Used Car Reviews

Used Vehicle Review: Volvo S60, 2011-2015

Vehicle Type

Luxury Sport Sedan

Comfort, confidence, performance and really-frickin-good wintertime driving manners.


This used review is a little self-serving, because your writer is a big-time fan of the Volvo S60, and a potential candidate for a used model, some day. The reason is simple: as someone based in Northern Ontario who drives every day of the year and values comfort, confidence, performance and really-frickin-good wintertime driving manners, numerous test drives of the Volvo S60 have turned me into a complete fanboy. Having the most comfortable seats you’ll visit in the course of your day doesn’t hurt, either.

The so-called naughty Volvo launched for model-year 2011, with feature content including xenon lights with washers, navigation, Bluetooth, heated leather memory seats, push-button start and plenty more. Automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers and automatic lights were also on board. Expect decent up-front room for two adults, and comfy-snug rear seat space with adequate-at-best headroom.


At launch, all models got a turbocharged 3-litre straight six good for 300 horsepower, a six-speed automatic transmission, and All-Wheel Drive. Five-cylinder models, and front-drive models came online from model year 2012, expanding the S60’s selection and price spread. A sporty R-Design model hit the road a year later, for model-year 2013, with revised suspension and wheels helping towards a higher-performing and more thrilling package. From 2014, a facelift tidied up the front-end styling, S60’s impressive list of safety systems expanded even further, and revised transmission programming made the 6-speed automatic more fun to use. Then came the new Drive-E powerplant, a supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine with even more snap than the turbo straight-six.

What Owners Like

Owners typically praise the S60’s all-around comfort and all-weather confidence, its fast-acting and surefooted AWD system, the performance of the turbo straight-six engine, the tremendously comfortable seats, and the car’s all around discreet take on sensible luxury and performance. The plethora of safety systems and advanced hazard detection sensors adds confidence for many drivers too, as does the powerful xenon lighting system. Finally, many owners say they chose an S60 over a comparable Mercedes or BMW for a more under the radar driving experience.

What Owners Dislike

Some owners wish for a smoother ride on sportier models, the availability of a manual transmission, and a more straightforward infotainment interface relating to the navigation system and other functions. Some owners wish for better fuel mileage, even from the 300-horsepower engine, and a larger-than-average turning circle is noted, too.

A few owner reviews here.

The Test Drive

Start a test drive of a used S60 candidate scrutinizing the interior for signs of water leakage. Note that leather seating surfaces should be smooth and creamy, and that dried-up looking leather panels that resemble beef jerky or have shrunk or pulled away from the seams indicate that the seats have been moderately or heavily wet at some point. The culprit, according to some owners discussions, and even an apparent class action lawsuit is a leaky sunroof weather seal. Check twice for proper operation of all buttons and controls mounted to the centre of the dash, which could be exposed to water in the event of a sunroof leak. Check all ceiling-mounted controls (lights, sunroof) as well, and for the same reason.

A bad battery, or one that’s worn out, can cause numerous issues, including the need to hold the ENGINE START button for two seconds or more to get the S60’s engine fired up. If you notice this, or any other strange electronics-related issues on a test drive, be sure to have the vehicle’s charging system checked out by a Volvo mechanic. 

Though relatively patchy, a few reports of excessive oil consumption have been documented in popular owner’s forums. Here’s one. This problem doesn’t appear widespread or worrisome, though standard warnings apply. Check the oil as per instructions in the owner’s manual on your test drive. Confirm that the owner was fond of regular, on-time oil changes, using quality oil. This is even more important with a turbocharged engine. Monitor the oil religiously while you own the car, and if its’ still under warranty, report any excessive consumption you notice, if any, to your local dealer’s service department and have it documented in case warranty work is required.
Check the engine coolant level, too. If it seems low, or you notice a warning light requesting a top-up of engine coolant, the likely cause is an air bubble or two having worked its way into the system. This has happened to a number of owners and should pose no cause for alarm.

On the topic of fluids, remember that the S60, as a minimum, requires maintenance and fluid changes related to power steering fluid, brake fluid, AWD transaxle fluid, engine oil, coolant, and rear-differential fluid. Determine where all these fluids sit within their service life, budgeting for a full fluid change if the model’s service history is unclear. You can’t over change fluids, and fresh fluids can add tremendous peace of mind, and added longevity from vehicle systems and components.

Note that any hard shifting from the transmission should be inspected by a dealer, though numerous software updates to the transmission’s computer controller have been released since the S60’s launch to improve shift quality. Hard shifting, if detected, is likely a computer issue, not a transmission issue, though it should still be investigated.

Other complaints include niggling interior rattles, a possible buzzing sound from the front speakers, and occasional non-functionality of the navigation system, which can likely be fixed with a software patch installed at a dealership.

One final note. The S60 uses an incredibly advanced array of cameras and sensors to drive numerous high-tech safety systems. Many of these systems will display an error message on the instrument cluster if they’re not working properly, or if they’re unavailable. You can’t test some of the systems on a test drive, as they’re designed to kick in only in the event of an imminent accident. Still, watching for damage to the top of the windshield near the camera, or to the bumper or grille which house various radar sensors, is a good start to ensuring all systems are able to function properly. Be on the lookout for warning messages, and have a dealer investigate if you find any system to be non-operational.

The Verdict

So far, the S60 comes off as a discreet, comfortable and winter-ready sedan that should make a good second-hand buy. The most commonly-reported issues are not serious or worrisome, and should be easily detected on a test drive. A Certified Pre-Owned model from a Volvo dealership is your safest bet, and any unit bought privately should be checked by a Volvo technician for extra peace of mind.

A few recalls.

Crash Test Ratings

NHTSA: 5/5 Stars (2014)
IIHS: Top Safety Pick + (2013)