cars

2014 Volvo S60 T5: A Fond Farewell to Five Cylinders

After two decades, Volvo retires the world's last five-cylinder car engine

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Nobody does a goodbye like Volvo. When it came time to finally retire the venerable 240 after 19 years, Volvo badged the last 1600 cars as 240 Classics—a special edition that devoted Volvophiles gobbled up. Same thing happened when the company ditched its old rear-wheel drive chassis for good. Just try to find a mint-condition S90 that isn't still on the road in some college town.

Now it's time to bid farewell to an engine that served Volvo well for 23 years. It makes its exit under the hood of the facelifted 2014 Volvo S60 (starting MSRP $33,115, as tested $37,930)

First, some history: The Modular Engine architecture that underpins the S60 T5's 2.4-liter, five-cylinder engine—as well as the T6's 3.0-liter, six-cylinder—has been around in various forms since 1990. The five-cylinder bowed in the 1993 850 and soldiered on for two decades. At the time, the odd design made sense: The five offered almost as much power as a six-cylinder, with fuel economy almost as good as a four.

Today's modern engine technology allows for miserly-yet-powerful turbocharged four-cylinder power plants, and that's just what Volvo's ordering up for 2015.

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The Volvo Concept Coupe, unveiled in Frankfurt this year, previews Volvos to come.

At the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show, Volvo announced a total makeover for its aging car lineup. From the XC90 crossover—virtually unchanged since its 2002 debut—to the just-refreshed S60 sedan, Volvos aren't just getting new looks, but also new engines and platforms, all thanks to an $11 billion investment from the automaker's new owner, Geely.

The new Drive-E turbo- and supercharged fours look promising, and we can't wait to test one out. They're also a return to form, considering that Volvo (and, at the time, Saab) pioneered the idea of a turbo four back when most American cars had V8s under the hood. That's even better news for Volvo fans. Not only can they look forward to some really exciting new products, but they get one more year to enjoy a classic five-cylinder engine on the base T5, or a six-cylinder on the T6 AWD and T6 R-design.

I recently spent some time with a 2014 T5. The five-cylinder may be old, but it's still worth your consideration: It's capable of 250 hp at 5500 rpm, and puts out 266 lb-ft of torque. In city driving, it's punchy and responsive, and almost solicitous in its eagerness to please. The engine note is refined yet muscular. Despite those advantages, it's clear that the engine has passed its prime. I wasn't thrilled with combined real-world fuel economy in the low-20s, and power was lacking at highway speeds. The Drive-E four is likely to fix both those problems.

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The outgoing engine hides beneath a newly sculpted hood that appears to have been pinched by a giant, and new headlamps feature integrated LED daytime running lights. Inside, a new all-LCD gauge cluster puts important information like speed front and center, and offers different themes that emphasize either performance or fuel economy.

You can also order Volvo's Android-powered Sensus Connected Touch infotainment system. It's a dealer-installed accessory that adds internet connectivity and its own app store, including navigation and Spotify, courtesy of your smartphone's data plan. The tester that Volvo sent me didn't have Sensus Connected Touch (heck, it didn't even have a rear-view camera) but I did get a sneak preview at the 2013 New York Auto Show and came away impressed.

If you like what you see, the going rate for Sensus Connected Touch plus navigation and installation is around $1,700. It can be retrofitted to any recent Volvo with a 7-inch screen, and the touchscreen can be operated even if you're wearing gloves.

Even if you don't spring for the tech, you should check out the Sport Seats. I think Volvo builds some of the most comfortable seats on the market, but these have thicker bolsters for even more support. You won't want to leave the car.

Whether you want to pick up the 2014 or wait for next year's car depends on your outlook. If you know what Lambda Sond means or celebrate Nils Bohlin's birthday, snap up one of the last of the five- or six-cylinder Volvos before they're gone. But if you want to see how an $11 billion investment could make a good car even better, wait for the 2015s to come out.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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