I remember standing with a friend at the Detroit auto show about a decade ago when the Chinese automaker, Geely, announced plans to sell its cars in the U.S. Having witnessed the rise of Hyundai and Kia, I didn't laugh, but told my buddy that when Chinese-built cars first arrive on our shores, they will have familiar names. I never suspected Volvo, but here it is. And, I never suspected Geely would own Volvo, but here it does.
The question is, "Does it matter?" Yes and no. The S60 Inscription wouldn't exist without the Chinese market. It comes with a 3-inch stretch in wheelbase over standard S60s, giving rear passengers the ability to cross their legs and stretch out. This is important in China where people who own cars like the S60 tend to be chauffeured. In America, it just makes a roomier ride.
In both wheelbases, the S60 embodies the modern Volvo. The upright grille flanked by active headlamps flow into a sculpted hood, arching roofline, and tall rear deck. Inscription models are distinguished by 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, rear bumper chrome strip, and LED license plate light. For a car that's been on the market a number of years, it is aging gracefully.
I'd buy an S60 just for the plush leather seats - heated front and rear. Thick side bolsters keep you planted while whiplash-protection headrests stand by just in case. By Swedish tradition, the cabin is comfortable and well-made, but not ostentatious. The thin control stack with storage behind, Linear Walnut Wood inlays, and LCD instrument cluster feel very contemporary. A power moonroof, harman/kardon audio, Bluetooth and rain-sensing wipers top this cupcake. Inscription models also get power rear sunshades, rear side window shades, additional sound deadening, and heated steering wheel.
Being a family-friendly Volvo, you can bet the S60 comes packed with the latest safety gear. Besides a full array of airbags and body structure that aced the super-tough small-offset crash test, our loaded model has forward collision alert with auto brake, pedestrian warning with auto brake, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, rear camera, and beepers to protect every flank and facet. Slip it in easily with the semi-automated parallel parking assist.
Want a downside? And, it's a surprising one. If babies and small children will ride in the back, getting them in and out requires a limber contortionist. The longer roofline makes side-loading offspring easier, but those bottom child seat anchors are hard to hook, causing a stream of expletives when I retrieved my daughter at daycare. Volvo can do better.
Moving from comfort to performance, our car has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that unleashes 240 horsepower upon the 8-speed automatic transmission. We skipped all-wheel-drive, so it all goes to make the front wheels happy. Start/stop technology that pauses the engine at stoplights, and ECO+ mode that optimizes the powertrain to conserve fuel, enables 25/37-MPG city/hwy.
Before you get your meggings in a bunch about the Chinese, remember Volvo is planning to spend $500 million on a new assembly plant in Berkeley County, S.C. We may soon drive more Chinese-built Volvos, but we'll also drive many American-built ones. What matters most is that they all have their Swedish heritage safely intact. And, the S60 Inscription definitely does.
While the Volvo S60 starts at $33,950, our loaded Inscription came to $45,925 - a relative bargain for all it offers. Competitors include the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Buick Regal/LaCrosse, BMW 3-Series, Infiniti Q50, Lexus ES, and Acura TLX.
Watch Casey's video review of the S60 Inscription or follow him on Twitter: @AutoCasey.
2016 Volvo S60 Inscription
- Five-passenger, FWD sedan
- Powertrain: 240hp 2.0-liter Turbo-4, 8-spd auto trans
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 18-inch/18-inch alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Safety/luxury
- Fuel economy: 25/37 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Chengdu, China
- Base/as-tested price: $33,950/45,925