$7,915 - $10,890

2012 Volvo S60 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Volvo S60 was new.


Performance: 8.0

The 2012 Volvo S60 is trying to be a sports sedan, but the automotive press says it falls short. If you value performance, reviewers recommend the BMW 3-Series, Infiniti G or Audi A4. Despite its sports sedan shortcomings, auto critics say the Volvo S60 is powerful, controlled and fun to drive. Several reviewers report that the six-speed automatic transmission is slow at times and constantly hunts for a higher gear.

  • "The 2012 Volvo S60 is a comfortable, sophisticated and well-behaved luxury sedan with ample power whether you go with five or six turbocharged cylinders. It's a sure-footed handler with nicely weighted steering that feels substantial without being heavy." -- Edmunds
  • "Overall, it's a fun car to drive, but it doesn't demand to be driven through the hills and canyons regularly like some other offerings in this class do." -- Motor Trend (R-Design)
  • "Though it’s arguably the most fluid and poised Volvo of all time, it is not the sportiest. In its fine balance of comfort and sport, the bias is slightly toward the former." -- Car and Driver
  • "Although a bit more powerful than the standard S60, the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design offers few other sporting capabilities to justify the $4,500 premium over its humbler sibling. And the lack of the adaptive suspension option, which is available on the standard S60, potentially makes it worse in overall performance." -- CNET (R-Design)
  • "The T6 powertrain is also a winner. Smooth, progressive, seamless power and torque are on tap, and the six-speed automatic works pretty well, although it’s sometimes just a tad slow to respond to manual-mode upshifts." -- Automobile Magazine

Acceleration and Power

All three Volvo S60 trims have different levels of power, but there are only two engines. The front-wheel drive base T5 model gets a 2.5-liter, 250-horsepower, inline five-cylinder turbocharged engine. The all-wheel drive T6 and T6 R-Design models have a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder turbocharged engine. The T6 makes 300 horsepower, while the performance-tuned R-Design produces 325 horsepower. All three S60 models come with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The EPA estimates that 2012 Volvo S60 sedans with front-wheel drive and the five-cylinder engine will get 20/30 mpg city/highway, while all-wheel drive S60 models with the six-cylinder should earn 18/26 mpg.

Overall, test drivers are happy with the Volvo S60’s acceleration. They say the engine is smooth and potent. One reviewer who drove the R-Design model says he disliked its transmission because it was continually looking for the right gear, but he says switching to manual mode helped.   

  • "Its turbocharged 3-liter in-line six-cylinder engine … is an absolute delight on roads where you can come close to exploiting its potential without going to jail, a hospital, or both." -- The Washington Post
  • "Push it a little on curvy mountain roads, however, and the tweaked in-line six, whose power is delivered via a six-speed automatic with an available Sport mode, responds immediately to throttle inputs even as the car's body motions remain well balanced." -- Automobile Magazine (R-Design)
  • "With its torque peaking between 3,000 rpm and 3,600 rpm, the R-Design car feels pleasingly muscular on the road. In addition, the fast-spooling turbo and rapid-response six-speed Aisin-Warner transmission provide virtually instant reaction to a dig at the throttle." -- AutoWeek (R-Design)
  • "The T6's engine is smooth and powerful, and the all-wheel-drive system can transfer different degrees of power to individual wheels to maximize traction and grip through turns or on slippery roads. The new base T5 model, meanwhile, lines up well with other entry-level luxury cars like the 328i and C300, as its turbocharged nature yields better low-end torque over its normally aspirated V6 competitors." -- Edmunds
  • "Volvo admits the R-Design's transmission is a weak spot. The six-speed automatic constantly hunts for higher gears when set to drive or sport mode, theoretically to save fuel. We found it worked best in manual mode, even though there are no steering-wheel-mounted paddles or buttons with which to select gears." -- Car and Driver (R-Design)
  • "There's a charismatic whirr under hard acceleration, but otherwise the engine is refined and quiet." -- Motor Trend

Handling and Braking

The R-Design is a new performance-oriented trim level for the 2012 Volvo S60, and it handles differently than the T5 and T6 trims because its suspension is firmer. A few test drivers wish it had an adaptive suspension option like the base S60 does though. Even with the R-Design model, reviewers say the S60 doesn’t handle like a sports sedan, and they say its steering and brakes are numb. Overall, the Volvo S60 is a competent, comfortable and sporty midsize car.

  • "The all-wheel-drive system increases traction and, thus, driver confidence on wet, twisty roads." -- The Washington Post
  • "It's fast, for sure, but is missing that tactility the Germans are so good at engineering into their cars. The steering is on the numb side, and so is the brake pedal and throttle. And while the suspension is certainly firmer than the standard S60, its still has the kind of suppleness that is better suited for winter-beaten roads than twisty mountain ones." -- Fox News (R-Design)
  • "Jounce and rebound are very well handled, giving the car a solid, secure feel on a variety of road surfaces." -- AutoWeek
  • "The brakes bite nicely without a dead spot in initial pedal travel, but they, like the R-Design's steering, suffer from a lack of feedback." -- Car and Driver (R-Design)
  • "We wouldn't call it a sport sedan, but handling is sure-footed and it's easy to find a groove as you go from corner to corner. The steering has a nice weight to it (not too heavy) and feels precise as you enter cloverleaf freeway ramps." -- Edmunds

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