2015.5 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E Review
by Randy Stern
Ah, Volvo, still good to the last stop!
The lone Swedish automaker – now under Chinese control – has always been an interesting study. After World War II, they became leaders in vehicle safety. Today, they maintain that leadership with new active and passive technologies point towards thinking about the next kind of impact a vehicle would make and finding a solution to prevent such impacts.
That is really oversimplifying things. Volvo may have the safest cars in the world, but it also has a deep enthusiast following. One such group of Volvo enthusiasts I encountered saw the 2015.5 S60 T6 Drive-E on my Facebook the other day. Said group was curious about the Drive-E technology and the combination of a supercharger and turbocharger attached to this car. They were astonished…stunned…amazed…
Volvo always had an enthusiast streak. Amazons participated in rallies worldwide. People took Volvos to the track and found ways to make them more powerful and entertaining to drive. One might recall the 242 GT of the late 1970s. Today, we have Polestar and the R models representing a level of enthusiasm that engages the faithful, while surprising the doubters.
What I have here is a sporty Volvo – devoid of R and Polestar badges. It is positioned in one of the most competitive segments in the marketplace – premium sports sedans. It is really that sporty? Well, it is, but I still have to put this S60 T6 through its usual tests!
The basic shape of the current S60 has been around since 2010, when it debuted as a 2011 model. It offered a fastback-like shape and some of the most compelling lines ever crafted onto a Volvo. For 2015, Volvo grafted a new look onto the S60 – the “wide mouth.” It extends the grille wider for more presence with redesigned lighting above and on the bumper fascia. It is much more appealing than ever.
If the front end does not grab your attention, the side profile will. It speaks to the sporty ones among us. It is that fastback look that makes it stand out in a crowd. There is nothing that blends in, though it has a bit of stealthiness that would surprise unsuspecting enthusiasts of other brands. Add the nineteen-inch alloys for the T6 model and the overall look is truly complete for the premium sports sedan lover in all of us.
The silver color outside provides a cover for one of the most alluring upholstery schemes of all time. It is a very soft leather made of brown and saddle hides. They wrap some of the best seats around – perfectly sized and bolstered with big headrests that are active as triggered upon impact. Front seat room is good, though a tall guy like me would find a sporty low position that is still comfortable on longer journeys. Rear seat room is quite small, with lower seat cushions than expected. It is a touring sedan that could seat a family of four just fine.
The instrument binnacle is very customizable. A series of switches on the left stalk would set the right menus on the sides of the screen, as well as have you choose between three themes. I found Sport the best with its red background, digital speedometer in the middle of the tachometer. A digital fuel gauge is a static display on the left side regardless of which instrumentation theme you choose. The same background is applied to the screen on top of the center stack.
In the center stack is a mix of buttons that control the climate control and Sensus infotainment systems. It may all seem confusing at first, but once you understand each button and control, you would probably use them a few times during the week. The Sensus system itself is extremely comprehensive, especially when the Connect package is on board. Connect has a modem built-in, which needs to be turned on to enable the apps on board. For example, if you use Pandora or TuneIn Radio, you could either play either app through the Media menu via the Bluetooth connection with your smartphone. However, if you use the app via Sensus, you could login directly to the car and have full functionality through the system. Redundant switches on the steering wheel for audio controls, along with the cruise control system, are also easy to use once you have their functions down.
No matter whether you use an app via Sensus, your phone or any of the radio and SiriusXM bands, the available Harmon Kardon system offers a fantastic sound from its twelve speakers positioned perfectly around the cabin.
In the past, a T6 would mean an in-line six-cylinder engine with a turbocharger and a mountain of grunt. It also meant not so great fuel economy from that engine. As an update to the 2015 models, known as model year 2015.5, Volvo introduced a brand new family of engines – the Drive-E. Instead of six cylinders, these new engines have only four. It is a 2.0liter unit that has a double shoot of boost – a turbocharger and a supercharger. Total output is 302 horsepower.
Explaining how it works would detract from the experience. There is no lag from either the turbo or the blower. Power is instant, immediate and effortlessly quick. It’s fast, too – very fast. You do not need an engineering lesson on how the Drive-E T6 engine works. You just have to put your right foot into the accelerator and take a deep breath.
Sending power between this incredible T6 Drive-E engine and the front wheels is an eight speed Geartronic transmission. Because of the absence of lag, the transmission quickly responds by going through all of the gears quickly. In eighth, it settles the engine down between 1500- 1750 RPM at top highway speeds – right where you want it to be. Paddle shifters work well either in Drive or in the Sport setting of the shifter. If you leave them alone, the Geartronic transmission will simply go back to an automatic mode. The gear lever is fine, but I wished I did not have to clear the cupholder to work it better.
The S60 has a smooth ride when the tarmac has nothing to give. Add a few bumps, potholes and cracks, and the S60’s suspension responds. However, it shows how absorbent the standard suspension can be, when keeping the peace inside the S60. There is nominal roll through the curves and turns. If you attack a curvy road, the S60 responds accordingly – and will reward with a drive you never expect form a Volvo. Scratch that thought, you should always expect great handling from a S60. It is an extremely fun car to drive.
There is more to that story. Response and reaction from the wheel is fantastic. Though one might find a bit of artificial feel from the wheel, quick turns are done with precision, as are other maneuvers. The wheel does feel a bit soft on-center, but it is not enough to detract from the system as a whole. Braking is good, too. Normal and panic stops are linear and without fade. Stopping power is strong and sharp, and the ABS comes on quickly when prompted.
Active safety is what a Volvo is all about. This S60 T6 had the full suite of equipment designed to keep you safe – from active cruise control, lane keeping aid, pedestrian and cyclist detection with full auto brake, collision warning, distance alert, driver alert control and road sign information. It looks sporty and sleek, but it is still one of the safest cars sold in the USA.
The ultimate result of this new engine would be in fuel consumption. The front-drive T6 Drive-E model turned an amazing 29.9MPG average. That…from a 302 horsepower turbocharged and supercharged engine?!? Seriously, the numbers did not lie in this case.
Pricing starts at $33,950 for a 2.0liter turbocharged Drive-E T5 model with front-wheel drive. The T6 Drive-E model sampled here with a few extra packages came with a sticker price of $47,575.
Why This Ride?
– Aside from the obvious response of “it’s a Volvo,” one will find it one of the more compelling premium sports sedans around. The Drive-E T6 engine configuration – supercharged and turbocharged – offers a different kind of performance. One that is combined with efficiency and optimal safety technology and engineering. Sounds like a Volvo to me…
– It brings out the curious. It goes beyond “it’s a Volvo” here, but rather a study on how to combine all of the above into a package that is really comfortable and fun to drive. If you are not a brand snob, then try this one on for size. Prepare to be surprised.
– Ok…fine…”it’s a Volvo!” Happy?
photos by Randy Stern