Sedan Appeal: New Models Help Sustain the Segment

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Apr 292020
Volvo S60

Sedan sales may be down, but the segment is definitely not out. While domestic carmakers abandoned them, import carmakers continued to build them, including redesigns of existing nameplates. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) recently test-drove four very elegant 2020 models—the Kia K900, Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Volvo S60, and Lexus LS 500—that offered ample legroom and plenty of bells and whistles.

Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Redesigned for 2019, the fifth-generation Avalon marked its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. As Toyota’s top-of-the-line sedan, it naturally elicits great expectations for its comfort and luxury but as a hybrid, the text model set hopes even higher for standard features and fuel economy.

Its interior roominess belied its midsize sedan designation. Toyota extended the rear cabin further by another seven inches so that rear legroom and trunk space measure 40.3 inches and 16.09 cu. ft., respectively and included numerous cubbies for storage.

At the heart of this hybrid is the 2.5-liter four-cylinder Toyota Hybrid System II with a 650-volt electric motor and Continuously-Variable Transmission (CVT). These elements combine to produce 176 horsepower and 163 lb.–ft. of torque. They also give the Avalon Hybrid an EPA estimated fuel efficiency of 43 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and on the highway. Utilizing the Eco and EV modes (Normal and Sport are also included) it achieved an average rating of 38.9 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

Standard safety features in the Toyota Safety Sense package include pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, and range dynamic cruise control among other features. The blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic detection and Safety Connect roadside assistance are also standard.

Creature comforts on all hybrids include dual-zone climate control, the Entune infotainment system with a nine-inch touch screen, access to Amazon Alexa and Apple Car Play, and a seven-inch display in the gauge cluster. For $1,720 more, the test model upgraded the stereo to the JBL Premium audio system with navigation.

On the plus side, the test model came loaded with standard features but on the downside, its exterior design may be polarizing. The blackened grille and rims helped a bit.

Pricing for the 2020 Avalon starts at $36,830. The as-tested price came to $42,259.

Volvo S60 T6 Inscription

According to AAA, Americans on average spend nearly an hour behind the wheel each day. Spending that time surrounded by a luxurious but functional interior can make time fly. Volvo has set the bar when it comes to design, inside and out, and its redesigned S60 is no exception.

LTR recently tested the S60 T6 AWD Inscription, a top-of-the-line trim, and while it included a healthy list of standard features, additional packages did escalate the price dramatically.

Bearing Volvo’s latest design DNA, the S60 sports a unique version of the Thor’s Hammer headlamp on the outside that first appeared on the redesigned XC90.

The S60’s 12.3″ digital driver display.

Inside, Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system sets off the interior design. Its tablet shape and function via the nine-inch touchscreen deliver a fairly intuitive interface for controlling multiple car functions from navigation to in-car entertainment applications (hint, go to Library to save radio presets). Less intuitive, however, was the adaptive cruise control. It increased speed by five miles per hour (mph) at each click rather than just one mph and it wasn’t clear how to reprogram it.

Wood inlays, leather seating with a backrest massage in the front seats (via the Luxury Seating Package $2,200), and a panoramic moonroof on the test model elevated the drive experience even further.

But the brand’s reputation stands on safety and the test model came equipped with several Volvo game changers like the blind spot information system with steer assist, cross traffic alert and autobraking, and low and hi-speed collision mitigation with cyclist, large animal, vehicle, and pedestrian detection, among other features.

In a bold move, Volvo bases its powertrain technology on turbocharged and twin engine super and turbocharged four-cylinders. The 2.0-liter version of the latter with 316 horsepower and 295 lb.–ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed Geartronic transmission powered the test model. It had an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 21/32 mpg. It averaged 24.7 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

The 2020 S60 has a starting price of $37,045. With the extra packaging, the test model’s price came to $58,890.

Kia K900 Luxury

Equipped with suspensions that float like a boat, full-size sedans tend to get the “flagship” moniker. Redesigned for 2019 and with new technology, safety features, and premium touches, the Kia K900 easily lives up to that label. LTR recently test-drove the K900 Luxury, the only available trim.

Blind Spot View Monitor with camera image in the gauge cluster.

The second-generation K900 immediately scores points with its new streamlined exterior. It’s somewhat derivative of its competitors, especially on the inside, but still maintains enough Kia DNA, e.g. the tiger-nose grille with a Quadric pattern, to make it distinctive.

As the name implies, flagships should offer a suspension that fairly floats. Torsional stiffness on the new model, however, increased by 33 percent, gives the K900 a more solid and premium on-road feel. There are also four drive modes—Comfort, Sport, Eco, and Custom—to fine-tune the ride further.

The full-time rear biased and electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system adds to its sure-footedness.

It’s also slightly longer and wider than the outgoing model for rear legroom and trunk space that measure 36.6 inches and 15.3 cu. ft. respectively. For added convenience, the trunk comes with a button to close automatically.

Metal veneers (first spotted by LTR on the Volvo S90) combined with a choice of four matte wood options and quilted Nappa leather enrich the interior. The test model also included a surround sound stereo, a 12.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, wireless charging (for Qi compatible mobile phones, e.g. iPhone 8, Samsung S7), a blindspot monitor with collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and a parking sensor, among other features. The VIP package ($4,400) added a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster, tri-zone climate control, power adjustable and ventilated rear seats, and a rear phone charger.

The K900 shares the same engine that powers the sporty Kia Stinger, a 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 with 365 hp and 376 lb.–ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It should achieve a city/highway fuel economy of 18/25 mpg. It achieved 21.8 mpg during the test drive.

Pricing for the 2020 K900 starts at $60,935. The as-tested pricing came to $64,895.

Lexus LS 500

Considered a flagship by Lexus, this four-door sedan, redesigned in 2018, bears a striking exterior design and comes stocked with bells and whistles. The Lexus LS 500 recently tested by LTR, used additional pricey packages to elevate those features.

LS 500 sliding gauge cluster.

It’s powered by an all-new 3.5-liter, twin turbocharged V6 that delivers 416 horsepower and 442 lb.–ft. of torque, matched to a ten-speed automatic transmission. It has an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 19/30 mpg. It averaged 22.6 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

The chrome grille and 20-inch alloy spoke wheels with Vapor Chrome finish accentuated the LS’s premium look, while wood panels, a rear power sunshade, and its twelve-inch touchscreen as part of the Enform infotainment system made the experience inside visibly plush. The Enform system was less intuitive to program than similar systems, however.

Many features like a blind spot monitor and pre-collision system were standard but Lexus added packages to enhance these features, like the Safety System +A ($3,000) that gave the pre-collision system active braking and steering, pedestrian alert, front cross traffic alert, and lane change assist. The Interior Upgrade Package ($3,730) added a massage function in the front seats as well as quilted and perforated leather seating and heated rear seats. Even the trunk received an upgrade with a carpeted mat ($105).

With 38.9 inches of legroom and 16.95 cu. ft. of truck space, the full-size sedan managed to fit in the garage with about an inch to spare.

Finally, run-flat tires on the LS were put to good use during the test drive when the right front tire took on a screw and didn’t flatten until after returning home. Enform Safety Connect with roadside assistance, complimentary for ten years, came to the rescue, loading the LS on a flatbed and delivering it to a Lexus dealership for a replacement tire.

Pricing for the 2020 LS 500 starts at $76,475. The as-tested price came to $94,075.

Premium Sedan and Wagon Launch: 2019 Volvo S60 and V60

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Feb 162019

The 2019 S60 Polestar.

Redesigns can be tricky. Most reflect a gradual evolution but retooling an entire lineup from one generation to the next requires more courage. Volvo took that leap, starting with the 2016 XC90. Distinguished by its Thor’s Hammer headlamps, Volvo’s new DNA is now embedded throughout the lineup with the addition of its latest models, the 2019 S60 sedan and V60 wagon. Latino Traffic Report attended the launch of the redesigned versions of both in Santa Monica, CA. Like their remade siblings, the new sedan and wagon should excite fans and gain new ones.

The 2019 V60 wagon.

The tested trim levels at the launch included the S60 T6 R-Design, S60 T8 Polestar, and V60 T6 Momentum—the entry-level T5 trim wasn’t driven.

Volvo has not only embraced a new look for its vehicles, but also new, greener technology, starting with turbo and supercharged four-cylinder twin engines matched to an eight-speed transmission with power and responsiveness that continue to amaze.

On the T6, the turbo and supercharged four-cylinder should produce 316 horsepower and 295 ft.–lb. of torque and achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. The version developed for its new Polestar T8 twin engine plug-in hybrid cars (above), should produce 415 horsepower, 494 ft.–lb. of torque, and achieve 27 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and an electric range of 21 miles. At the launch, the average fuel economy hovered at 30 mpg.

Additionally, the T8 Polestar gasoline-electric hybrid keeps Volvo on track to become the first manufacturer to offer electrified models throughout the lineup in 2019. The new S60 is also the first Volvo to be sold without a diesel option.

While the S60’s exterior may follow in the footsteps of its siblings with subtle tweaks here and there, like on the headlamps, it does stand out as the first Volvo model built at the American manufacturing plant outside Charleston, South Carolina. It’s also the only sedan in the segment with a standard panoramic roof and available massage function. The T8 Polestar also includes the super posh Orrefors crystal shift knob (above).

The Sensus infotainment system accented with driftwood inlays.

Longer than the outgoing model, the third-generation S60 incorporates a few striking features from its siblings on the inside, like driftwood inlays, the Sensus infotainment system with a tablet-style touch screen, and leather seating. The T8 Polestar also features bright yellow seat belts and accent stitching to match its brake calipers. A less impressive feature also found on its siblings, the tilting and telescopic steering wheel that adjusts manually, is included on the S60.

Volvo’s commitment to offer electrified powertrains throughout its line-up by 2019 leads the manufacturer’s green commitment but the S60 also incorporates Volvo’s pledge to eliminate single-use plastics on its vehicles, also by 2019.

No discussion about a Volvo can exclude safety. Standard on all Volvos, the City Safety package includes technology that combines automatic braking and collision avoidance systems to detect pedestrians, cyclists and large animals—the only system to do so—to avoid an accident.

Innovative technology like the Blind Spot Information System is standard on the Polestar but remains optional on other trim levels.

One of the first manufacturers to offer a subscription service, Volvo will include the new S60 under its Care by Volvo monthly flat rate program with no down payment.

Pricing for the T5 FWD, T6 AWD and T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid starts at $39495, $41295 and $55,395 respectively.

V60 Reflects Volvo’s Ongoing Love for the Wagon

The 2019 V60 wagon was also on hand at the S60 launch. Like its sibling, the wagon will share the same platform and therefore much of the same features, including the turbo and supercharged powertrains, Thor’s Hammer headlamps, City Safety, and Sensus infotainment system.  Unlike the S60, however, there will be a diesel option for the V60.

At the launch, Volvo brought the T6 Momentum version of the wagon that distinguished itself from the sedan with an interesting seventies retro-option for upholstery called city weave (right). While it could be polarizing, it definitely makes a statement, in a normally demure segment.

The V60 also offers more cargo capacity than the sedan with 50.9 cubic feet of space with the back seat folded flat.

There will be two trim levels for the wagon, the T5 FWD and T6 AWD in three grades, Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription.

Pricing for the 2019 V60 starts at $39,895.

Volvo Adds Inches and Capability to the 2016 S60 Lineup

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Dec 112015

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country

In the luxury segment, compact sedans abound, but only one comes from a company based in Sweden, the Volvo S60. For 2016, Volvo adds two new models to the S60 lineup, the Inscription, for those who’d like even more rear legroom and the Cross Country, for more adventurous drivers. At the recent launch in Sausalito, the two sedans demonstrated what Volvo does best, design and safety.

The test drive began with the all-new Inscription Platinum (there’s also a Premier trim), a model that will sit near the top of the line for the S60, setting itself apart with three additional inches of legroom in the back seat, the most of any luxury class sedan.

2016 Volvo S60 Inscription

2016 Volvo S60 Inscription

The Inscription comes with a choice of two engines—a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque or a 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbocharged engine with 250 horses and 266 lb.–ft. or torque. Each engine is matched to a specific Geartronic automatic transmission with Sport Mode—an eight-speed with the 2.0-liter or a six-speed with the 2.5-liter. We drove both at the launch.

The best fuel economy will come from the 2.0-liter, which should achieve an EPA estimated 25 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.

The S60 Cross Country will be offered in one version, Platinum, with the 2.5-liter and all-wheel-drive with Instant Traction that gives it an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 20/28 mpg.

2015-08-27 11.13.43Drive–E technology on both engines utilizes a turbocharger and direct-injection to deliver power and improved fuel economy. When engaged, the ECO+ system stretches gasoline further (up to five percent), with Start/Stop, Eco-coast, and Eco-climate functions.

All S60s include a leather steering wheel and gearshift knob, a 60/40-split rear seat, Bluetooth, Sirius Satellite Radio, and Volvo Sensus Connect infotainment with a seven-inch high-definition color monitor that manages information from the audio unit, navigation and other functions. Besides the extra rear legroom, the Inscription adds contour seats, linear walnut inlays, a power rear window sunshade, rear side sunshades, and a rear park assist camera. The Cross Country adds the Harman Kardon premium sound system.

Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)

Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)

With a reputation for safety, it’s no surprise that the City Safety system that helps prevent or mitigate collisions at speeds of 31 mph or less is also standard on all models. However, technology, like Volvo’s blind spot information system (BLIS) and cross traffic alert, remain optional, even on the Inscription Platinum and Cross County trims.

With distinct design cues, like a honeycomb grille, and capability, like a lower skid plate, side scuff plates, and black fender extensions, the segment-first Cross Country sedan emulates Volvo’s Cross Country wagons. It will offer better off-road capability, starting with 7.9-inches of ground clearance and standard Hill Descent Control.

Volvo S60 Cross Country

Volvo S60 Cross Country

All S60s come with Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, Advanced Stability Control, and Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring. At the launch, these technologies were put to the test by accelerating in a tight circle, i.e. donuts, to show how they managed to keep the sedan under control.

Roomy and versatile, these two new S60s maximize the appeal of Volvo’s entry-level sedan.

Pricing for the 2016 S60 Inscription and Cross Country starts at $39,640 and $44,400, respectively.