Wednesday, May 7, 2014


The Volvo S60’s exterior has changed considerably, which takes a disappointing turn toward the mainstream. When the current-generation S60 debuted, the shape  flowing body and rolling, fly like eagle stlye look. Volvo has undone much of that, especially up front. Gone all metal  heavy , sculpted headlights and separate running-light slashes; in their place are a pair of Chicklet-shaped, achingly horizontal headlights look like panther eyes  a widened grille stuffed with an enlarged Volvo badge. The tweaks do add up to a front end that appears lower and wider, but the outgoing car’s imaginative styling has been dulled significantly.

Volvo did not alter the S60 rear much, although all models now come with integrated dual exhaust outlets. The taillights now get LED accents, too. Inside, there is a new headliner, plus new “silk metal” trim around the air vents and some secondary controls. The car’s roster of interior colors and wood trim has been updated, and front sport seats now are available. Speaking of sportiness, the S60 R-Design’s lowered sport suspension now is optional on non-R-Design S60s, as are paddle shifters.

The big news for the S60’s interior is technology—it has it. Well, more of it, anyway. First up, the infrared-based touch-screen infotainment setup Volvo previewed at the 2013 Consumer Electronics show is making its production appearance this year. Dubbed Sensus, the setup adapts Volvo’s existing seven-inch dashboard display to respond to touch inputs using infrared beams; break the beams and the system calculates where your “touch” was intended. We tried this system as retrofitted to a 2013 XC60 crossover at CES and found it to work well, and because inputs don’t rely on capacitive touch like normal touch screens, users can wear gloves. A USB 3G/4G card or occupants’ mobile phones provide the system with internet connectivity, which can be used to surf the web (when the car is parked) and access internet radio, Google maps and search, and weather info. Sensus also features a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot so multiple passengers can browse the internet.

Another leap forward in the tech department comes courtesy of a newly available digital gauge cluster. Volvo’s Adaptive Digital Display replaces the S60’s analog gauges with a reconfigurable TFT screen with three driver-selectable themes: Elegance, Eco, and Performance. Elegance provides the look of a traditional gauge cluster; Eco brings an eco meter and fuel-consumption info set against a green background; and Performance places a big tachometer front and center, with speed displayed digitally in its center, and a power meter set against a red background.

Since you can’t discuss any new Volvo product without discussing safety, here’s the 411 on the S60’s stuff designed to keep its occupants from needing to call 911. New for 2014 is Active High Beam Control, which allows drivers to keep the S60’s brights on at all times. When the system senses approaching traffic, it selectively shades the beam to avoid blinding other road users. Audi’s impending LED-based setup (previewed at this year’s CES show), which selectively darkens individual LEDs to shade out oncoming traffic or pedestrians, is similar, but Volvo’s setup employs mechanical shading. 

Volvo also is touting a Cornering Light feature, which throws more light in the direction the wheels are turned at low speeds to help drivers traverse dark gateways or alley entrances. While certainly useful, the tech is hardly an innovation—corner lamps that illuminate whenever turn signals are engaged were a staple of 1970s-era American luxury cars. Otherwise, Volvo’s full suite of advanced safety tech returns to the 2014 S60, including City Safety auto-braking, Pedestrian Detection, blind-spot monitoring, and cross-traffic alert.

The S60’s range of turbocharged inline five- and six-cylinder engines and choice of front- or all-wheel drive apparently are untouched. And in case wagon lovers out there were curious, the Europe-only V60—the S60’s awesomely shaped five-door sibling—also gets the new front-end treatment. Volvo isn’t yet showing off a refreshed S60 R-Design, but the S60 variant we can’t wait to see is a production iteration of the totally insane, M5-challenging, 508-hp S60 Polestar concept. Please build it, Volvo, even if it gets the 2014 S60’s less-interesting face. 

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