TEST DRIVE: The 2012 Volvo S60 Is The Perfect Luxury Alternative

Volvo S60 Car

Chris Tracy / Every Man’s Auto

This post originally appeared on Every Man’s Auto.

Volvo has long been a brand that is known for safety. While other luxury brands have dominated sales with their reputations for refinement and class, Volvo seemed happy to soldier on as the alternative choice for the quirky buyer.

In 2011, Volvo gave the S60 some sexy new clothes to make it contend on looks and features. With leather, 18-inch alloy wheels, a redesigned interior, new exterior lines, and a number of safety acronyms, the S60 has made a noticeable splash in the luxury sedan market.

 “Less is more” is a mantra that radiates through the S60’s styling. All of the Volvo safety is still there.  The City Safety feature helps stop the vehicle, even if you don’t. BLIS helps to warn of blind spot intruders and there is lane drift detection and a number of other features.

The new lines are reminiscent of the old ones, but look better; like a well done face lift. Volvo’s all-wheel drive system was put to the test along with its heated seats, rear fog lamp, and dynamic stability & traction control during the monsoon-like weather conditions of our test drive.

2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD
Base Price: $31,300
As Driven: $41,270
Engine: 3.0L 6-cylinder, 300 hp
Transmission: 6 Speed Shiftable Automatic
Curb Weight: 3,812 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
MPG Rating: 18 city/ 26 highway



The interior of the S60 is utilitarian. There is a spattering of wood surrounding the climate control and near the window controls on the doors. The design is clean, but isn't as refined as other import sedans.

The speedometer and tachometer each have an information centre inside them. The gauges are easy to read and the information centres are easy to navigate. In a short time we were able to find the mpg meter and reset it. It took at least 20 minutes to find the same meter on the Mini Coupe.

One gripe is how old the digital info centre feels. The graphics are dated, and not in the good way where you feel nostalgic and warm. They are the NES graphics compared to other manufacturers' Xbox 360's. They were easy to read, but the pixels were blockier than we would have liked.

Even though it is a smaller luxury car, the rear seat legroom is underwhelming. Last week's Ford Focus had 33.2 inches of space in the back and the S60 has only 33.5 inches. If your rear occupants are going to be less than five feet tall for the next three to five years, then the legroom is a moot point.

There is a button near the gearshift that allows us to fold the rear headrests forward to improve rear visibility. Annoying teenagers in the back will learn quickly to not lip off to their parents. To teens it will appear that their parents are slapping them in the back of the head with their minds!


This is where the S60 becomes noticeable. The turbo-charged six cylinder engine turns out 300 horsepower. The turbo kicks in around 2,500 rpms helping the AWD to jump off the line. The S60 has an excellent thrust to weight ratio, so that all 300 hp feels like you are sitting on a mountain of power. The 0 to 60 time is listed at 5.9 seconds, which is a very respectable time.

Coupled with the all-wheel drive system, the engine was able to hurl this Volvo around every corner we encountered. It was impressive compared to any car in the class. Most AWD systems tend to bunch and lurch as the steering wheel is turned to the extreme. The S60's turning radius is tight and there was no shimmy or lurch from the steering. The system is actually FWD 95% of the time and then when needed it adds in the 5% of rear wheels.

Our day with the S60 was overshadowed by unlikely February thunderstorms. There was no wheel spin and we only felt the computers step in twice to help control the vehicle. Standard on all S60 models is Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC). This keeps the S60 on the road. If your speed and the tightness of the corner don't match up, the DSTC will apply the brakes correctly to keep the shiny side up. There are always extreme situations that the system can't anticipate, but if you're driving that aggressively the DSTC should be off.

We averaged 22.6 mpg on our trip with the S60. The expected highway mpg of 26 has to be firm to make the S60 a good financial decision. If that number dips one or two MPGs, then the S60 is not worth the buy in price. One saving grace is that the S60 uses regular unleaded fuel.

Doing some very simple and probably wrong calculations the regular unleaded will save you around $8 a tank. That's a burrito per tank. We really like, nay, love burritos.

Safety tech

The S60 is chock full of safety features. City Safety is a feature to eliminate auto collisions at low speeds, and it is pretty cool. City Safety uses infrared laser radar to detect objects in front of you. We tried it out under Volvo supervision. At a crawl we approach some pylons and were rewarded with auto braking and a complete stop.

At a higher speed approach, the system engaged more quickly due to greater speed equals more stopping distance, but we still stopped before touching the pylons.

BLIS is a system that is designed to alert you of a car being in your blind spot. There is a camera attached underneath both side rearview mirrors.

The day we had the Volvo was in terrible weather and BLIS was also the system that performed the worst. It gave false readings throughout the test. Even on a two lane road, with nothing in the blind spots, the system would light up to indicate a vehicle there. The Volvo representative explained the system was probably detecting raindrops, but we never saw any the size of a Kia Rio!

There is push button start/stop, but it's a $550 option on all S60 models. One security issue that we found is if the car is running and you take the key out of the vehicle, the S60 will still function. We were told that once it's running, the key does not have to be in the vehicle to operate it. That means that you can't leave it running unlocked on cold winter mornings. You can still start it and exit, but make sure you lock the doors.

Please do not donate your S60 to any car thieves.

Summing it up

The good news is that the S60 has performed very well since its redesign. The customer satisfaction numbers are up along with reliability numbers according to a major consumer reporting firm.

Volvo is rated as the 10th most reliable brand in country, higher than Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. Add together the reliability, the fuel savings, the 300 hp, the all-wheel drive, and the looks, and you have a very competent street machine.

All of that adds up to a premium sedan that appears to be worth every penny. Or at least 4,127,000 pennies, before taxes.

Take a look at another car to consider.

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