Volvo is a warm fuzzy brand — so uncool it’s cool — boxy, plodding but safe, with memories of soccer practice and trips to the grocery store. Well put the windows down and buckle up. The 2016 S60 Inscription is definitely not your parents’ Volvo…
It is also the first Chinese built car sold in the United States, a landmark moment for the American car market. The Swedish carmaker’s fiercely loyal customer base and legendary attention to safety should insure that this first international co-production goes over without a hitch.
Anyone who has lovingly fondled a brand new iPhone or Prada shoes is likely enamored of Chinese-made goods without even realizing it. But does this manufacturing prowess extend to luxury cars? I took a test drive in San Francisco to put the new Volvo through its paces on the legendary Highway 1.
The Inscription is the luxury model in the S60 family, and it is no coincidence that Volvo owners Geely chose to produce this in their Chengdu factory. With an additional three inches of rear legroom, the Inscription becomes tops in the luxury midsize class, and is also chauffeur-eligible for the fiercely competitive Chinese market. The back seat is spacious, for executive and family alike.
Interior styling is tastefully handled, as one would expect from Volvo. From walnut inlays to chrome accents and the leather wrapped steering wheel, everything looks and feels up to standard. Exterior lines have a pleasingly aero look, though aren’t much of a departure from recent models. Volvo wisely offers only one upgrade level, and at just $3000 for a vastly improved driving experience the Platinum package is a no-brainer.
Performance is excellent for its class, with a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine delivering a peppy 240 horsepower with no discernible lag. Traction and stability control maintain a nice steady line even into some very aggressive cornering. Front wheel drive allows for a decent 37 mpg highway (25 city).
The gadgets are top end as well, with HD radio and Wifi hotspot both standard (6 months free subscription), and a thumping Harman Kardon sound system with the Platinum package. Onboard navigation is persistent and frequently confused, but at this point yelling at the nav is part of the fun.
When the fog rolls in and driving conditions worsen there are still very few cars that can match Volvo’s commitment to safety. The S60 Inscription combines Volvo’s iconic features (safety cage, whiplash protection, revolutionary side impact protection) with some cool new bells and whistles. Park Assist Pilot is freakishly quick and efficient, although expert parallel parkers will still need to manually override it to fit into the tightest of squeezes.
Adaptive cruise control with queue assist provides near hands-free auto-drive on straight roads. Set the distance to the car in front and the S60 maintains the distance while keeping the car in the middle of the lane. It also features full auto-braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, although a brief and very unscientific test revealed that the undistracted human eye is still a far superior safety innovation.
Total MSRP comes in at just under $46,000, although doing without heated seats and parking assist brings it down to a very reasonable for its class $43,000.
The 2016 S60 Inscription delivers a robust, sporty, and luxurious package to the vocal Volvo faithful. And if a few potential Chinese buyers happen to notice it speeding impressively down their streets, then it’s a big win for the Swedish automakers.