By Derek Price
Volvo has long been known for inventing new safety features, but now it’s trying its hand at developing a new kind of technology — the kind that fits in your pocket.
This Swedish car company has released the best smartphone app I’ve ever seen for a vehicle. While I doubt anybody would buy a car purely for the app it comes with, the Volvo On Call app, as it’s called, offers an interesting peek into the future of car electronics.
The app could do some way-cool things on my S60 test car, including:
— Locking and unlocking the doors remotely through a data connection, no matter how far your phone is from the car. It works through the Internet and cell phone signals, so I’m assuming you could unlock your doors from halfway around the world if you wanted, just by pressing a button on your phone.
— Letting you know about maintenance needs. It can give you all kinds of data without having to pop the hood open, including monitoring your brake fluid and washer fluid. If lightbulbs are burned out or your gas tank is getting empty, you can see that right from your phone.
— Knowing where you go. You can track trips and keep a mileage log for business expense reports or taxes, for example, or simply look on a map to see where your Volvo is located right now. That means if you let your teenage kid drive the car, you’ll never have a question about where they go in it.
While most car companies are offering various kinds of apps these days, this one from Volvo is the most full-featured I’ve ever seen. It’s working proof that a smartphone can “talk” to your car and extract information from the many sensors and computers that are already found in modern vehicles, which opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities.
The Volvo On Call app is available on all 2015.5 Volvo models, including the snazzy, 302-horsepower S60 I tested. That .5 number represents an unusual mid-year 2015 refresh for the Volvo lineup.
Other than the smartphone tech, one thing impressed me about my tester: the miraculously efficient and powerful T6 engine.
I first experienced this powerplant in the 2015 Volvo XC60 and marveled at how this small, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine could deliver high power and high MPGs at the same time thanks to both turbocharging and supercharging. It feels even better in the S60, where the 302 horses make it accelerate like a sports sedan while its 35-mpg highway rating is almost unbelievable for a car this quick.
Yes, it has the requisite safety gadgets that you expect from this brand, but that’s just a small part of its appeal. It’s a Volvo that you can love for so much more than the fact that it keeps you alive.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E ($39,000). Options: Platinum package ($3,750), 19-inch wheels ($900), Blind Spot Information System ($900), metallic paint ($550), heated front seats ($500). Price as tested (including $925 destination charge): $46,525
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 182.5 in.
Width: 73.4 in.
Height: 58.4 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo, supercharged (302 horsepower, 295 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 24 city, 35 highway
2015.5 Volvo S60
Why buy it?
It has one of the best engines and coolest smartphone apps on the market today, along with the safety features expected from the Volvo brand.