2013 Volvo T5 S60: Sporty, quick-steering, traditionally solid, safe

James Raia

Some may still think the 2013 Volvo S60 T5 sedan is among the first sporty Volvos sold in the United States because of the automaker’s long-lingering stodgy image.

Volvo actually has built several sporty cars since it offered its conservatively styled 1956-58 PV444 family model here, complete with a strong dual-carburetor engine and a stick shift with a floor shifter. It was a practical auto, but could beat sports cars on race tracks.

However, most sporty Volvos have flown under the general public’s radar. It generally was known as a conservative model with a heavy emphasis on safety features. The station wagon version was especially popular.

2013 Volvo T5 S60: Sporty, quick-steering, traditionally solid, safe 1
Volvo S60 – model year 2016
2013 Volvo T5 S60: Sporty, quick-steering, traditionally solid, safe 2
Volvo S60 – model year 2016
2013 Volvo T5 S60: Sporty, quick-steering, traditionally solid, safe 3
Volvo S60 Cross Country – model year 2016

The redesigned 2011 S60 Volvo four-door sedan went a long way to help break that boring old image with its sporty coupe-like styling and lively performance. The 2011 S60 model initially just had a 300-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine.While the “six” is still offered, a five-cylinder turbocharged 3-liter engine with 250 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque has been added since the 2011 was introduced.

Horsepower and torque of the four-cylinder version remain the same for 2013, although the five-cylinder has a higher compression ratio (from 9.0:1 to 9.5:1) and internal friction has been reduced.

Also, faster gear changes have quickened 0-60 mph times. When the 6-speed automatic transmission is in Sport mode, the from 6.8 seconds for the 2012 five-cylinder model is reduced to 6.4 seconds with the new car’s standard front-wheel drive— or to 6.6 seconds with its optional all-wheel drive.

Merging and passing abilities thus are solid, although the engine occasionally sounds a bit gruff. It works with an efficient six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature and a Sport mode.

Estimated fuel economy is a little better, at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on highways. Only regular-grade gasoline is needed.I tested the five-cylinder version with all-wheel drive, which adds $2,000 to the list price of the entry front-drive $31,750 S60 T5. My test car’s complete name was “S60 T5 AWD.” That makes sense since it had a turbocharged five-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive.

The S60 T5 AWD feels solid and is nicely sized. It’s 183.3-inches long and weighs 3,538 pounds.

This car is fairly well-equipped, with items including a power driver’s seat, automatic air conditioning, high performance audio system and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel.
The S60 T5 has plenty of safety features because, after all, it’s a Volvo.

Options include a sunroof, leather-covered seats, power passenger seat, heated rear seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Volvo’s Technology Package, which my test car didn’t have, can activate the brakes if a collision is imminent and a pedestrian-detection system that can stop the car with no driver involvement at lower speeds. I tired the system during a Volvo media preview of the 2011 S60 and it worked remarkably well.

While Volvo still emphasizes the safety of its vehicles, it knows many rivals have caught up to it in most safety areas, so safety has pretty much become just another selling feature for it–although a strong one.

My test Volvo’s steering was quick, but it also was firm and sometimes felt a little dead. Handling with the standard “Touring” chassis didn’t match that of an all-out sports sedan, but the all-independent suspension provided a firm, but supple, ride.

Helping keep the S60 stable are a stability traction control system and anti-lock brakes with an electronic brake distribution and assistance system. The brake pedal is especially easy to modulate for sure stops in all sorts of traffic.

The solid-feeling S60 T5 AWD’s quiet interior is nicely designed and upscale in a subdued manner. Large door openings make it easy to slide in and out. Seats are supportive, and large outside mirrors help provide good driver rear visibility.

Most controls are easy to use, although radio buttons are small. Climate controls are large. A dashboard screen that displays such things as sound system information can be easily worked with just a little practice.

It’s easy to partially stop the power front windows when they’re moving down or up—an impossible task on many cars.

This Volvo is roomy up front, but a rear passenger with long legs behind a driver will have a hard time shoving his feet beneath the bottom of the driver’s seat. A tall rear occupant behind the front passenger won’t have that problem.

Conveniently placed front console cupholders have a cover to keep things looking neat, and there’s also a deep covered console bin. A large fold-down rear armrest contains cupholders. But door pockets don’t hold much.

The fairly large trunk has an interior lining and wide opening, although some may have a problem finding the virtually hidden trunk releases for the rear seatbacks, which fold forward and sit flat to increase cargo capacity.

The hood also has an interior lining and easily flips up on twin hydraulic struts, revealing the sideways mounted engine and easily reached fluid-filler areas.

My test Volvo T5 S60 AWD felt like the sort of car an owner would want to hold onto for a long time.

Pros: Sporty. Quicker. Fairly roomy. Solid. Newly optional all-wheel drive.

Cons: Farily heavy steering. Small radio buttons. Tight of foot room behind driver.

Bottom line: For those who don’t want a high-selling, sporty mid-size sports sedan.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

Model Overview:  2013 Volvo S60

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price

S60 T5: $31,900

S60 T5 Premier: $34,100

S60 T5 Premier Plus: $35,250

S60 T5 Platinum: $37,950

S60 T6 AWD: $40,650

S60 T6 AWD Premier Plus: $41,800

S60 T6 AWD Platinum: $44,500

S60 T6 AWD R-Design: $44,100

S60 T6 AWD R-Design Platinum: $46,800

Destination: $895


Volvo’s award-winning S60 continues to win praise for its breathtaking design, outstanding driving dynamics, advanced powertrains, innovative technology and tremendous value. For 2013, the sportiest and most dynamic Volvo ever becomes even more attractive thanks to the introduction of new trim levels plus an array of enhancements.


For the first time, Volvo’s All-Wheel Drive with Instant Traction is available on the value-leading S60 T5. Providing the best possible grip in all situations – on wet, slippery or completely dry roads – All-Wheel Drive with Instant Traction can be added to any S60 T5 as a stand-alone $2,000 option.


Improvements for the S60 T5’s standard 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine include mechanical changes that contribute to an increased compression ratio from 9.0:1 to 9.5:1 and a reduction of internal friction. Those changes, in combination with faster gear changes in sport mode, result in quicker acceleration with a 0-60 mph sprint in 6.4 seconds for the front-drive T5 compared to 6.8 seconds last year. When equipped with optional AWD, 0-60 is clocked in 6.6 seconds. Output continues at 250 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque.


The extensive list of standard features on all S60s grows even longer for 2013. Rain sensor windshield wipers and headlight washers are now standard on all models. New Tunnel Detection automatically turns on the headlights when the car enters a tunnel and then returns the lights to the previous setting when exiting the tunnel. Dual polished exhaust pipes are a new standard feature for the S60 T5. The T6 AWD gains a standard power passenger seat, power glass moonroof and Keyless Drive with Personal Car Communicator (PCC).


New trim levels for the S60 contain previously optional equipment that has been grouped together for customer convenience. Buyers can still select the S60 T5, T6 AWD and R-Design models without a trim level, or move up to new trim levels for each.


For example, the new Premier trim level, offered exclusively for the T5, adds a power glass moonroof, leather seating surfaces, Keyless Drive with Personal Car Communicator (PCC), power passenger seat, auto-dimming rear view mirror and Accessory Prep cable.


The Premier Plus trim level, available for the T5 and T6 AWD, includes active dual Xenon headlights, front and rear park assist, Homelink remote garage door opener and a compass in the rear view mirror (plus an Accessory Prep cable for the T6 AWD).


Technology is the theme for the new Platinum trim. Offered on all S60s, this adds the Volvo Premium Sound System with Dolby® Pro Logic® II Surround Sound, 12 premium speakers and 650 watts. Also included is a Navigation System with Real Time Traffic and Map Care plus a rear park assist camera.


Customers retain the flexibility to add option packages to any S60, as well as select individual items from a list of stand-alone options. Heated rear seats are a new option offered on all S60s this year.


Two new features debut on the Technology Package, available on all S60 models. Active High Beam automatically switches the headlights to low beam when opposite traffic is detected. Road Sign Information (RSI) displays traffic speed signs for the driver on the instrument cluster based on the Forward Looking Camera (FLC). The package also includes Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake (CWAB), Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, Distance Alert (DA), Driver Alert Control (DAC) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW).


Introduced last year to the delight of enthusiasts, the S60 T6 R-Design returns for 2013. With the most powerful six-cylinder currently offered by Volvo, the R-Design’s 3.0-liter turbocharged engine puts out a remarkable 325 horsepower and a stout 354 lb.-ft. of torque. Compared to the T6 AWD, the R-Design’s powerplant generates 25 more horsepower and 29 lb.-ft. additional torque. Zero to 60 mph can be reached in just 5.5 seconds versus 5.8 seconds for T6 AWD.
The S60 T6 AWD continues to be equipped with the same 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine employed in the R-Design. Performance-minded drivers will enjoy the T6 AWD’s 300 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque with maximum torque achieved from 2,100 rpm and available throughout the rev range.
For enhanced stopping power, the front disc brake diameter for the R-Design has increased from 12.4 inches to 13.2 inches. While its standard Sport Chassis continues to take the R-Design to the next level of performance. Volvo’s chassis team fitted a strut brace under the hood that links the suspension strut towers. This is a classic method of stiffening up the body structure and to improve steering response.
At the rear, the S60 R-Design features monotube dampers. Unlike the twin-tube dampers used in the S60 T6 AWD, the monotube system features compression and return damping via the same valve. This gives shorter, faster fluid flow, which in turn means the damper responds more quickly.
The R-Design’s front springs are shortened by 15mm to give it more visual attitude. Spring stiffness is 15 percent higher compared to the Dynamic Chassis in the T6 AWD. Rear damper attachment bushings are 20 percent stiffer compared with the T6 AWD. The front tie-blade bushing, or the attachment to the rear of the car, is a massive 400 percent stiffer to counteract wheel bouncing and shaking.
Power is transmitted to the wheels on all S60s via Volvo’s second-generation six-speed automatic Geartronic transmission with Sport Mode. A new gearshift knob includes illuminated drive modes for added convenience.  Like the S60 T6 AWD, the R-Design is fitted with standard All-Wheel Drive with Instant Traction plus Corner Traction Control with torque vectoring.
On the outside, the S60 R-Design has an imposing lower front fascia with a grille painted in glossy piano black. The sporty stance is enhanced with color-matched body components, details in matte finish and a hexagonal pattern that is repeated both front and rear. Incorporated within a sporty rear exhaust baffle are distinctive 3 1/2-inch twin exhaust pipes. Unique R-Design 18-inch “Ixion” alloy wheels emphasize the sporty appeal. Rebel Blue is a new color exclusive to the R-Design.
Inside the R-Design driver and front passenger sit in sport seats in which the highly supportive backrest is matched with a unique seat cushion with deeper side bolsters. The exclusive standard upholstery is Off-Black leather with contrasting stitching and sport-oriented texture accents with embossed R-Design logo across the front-seat backrests. The interior also features an R-Design sport steering wheel, gear selector, sport pedals, floor mats and blue watch-dial instrument cluster.
Emotionally charged styling sets the tone for the promise of a great drive. Often described as the “Volvo with an attitude,” the S60 stands out from the crowd with a revolutionary design that creates a strong sense of motion. The S60’s profile radiates the look of a four-door coupe with a twist. The slim roofline is accompanied by a distinctive contour on the shoulders of the lower body, creating a “double wave” that stretches from the headlights to the taillights.
When viewed from the front, the S60 makes a powerful impression. The dramatically shaped grille flanked by V-shaped positioning lights sports a large Volvo iron mark. The S60’s unmistakable profile is even visible in the dark. Volvo’s designers strategically applied LED technology to create distinctive yet fluid light streams front and rear. The front positioning lights, front side marker lights, turn signal indicators mounted in the outside mirrors and taillights use LEDs for increased visibility and nighttime drama.
Driving dynamics have been fine-tuned for the S60 T5 and T6 AWD. The Dynamic Chassis, standard on the T6 AWD, places the focus on optimizing control and agility. The T5 comes with a Touring Chassis that delivers an exciting ride with a priority on comfort. The major difference between the two is in the dampers and the front and rear subframes. Both offer exceptional ride and handling qualities, yet the Touring Chassis has been tuned to provide a smoother ride on poor road surfaces.
Volvo’s FOUR-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) active chassis, available as an option on the S60 T6 AWD, employs sensors that continuously monitor the car’s behavior and adjust the dampers in fractions of a second to suit the current driving situation. The driver can select from three different settings: Comfort, Sport and Advanced.
All S60s are equipped with Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) as part of a suite of electronic systems to help optimize handling and control. Advanced Stability Control uses a roll angle sensor to detect and react to oversteer at an earlier stage and understeer in situations such as slip build-up. These situations may occur if the driver suddenly releases the accelerator while steering, such as when leaving a highway slightly too late. It also improves handling in evasive maneuvers. DSTC includes a sport mode setting to allow controlled wheel slip for performance driving.
Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring is another technology to help improve handling by redistributing torque to the outer wheel to help “steer” the car around a turn. This feature operates on the front wheels for the S60 T5 and both the front and rear wheels for the S60 T6 AWD and R-Design plus the T5 when equipped with optional AWD. Enthusiast drivers will immediately notice a significant reduction in understeer as the system seamlessly applies the appropriate amount of power to the outside tire(s).
Among the other driver assistance systems that debuted on the S60 is Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake. Part of the optional Technology Package, this world-first technology actively helps the driver avoid accidents. Volvo’s radar- and camera-based system can detect pedestrians in front of the car, warn the driver if anyone walks out into its path, and then automatically activate the S60’s full braking power if the driver fails to respond in time. The system can avoid a collision at speeds up to 22 mph. At higher speeds, the focus is on reducing the car’s speed as much as possible prior to the impact.
The S60’s standard safety systems include City Safety, another world-first technology that made its debut on the Volvo XC60. City Safety is a driver support system aimed at preventing or mitigating collisions with a vehicle ahead occurring at speeds of 31 mph or less. It utilizes a closing velocity sensor to help determine whether a collision is likely. Depending on the closing speed, City Safety will either pre-charge the brakes or automatically brake the S60 to help avoid a rear-end collision or lessen its impact.
The S60’s standard Volvo Sensus system has been improved for 2013. Sensus manages information from the audio unit, navigation system (if equipped) and other functions, displaying them onto a seven-inch high-definition color monitor in the upper part of the center console. It allows the driver to explore the high-tech features of the car and personalize them to suit his or her needs. Steering-wheel-mounted scroll functionality for the thumb-activated rotator is increased for more intuitive and consistent flow of information including Radio Media, “TEL,” “SAT” and “NAV” functions.
A standard high-performance audio system includes a CD  player, HD Radio, AUX and USB inputs, MP3 capability, 160-watt amplifier and eight speakers. Also included is Bluetooth hands-free phone interface with audio streaming and Sirius Satellite Radio with a complimentary six-month subscription.
The S60 is one of few cars in the world to use Audyssey Laboratories’ MultiEQ technology, the standard for room equalization in the home and professional theater markets, like IMAX. Included with the Premium Sound System, MultiEQ removes distortion caused by the cabin’s acoustics enabling crisp, clear sound with improved soundstage effects for everyone in the car.
Sport front and rear seating is standard on the S60 T5 and T6 AWD, along with a sport leather steering wheel and Shimmer Graphite aluminum inlays. Those who desire the warm look of wood can select the Urbane Wood inlays option for T5 and T6 AWD trims. This veneer is made from real wood that is sourced from responsibly managed forests and is certified by the Forest Steward Council. The wood is dyed and artfully layered together, creating a pattern inspired by the exotic grain of African Zebrano, which is a threatened species.

Article Last Updated: June 10, 2024.

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