2001 Volvo S60
click image to enlarge

New for 2001, the Volvo S60 sedan replaces the S70. Compared to the S70, if offers a quieter cabin, improved quality, and a more stylish coupe-like body style. However, the cabin seemed smaller to this tester. Three S60 models, the 2.4, 2.4T and T5, range in price from $35,995 to $43,995.

See also: Grant Yoxon’s Volvo S60 counterpoint



Sporty S60 sedan replaces conservative S70


When the front-wheel-drive Volvo 850 sedan replaced the boxy, rear-wheel-drive 240 sedan in 1993, some critics wondered whether the 850 was just too sporty and too upscale to be a Volvo family sedan. Eight years later, a similar situation exists with the new S60. Its sleek, coupe-like styling is considerably sportier than its predecessor, the S70 sedan (which is basically an updated version of the 850). Critics, like myself, are again asking – is the S60 too sporty to be a Volvo’s bread-and-butter mid-sized family hauler?

While it’s easy to excuse the stylish curves of the sporty Volvo C70 Coupe and Convertible models, and even the sophisticated bodywork of the top-of-the-line S80 luxury sedan, the S60 is meant to be a practical four-door sedan.

But perhaps I’m just being too old-fashioned – Volvo’s just aren’t boxy any more. Volvo is moving in the direction of BMW and Mercedes-Benz who at one time were several notches higher on the prestige scale. Now, it’s common to hear people talk about all three brands in the same breath.


S60 styling similar to S80

2001 Volvo S60
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The S60 looks similar the S80 (which was introduced in 1999) and is based on the same platform, but with a shorter wheelbase. The S60’s slippery shape features a low nose with aerodynamically-shaped headlamps and grille, and a high tail with distinctive ‘half-bell’ shaped taillights. Its most unique styling features are the prominent ‘hips’ on either side of the car which run from the nose to the tail. These hips integrate into the shape of the rear taillamps, and make the car look wider than it really is.

Compared to the 2000 S70 sedan, the 2001 S60 is shorter by 84 mm (3.3 in.), wider by 44 mm (1.7 in.) wider, and taller by 13 mm (0.5 in.) with a wheelbase that is longer by 51 mm (2 in.).

In theory, the S60’s extra width and longer wheelbase should make for a roomier cabin, but I didn’t find that to be the case. Some of the S60’s extra width is due to its wide ‘hips’, and though the roof is taller, it slopes down at more of an angle at the rear than the S70’s. After spending seat time in the front and back of the S60, my impression was that the S60’s front passengers have about the same amount of headroom and legroom, but the rear passengers have less headroom, hiproom, and legroom than the S70.

As well, the S60’s trunk is smaller than the S70’s: 13.9 cubic feet compared to 14.7 cubic feet.
In my view, some compromises were made in the name of styling.


Three S60 models to choose from

Like the S70, the S60 is available in three different models with three different engines (which are carried over with some refinements). The S60 2.4 ($35,995) has a 168 horsepower 2.4 litre five cylinder engine; the S60 2.4T ($40,995) has a 197 horsepower version of the same engine with a light-pressure turbocharger and intercooler; and the S60 T5 ($43,995) offers a 247 horsepower 2.3 litre five cylinder engine with a high pressure turbocharger and intercooler.

The S60 2.4 and T5 models both come standard with a five-speed manual transmission while the 2.4T offers a standard 5-speed automatic transmission. On the T5, the manual transmission features a unique ‘spaceball’ shift lever that looks like a giant joystick. A 5-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with manual shift modes is optional on the T5 model.

A fully independent suspension includes front MacPherson struts, stabilizer bar and assymetrically-mounted front springs, and rear multi-link setup with coil springs and stabilizer bar. T5 models are available with an optional Sport suspension with bigger stabilizer bars and stiffer shocks.
15 inch tires are standard on the 2.4, and 16 inch tires on the 2.4T and T5 models. Low-profile 17 inch tires are optional on the T5 model.

S60 T5 is a sporty driving experience

2001 Volvo S60
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My test car was a T5 model with 17 inch wheels and a 5-speed Geatronic transmission.
The T5 is the sportiest of the S60 models, and offers plenty of power from its turbocharged 247 horsepower 2.3 litre DOHC 20 valve inline five cylinder powerplant. For 2001, this engine now offers continuously variable valve timing to maximize torque at all engine speeds and improve engine efficiency and fuel economy. The engine also offers a new engine management computer, an oil sump with integrated cooler, and a reduction in weight.

Under hard acceleration, the engine ‘whines’ more than it ‘roars’, (due to the spinning blades of the turbocharger) but enigne noise and vibration are subdued and virtually inaudible at cruising speeds.

The front-wheel-drive S60 has virtually no torque-steer when acclerating hard. Maximum torque is available early – 243 lb-ft. at just 2400 rpm, so there’s minimal delay in getting the power to the ground. I found this engine to be a very flexible, responsive engine with a broad powerband.
On the freeway, engine revolutions of just 2000 rpm at a steady 100 km/h are one reason that this car is so quiet. And fuel consumption is reasonable for a turbocharged 247 horsepower engine: in city driving, it offers 11.8 l/100 km (24 mpg) while highway consumption is a very reasonable 8.1 l/100 km (35 mpg). However, a heavy right foot will lower these numbers considerably.

My car had the newly-available optional 5 speed automatic ‘Geartronic’ transmission that has a manual shifting mode. To engage manual mode, you put the lever in ‘D’, then move it to the left – tap forwards to change up a gear, and tap backwards to downshift. I found shift intervals in manual mode were fairly quick, but downshifts were faster than upshifts – it takes roughly a half second to downshift and a second to upshift. In automatic mode, the five-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly and precisely, and there’s reduced ‘creep’ when stopped in Drive.

Like the S70, the S60 offers excellent handling for a mid-size front-wheel-drive car with its engine mounted transversely over the front wheels and a front/rear weight distribution of 57/43. There’s some initial lean during cornering, but the S60 is well-balanced and easy to control. Brake dive is well-controlled, and the ride is firm but well-damped for ride comfort – it would be most comfortable with the 15 inch or 16 inch tires (my car had low-profile 17 inch tires with a narrow sidewall).

I was disappointed with the S60’s large turning circle – it’s definitely bigger than average. Volvo reports a turning circle between 10.8 metres and 11.8 metres depending on tires – I must have had the one with the 11.8 metre (38.7 feet) turning circle. Stability Traction Control is standard on the T5 model, while a more sophisticated Dynamic Stability Traction Control with both traction and anti-skid control, is optional. The purpose of traction control is to reduce wheelspin of the driving wheels when accelerating on slippery surfaces, while the anti-skid control brakes individual wheels to correct loss of steering control in a lateral spin.

I found the T5’s four wheel disc brakes with ABS to be as good or better than the BMW 325i and Mercedes-Benz C320. The T5’s discs are larger than those of the 2.4 and 2.4T. However, I felt the brake pedal was a bit too sensitive – it has to be squeezed gently to avoid the four brakes discs gripping too tightly.

The S60 offers good forward and side visibility, but its high rear deck, and protruding rear head restraints partly obscure vision when lane-changing.

One area where I think the S60 has improved significantly is in the reduction in noise and vibration. The cabin is quieter, the body is more solid, and suspension noises have been well-isolated from the cabin. The lack of engine noise, road noise, and wind noise makes the S60 feel very luxurious.

Though its a competent performance sedan, the S60 is not as much fun to drive as a rear-wheel-drive BMW 3-Series or 5-Series sedan. I would say the S60 is more of a luxury car that handles well, than a sporting car that’s luxurious.


High quality interior

2001 Volvo S60 interior
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The S60’s attractive interior has a high-quality appearance – the dashboard is made of a textured plastic, the dash and doors include walnut trim and the door handles are made of brushed aluminum.
The S60’s dual-zone automatic climate control and ventilation systems has large ‘pictographs’ which are intuitively easy to use. A standard audio system includes an AM/FM/cassette with in-dash single CD player, Dolby “B” Noise reduction, 4 X 25 watt amplifier, and six speakers. An optional Audio Max system consists of an in-dash 4 CD changer, AM/FM Digital Tuner, Dolby ProLogic Surround Sound, w/internal 1x25W amplifier, 13 speakers and 4 X 75 watt amplifier. Some of the stereo controls are unusual – rather than push-buttons for Seek and Scan, the S60 has dials which need to be turned.

2001 Vovlo S60 dash
The S60’s round gauges, which include a tachometer with a 6100 rpm redline, are easy to read, and there are LCD readouts for the odometer, clock, outside temperature gauge, and trip computer.
Controls for the radio and cruise control are located on the steering wheel, and headlamp/foglamp buttons are on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel. Like other European luxury cars, the power door lock button is on the dashboard, not the door. There’s also a DSTC/off button, a 12 volt outlet, and a pen-holder on the lower centre console.

The S60 has three cupholders in the front – two in the centre console between the driver and passenger and one that flips out of the dashboard. The pop-out cupholder on the dash is positioned so that the driver can reach it easily, and so that it doesn’t obscure any of the dashboard controls.

The sturdy, supportive front bucket seats offer eight-way power adjustment and seat heaters that have two temperature settings.

2001 volvo S60 interior
At the rear, legroom is adequate, in part because the back of the front seats has been scooped out to permit more kneeroom. The outboard rear seats are sculpted like bucket seats, so the rear bench is more comfortable for two adults than three. Headroom is adequate, but my impression is that the tall, boxy design of the S60’s predecessor, the S70, provided more rear headroom and hiproom than the S60 does.

Rear passengers in the S60 have a 12 volt outlet on the back of the centre console, a small, open storage bin, and rear facing air vents on the B-pillars. A folding centre rear armrest includes two pop-out cupholders and a covered storage bin. The trunk pass-through is behind the rear centre armrest.

The S60 includes split 60/40 folding rear seatbacks which fold almost flat, although the opening to the trunk is comparatively small. For security, the folding seatbacks can only be released from inside the trunk.

The S60’s trunk includes a unique flip-up panel which prevents packages and groceries from sliding all the way to the front of the trunk where they’re hard to reach. The panel includes grocery bag hooks, and there’s also an elastic tie-down band for securing packages.


Standard equipment

Standard equipment on the $43,995 S60 T5 includes all of the above mentioned features, plus auto-down/up front power windows with an anti-trap feature (also on the power sunroof), tilt/telescoping steering column, power remote controlled body-coloured heated mirrors, power tilt and sliding glass sunroof with sunshade and auto open/close, remote keyless 2-step unlock/entry system with trunk release, and panic alarm.


Extensive safety features

Like all Volvos, the S60 has many safety features, including dual-stage driver and passenger front airbags, side airbags and SIPS side-impact protection, two inflatable head curtain airbags which protect front and rear passengers, front seats with WHIPS whiplash protection, rear child locks, 3 top tether anchors for child seats, and five 3-point seatbelts and five head restraints. The centre rear head restraint can be lowered so it doesn’t obstruct rear visibility.
For more information on the Volvo S60, see Volvo Canada’s web-site, www.volvocanada.com.

See also: Grant Yoxon’s Volvo S60 counterpoint


Technical Data:

2001 Volvo S60 T5
Base price $43,995
Price as tested $51,095
Freight $650
Type 4-door, 5 passenger mid-size sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.3 litre 5 cylinder, turbocharged, DOHC, 20 valves
Horsepower 247 @ 5200 rpm
Torque 243 lb-ft. @ 2400 rpm
Transmission 5 speed automatic ‘Geartronic’
Tires 215/55 R16 93H, Michelin MXM4 (A/S)
Curb weight 1548 kg (3412 lb.)
Wheelbase 2715 mm (106.9 in.)
Length 4576 mm (180.1 in.)
Width 1804 mm (71.0 in.)
Height 1428 mm (56.2 in.)
Trunk space 394 litres (13.9 cu. ft.) seats up
  1034 litres (36.5 cu. ft.) seats down
Fuel consumption City 11.8 l/100 km
  Hwy: 8.1 l/100 km
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

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