The Volvo S60 arrived in our fleet a little more than twelve months ago, in April 2011, just before the start of the summer vacation season. Right out of the gate, the Volvo went on road trips to Tennessee, Chicago, and northern Michigan and racked up more than 3000 miles on the odometer. Over those largely highway miles, the S60 showed itself to be a comfortable long-distance cruiser with an impressive powertrain, capable handling, and a high level of refinement.
We were piling on the miles so fast that, four months into the S60's tenure, it was on pace to reach the 35,000-mile mark over the course of the year. That it ended up with a little less than 29,000 miles on the odometer should not be taken as a sign that it had fallen out of favor. The drop in accumulated mileage can be explained by the fact that, at the same time the S60 was in our fleet, we were also testing a family-friendly minivan and a full-size SUV (Honda Odyssey and Infiniti QX56, respectively), vehicles whose overall utility trumped the refinement of the S60 when it came time for long-distance travel with family and lots of cargo in tow. What the S60 was most in demand for were middle-distance, weekend getaways. Here in Michigan, especially in the summer, those weekend getaways mean driving "up north" to places like Traverse City, Ludington, and Houghton Lake, and the S60 was a willing partner in a number of such adventures. It also made several trips to Chicago and various other destinations in the Great Lakes region.
The S60 was a highly sought weekend companion, but even better was the fact that it cost so little to maintain. Not only was the Volvo completely trouble-free - that's right, not a single mechanical issue required service during its twelve-month stay -- but scheduled maintenance is free for the first 50,000 miles. Our only expenditures were for a set of winter tires and some WeatherTech floor mats to keep the carpets from getting a coat of winter grime on them.
Early on in its year with us, several drivers griped about the Volvo's various electronic idiosyncrasies, such as the vagaries of the navigation system and the audible locking alerts and the way the radio volume stays displayed on the monitor for several seconds, locking out other inputs. Many of the complaints faded away as users became more familiar with the S60's controls, and there were even some lengthy tutorials written in the logbook by drivers who thought they'd cracked the code of the infotainment system. Still, there were those who never were able to come to terms with the car's electronics. In the very last entry in the logbook, senior editor Eric Tingwall vents his frustration one more time: "Simply flipping through satellite radio stations is clunky; using the nav system is downright painful."
The only other issue that came up during our year with the S60 were a couple of mild complaints about the ride being a bit too firm, but the more common sentiments were vocalized by assistant editor David Zenlea, who said that "The S60 feels exactly like a modern Volvo should. The ride is recognizably European yet not Germanic." We could have opted for Volvo's active chassis, which allows the driver to select among three settings - comfort, sport, and advanced - but overall, we found ourselves pretty happy with the S60's standard "dynamic" chassis setup.
In fact, we were happy with almost everything about the S60. Its dynamics, style, and reliability were pretty much unassailable. All it would take to give the Volvo top marks are some fixes for the navigation/infotainment interfaces.