Review: Volvo’s 2019 S60 Sedan Offers a Striking Sensus Infotainment Display and AutomotivePlay, but Usability Needs Some Work

As automotive infotainment methods cross, Volvo’s Sensus machine is indisputably an eye-catcher with its stunning 9-inch portrait show dominating the middle stack, so I used to be excited to have a chance to head hands-on with Sensus to look the way it works and how smartly it integrates with AutomotivePlay, which is extensively supported in Volvo’s lineup.

My take a look at car used to be a new 2019 S60 T6 AWD R-Design sedan, and the 2019 S60 is the primary Volvo to be manufactured within the United States, popping out of the corporate’s new plant outdoor of Charleston, South Carolina. My S60 got here filled with era and security measures together with lane-keeping lend a hand and oncoming lane mitigation, parking lend a hand, blind spot tracking, and go site visitors indicators.

A $2,500 Advanced Package provides much more options together with a 360º view digital camera, adaptive cruise keep an eye on with pilot lend a hand, heads-up show with pace and navigation, and energetic bending headlights to fortify illumination within the path you are steerage. My take a look at car used to be supplied with a high-end $3,200 Bowers & Wilkins 15-speaker audio machine that unsurprisingly sounded incredible. All instructed, the MSRP on my take a look at car approached $55,000, but the Sensus machine with AutomotivePlay fortify is same old even at the entry-level Momentum trim beginning at $35,800.


From a hardware standpoint, the Sensus machine is superb. The portrait show is lovely, brilliant, and sharp, despite the fact that it does have a tendency to turn fingerprints on each the display and the shiny black body surrounding it. Still, it is moderately a observation function in how it dominates the middle stack.

The Sensus machine makes use of a aggregate of a resistive display and infrared sensors to discover touches, which shall we the machine paintings even when you are dressed in gloves, a function it’s possible you’ll be expecting from a Swedish automotive corporate. In reality, because of the infrared sensing, the machine may even sign up touches with out in reality moderately touching the display, which is a little unnerving in the beginning.

It may not be moderately as responsive as a capacitive display in some circumstances, but it is nonetheless a very usable machine for a car designed to be relaxed in chilly climates. A unmarried hardware house button proper underneath the display temporarily will get you out of no matter you are doing and again to the primary display.

On the tool facet, Volvo’s Sensus machine is primarily based round a set of tiles showing at the primary house display, providing fast get entry to to navigation, audio, and telephone purposes, in addition to any other maximum just lately used serve as on the backside. The tiles make it simple to hop in and out of explicit purposes whilst most often protecting a mini view of different purposes available.

From the primary display, you’ll swipe to the left to seek out a host of car keep an eye on choices that you just most likely would possibly not want to have a look at extraordinarily continuously, and a swipe down gives get entry to to settings and a virtual proprietor’s guide that you can most likely talk over with even much less continuously as soon as you are up and operating.

The Sensus navigation app gives a decent-looking and usable map view, and if you have got the virtual motive force’s facet show and heads-up show you are able to see map and turn-by-turn main points on the ones monitors as smartly.

Full-screen 2D map view

The primary map view helps each pinching and double tapping to zoom, whilst panning is well completed with a finger drag. The map will also be considered as both a huge tile with audio and telephone tiles nonetheless available or in a “full-screen” view that takes up all of the show except the local weather keep an eye on strip on the backside.

Heads-up show appearing pace, pace restrict, and turn-by-turn instructions

Unfortunately, when I appeared past interacting with the map itself, I discovered the integrated navigation to be moderately clunky to make use of in apply. Voice enter is by means of a long way probably the most handy and most secure means for interacting with navigation methods, and the voice assistant that controls Sensus falls flat right here.

We’re in that in-between time the place car voice assistants are nonetheless transitioning to the herbal language enjoy we have now turn into conversant in with Siri and different assistants on our cellular gadgets and round our houses, and like a collection of different automotive producers, Volvo has but to in reality make that transition with Sensus.

With Sensus, you can want to use explicit words to cause the more than a few purposes, in order that way if you wish to set a vacation spot you will have to use a explicit “cross to” cause word moderately than different permutations like “take me to.” About the one deviation is a “take me house” command that may paintings in case you’ve set a house location.

Examples of navigation cause phrases

The “cross to” vacation spot enter means is a little bit clunky, and it will get worse if you do not know the cope with and wish to seek by means of title. It’s a multi-step procedure this is moderately distracting and feels love it takes ceaselessly.

For instance, if you need instructions on your native Starbucks but have no idea the cope with off-hand, you can want to say “seek Starbucks.” After a prolong whilst the machine translates your command and searches, the motive force show will be offering up a record of probabilities. In this example, it presentations “Starbucks” and “Starbucks Coffee” as separate pieces and you should make a selection which line quantity you need with out understanding every other main points. (As it seems, each choices go back the similar record of places in my enjoy.)

Initial result of a POI seek for “Starbucks”

Once you select an merchandise, it’s going to counsel a collection of close by Starbucks places and you can once more have to make a choice by means of line quantity the use of both your voice or the arrow and variety buttons at the steerage wheel. But you are now not completed but: Once you choose a location, the machine will ask you whether or not you need to name the site or set it as a vacation spot. Only after you’re making that selection are you able to be in your approach to get a cup of espresso.

Follow-up record of Starbucks places

Beyond the multi-step voice interface, I discovered the POI database total to be moderately deficient, with the machine having issue discovering sure locations I repeatedly talk over with. In reality, all of the “church buildings” class used to be empty in my house, making it tricky to acquire instructions to my sons’ Cub Scouts assembly, whilst the machine used to be in a similar fashion not able to drag up any FedEx places close to me.

Sensus navigation failing to seek out any FedEx places

The different finish of the voice assistant may additionally use some enhancements, because it does not at all times correctly acknowledge the context of what it is talking.

For instance, when confirming a vacation spot and studying a boulevard cope with containing “Dr” again to you, it’s going to spell out the “d-r” moderately than decoding it as “Drive.” Similarly, if an cope with comprises “Pkwy,” the voice assistant makes an attempt to pronounce it as a phrase moderately than spotting it as “Parkway.” Or in case your vacation spot is on U.S. 70, for instance, the assistant will say “us 70.” Some different abbreviations like “Rd” and “St” are treated correctly.

Importantly, Volvo turns out to acknowledge the shortcomings of its present Sensus machine, and the navigation machine particularly, as the corporate introduced previous this yr that its next-generation Sensus machine will use Google Maps, Google Assistant, and Google Play apps. That partnership is not anticipated to come back to fruition till 2020, alternatively, so we will have to carry tight whilst we look ahead to main enhancements.

Anyway, again at the primary Sensus house display, a swipe to the fitting takes you to an apps web page that will provide you with get entry to to more than a few kinds of programs together with the integrated audio assets, apps like Pandora, Spotify, and Yelp that may be accessed when you have an energetic knowledge connection, motive force efficiency knowledge like gasoline economic system, SiriusXM Travel Link options like close by fuel costs, and extra.

The S60 comes with hotspot connectivity, so you’ll arrange an LTE hotspot to glue different gadgets whilst within the automotive. Alternatively, you’ll attach the auto on your telephone’s knowledge connection to offer web get entry to for the Sensus machine.

Climate Control

Volvo has long gone with a nearly fully virtual set of local weather controls, due in important phase to the massive portrait show that leaves little room for extra hardware controls. A unmarried row of buttons beneath the show will provide you with get entry to to the entrance and rear defroster, but another way all local weather controls are treated during the touchscreen.

At the ground of the Sensus show, there is a continual strip devoted to local weather keep an eye on, which shows the temperature settings for motive force and passenger, fan settings, and heated seat/steerage wheel standing. Tapping on both of the temperature settings brings up a scale to permit you to alter the set level and optionally sync each zones to the similar temperature.

Tapping at the fan keep an eye on icon brings up an overlay that allows you to keep an eye on defrosters and fan speeds and zones. An AUTO Climate surroundings is helping arrange your convenience robotically in line with your temperature settings, so no less than you’ll more or less set it and disregard it. Swiping to split pages will provide you with choices for controlling rear local weather and surroundings schedules for local weather keep an eye on whilst the car is parked for eventualities the place you get within the automotive at a set time on a daily basis. For rear seat passengers, there also are contact controls at the rear of the middle console.

Main local weather settings with hardware defroster buttons visual underneath

In basic, I a lot favor hardware local weather controls to tool ones, and the Sensus machine hasn’t modified my opinion. You cannot alter tool controls by means of really feel, and Sensus calls for more than one steps to regulate settings. Adjusting the temperature by means of contact calls for no less than two faucets: one to open up the temperature settings and one to set the brand new desired temperature. If you need to instantly get again to what you are doing, a 3rd faucet is had to shut the temperature settings, despite the fact that they do cross away on their very own after a few seconds.

Pop-up for adjusting heated seat and steerage wheel

It’s a an identical tale for the heated seats. On automobiles like mine which can be supplied with each heated seats and heated steerage wheel, you wish to have to faucet the seat icon to open the settings, and then faucet one or extra occasions on seat and/or steerage wheel icons to regulate the heating point.

Examples of local weather keep an eye on cause words

Granted, many of those changes will also be made the use of the voice assistant if you recognize the correct cause phrases, but there are many circumstances the place I might favor the use of making adjustments by means of hand moderately than voice, and the Sensus machine simply calls for extra steps than it will have to.


The S60 comes with a pair of USB ports within the middle console, one of which connects to the Sensus machine whilst the opposite is charge-only. A attached telephone will also be saved both within the console compartment or in a cupholder, and the compartment lid is designed to house routing a twine out of the compartment.

Unfortunately, there are not any rear USB ports for passengers. By default, there is a unmarried 12V port within the rear of the middle console, but upgraded programs be offering a 120V outlet in that location. That’s nice for charging pieces requiring upper energy, but for charging iPads for the youngsters I discovered it inconvenient to have to ensure I had a energy adapter along with a charging cable.


As with virtually each and every different automotive producer, Volvo makes use of a stressed AutomotivePlay implementation, requiring you to make use of a Lightning cable to plug the telephone into a designated USB port within the middle console compartment. Somewhat annoyingly, in case your telephone is already paired to the auto by the use of Bluetooth, you can get a pop-up asking you in case you are positive you need to disable the Bluetooth connection and transfer to AutomotivePlay each and every time you plug it in, and I could not in finding a approach to disable that notification.

When AutomotivePlay turns into energetic, it takes up more or less part of the Sensus machine’s show, sitting simply above the local weather keep an eye on band and underneath the remainder of the Sensus primary display tiles. This provides the AutomotivePlay interface a more or less 6.5-inch diagonal measurement, which is a bit small in comparison to many different methods and such a lot of the Maps view is roofed by means of the more than a few textual content packing containers, for instance. It’s additionally moderately low at the middle stack, so it is surely out of the motive force’s instant line of sight.

Volvo is striving for some seamless integration between AutomotivePlay and Sensus by means of solely the use of a portion of the show and nonetheless permitting different tiles to be visual, but it might be a lot higher than it’s. Beyond AutomotivePlay, you are restricted to seeing the three default tiles of navigation, audio, and telephone, and a number of of those purposes are necessarily deactivated because you’re the use of AutomotivePlay. With AutomotivePlay energetic, your telephone is being treated during the AutomotivePlay interface moderately than the Sensus machine, and the similar is right of navigation if you have got a course moving into AutomotivePlay. It’s great having fast get entry to to non-AutomotivePlay audio assets like SiriusXM or radio, but even then it is simply a unmarried line of knowledge that may be a lot extra helpful with some tweaks.

AutomotivePlay is controlled virtually fully by the use of the Sensus touchscreen. The skinny strip of hardware controls underneath the display contains a quantity knob, mute/pause button, and ahead/again navigation of tracks or stations that may paintings with AutomotivePlay audio assets, but those cannot another way be used to navigate across the AutomotivePlay interface. That’s most often high-quality, as hardware keep an eye on of AutomotivePlay is moderately bulky.


As stunning as the large 9-inch portrait display is, the total Sensus enjoy comes up brief for me. A loss of herbal language voice popularity and a deficient POI database in reality impede the usability of the integrated navigation particularly, and it simply seems like Volvo is making an attempt to do an excessive amount of with the touchscreen.

The huge tiles at the primary house display are simple to the touch, but total they are able to’t show a good deal of knowledge at one time, because of this a variety of tapping in and out to make changes. With such a lot of other instructions to swipe from the primary house display and then additionally scrolling every now and then had to see the ones whole pages, it simply seems like Sensus is not extraordinarily intuitive. Combining an underperforming voice assistant with a sophisticated touchscreen machine, I in finding it moderately arduous to perform what will have to be easy duties.

Here’s hoping that the next-generation Sensus machine will make some important strides ahead within the usability division, because the hardware in reality does have some good things going for it that give a contribution towards a top class, subtle really feel for Volvos.

I do recognize the strive at integrating AutomotivePlay into the Sensus machine, and it is rather simple to hop again and forth between options like Apple Maps and SiriusXM, but once more, I think the mixing might be considerably stepped forward by means of making adjustments akin to shifting the AutomotivePlay show to the highest of the display for higher visibility and providing extra information-rich and customizable tiles to assist take advantage of the Sensus interface that surrounds AutomotivePlay.

I like that AutomotivePlay and Sensus are same old throughout now not solely the S60 trims, but all of the Volvo lineup within the U.S. as of the launches of the 2019 S60 and V60. Of route, Volvo’s entry-level trims are not precisely low cost, but when different luxurious automotive producers are requiring upper trim ranges and even separate fees for AutomotivePlay fortify, it is great to look Volvo all-in on supporting the era.

The 2019 Volvo S60 begins at $35,800, but more than a few trim, engine, and bundle choices can push the full on the subject of $65,000. Fortunately, Volvo builds in a respectable collection of protection and era options, together with AutomotivePlay, even on the lowest ranges.

Related Roundup: AutomotivePlay
Tag: Volvo

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