Volvo S60 vs Audi A4: Which Compact Luxury Sedan Should You Buy?

The compact luxury sedan segment is packed full of great vehicles that combine enjoyable driving dynamics, premium interior technology, and reasonably low pricing.

Every luxury automaker doing business in North America, with the longtime leaders being the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and the Audi A4. In more recent years, models like the Lexus IS, the Infiniti Q50, and the Volvo S60 have entered the fray, leading to heavier competition and accelerated improvements in the segment.

The A4 has long served as the first choice for anyone who wants an all-season, all-wheel-drive compact luxury sedan, but the Volvo S60 offers all-wheel-drive with loads of technology, making it a great option for a shopper who likes the idea of driving one of the newer entries to the segment.

If you are considering the Audi A4 and the Volvo S60, but you aren’t sure how they size up to each other, you are in luck. Below, we look at all of the key areas of each car, highlighting which shines brighter.

Cabin Space

The Volvo S60 and Audi A4 are compact luxury sedans, but with the steady increase in overall size of the vehicles in this class, they both offer far more interior space than older small luxury four-door models. As a result, these cars both have rear seating areas that will comfortably seat adults without compromising front seating space.

Volvo: The Volvo S60 front seats offer 37.4 inches (950 mm) of headroom, 42.3 inches (1,074 mm) of legroom and 56.1 inches (1,425 mm) of shoulder room while the rear seats have 37.2 inches (945 mm) of headroom, 35.2 inches (894 mm) of legroom, and 54.5 inches (1,384 mm) of shoulder room.

Audi: The Audi A4 offers 37.3 inches (945 mm) of headroom, 41.3 inches (1,049 mm) of legroom, and 55.9 inches (1,420 mm) of shoulder room in the front seats with 37.4 inches (950 mm) of headroom, 35.7 inches (907 mm) of legroom, and 54.9 inches (1,394 mm) of shoulder room outback.

Bottom Line: It is a battle of less-than-inches between the cabins of the Volvo S60 and the Audi A4. If you want more space for the driver and front passenger, the Volvo has the advantage. If your key concern is rear seating space, the Audi takes the win here.

Cargo and Towing

The odds are good that if you are considering a compact luxury sedan, hauling and towing are not key concerns, but the Volvo S60 and Audi A4 both offer a nice sized trunk for a 5-passenger vehicle of this size. Also, if you equip these sedans with the proper equipment, they can both pull a small trailer as well.

Volvo: The Volvo S60 has a trunk that measures 11.6 cubic feet, but you can fold down the rear seats to free up space for longer items. Also, Volvo has officially rated the S60 as being capable of towing 2,000 pounds. It should be noted that in Europe, the S60 with the similar turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is rated at 1,800 kilograms.

Audi: The Audi A4 has a 12-cubic-foot trunk and it also has rear seats that fold down for extra cargo space. There is no official towing number from Audi for the A4, but in searching around online, we found that the 45 TFSI models in Europe can tow 1,900 kilograms. That is over 4,100 pounds and frankly, we wouldn’t recommend towing that much weight with a sedan of this size, but based on that information, it seems that the A4 will pull something like a small utility trailer or a jet ski.

Bottom Line: The Audi A4 has a slightly larger trunk and more rear seating space, leading to more overall cargo-carrying capabilities. Also, the European towing capacity of the A4 is slightly more capable than the European figures for the S60, but there is no official number for the American Audi when it comes to pulling a trailer. That being said, the European numbers lead us to believe that the A4 will out-pull the S60.

Technology and Features

The luxury segment is all about the latest technology and the most premium of features, so it should come as no surprise that the Volvo S60 and Audi A4 are chock full of high-end components. Even at the entry level, these models offer far more niceties than your average compact sedan while the loaded models have everything that you could want from a luxury machine.

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Volvo: The Volvo S60 Momentum comes with the brand’s “textile” seating surface, which includes cloth center sections and leatherette bolsters and trim, or a full leatherette package. Standard features of this base S60 include a power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory, a power-adjustable passenger seat, and reclining rear outboard seats. When you step up to the Inscription of R-Design models, you get leather upholstery, memory for the front passenger seat, power front seat cushion extension, and power-folding rear headrests.

In terms of interior technology, every new Volvo S60 comes with a 9-inch portrait-style touchscreen, a 12-inch digital gauge cluster, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for the infotainment system and gauge cluster, power locks, power windows, the Cleanzone cabin filtration system, an integrated garage door opener, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, HD radio, SiriusXM and a panoramic moon roof. The S60 Momentum comes with a 10-speaker, 220-watt sound system, and a dual-zone climate control system, featuring the unique afterrun parking climate system. If you opt for the Inscription or R-Design, you get a four-zone climate control system and a 610-watt, 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. The premium trim levels also come with a tailored leather dashboard and the Sensus navigation system.

Audi: The “entry level” Audi A4 Premium comes standard with leather seats that are heated and power-adjustable, with the rear seats coming in a 40/20/20 split design for easy expansion of the cargo area. If you go with the A4 Prestige, you also get heated rear outboard seats and cooled front seats.

A 10.1-inch touchscreen and 7-inch driver information screen in the gauge cluster are standard on all A4 models, as are cruise control, an integrated garage door opener, keyless start, a power sunroof, a three-zone climate control system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift paddles and infotainment system controls, smartphone connectivity and Bluetooth connectivity.

When you step up to the Premium Plus package, you get the Audi phone box system, which includes a signal booster and wireless charging. With the Prestige trim level, you get the brand’s top navigation system and a 19-speaker, 755-watt Bang & Olufsen, which replaces the 10-speaker system on the Premium and Premium Plus models.

Bottom Line: The Audi A4 has more standard technology and standard leather, with more premium options and content on the higher-end models, giving it a clear advantage over the Volvo S60.

Powertrain

Like many vehicles in the compact luxury sedan segment, both the Volvo S60 and the Audi A4 rely on a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The Audi actually has two of them on the option list, both of which come with standard all-wheel-drive while the Volvo is available in front- or all-wheel-drive form.

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Volvo: The Volvo S60 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque via a standard 8-speed automatic transmission. As mentioned above, front-wheel-drive is standard on all trim levels, but all-wheel-drive is available with every trim level.

Audi: The Audi A4 is available with two different 4-cylinder engines, both of which are turbocharged 2.0-liter mills. The 40 TFSI “base” engine offers 201 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque while the 45 TFSI premium engine packs 261 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque A7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission is standard with both engines, as it the Quattro all-wheel-drive system.

Bottom Line: If you want the most power out of your compact luxury sedan, the premium engine option in the Audi A4 has a clear advantage over the Volvo S60. Also, the Audi weighs about 300 pounds less than the Volvo, so it makes better use of the available power. If performance matters, the Audi is the easy winner here with the combination of more power, less weight, and the intelligent all-wheel-drive system.

Fuel Economy

If you are really concerned about fuel economy, you may want to consider the Volvo S60 Recharge, but if you aren’t into the electrification movement, the standard S60 and the Audi A4 both offer solid fuel economy numbers. You may think that the Volvo would have an advantage with the front-drive models, but you would be wrong.

Volvo: The Volvo S60 with front-wheel-drive is rated at 23 mpg in the city, 34 on the highway, and 27 mpg combined. When you add all-wheel-drive, each category drops by one unit, so the AWD S60 is rated at 22 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway, and 26 mpg combined.

Audi: The Audi A4 with the standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system and the 40 TFSI engine is rated at 25 mpg around town, 34 on the highway, and 28mpg combined. When you step up to the more powerful engine, the numbers drop slightly to 24 mpg city, 31 highway and 27 mpg combined.

Bottom Line: The Audi A4’s standard engine with all-wheel-drive beats the front-drive S60 and in all-wheel-drive form, even the more powerful Audi engine has an advantage over the Volvo. If you are concerned about fuel economy, the Audi is the better choice between these two.

Safety

The luxury segment has always been on the forefront of safety technology, simply because the new, pricier safety tech costs more and that cost is easier to fit into the price of an expensive luxury sedan. However, premium safety features are no longer reserved for the $100,000, top-of-the-line super sedans, as the Volvo S60 and Audi A4 feature many of the same tech bits as the most expensive models in the industry today.

Volvo: The Volvo S60 Momentum comes standard with the “WHIPS” Whiplash Injury Protection System, the “SIPS” Side Impact Protection System, inflatable side curtain airbags, driver’s side knee airbags, traditional driver and passenger front airbags, a road sign reading system, a lane keeping system, oncoming lane mitigation, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with hill start assist, double locking theft prevention, a passive alarm system, keyless entry, the “BLIS” blind spot information system with Steer Assist and Cross Traffic Alert with auto-brake, the road friction indication system, rear park assist with a camera interface and rain sensors for the windshield wipers. Stepping up to the Inscription and R-Design models adds front park assist, but most of the Volvo safety tech is standard on all new S60 sedans.

Audi: The Audi A4 comes with front dual-stage airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, the Audi pre-sense city system, the Audi pre-sense basic system, Audi connect CARE assistance and security services, high beam assist, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a passive alarm system and a rearview camera. The Premium Plus models also feature adaptive cruise control with Traffic Jam Assist, the top view camera system with the Virtual 360 view, the Audi virtual cockpit system, Audi active lane assist, parking system plus and Audi side assist with rear cross-traffic assist and vehicle exit warning. Finally, when you opt for the Prestige model, you get the Audi pre-sense rear system, heads-up display, the road sign recognition system, and the matrix-design LED headlights with a washing system.

Bottom Line: Both of these luxury sedans are packed with modern safety features, but the A4 offers more premium systems and components across the lineup.

Styling

The Volvo S60 and Audi A4 are the same basic size and, frankly, they are the same basic shape. They both have a long hood and a short trunk area, almost creating a fastback sedan from the side with black-painted B-pillars. They are also both clad with LED lights front and rear, giving them a very high tech look.

Volvo: The Volvo S60 has a slightly longer hood area, with a windshield that is sloped to give it a more slippery look from the side. The area where the rear glass meets the trunk area looks higher, giving the car a powerful look, with hard sidelines from the front to the rear that accentuate the flowing style. Up front, the LED-trimmed headlights flank a large upper grille and below that, the fog lights are mounted in vented areas that line up with the flat lower grille. At the back, large LED taillights present a unique signature look above the integrated dual exhaust tips.

Audi: The Audi A4 has a slightly shorter hood area, which effectively moves the front wheel closer to the greenhouse, creating a sportier, more compact-looking profile. Up front, the A4 LED headlights, massive central grille and lower vents with fog lights is far more aggressive, almost looking angry. Out back, the premium LED taillights match the LED lighting up front with a unique, segmented design, with a spread of chrome accents from front to rear giving the A4 a more upscale look.

Bottom Line: If you want a sporty, aggressive design that offers a touch of luxury, the Audi A4 is the easy choice here. If you prefer understated styling, the Volvo S60 may fit your tastes, but we love the familiar look of the A4.

Pricing

While both of these cars are European luxury sedans chock full of high end features, these are among the more affordable models in each of their brand lineups. With starting prices around $40,000, the Volvo S60 and Audi A4 are priced to bring new customers into the luxury segment, but positive ownership experiences with compact sedans often leads to customers who go on to buy more expensive models down the road.

Volvo: The Volvo S60 Momentum starts at $39,995, including destination fee, with the standard turbocharged engine, an automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive while the all-wheel-drive version starts at $42,295, with that $2,300 upcharge for all-wheel-drive being consistent across the model line. The S60 Inscription and S60 R-Design both start at $42,995 including destination and front-drive while the AWD version of these premium packages start at $45,295.

Audi: The Audi A4 Premium with the 40 TFSI engine starts at $40,145 including destination and the standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system while this base trim level with the 45 TFSI engine starts at $41,945. When you step up to the A4 Premium Plus, the base engine pricing starts at $44,845 while the stronger engine package starts at $46,145. Finally, the A4 Prestige with the base engine has a starting price of $50,445 while the same model with the more powerful engine starts at $50,845. Frankly, based on the pricing differences, it makes sense to just go ahead and get the 45 TFSI engine, regardless of the trim level chosen.

Bottom Line: If you are looking to get into one of these compact luxury sedans for the lowest price point possible and you don’t require all-wheel drive, the Volvo S60 is the better choice at $39,995. The loaded front-drive S60 also costs quite a bit less than the A4, but when you are looking for an all-wheel-drive luxury sedan, the A4 is the better buy across the model range. Even with the more powerful engine, you get more for your money with the A4 when all-wheel-drive is a must-have feature.

Verdict: Volvo S60 vs Audi A4

The Audi A4 has been a leader in the segment for years for a reason – it is a great car that checks every box. Unless you specifically want a front-wheel-drive car or you want to be different and buy a car that is not one of the sales leaders in the segment, there is no area where the Volvo S60 really sizes up to the A4. The A4 is better in most areas and it costs less among all-wheel-drive models, making it the easy choice in this comparison.

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