror; I appreciate the thought but it caught me off guard on a corner where I was actually trying to have fun — you can have a lot of fun in this light and powerful machine, but the not-so-subtle tug felt very odd, as it does in a similar system in Acura.
Can you, as a consenting adult, still do incredibly fast and stupid things in the S60? Most certainly. A new eight-speed transmission in the 2.0-liter models can be hopped up in sport mode for some very impressive and fast shifts, or you can do that yourself with a set of wheel-mounted paddles. The S60 is agile, and when you get more comfortable with the car’s feel and really start to push it in the corners, it responds in kind. A rigid wheel and even some soft strips on the inside of those paddles add to some very serious overall Euro-goodness.
Seating in the S60 remains utterly sublime, with supportive, wonderfully sculpted spots that seem ready for some very long hours in the saddle.
The S60’s recent external update brought with it a new hood, fenders and front fascia, plus new headlamps and bolder LED lights both front and back.
Indoors, the higher models in this 2015 rendition also get a classy and initially complicated-looking color video instrument panel, though it’s essentially a three-mode system (“elegance,” eco or sport, the latter providing red graphics, a digital speedometer and even a “power” gauge that emphasizes gear position, not RPMs). Despite the E-whatever label on the tail, there’s no hybrid battery, regenerative brakes or dilithium crystals to electronically boost the car, just lots of horses.