SANTA MONICA, Calif. - If you watch HGTV, you'll no doubt see remodeled kitchens sporting appliances with electronic flat panels that beep a lot. As I have found out, living with them can be trying. When the dishwasher finishes, it beeps. Open its door and it greets you with an ingratiatingly pleasant electronic flourish. Turn on the oven, and upon reaching the desired temperature, it too beeps. When its timer goes off, it beeps. When the microwave is done turning your frozen food into rubber, it beeps. But it has an attitude. Don't open the door soon enough to retrieve your food, and it beeps until you do. Even the refrigerator has something to say when the door is open too long. And it's controlled by Alexa - a device that could conceivably one day render your appliances useless unless you stop cooking cauliflower. It's enough to make you reach your hot point.
And now we have cars that are convinced they are better drivers than we are, thanks to the advent of autonomous technology. But I'm not so sure. On average, there's only one fatality per 100 million miles driven in the U.S., according to experts at MIT. So, on a per mile basis, driving is extraordinarily safe. Now, if you're talking about fender benders, it's more like two reported crashes per million miles. Still, even those numbers are very small, but not as small as the chances of winning the Powerball.
Perhaps this is why Volvo's vehicles, which have long sold on safety, now sell on style as well. In a market filled with stultifying sameness, Volvos stand apart. They are obviously upscale, yet possess a sinewy athletic stance that's offset by sophisticated Scandinavian understatement.
This is certainly true of the fetchingly redesigned 2019 Volvo S60 sedan, offered in Momentum, Inscription (posher), R-Design (sportier), Polestar (electric performance) trims, and powered with one of three power plants. Base S60s get a T5 250-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive. Step up to the T6, and that engine is turbocharged and supercharged, yielding 316 horsepower through all four wheels. At the top of the heap is the Polestar-engineered T8 electric hybrid that develops 415 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic is standard.
As in other Volvos, the S60 comes equipped with "City Safety with Autobrake" that helps prevent collisions by identifying vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, large animals and other obstacles, and automatically brakes to diminish the impact. Volvo's semi-autonomous driver-assist technology, dubbed "Pilot Assist," is optional and assists in accelerating, steering and braking on well-marked roads up to 80 mph. Just don't expect much help on snow-covered roads. Other safety systems include Run-off Road Mitigation, Oncoming Lane Mitigation and optional Cross Traffic Alert with autobrake.
Volvo's tablet-style Sensus Connect infotainment system is standard and is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G. It's among the best systems on the market, with quick response times and an easy-to-use interface. It also keeps the cabin blessedly button-free, which enhances its spare upscale Scandinavian ambience.
Once ensconced behind the wheel, you'll find the seats to be some of the best offered at any price. They're well bolstered, providing good support and long-term comfort. Legroom is good both front and rear, although the rear seating position is low, forcing taller passengers into a knees-up position, although there's generous headroom. The S60 can seat five, but four is the practical limit. The cabin is blessedly quiet, except for the growl of the engine when pushed - something you'll want to do.
Acceleration is strong off the line in the Polestar, with steering that's so quick and precise, you won't have to readjust your hands on the steering wheel when cornering. The steering is perfectly weighted, without feeling artificial. The suspension remains flat through corners, and there's a decent amount of road feel. Braking is strong, but can be touchy. The regenerative braking mode is effective, but subtle, without the grabby feel typical of some hybrids. While handling is adept, it's extremely firm, almost too firm over broken pavement.
In contrast, the S60 R-Design still possesses the admirable road feel of the Polestar, but with more compliance over rough stuff. This means more body roll in corners and more road noise than the Polestar, but still possessing good grip and cornering ability. Steering isn't as precise, but is still well-rounded.
Best of all, the 2019 Volvo S60 is the first Volvo to be built in Volvo Cars' new plant Charleston, S.C. Knowing that all of this goodness comes in an American-built package makes for a compelling sedan, one that stands apart in term of styling, ambience, performance and uniqueness.
In fact, one drive, and you'll know what the S in S60 stands for: Sweet. Or perhaps Sensational, Superb, Super, Stimulating, Satisfying, Splendid, Superlative, Sexy, Safe, Secure, or Significant.
As long as it's not Scolding, like my microwave.
Base prices: $35,800-$54,400
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder
Torque: 295 pound-feet
Acceleration (0-60 mph): 5.3 seconds
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 21/32
Wheelbase: 113.1 inches
Length: 187.4 inches
Cargo capacity: 15.6 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds
Ground clearance: 5.8 inches
ABOUT THE WRITER
Larry Printz is an automotive journalist based in South Florida. Readers may send him email at TheDrivingPrintz@gmail.com.