For a luxury automaker, its entry level vehicle — the machine at the bottom of its family tree — can be an all-important creation. It’s the car that should bring new and (most importantly) younger buyers into the brand family. If they like that first model, such buyers might be ongoing income generators — staying in the line for more cars through the years and perhaps smiling on the automaker for generations.
You hear some folks say they’re a Mercedes-Benz family or BMW people. You might meet a Jag man driving an F-Type because his father drove an E-Type. Somewhere along the line, a more affordable, yet still elite car must bring a buyer into those folds.
Build that introductory car too elaborately and drive its price too high, and you might lose that first-time luxury buyer to a rival. Build the car without enough flourishes and leave it feeling cheap, and you will definitely wave farewell to any would-be driver. So, a lot of engineering, long-term planning, and marketing research goes into any introductory luxury model.
The 2016 Volvo S60 T5 AWD is the Swedish automaker’s “hello vehicle.” Starting around $35,650, the T5 AWD is one if six trim levels in the Volvo S60 line. The sextet begins with the T5 Drive-E FWD for $34,150 and tops out with the T6 Drive-E AWD R-Design at $44,400.
Such price points are essential for an entry level machine. No luxury automaker is going to give their cars away. And, for snob appeal reasons, they’re not going to price any of their rides at a number that flirts with more common consumer-level rides. Hovering in the mid-30 large range is a nice niche for the Volvo S60.
The T5 AWD offers a 2.5 liter, five-cylinder, turbocharged engine capable of putting out 250 horsepower. While no Volvo is known for eye-crossing acceleration (since no Volvo wants to be a sports sedan), there’s ample capability in the S60’s power plant.
The most important element in the S60’s favor is its build quality. If the car was “under built” or felt tinny in any way, it would quickly be exposed as a fraud and a lazy effort to snag bottom rung luxury buyers. Fortunately, even though the car is the Swedish car company’s most understated product, it maintains what could only be described as that innate “Volvo-ness.”
The S60 is grounded and solid, smooth but never heavy. Its AWD drive train and four-wheel independent suspension promise to keep the car locked into the turns regardless of weather conditions and driving surfaces.
In fairness, the other aspect of my self-inflicted, made-up concept of “Volvo-ness” can be a minus for some buyers. After getting in behind the wheel of one S60 for a week, it’s an unavoidable fact that the car is not a thrilling ride — nor is it intended to be. It’s not meant to make an angry exhaust note. The car is meant to provide comfortable, reliable and technologically enhanced transportation. It’s designed to move the driver in style, not with urgency.
As an entry level luxury option the Volvo S60 is a definite success. It manages to keep its price point within reach of buyers new to the edges of the luxury class while maintaining the quality control a driver expects from Volvo.