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One Week With: 2020 Volvo S60 T5 R-Design FWD

We give Volvo’s wagons a lot of love, but its sedans rule too.

Billy RehbockWriter, Photographer

We'll cop to being wagon pushers; our long-term Volvo V90 was a brilliant blend of luxury and practicality that took away the pain of the daily commute. Its performance and practicality made us fast fans of the brand's flagship long-roof offering. However, when the key to a well-sculpted Scandanavian sedan landed in my pocket, I started remembering how enjoyable it is to live with a traditional four-door.

The 2020 Volvo S60 T5 R-Design is a handsome four-door that's as good to drive as it looks. Our test car, painted in striking Fusion Red Metallic for $645, rode on $800 optional 19-inch alloys, an upgrade from the R-Design package's standard 18-inch wheels.

Volvo's R-Design package ($6,850) adds a bunch of cosmetic flourishes and useful features. The R-Design look overhauls the sedan's exterior appearance with special accents that help differentiate the car from its stablemates, including new grille finishing, window trim, mirror caps, and an integrated exhaust. On the inside, Volvo adds an R-Design shift knob, seats, and gear shift paddles. Cars with R-Design also receive four-zone climate control. Our test car was further loaded out with heated front seats and a heated steering wheel for $750.

The T5 powertrain in our car consists of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Having driven most Volvo products, the T5, which compared to the twin-charged T6 and hybridized T8 systems, is fairly conventional and all the better for it. It provides plenty of torque—258 lb-ft at 5,500 rpm, and a gutsy 250 hp at 6,000 rpm, which is also the max engine speed. Its curb weight is somewhat hefty at 3,657 lb, but that doesn't doesn't hold its acceleration back much; 0-60 arrives in just 6.2 seconds. It feels peppy and launches without much torque steer. The exhaust note sounds pretty throaty, too, and I found myself digging into the throttle a bit more to hear the brassy grunt.

Shifts, when executed properly, are crisp as can be, although I found that the transmission got confused on occasion when called upon to step down to a lower gear. It seemed to not cope as well with sudden throttle application immediately after decelerating, and would jerk as it sorted itself out. Unlike Volvo's non-sporty products, the S60 R-Design has paddle shifters affixed to the steering wheel, which were useful during a run through the Malibu canyons. While clicking through the gears this way, the transmission responded without hesitation.

Volvo equipped this model with all-season tires, so I drove the car accordingly, but I was surprised at the S60's enthusiasm in the corners. Volvo offers three driving modes with this model, and I toggled between the sporty "Dynamic" setting when the roads were clear and the normal "Comfort" mode when I encountered traffic. I found the difference between the two profiles to be pretty noticeable. This model came equipped with rear multilink independent suspension with dynamic chassis control, and it's much tauter in the most aggressive setting. The S60 turned corners with impressive poise, remaining neutral even when I pushed the car a bit harder.

I spent even more time plying the LA freeway system and navigating busy downtown streets, and found the S60 to be equally satisfying in those environments as well. The cabin, which was adorned in stylish, premium materials, kept noise from the outside out, and remains hushed at high speed. The quietude just begs you to crank up the volume on the premium Bowers and Wilkins system, a $3,200 extra included with the R-Design package. Audio quality is full and clear, and the speakers seem to be optimized for playing back music in a way that brings out even the most minute nuances in the recording.

Volvo's safety assist systems, particularly the forward collision mitigation programming, remained some of the most aggressive I've experienced. There were instances where a car, driving several car lengths ahead of me, would make only a moderate use of its brakes, but the S60 responded with an ABS braking event, even though the car ahead would have finished turning onto a side street by the time I got near it.

Otherwise, I found no flaws in Volvo's technology. The LED headlights, part of the $2,500 Advanced Package, looked really cool without sacrificing visibility at night. This suite of upgrades also included a 360-degree camera view, which was a useful tool when navigating the sedan into tighter parking spots downtown. Our car also came equipped with Park Assist Pilot, an option for just $200.

At a final price of $51,990, this Volvo is a bit pricey, especially when a front-wheel drive 2020 Audi A4 Prestige with the Sport Package is only $48,695 or a 2020 BMW 330i with the M Sport package costs just $46,945. But for those looking for a stylish alternative to the German sedan mainstays, the S60 has the technology and refinement to satisfy. Even wagon pushers like us can admit that Volvo's three-box layout offers the Scandinavian serenity we crave.

2020 Volvo S60 T5 R-Design Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $37,045/$51,990 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve inline-4/250 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 23/34 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 187.4 x 80.3 x 56.6 in
WHEELBASE 113.1 in
WEIGHT 3,657 lb
0-60 MPH 6.2 sec
TOP SPEED 155 mph