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Auto review: Volvo's new S60 sedan is one stimulating ride

The Swedish carmaker, long recognized for a commitment to safety, hits a home run with the sporty redesign of its five-seat sedan.   

The 2019 Volvo S60 R-design sedan offers a

The 2019 Volvo S60 R-design sedan offers a combination of sportiness and safety. Photo Credit: Volvo

If you watch HGTV, you’ll no doubt see remodeled kitchens sporting appliances with electronic flat panels that beep a lot.

As I have found out, living with them can be trying. When the dishwasher finishes, it beeps. Open its door and it greets you with an ingratiatingly pleasant electronic flourish. Turn on the oven, and upon reaching the desired temperature, it too beeps. When its timer goes off, it beeps. When the microwave is done turning your frozen food into rubber, it beeps.

But it has an attitude. Don’t open the door soon enough to retrieve your food, and it beeps until you do. Even the refrigerator has something to say when the door is open too long. 

And now we have cars that are convinced they are better drivers than we are, thanks to the advent of autonomous technology. But I’m not so sure. On average, there’s only one fatality per 100 million miles driven in the United States, according to experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. So, on a per-mile basis, driving is extraordinarily safe.

Perhaps this is why Volvo’s vehicles, which have long sold on safety, now sell on style as well. In a market filled with stultifying sameness, Volvos stand apart. They are obviously upscale, yet possess a sinewy athletic stance that’s offset by sophisticated Scandinavian understatement.

This is certainly true of the fetchingly redesigned 2019 Volvo S60 sedan, offered in Momentum, Inscription (posher), R-Design (sportier), Polestar (electric performance) trims, and powered with one of three power plants. Base S60s get a T5 250-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive. Step up to the T6, and that engine is turbocharged and supercharged, yielding 316 horsepower through all four wheels. At the top of the heap is the Polestar-engineered T8 electric hybrid that develops 415 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic is standard.

As in other Volvos, the S60 comes equipped with “City Safety with Autobrake” that helps prevent collisions by identifying vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, large animals and other obstacles, and automatically brakes to diminish the impact. Volvo’s semi-autonomous driver-assist technology, dubbed “Pilot Assist,” is optional and assists in accelerating, steering and braking on well-marked roads up to 80 mph. Just don’t expect much help on snow-covered roads. Other safety systems include run-off-road mitigation, oncoming lane mitigation and optional cross-traffic alert with autobrake.

Volvo’s tablet-style Sensus Connect infotainment system is standard and is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G. 

Once ensconced behind the wheel, you’ll find the seats to be some of the best offered at any price. They’re well bolstered, providing good support and long-term comfort. The S60 can seat five, but four is the practical limit. The cabin is blessedly quiet, except for the growl of the engine when pushed — something you’ll want to do.

Acceleration is strong off the line in the Polestar, with steering that’s so quick and precise, you won’t have to readjust your hands on the steering wheel when cornering. The S60 R-Design still possesses the admirable road feel of the Polestar, but with more compliance over rough stuff. This means more body roll in corners and more road noise than the Polestar, but still possessing good grip and cornering ability. Steering isn’t as precise, but is still well-rounded.

Best of all, the 2019 Volvo S60 is the first Volvo to be built in Volvo Cars’ new plant in Charleston, South Carolina. Knowing that all of this goodness comes in an American-built package makes for a compelling sedan, one that stands apart in terms of styling, ambience, performance and uniqueness.

2019 Volvo S60  

Base prices: $35,800-$54,400

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder

Horsepower: 316

Torque: 295 pound-feet

Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 21 mpg city, 32  highway

Wheelbase: 113.1 inches

Length: 187.4 inches

Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds

Bottom line: Compelling sedan

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