Our 2020 Volvo S60 T8 Inscription has racked up just over 15,000 miles so far in the Autoblog long-term fleet. Its fantastic styling, luxurious interior and robust tech make it a popular commuting and road trip car, though it hasn’t seen much of the former in 2020. But there’s one thing we’ve done even less often, and that’s drive it for pleasure.
That’s reasonable though, right? After all, a 4,000-pound luxury car with a hybrid powertrain doesn’t exactly scream “back road carver,” but even without the benefits of the sporty R-Design package or the available adaptive suspension, the S60 is a respectable handler, and this is one of few opportunities we’ve had to put it through its paces on some decent back roads, which seems like a crime, especially since we went to the trouble of swapping it back onto its summer-spec rubber a few months back.
The S60 normally resides in southeastern Michigan, near Autoblog’s Metro Detroit HQ, so the hills of western Virginia are far from its normal habitat. I visited the area in late September to look at a friend's 1982 Alfa Spider. Here it is, in all its crema glory:
No, the 'Vic is not for sale. Yes, the roads are as good as the landscape suggests. The switchbacks here are strung together by stretches of 55-mph two-lane draped over endless mounds of haze-drenched Appalachian foothills. Every few miles, there’s a recognizable scenic byway – Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway – and if it weren’t for the Commonwealth’s aggressive speed enforcement, it would be a driver’s paradise.
And the S60 took to it eagerly. Its summer shoes grip nicely and the steering responds predictably even when things get tight and twisty. The hybrid system loves the elevation changes, soaking up as much regen as you can throw at it and eagerly dishing out the torque necessary to dig out of each uphill hairpin.
If the S60 has any shortcomings, they’re in the braking department. Mass is mass, and small though the Volvo may be it’s still quite hefty, and this becomes apparent in longer downhill stretches. Braking late starts to become an act of bravery. I actually found it more satisfying to dial my aggression back a bit and lean more on higher regen settings to keep downhill speeds in check, rather than just letting it run and relying on the brakes to haul it back down for the tighter bits.
If the mission of a sport sedan is to both eat up mileage and competently navigate a technical back road, well, the S60 aces that test. It may be a compromise, but it doesn’t ever truly feel like one, and that’s high praise.
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