It seems like just yesterday that I was mulling over…
BY Andrew Stoy | autoweek.com
What is it?
The safe car. The quirky Swede. Volvo has been synonymous with tweed-jacketed professors and suburban yuppies alike throughout its 85-year history. More recently, though, the Swedish automaker has undergone a style renaissance, breaking out of its boxy, stodgy mold with sleek, fashionable designs such as the C30 (a.k.a. Edward Cullen’s car in Twilight), the XC60 crossover and our test subject, the redesigned S60 sedan.
In vibrant red, our S60 R-Design blends just enough traditional Volvoness to please the brand faithful with sleek, sporty lines that force those more familiar with BMW and Mercedes-Benz designs to do a double take. The overall look is one of reserved enthusiasm. It’s the kind of car that would relish being flung around a racetrack if it didn’t have to take you to the dentist with two kids safely strapped in the back.
What’s it like to live with?
If you’ve never spent time in a Swedish car, be prepared for perhaps the best seats in the automotive world. Supple and accommodating yet firm enough to prevent aches, the Volvo S60’s buckets continue the trend. The driving position is nearly perfect for this six-foot-one reviewer, and a thick steering wheel combined with a dash and instruments angled toward the driver help inspire a sense of sporting luxury. The rear seats are also well bolstered and comfortable for adult passengers, but child booster seats tend to rock a bit thanks to the sculpting. Likewise, expect little feet to be able to kick the back of your seat without much trouble; the S60 is comfortable for four passengers but it’s by no means a large car. That also includes the average-size trunk.
But the S60 is a sports sedan, and some sins will be forgiven when the accelerator is pressed. Volvo’s outstanding turbocharged six-cylinder engine sends ample power to all four wheels, rocketing the S60 away in a rush that should surprise owners of “properly pedigreed” sports sedans from Germany costing thousands more. The brakes are equally up to the task, pulling the Volvo to a halt with good pedal feel, but the steering suffers somewhat from the heavy inline engine mounted sideways over the front axle. All-wheel drive helps, but when whipping the S60 into a parking spot, its nose-heaviness is noticeable.
With great power comes meager fuel economy, especially when all-wheel drive is thrown into the mix. Considering its weight and acceleration, the Volvo’s EPA rating of 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway (21 mpg combined) isn’t terrible, but its desire for premium fuel should also be taken into account when budgeting.
Who should consider this car?
Volvo goes to great lengths to appeal to upper-middle-class families, offering luxury and Scandinavian style while touting the brand’s history of leading-edge safety for the whole brood. The S60 R-Design would be equally at home at a Sonic, complete with tray hanging off the window, as it would valet-parked at a posh downtown restaurant.
But the S60 isn’t just about impressing the neighbors with your sensibility. It’s also a hoot to drive, and if your commute involves some tight curves and long straightaways after making the day-care drop-off, this Volvo sedan delivers the goods. That applies to those of us in the Snow Belt, too: Thanks to available all-wheel drive, present on our test car, a set of snow tires turns the S60 into an unflappable winter sled.
Finally, if you’re a die-hard Swedish car fan, Volvo is now your de facto brand. With the demise of Saab late last year, Volvo is the last Scandinavian car company standing.
What similar cars should I consider?
Obvious competitors for our Volvo S60 R-Design include the Audi A4, the BMW 3-series, the Mercedes-Benz C-class and the Cadillac CTS. As with the Volvo, it’s easy to option any of those models up from their reasonable base prices into the mid-$40,000 range, so much of your decision will be based upon whether a dealer has the package you’re seeking and which car appeals to you most.
It’s worth noting that the S60 and the Audi A4 are front-drive designs with available all-wheel drive. The Mercedes, BMW and Cadillac models are rear-drive cars with available AWD. The RWD designs likely will be more satisfying for hard-core performance drivers, but most folks will never notice the difference.
What folks will notice is your car: Thanks to appealing styling that’s just different enough to stand out from the crowd, the Volvo S60 R-Design appeals to sports-sedan buyers who don’t want to show up in the same BMW or Lexus as everyone else. As for the outstanding performance, that can be your–and your family’s–little secret.
Vehicle: 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design
Base price: $43,375; As-Tested: $46,875
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder
Drivetrain: AWD, six-speed automatic
EPA mileage (city/highway/combined): 18/26/21 mpg
Curb weight: 3,835 lb
Horsepower: 325 @ 5,400 rpm
Torque: 354 lb-ft @ 3,000-3,600 rpm
Options: Multimedia package including Volvo premium sound system, rear park-assist camera, navigation system with voice control ($2,700); climate package including heated front seats, headlight washers, heated windshield-washer nozzles, rain sensor, interior air-quality system ($800).
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