Like everyone, Volvo has an image its likes to project. That's why, when it comes to press cars, Volvo's mainstay S60 sedan is most often seen decked out as the high-performance T6 or the R-Design. Indeed, Automobile Magazine had a T6 for a Four Seasons test, in which the S60 fared well. However, after spending a week in the standard T5, I can't help but think that this is in fact the best-realized iteration of the S60. It hits the Swede spot.
What Volvo does best is deliver safety, comfort and, yes, value. With a starting price of $32,795 -- versus $41,545 for the T6 and $44,995 for the R-Design -- the T5 has the value thing down. Don't expect to get out the door for that price, though. You'll probably want to add the items that were on our test car: the premiere package, which brings leather, a moonroof, keyless ignition, a power passenger's seat, and an auto-dimming mirror. If you live where the weather gets cold, we don't have to sell you on the value of heated seats, which are the key element of the climate package. Finally, all-wheel-drive is not just a boon in slippery conditions; it helps the turbo five put the power down any time, so that's a critical addition as well. Previously restricted to the six-cylinder S60, all-wheel drive is now available on the T5. Toss in a couple of discretionary items -- seventeen-inch Njord wheels and a trunk spoiler -- and you're at $38,170 as tested, which seems reasonable. The only items you might be wanting are navigation and a backup camera (the camera is a $795 stand-alone option, but navigation requires stepping up to the platinum trim level, which costs a steep $3850 over the premiere).
The T5 has a turbocharged in-line five-cylinder engine under the hood, not the turbo six in the T6 version. A five-cylinder may be an oddball configuration, but there's nothing weird about how this powerplant goes about its business. Whereas the T6 and the R-Design have a very aggressive throttle calibration that makes smooth getaways a challenge, the less-powerful T5 ends up being more pleasant to drive in traffic. When the road is clear, the turbo five still has plenty of muscle, although it lacks the ultimate smoothness of Volvo's in-line six. As you'd expect, the five-cylinder has an edge in fuel economy, with EPA ratings of 20/29 mpg versus 18/25 mpg for the six-cylinder. On top of that, neither Volvo engine requires premium gasoline, unlike many turbos.
The T5 also has the mellowest suspension tuning -- Volvo's Touring suspension -- of any S60; the T6 has the Dynamic setup and the R-Design gets the even stiffer Sport chassis. If you live where the pavement is bad, you'll welcome the Touring suspension, as the other two, particularly the Sport version, can be harsh over bumps. Nicely weighted steering is another pleasant aspect of the S60 chassis.
Volvo has long been known for its fantastic seats, and the seats in the S60 T5 live up to that reputation. The leather that comes as part of the premiere trim level is a deserving upgrade for such comfortable thrones, and it was appropriate that it was the color of a baseball glove, because plopping down on one of these bucket seats almost feels like sitting in a giant catcher's mitt. The interior finish and trim are likewise premium-looking, and the design captures some of that modern Swedish Ikea aesthetic. One thing that all S60s are lacking, however, is back-seat space. If a roomy rear seat is a priority, a Lexus ES or even a BMW 3-series would be a better choice.
However, if you're up for the Volvo's specific combination of virtues, the all-wheel-drive T5 makes a good case for itself as the ideal S60. In terms of design, value, drivability, and amenities, it hits the Swede spot.