2002 Volvo S60 Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D Turbo T5

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2002 Volvo S60
Sam Moses

Volvo's S60 brings the Swedish firm's safety legacy and standards to consumers for whom the S40 is too small and the S80 too big. Not surprisingly, the S60 also fits between those models in price -- starting at $27,125 but running to more than $36,000 for a loaded S60 AWD.

Volvo's S60 offers an alternative to BMW's 3 Series sedans. S60 combines the S80's stylish shape with all those safety features that have made Volvo famous over the years.

Introduced for model year 2001, the S60 replaced the S70. Model Lineup
Four models are available: 2.4 ($27,125); 2.4T ($31,625); T5 ($33,375); and 2.4T AWD ($33,375). The big difference between the first three models is the difference in horsepower; the AWD (all-wheel drive) is new for 2002.

The 2.4 comes with a 2.4-liter five-cylinder engine (yes, five cylinders) that produces 168 horsepower and 170 pounds-feet of torque.

The 2.4T uses a low-pressure turbocharger to generate 197 horsepower and 210 pounds-feet of torque; and that torque comes on at a much lower engine speed (1800 rpm instead of 4500 rpm), giving this model much better acceleration away from those intersections.

The T5 uses a high-pressure turbo to produce 247 horsepower and 243 pounds-feet of torque for quick, turbocharged throttle response.

The AWD uses the 197-horsepower 2.4T engine. When Volvo introduced this model in September, it was broadly suggested that the 247-horsepower T5 engine would become available in the AWD, most likely in less than a year.

All S60 models get a raft of safety and security items: front, side and head airbags up front; seats that move to reduce whiplash problems; an immobilizer and an alarm; a Safe Approach and Home Safe Lighting System; five head restraints; and anti-lock disc brakes. There are no significant mechanical changes in 2002, however a couple of important features that were optional in '01 are now standard: traction control (STC) and stability control (DSTC).

Convenience features common to every S60 include power windows, trunk release and door locks, illuminated visor mirrors, a trunk light, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, heated seats, headlight wipers, power folding headrests, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a pollen filter, air conditioning, cupholders front and rear, steering-wheel controls for the audio system, and remote keyless entry. Walkaround
There's a "Honey, I shrunk the S80" look to the S60, which is okay since the biggest and most expensive Volvo sedan is widely felt to be handsome in that Lars-the-hockey-player-in-a-cable-knit sweater kind of way. There is certainly no sense of the famous old "boxy but safe" styling that Volvo single-handedly championed for decades. The S60's general shape predates the S80, so the bigger car is actually the copy. Volvo crafted this shape back in 1994 but lacked the funds to build both, so they went with the more profitable S80.

The man who led the S60's design team, a Hungarian named Geza Loczi, likes to say that its exterior shape is ''the essence of contemporary Scandinavian design," whatever that means. It seems compact at first glance, and there's a hunched-shoulder look to the part behind the rear doors, which makes it seem like it's a hockey player ready to lead a charge up the ice. Interior
Overall, the S60 interior is handsome and comfortable. The seats are cushy and covered in nice pigskin-type leather; however, you tend to slide around a bit in them. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has audio and other controls. The dashboard has a nice flowing shape, and attractive wood trim is used sparingly, on the glovebox lid and on all four doors. The quality of the material used to cover other surfaces is good. The gauges are attractive with their flat gray background, and easy to read, while the switches are intuitive and easy to use. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls are well designed, with big buttons that use Volvo's clever metaphoric design to direct the airflow. Electric window buttons are conveniently mounted on the door and feature auto down, and the inside door handles are easy to grab.

The radio will require the owner's manual to understand, however. And the center console is awkward to reach, as it's positioned rearward. The cupholders mounted just forward of this console have a flimsy lid covering them. There's another mini-cupholder on the center dash. Also in that area, the manual shift lever has a goofy looking silver plastic cover at its base; because the car's leather is so nice, a traditional boot would look so much classier. But perhaps this unusual touch is what's meant by the essence of Scandinavian design.

There's good interior space up front, but getting into the back seat requires a duck of the head, and an average-sized male will be short of legroom.

To get the swoopy shape, Volvo had to make certain design decisions that slightly constrict the trunk opening. The trunk itself is roomy and deep, so many smaller bags will fit, but big hard-sided trunks might not go in sideways. If you fold down the 60/40 rear seat and front passenger seat, you can carry something quite long. Driving Impressions
Bopping along a highway, the S60's role in Volvo's pantheon becomes clear. The Swedes clearly mean for this car to be seen as a sports sedan in the same general class as the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class, leaders of this segment.

But like everyone else who takes a shot at the performance of the BMW 3 Series, Volvo falls short. Exactly how short depends greatly on which Volvo engine you choose and how hard you push the car. The S60 with front-wheel drive and the S60 AWD with all-wheel drive have a significantly different ride and steering feel. We tested both models, and we'll describe the front-wheel drive first.

The suspension is tuned more for a comfortable ride than for quick maneuvers. In high-speed ripply corners, the S60 T5 with front-wheel drive lets its limits be known early, as the steering definitely lags behind the momentum delivered by the turbocharged engine, which zooms the car forward. There is some noticeable body lean, the feeling exaggerated in right-hand turns by the fact that there's no good place to brace your right knee, so your foot doesn't stay flat on the gas pedal.

The car feels big when driven hard around corners like that--oddly, almost like a '90s version of a '60s muscle car. The relatively long throw of the five-speed gearbox adds to the retro feel. From inside, the S60 doesn't feel physically big, but when you get it going, it grows. The fact that its shape doesn't allow you to see the four fender corners adds to the illusion.

The upside to the softish suspension is that the ride is excellent, even over nasty bumps, even with the optional 17-inch wheels, fitted with Pirelli P6 all-season 235/45HR17 radials. The fact that you pay for your comfort in the corners is merely an indication that the emphasis is more on sedan than on sports. One thing you can say for the S60 is that it definitely engages the driver, because you have to work to stay with it, and pay attention to the steering wheel. But in a straight line at speed, even high speeds, it's extremely steady as long as the road is smooth.

A heavy application of power can be a little tricky on some surfaces because the front wheels have to look after the propulsion and the steering at the same time. In other words, it suffers from torque steer. There's even reverse torque steer, when you back off the throttle very quickly. And if you're stopping in first gear, and turning at the same time, the steering gets heavy.

The T5 produces prodigious thrust from its high-pressure turbocharger, but it doesn't really come on until 4000 rpm. It's not turbo lag, because the lag is too long for that; mash your foot to the floor in any gear at 3000 rpm, and it won't impress you until the revs get to 4000, at which time it might even get you in trouble because the power comes on so strong. But if you're ready for it, it's way fun.

So you need to keep the revs up to keep the engine responsive. Fifty mph in fourth gear is 2500 rpm, and you'll almost always have to downshift to third gear to pass on a two-lane.

One of the great features of Volvo's turbocharged engines is that, if you're driving sensibly, there's little penalty in terms of fuel economy. When equipped with the manual transmission, the T5 gets 28/23 mpg, which is the same as the 2.4T, and just one point down from the highway rating for the 2.4.

As for the transmission and brakes, they get less than stellar marks. The shifter has a longish throw and is not particularly smooth, sometimes even a bit clunky. And the brakes are soft, which makes it hard to coordinate heel-and-toe downshifts, for starters. We initially were impressed with the smoothness of the ABS, but then realized that maybe the reason they were smooth was because they weren't very aggressive. We didn't feel thrown forward in the seat from intense stopping, as we have with other sports sedans, such as the BMW 3 Series.

As for the AWD, the differences can be pinpointed to firmer suspension and steering. Volvo says it's merely a result of the increased weight of the all-wheel-drive system; the steering is naturally heavier (Volvo prefers to say it has a more "on-center feel," which is fair enough), and the ride is firmer because the shocks have been stiffened to handle the weight. We didn't have a chance to test the AWD in high-speed bumpy turns, but we can say that although the ride wasn't as absorbent as that in the T5 we tested, we much prefer the AWD's capability to take more challenging terrain in stride.

During Volvo's introduction of the S60 AWD on the Maine coast, a slalom course on dirt was set up for the international journalists, and the directional stability of the AWD S60 sedan on this loose surface is indeed excellent.

Power on the S60 AWD is distributed between the front and rear wheels using a wet multi-plate clutch controlled by electronics, and it varies according to conditions. With a steady throttle on dry pavement, about 95 percent of the drive is transmitted to the front wheels; the maximum that can be transmitted to the rear wheels is 70 percent. The balance changes instantaneously, based on traction needs, as determined by sensors. The difference in Volvo's system, called AOD (Active-On-Demand), is the level of balance and degree of "instantaneous." When one wheel slips 15 degrees-far sooner than any human can detect-the balance of power shifts away from that wheel, thus replacing the slip with grip.

For now, the S60 AWD comes with one transmission, the five-speed Geartronic automatic with a mode for manual operation. But Volvo stopped just short of confirming that next year the AWD would offer a five-speed, as well as the turbocharged T5 engine.

Also unavailable is the option of electronic stability control-Volvo calls theirs DSTC, for Directional Stability and Traction Control. This function would seem to be a natural complement to the AWD, since it would make spinning out virtually impossible. Summary
The S60 handles really well when you get it going, but getting it going depends greatly on which engine you choose. If you like lots of launch and passing power, avoid the base engine.

Model as tested
S60 2.4T AWD ($33,375)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
leather seating surfaces ($1300); Cold Weather Package (NC) includes heated front seats, headlight wipers/washers; Touring Package ($700) includes trip computer, automatic dimming day/night rearview mirror, HomeLink garage door opener, grocery bag holder, air quality system, security laminated glass; power sunroof ($1200)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
S60 2.4 ($27,125); S60 2.4T ($31,625); 2.4T AWD ($33,375); S60 T5 ($34,025)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage front airbags, side-impact front seat airbags, side-curtain airbags, side-impact door beams, 3-point front seatbelts with adjustable anchors, front seat Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), rear seat ISOFIX child restraint anchors, ABS, rear fog lights, five padded head restraints, rear-door child locks
Safety equipment (optional)
2.4 liter dohc turbocharged inline-5
5-speed automatic w Auto-stick

Specifications as Tested
dual-zone electronic climate control, central locking system with keyless entry, security system with battery back-up siren, rear fog light, power heated exterior mirrors with memory, power windows w front express up/down, tilt/telescope steering wheel with audio controls, outside temperature gauge and digital clock, AM/FM/cassette w six speakers, eight-way power driver's seat

Engine & Transmission
2.4 liter dohc turbocharged inline-5
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
197 @ 6000
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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