2020 Volvo S60 T8 Long-Term Review Wrap-Up | Final verdict
8 hours ago
Twelve months of motoring in the 2020 Volvo S60 T8 went by quickly. Our time in Volvo’s sharp, plug-in hybrid sedan is over, and it’s time for a final verdict. The S60 saw two entirely different worlds in its time with us. We took delivery in normal days — you know, pre-global pandemic — but most of its tenure here was in a Covid-19 world. That being the case, it didn’t get out and travel the country as much as our long-term test vehicles normally do.
Prior to getting locked down, our S60 took trips to Chicago, Buffalo, the northern reaches of Michigan and elsewhere in the region. Even once its extended driveway sessions began, we snuck it away once to the East Coast for a quick back-and-forth summer trip.
We limited our car swaps to once a month in an effort to stay away from each other on staff and keep each other safe. That meant that each of us got to spend longer stints than usual in the driver’s seat — our normal routine wouldn’t have encouraged this behavior pre-coronavirus. It was more like a true ownership experience, which is exactly what we aim to convey with long-term tests. We plugged it in every night, utilized the Volvo smartphone app to track it and integrated the car more fully into our lives.
The odometer reading sat at 16,866 miles in the end. A great number of those miles were done under electric power, thanks to the car’s 22-mile electric range when fully charged — our range testing saw it meet or exceed that figure if driven with a light foot. And since the car was sitting at home so often, it was working with a full charge in most circumstances. Long highway trips saw us match the car’s combined mpg rating of 30 mpg. Most fill-ups would return a much higher effective mpg number, though, as all the electric motoring helps it along. Folks with shorter commutes should take notice, as S60 T8 ownership will greatly reduce the number of necessary fuel stops.
Due to the Volvo’s long 10,000-mile maintenance gaps, it only needed to make one regular dealer stop in our time. Besides that, there were two other trips to the dealer. We had recall work done — there was an issue with the automatic emergency braking system — before the first regular service. And a sunroof snafu was the car’s second and last unscheduled trip to the shop.
Read on below for all of our final impressions on the 2020 Volvo S60 T8.
Road Test Editor Zac Palmer: The S60 T8 is a slightly sporty sedan, but it’s no sports sedan. My favorite thing about driving it is just matting the throttle from a stop, because this car is sneaky quick. It doesn’t sound fast or aggressive in the least, but the feeling of acceleration never got old over my months with the car.
It falls short of the sport sedan qualification for a few reasons. While the S60 is a decent handler, there’s no hiding how heavy it feels when you try to chuck it around. Steering is direct and weighted nicely, but the chassis doesn’t disguise its weight (4,447 pounds) well. You’re also limited by the drivetrain layout. This sedan is technically all-wheel drive, but the only power being applied to the rear axle is via the electric motor. Predictably, this isn’t always enough to keep up with the potent 2.0-liter turbo- and supercharged engine sending its torque exclusively to the front wheels. There’s an imbalance to the power delivery that you don’t get in other all-wheel-drive cars. All that electric torque is great, but it would be even greater if there were even more of it aiding the rear axle.
The brakes struggle to keep up when you really start to get after it on a miles-long road of successive corners, too. There’s a reason the Polestar Engineered version of this car has larger Brembo brakes. You’re not meant to drive the non-Polestar S60 as you would a sports car. That’s made even clearer by our Inscription trim’s lack of paddle shifters or any form of manual gear selection. There’s a Sport mode that improves the transmission’s tuning to hold gears and downshift in braking, but I’m still missing that connection to the car.
The point here is that the S60 T8, despite its 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque, is not a sports sedan. It’s a supremely comfortable and stylish cruiser that will bolt from a stoplight way faster than Volvo’s safety reputation has anybody expecting. This combination of straight-line muscle, pure electric range and Volvo style is a winner in my book. There are plenty of others in this class of four-doors that will fully satisfy the sports sedan itch.
News Editor Joel Stocksdale: I’m really going to miss our S60. In fact, I’ve already been missing our S60 since it never got back to me after the pandemic locked us down. But every time I got to drive it before then was a pleasure.
A big part of that was the way it drove. I agree with Zac, it’s not a full on sport sedan, and the lack of paddle shifters is my biggest gripe. But it’s still a fun car. The chassis is playful and responsive, even if it’s a little heavy, and the acceleration is superb. But it’s the fact that it’s fun while also being really comfortable, quiet and economical that makes it great. The range is even good enough that I could pretty much do my commuting to and from the office on electric power, as long as I charged at the office. Or at least, I would be able to as long as I was able to keep my foot out of it.
The interior on the S60 is excellent, too. Volvo’s minimalist design with welcoming, rounded edges is still as beautiful and calming as ever. And the seats are among the best for any car, offering support in all the right places without being overly firm. The infotainment system isn’t the best, but the interior in general is such a pleasant place to be, it’s hard to get upset by it.
One other thing, the S60 is seriously good looking, athletic even. Somehow it has a rear-drive car’s dash-to-axle ratio. The sheetmetal is taut and crisp. It has a square-shouldered stance. But it’s also uncluttered and doesn’t make promises it can’t keep.
It may not be an out-and-out sport sedan, but it’s a killer all-’rounder with its good looks, comfy interior, and fun-enough driving manners. If I had the money for one, I’d love to have it as a daily driver.
Associate Editor Byron Hurd: I’m going to start with the S60’s flaws, lest I end up repeating everything above verbatim. For starters, it’s heavy, and in a sneaky way. It accelerates quickly. The tires offer plenty of grip and the suspension is sublime; it feels planted, small and sporty. But get a little greedy with your corner entry speed or get a little careless in a downhill series of switchbacks, and you’ll quickly be reminded just how much mass you’re slinging around.
While other small European sedans are nipping at the heels of the two-ton mark, the S60 T8 weighs about as much as a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and gives up quite a bit to that big coupe in the braking department. Granted, our long-termer was an Inscription model, not the sportier Polestar Engineered variant, which might manage the heft a bit better, but mass is mass and physics is physics.
I had some other gripes with the S60 here and there, but most either faded into the noise level or, like my ongoing issue with Android Auto refusing to work, simply vanished into thin air one day and never gave me even another hint of trouble. To say it won me over is an understatement. While the T8 powertrain isn’t for everybody, it’s an amazing ambassador for plug-ins, offering up V8 performance and entirely reasonable fuel economy. The powertrain is rough around the edges, to put it kindly, but just try to catch it flat-footed. You won’t.
I wouldn’t recommend this to just anybody shopping for a luxury car. It’s a Volvo, so I’d expect it to be a bit bratty from time to time, and that requires the sort of owner who is willing to accept the possibility of a less-than-flawless ownership experience. Volvo’s reliability reputation has been improving in recent years, and besides, the only other compact European luxury car I find as compelling as the S60 (though in a very different way) is Italian, and comparing the Volvo’s reliability to the Giulia’s requires dividing by zero.
You’ve probably found yourself on the right road with the wrong car. Whether it was a commute, a long road trip or a little blast through the hills, the S60 never left me with that gnawing regret of being unable to take advantage of whatever opportunity just happened to present itself, and it always looked good doing it. Great car.
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: Great car, indeed. In addition to a lot of school drop-offs and grocery runs, I took this S60 on multiple regional drives, usually to Northern Michigan, in a wide variety of weather. I appreciated the ability to do most of my short trip driving under electric power, while having the freedom to take those long trips to the cottage without using a ton of fuel.
That’s not to say, though, that you can realistically use it as a full EV, even if you never drive beyond its 22(-ish) miles of electric range. There’s no way to completely lock out the gas engine; if you push the accelerator pedal too had, it will unavoidably chug to life and start consuming hydrocarbons. It’s probably for the best that it does, because you don’t want to be left without the ability to summon up any available power if you find yourself needing to pull some sort of quick defensive maneuver. Also, in order to make use of all-wheel drive, you need the gas engine running to power the front wheels. Rear-drive-only isn’t ideal in the winter, and I found myself using more fuel when things got slippery.
But boy was it fun using the internal combustion and electric motors in tandem. When you spend a lot of your time trying to drive efficiently, you forget what the S60 T8 is capable of. Put it into Dynamic mode, and it will rocket away from a stop with all four wheels providing power and traction. For a sedan that looks so clean-cut, it can be a real surprise.
The S60 was a fine vehicle for those long drives. It’s comfortable and quiet, with plenty of power to confidently overtake on two-lane highways where the window of opportunity might not be huge. It’s easy enough to hold conversations even on stretches of highway with a 75-mph speed limit. When running out of things to talk about, the Harman Kardon sound system provides good, clear quality whether you’re listening to music, podcasts or audiobooks — there’s a Bowers & Wilkins upgrade available if you need your car to sound like a concert hall. The Pilot Assist adaptive cruise control is a fine system, especially when you hit rush-hour congestion.
My biggest complaint about our S60 was with Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system. The touchscreen is large and the images crisp and clear, but it’s hard to navigate the menus. Even after a year with the car, I still struggled to find certain functions, never knowing whether I needed to swipe to another page or dig deeper into whatever menu was on the screen. But, there’s good news. As Volvo goes completely electric (good news #1), it will switch over to Google’s Android Automotive Operating System. Android launched on the XC40 Recharge, and comes to the C40 Recharge next. I got to use the system on the Polestar 2, and really enjoyed it, though my opinion isn’t universal.
Whether the S60 itself survives going forward is yet to be seen. I’d miss it if Volvo drops the sedan as it moves toward crossovers. Though, if the consolation is all-electric Volvos, I’m OK with that. The S60 plug-in hybrid is still around for now, though it’s now called the S60 Recharge. It’s a great all around sedan, with or without the plug. In fact, a friend of mine bought a non-hybrid S60 after I gave him a ride in our long-termer. That might be the best praise I can think of for the S60 after all.
James Riswick, West Coast Editor: I never got to drive our long-term S60. Never even saw it for that matter, as Covid and my Portland location made that rather difficult. However, my colleagues’ experience with the T8 provided abundant ballast to send my father in the direction of the Volvo S60 when he started his search for a new car. After reading our posts and Byron’s full S60 review, a quick test drive had him sold. He then did research into living with a plug-in hybrid, contacted electricians to get home charger installation quotes and was fully prepared to pull the trigger.
Unfortunately, inventory for the T8 (or Recharge as it became known for 2021) was minimal in both Phoenix where he lives, and even the greater Los Angeles area. Color choice was thin, options even worse. There was also the matter of the hefty federal tax credit that would significantly lower the price. This was all toward the end of 2020, which meant that if he waited until 2021 to find a Recharge that met his specification (or simply ordered what he wanted), he’d need to wait almost an entire calendar year to see that credit from Uncle Sam. In the end, he didn’t get a T8/Recharge. Instead, he got the base T5 engine in an Inscription trim level painted white with a brown interior. You know, exactly like our long-termer. The car pictured up there? That’s his, not the long-termer.