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  • By John R. Quain

Swede Emotion: 2019 Volvo S60 First Drive

With every new model, Volvo refines its semi-autonomous safety technology, and the snazzy 2019 Volvo S60 is no exception.

Snazzy? A Volvo?

Volvo has established itself as not just a safety but also as a technology leader in the automotive space. Along the way, the automaker has also spiffed up its vehicles, smoothing out its lines, bolstering its interiors, and delivering premium sound from the likes of Bowers & Wilkins. The 2019 S60 compact luxury sedan is in many ways the culmination of that journey.

The Volvo S60 comes in various versions, from a front-wheel-drive base model to the T8 all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid version to the ultra elite performance-minded Polestar Engineered model (all of which have been sold out in advance for the U.S. market, by the way; it's the black model in the video).

The Swede spot is the T8, with its sophisticated integration of electric and gasoline power plants. (Never mind it's built in the U.S. and the company has a Chinese owner.) Putter around town and you're likely to stay in gas-free electric mode. Head for the hills (as we did) and the electric motors give a torquey boost to the gas engine, all without any intervention or fussing on your part. (If you want, you can adjust the amount of braking when you lift off the accelerator, referred to as regenerative braking.)

On the safety tech side, the lane keeping assist system has been fine tuned to (gently) keep you more toward the center of the lane. It's not integrated with the nav system, however, which would've helped on severe curves and hills.

An added feature is an oncoming traffic alert with brake assist system. I experienced it firsthand when an oncoming driver veered into my lane. As I started to apply the brake to slow down, I noticed a pulsing underfoot; that was the system pre-charging the brakes so that they would be available at full force. (Thankfully, that wasn't needed as the oncoming driver swerved back into his lane.)

Volvo has also continued to tweak its Sensus Connect in-dash touch screen system. Its 9-inch vertical display is large enough to be svelte and useful without becoming a Tesla-like distraction. There are some features still buried deep within its menus, but Volvo has sped up its responsiveness with a faster processor.

Aimed to compete against the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class cars, the Volvo S60 is more than a worthy contender. In many respects, I found it to be more comfortable, and the plug-in hybrid T8 option--starting at around $54,400--is a definite advantage.

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