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Even several years after it first appeared in showrooms, the sleek lines of the 2016 Volvo S60 continue to challenge the long-held perception that Volvos simply aren’t stylish. The S60’s elegant shape — a wedge that tapers at both ends — might make it the most distinctive Volvo on the road. This is especially true of long-wheelbase Inscription and Cross Country variants that join the lineup this year. After a mid-year update in 2015 that included a new front grille, bumper, and hood, along with new headlights and LED running lights, the S60 continues into 2016 with only minor changes.
Styling for the S60’s interior is more evolutionary than revolutionary — smart and chic in the tradition of Scandinavian simplicity. And though it may seem almost minimalist when compared to more lavish interiors from luxury brands, high-quality materials, pleasing textures and that ‘floating’ center stack give the car a decidedly hip vibe over some of its more traditional competitors.
While the Inscription simply looks like a longer S60, the Cross Country packs a more rugged visual punch. All wear an appealing shade of dark gray paint complemented by blacked-out greenhouse trim, mirror caps, and fender extensions. A honeycomb grille, 19-inch diamond-cut wheels, side scuff plates, and skid plates add further visual distinction. Ground clearance of 7.9 inches gives it an SUV-like stance.
The S60 offers a variety of engines. Two versions of a recently introduced 2.0-liter four-cylinder power front-wheel drive models. In turbocharged form it makes 240 horsepower; when turbocharged and supercharged it puts out 302 hp. Both mate to an 8-speed automatic transmission and provide an excellent balance of performance and efficiency. Most all-wheel drive S60s continue to use a 6-speed automatic transmission and an older, less efficient turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5, the exception is a turbocharged 3.0-liter six good for 325 hp in the range-topping R-Design.
Five adults will fit inside the S60, but four can travel in comfort, and the rear seat turns out to be bigger than it appears. The long-wheelbase Inscription adds just 3 inches of rear legroom but the class-leading space feels almost decadent. Newer front seat design is some of the best we’ve tested, with thoughtful bolstering and support in all the right places. They’re not the capacious thrones that older Volvo seats provided, and we worry that larger and broader Americans may find the bolsters confining. Add to that a quiet cabin and good ride quality, and you come close to a luxury feel—except for the sportiest R-Design model, which transmits more road harshness through its larger wheels and lower, stiffer sport suspension.
The sharp handling and advanced features of the Volvo S60 compete most directly with the sportier end of the premium and luxury range, although its shape aside, it’s less luxurious than quietly competent. Think Acura or Infiniti, perhaps Audi, more than BMW or Mercedes-Benz. And in size, it’s slightly larger than the compact Acura TLX or BMW 3-Series, but smaller inside than mid-size models like the Audi A6 or Infiniti Q70 (nee Infiniti M). Its performance sets the S60’s sights somewhere among the likes of the Buick Regal GS, the Audi A4, and the BMW 3-Series.
Even several years into its model run, the Volvo S60 gets superb safety ratings. It aces all tests, including the latest and toughest, from both the IIHS and the NHTSA. On top of that, it adds a comprehensive suite of standard and optional electronic safety systems. That list includes Corner Traction Control, which allocates torque across the car to enhance grip in aggressive maneuvers; a radar-based Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake that identifies and brakes for pedestrians or cyclist in the road if the driver doesn’t; and a Blind Spot Information System that includes cross-traffic alerts.
Volvo refined the S60’s trim levels for 2016. The long-wheelbase Inscription effectively replaces the former Platinum above the base T5 and T5 Premier. And then there are Cross Country and R-Design models for niche buyers. Prices start in the mid-$30,000s, but a well-optioned Inscription or Cross Country can approach $50,000.
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