The P3 chassis piggybacked off one of the most successful Volvo generations of all time and never did quite match its predecessor in terms of sales success. However, the P3 carried on Volvo’s safety, reliability, and comfort in a striking new chassis for the world to enjoy. Now, as used models, they’ve become more affordable for a larger portion of the market. Volvo’s dedication to safety and the advanced tech features found in the P3 makes them a great buy on a budget. There are a handful of models to choose from with multiple engine options apiece, but the S60 and V60 are the most common variants.
The P3 platform shares parts across several distinct chassis in the Volvo model range. Each model serves a slightly different person/market, though their best qualities are shared regardless of size and shape. The S60 sedan hit the showroom floors for the 2011 model year and quickly continued the success of the prior generation car. The new model was wider and longer than the outgoing car, wrapped in a much-needed exterior redesign. It was rounder with flowing lines and edges for a more aerodynamic shape. The interior retained the signature waterfall center stack and surrounded it with aluminum-look accents. According to Volvo, "The interior has a more extrovert attitude than before, but without losing any of its practical Scandinavian roots.”
By 2012, the S60’s three trims were all available for purchase. At the bottom was the T5, carrying the last iteration of Volvo’s revered RNC “White Block” engine. The turbocharged 2.5L 5-cylinder was a reliable and well-developed choice for the entry-level model. All T5s came with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic as the only drivetrain option. Receiving all-wheel-drive required the more expensive T6 trim.
Stepping up to the T6 also brought along the turbocharged 3.0-liter engine from the SI6 family mated to the same six-speed automatic from the T5. Adding a cylinder and half a liter of displacement bumped peak output by 50 hp and 59 lb-ft of torque over the T5. Helping turn that straight-line performance into agility was the standard Dynamic chassis, lowering and stiffening the suspension for a tauter ride. Standard equipment was close between the T6 and T5, though the T6 did get leather seats.
Lastly, Volvo provided the T6 R-Design trim as the sportiest, most luxurious spec in the range. The drivetrain from the regular T6 remained, but power and torque saw another significant bump. R-Designs also received the Sport chassis suspension, leather Sport seats, a Sport steering wheel and pedals, and the signature R-Design blue gauges. Externally, the R-Design also benefitted from active bending Xenon headlights, a unique front fascia, and a small rear diffuser.
Volvo gave the S60 a facelift for the 2014 model year. The lift replaced the front bumper, headlights, and some other trim bits for an updated look that better aligned with Volvo’s design direction. The following year, the Swedes extended the roof of the S60 for a new model. Dubbed the V60, it was identical to its sedan sibling in nearly every way, serving as its wagon variant.
It was right around this time in 2015 that the S60/V60 had some confusing overlaps. Volvo had introduced a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine called the Drive-E and placed it under the T5 trim alongside the older five-cylinder that also remained as the T5. Both engines were available under that trim simultaneously for the ‘15-’16 model years. The new engine came with an updated, eight-speed automatic transmission, while the five-cylinder retained its six-speed box.
The Drive-E engine was also adapted to the T6 trim and was available alongside the SI6 3.0-liter for the ‘15-’16 model years. The T6 Drive-E engine was turbocharged like the unit in the T5 but also used an Eaton supercharger to make up for the turbocharger’s lack of low-end grunt. At the end of 2016, Volvo eliminated the SI6 and the RNC five-cylinder, leaving the Drive-E variants as the only available engine options.
Accompanying those mechanical changes was an updated electronics and infotainment system. The change also took place in 2015, though it was applied halfway through production, so not every 2015 model received it. Updates were wide-ranging, including a frameless rearview mirror, the City Safe crash protection system and adaptive cruise control, and the Sensus Connect WiFi. The modernized package was available with either engine under the T5 trim.
As if that wasn’t enough, Volvo introduced the S60 XC and V60 XC (pronounced “cross-country”) into the line-up just after the updates. Both models received an XC70-like suspension lift, plastic wheel arch cladding, and a handful of optional tech goodies. They remained in the range through 2018 but weren’t sold in large numbers. Consider yourself lucky to see one driving around.
More common than the S60 XC was the S60L or S60 Inscription. The Chinese market has an affinity for long-wheelbase vehicles, and with the Chinese brand Geely, their parent company, Volvo wasn’t going to be without one. Volvo stretched the S60’s wheelbase by three inches, with all that extra space going to the rear-seat legroom. If you have an extra-tall family, the Inscription is your best choice.
S60 & V60 Polestar
Arriving alongside the V60 in 2015 was a new top-spec trim, the Polestar. Polestar was Volvo’s AMG, their motorsport and tuning branch at that time. Beginning in 2015, Volvo released the S60/V60 T6 AWD Polestar in minimal quantities worldwide, and buyers snatched them up quickly—fitting as it was the quickest of the P3 platform. Under the hood of the earliest examples were the familiar turbocharged SI6 fitted with a larger turbocharger, full stainless steel exhaust, and a higher-flowing intake system which helped it produce 345 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
However, the upgrades didn’t stop there, as Polestar gave the chassis a complete rework. Volvo’s Sport suspension was tossed in the bin for a set of manually-adjustable Ohlins coilovers. The dampers featured Ohlins’ Dual Flow Valve technology for extra precise and responsive rebound characteristics for an uncompromised road feel. Helping slow down the Polestar was a set of special Brembo brakes that looked more race car than street car. The calipers were aluminum monobloc units featuring three pistons on either side of the rotor. At 371mm, the multi-piece slotted rotors were significantly bigger than anything fitted to a non-Polestar. Ditching the one-piece steel rotor for the multi-piece also saved weight and improved cooling properties.
The special models were given plenty of non-mechanical tweaks, too. The exterior, likely painted in the signature Rebel Blue, received a larger front splitter, a deeper diffuser, and a new rear wing, all to increase downforce. Inside the cabin, the interior was retrimmed in new Alcantara-like upholstery and befit in new trim. Buyers loved the offering and snatched them up fast, though there were hardly any to go around. Official US production numbers are a bit lower than 1000 examples throughout its four-year offering. Oddly enough, it seems as though there are more V60 Polestars than S60s in a country that isn’t exactly known for loving wagons.
Polestar ditched the SI6 3.0 engine for the new Drive-E engines for the 2017 model year. The twin-charged four-cylinder from the T6 trim was treated to more aggressive tuning, resulting in 362hp and 347 lb-ft of torque. The Drive-E was paired with the new eight-speed transmission, which helped it feel much more aggressive. Downshifts snapped off quickly and early under braking with the car’s settings in Sport mode. It rev-matched, too, something the old six-speed could never seem to get right. While the revised model was sharper and quicker than its earlier iteration, both are supremely special.
P3 Volvo S60 & V60 Drivetrain and Chassis Breakdown
The P3 platform had several different engines over its nine-year production. Some of the earliest engines were carried over from the previous Volvo generation, while the last engines fitted at the end of P3 production wound up in the succeeding SPA platform. There were turbocharged variants, a V8, and even twincharged engines helping the P3s appeal to many buyers, whether Volvo enthusiasts or environmentalists. Because of that variety, it can be difficult to choose which engine is best for your application, though we’re here to help with that.
The most common engine you’ll find in the P3 Volvos is the SI6 inline-six. The SI6 covers the normally aspirated 3.2-liter engine available in the XC70, V70, and S80 and the turbocharged, T6-badged 3.0-liter that powers many of the S60, V60, XC60, and Polestar models. Other than their difference in aspiration, the two engines are very similar. They’re built around the same engine block, use a similar valvetrain, and rely on the READ system to power all the ancillaries. Of all the engines in the P3 family, these are the most robust and reliable. While there are few common problems with them, those that do arise are usually a DIY type of job. The turbocharged variants, making 300hp and 325 lb-ft right out of Sweden, are also very receptive to power-increasing modifications. Slapping on some bolt-ons and a tune can reliably push the T6 3.0 beyond 450hp.
The RNC, “White Block,” five-cylinder, made its final appearance in the T5-badged P3 platform. The original modular white block design entered service in the ‘90s and went through three major revisions before ending up in the P3 over two decades later. Designated the B5254T12, the turbocharged 2.5-liter is very common in the pre-facelift S60s under the T5 trim. They were lighter, made 250hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, and already worked with Volvo’s existing AWD structure, prompting the Swedes to bring it back one final time. Like the turbo SI6, the T5 RNC plays well with power-increasing modifications and can match the power potential of the T6 3.0. The five-cylinder engines were offered between 2011-2016 in the S60 and made appearances in the V60 and XC70 chassis as well. They served well until their phase-out began in 2015 with the arrival of the next generation.
With changing fuel regulations and an imminent electric takeover, Volvo knew a new engine was necessary for their upcoming SPA and CMA platforms. Marketed under the Drive-E name, the VEA engine platform began development in 2013, intending to create multiple engines from one design. Americans ended up receiving only one of those engines, the gasoline-powered VEP4.
The US’s VEA engines displace 2.0L, are fed by a Borg Warner twin-scroll turbocharger, and use direct injection for fueling. The latter allowed Volvo engineers to better control the fuel dispersion inside the cylinder for increased power and improved fuel economy. A forged rotating assembly inside the aluminum-alloy engine block and cylinder head work in conjunction with dual camshafts sporting variable valve timing for a torquey, wide, and flat power delivery. Though, how much power the engine makes is determined by the trim level.
The T5 Drive-E engines feature a twin-scroll turbocharger and put out 240 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque—plenty for a 3500 lb front-drive sedan—but not what you’d call “high-performance.” Volvo solved that by fitting an Eaton Roots-type supercharger along with the turbocharger for a twin-charged induction setup. The belt-driven supercharger operates from idle to its 3500rpm limit. At 3501rpm, the clutch within the supercharger’s pulley disengages and allows the turbocharger to force-feed the engine instead. Peak power comes in at 302hp, and 295 lb-ft of torque, but fuel economy and emissions are much improved. The twin-charged Drive-E also replaced the SI6 in Polestar models beginning in 2017.
Although manual-equipped models were popular beforehand, Volvo stripped the manual transmission from US-destined examples for the P3 generation. Instead, every P3 Volvo destined for the US left the factory with an Aisin-built automatic transmission—the majority of which were the six-speed variety. That six-speed, called the TF80SC, was equipped with every five and six-cylinder engine. They’re fine units that get the job done but aren’t really anything to write home about. Issues aren’t too common, but owners have reported clunky shifting symptoms across owner's forums. Fixes are wide-ranging, from resetting the transmission control module to a simple fluid flush.
Debuting with the Drive-E engines was the TG81SC, an eight-speed automatic. It offered quicker shifting, a tighter ratio spread for improved fuel economy and performance, and a bit more reliability than the outgoing gearbox. Regardless of which transmission you end up with, it’ll get the job done.
The overall suspension architecture for all non-SUV P3 models is the same. From there, Volvo tailored a few different damper packages to fit their customer base. Most S60s and V60s use the basic damper package, which consists of soft and relatively tall springs paired with lightly damped Sachs struts and shocks. They perform well over rougher pavement, absorbing the harshest bumps very nicely, and are best suited to a pavement-only family hauler.
The Sports chassis suspension is next in terms of sophistication. As the name implies, the package is much sportier thanks to firmer and shorter springs and firmer dampers to match. Don’t think of sports cars in terms of driving dynamics, but the sport chassis does improve the fun factor on a backroad. Volvo also offered the Nivomat self-leveling suspension and the Four-C active suspension. The former was available on lifted models like the XC70 and is easily identified by its rubber accordion boot. The shocks are twice the thickness of traditional units, thanks to an internal spring that aids the shock in its self-leveling design. A favorite among Volvo enthusiasts, they are great for heavily loaded trunks and towing duties.
The Four-C suspension is an electronically controlled set of dampers that give the driver multiple settings for the damper’s firmness. It was developed by Ohlins and functions similarly to dampers in high-performance GM products. Inside the dampers is a ferrofluid that reacts to an internal electromagnet controlled by the suspension computer. Through various sensors and predetermined settings, the computer uses the magnet to alter the damper’s compression and rebound characteristics to the setting chosen by the driver. Many of the R-Design models were equipped with this system.
Volvo produced three sizes of front brake components for their non-SUV P3 models. The sizing was relative to the model and engine size, though certain option packages could’ve changed that. The easiest way to see which size brake you have is by looking at them; the rotor size should be cast into the top of the front caliper. If that doesn’t work, you can send us your VIN, and we’ll let you know which you have. Regardless of size, the P3 comes with front and rear disc brakes. The rotors are one-piece, made from steel, and always vented on the front axle. Rear rotors were solid or vented, depending on the brake package.
The components Volvo chose to use on the P3 make servicing the brakes very straightforward. With a few hand tools and a little instruction, you can tackle them in a DIY setting in an hour or so. To make it even easier on you, we offer assembled brake kits that include all the parts required for service. If you ever have any trouble finding parts, reach out to one of our associates. They’re quick to respond and will point you in the right direction.
How To Buy A P3 Volvo S60 & V60
The newest P3 Volvos are now at least one presidential term old, so it’s safe to say every P3 has been in at least one owner’s hands. As regular passenger cars without the provenance of a GT3RS, they were likely used daily to shuttle around a small family on shopping trips and food runs, regardless of the weather or road conditions. It’s best to take a very close look at what you’re buying; not everyone cares for their vehicles.
P3 Volvos are available everywhere, whether on Craigslist or at the local used car dealership. They were very popular and encompassed nearly the entire Volvo range, which should give you some options to choose from. The best way to buy one of them is to learn all you can about them before a purchase. Often, a used dealer or a private seller won’t know the car as well as an informed buyer, and that’ll give you an advantage. Always find the best example you can in your budget, and prioritize those that include service history. Previous maintenance doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free ownership experience, but it will provide you with the best chance for one.
P3 Volvo S60 & V60 Valuation
The P3 Volvos weren't cheap cars when new. Unrivaled safety, European luxury, and quirky Swedish design come at a cost, and thousands of people were more than OK with that. Now the P3s have become used and second-hand, allowing those less well-off to get themselves into one. With over ten model years, six engine options, a handful of trims, and at least six models, there are plenty of options for the child-less adventure seeker with cash to burn as there is for the mom of three on a tight budget. Used car prices have gone a little bonkers, though, so it can be challenging to know what to pay for a given model.
The S60 and V60 are some of the more common P3 platform models that are easy to find for sale. They’re nearly everywhere in varying states of trim and condition, making them an option in most budgets. Both pre and post-facelift examples with over 100,000 miles typically sell for below the $10,000 mark, although it’ll be much easier to find a pre-facelift at that price point. Stepping into the $10-20,000 range puts the average mileage between 100,000 and 60,000, though most examples are T5 (base) trim. Above $20,000, the model spread gets very tight. The newest S60s in T6 trim showing around 60,000 miles are a few grand less than one with half the miles. R-Design trim examples with lower mileage can reach as high as $35,000, though that’s about the ceiling for a used S60/V60. The Polestar S60 and V60 are unique, though. Because of their performance and limited availability, the cheapest you’re likely to see them is about $35,000. Expect to pay over forty thousand for a clean example with around 40,000 miles on it.
Are the P3 Volvo S60 & V60 Reliable? Are they easy to work on?
Short answer: yes, they are. Volvo has always been a reliable brand, and the P3 platform models are no different. Things like brake jobs, minor suspension work, filter changes, and other areas of regular service can be tricky on modern cars, but the S60 and V60 have very straightforward components that lend well to DIY settings. All of the engines use an inline cylinder arrangement placing the ignition components right at the top for easy access. Thanks to the READ drive, the accessories like the water pump and alternator can be a bit trickier to reach on the SI6 engines, but it isn’t rocket science. Braking and suspension components are readily available through multiple manufacturers on fcpeuro.com and are all relatively simple to replace with non-power tools.
But how often will I have to work on it? Well, without including service items, probably not very often. The SI6 engines are durable and have very few common faults, though you need to know what to look out for. Most critical are failures related to the READ pulleys. There are two of them, and they handle the distribution of engine rotation to the alternator, water pump, and power steering pump. Their service life is around 150,000 miles, but they can wear beyond acceptable levels before that mark. The pre-2014 SI6 engines use a mechanical power steering pump that shares its pulley with the water pump. For whatever reason, these early water pumps tend to leak more frequently than the later cars with their redesigned pumps. Replacing the pump isn’t a hassle, but getting to the pump is. Other than that, a few spots commonly develop oil leaks. The only one that presents a significant repair is leaking READ seals. They require a READ drive removal, which means the engine will need to be re-timed.
Suspension and brake issues are largely avoided, though the rear trailing arm bushings are a common trouble spot. They take a lot of abuse as the anchor point for the trailing arm and will crack and tear when completely worn. Replacement can be a bit of a hassle, so it’s a job best left for those with access to a lift and a press. Front strut mounts and bearings also tend to wear quickly on the S60/V60 models. You’ll begin to hear clunking and a possible grinding noise over low-speed bumps and turns once they need replacement. Thankfully you can replace them at home without much hassle. Transmission issues are absent with the eight-speed auto. However, the six-speed can be hard shifting at times. Fixes range from a fluid flush, and TCU reset to a complete replacement in rare cases.
Take caution when looking at a used example, especially around the common fault areas. Ask for service history and adjust your offer accordingly to those records. The S60/V60 have shown that they’re capable of well beyond 150,000 miles when serviced right, but no guarantees can be made about examples that weren’t. Regardless of which S60 or V60 you end up with, FCP Euro has the parts and expertise to help you along your ownership journey. We have OE replacement parts and bolt-on upgrades to help you personalize your Volvo just the right way. Keep an eye on our DIY blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for plenty of content on how to service and repair your Volvo.
Car and motorsports-obsessed writer/editor for FCP Euro's DIY Blog. constantly dreaming of competing behind the wheel or searching for another project. Owner of a flat-six-swapped Subaru Impreza and a ratty Porsche 914.