I believe there is truth that cars and people can go together, and in the journey of life, sometimes you meet someone you simply associate with a certain make or model of car. When I received the all-new 2011 Volvo S60 T6, I recalled my neighbor Chuck Peterson. I met Chuck when I was 12 years old as his paperboy, and from then until his death a few years ago, Chuck always had a Volvo parked in his driveway. A consummate Volvo guy, I’d have loved to get his opinion on the swoopy, so-called ‘naughty’ S60.
With barely a hard edge to be found, it’s almost impossible to believe that the S60 can trace its ancestry back to the beloved, and unapologetically boxy 240. The first generation S60 represented a major departure for Volvo’s mainstream sedan, but here’s the problem. That car debuted as a 2001 model, and for a staggering decade that car soldiered on, largely unchanged. In the car business, that’s normally two generations of cars. And with little development during the span of ten years, you risk two things-the media have nothing to report on or review to keep you in the headlines, and worse, car buyers simply lose interest altogether. When you compete in a class occupied by the BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-Class,whose makers spare no expense to outdo each other, you will be eaten alive. So, the question is, has Volvo delivered a viable contender in this white-hot premium sport sedan market? Read on…
The new S60 is an evolution of the first generation car, and it goes even further for the coupe-like appearance. As swoopy as the S60 is, there is still no mistaking it for anything but a Volvo. And I applaud Volvo for having faith in their own design team to create a look unique to themselves. Does this car compete against the German stalwarts? Absolutely. But the S60’s exterior design is Scandinavian to the core, and is proud of it. Our test car was painted in Vibrant Copper Metallic, a striking, but controversial color. During my week with the S60, I could not find a soul who had anything positive to say about the color of our test car. What plays well on the auto show stand doesn’t always work in the real world, even here in New England where Volvo’s are adored.
Inside, the S60 offers a superbly isolated, quiet, comfortable cabin. The quality of materials are excellent-everything you touch feels high quality. The seats are supremely comfortable, and I’m tempted to say the most comfortable in this class. You actually feel better after just sitting on the high quality leather seats as soon as you get in the car. Yes-they are that good. The driver is faced with a gauge cluster so clear and simple, it borders on shocking given the amount of info the competition tries to cram into the same space. Again, Scandinavian simplicity is the theme here. My only complaint is that the navigation and audio controls felt years behind the better systems available today. Consistent with the controversial copper exterior, our test car’s interior was Beechwood Brown, or, what I call, orange. Not my personal choice, and the interior color failed to win anyone over during my week with the S60.
Our Volvo S60 T6 is motivated by a turbocharged 3.0L inline six rated at 300hp, paired to a six-speed automatic, and equipped with all-wheel drive. Volvo claims a 0-60mph time of 5.8 seconds, which is fairly quick for an all-wheel drive car in this class. In the late 1980’s, Volvo advertised that their 740 Turbo wagon was as quick to 60mph as a Porsche 944. To put the performance of the new S60 into perspective, this car is only 3/10th’s of a second slower to 60mph than a 2011 Porsche Boxster. Quick indeed. But in reality, no one who buys an S60 will be drag racing Boxsters. What the Volvo offers is good acceleration off the line, and more than adequate passing power. The standard six-speed automatic was smooth and seamless in operation. No manual tranny is available. For 2012, Volvo is adding a turbocharged 2.5L inline-five cylinder S60 rated at 250hp to slot under our T6 test car. No one will rave about the 18/26mpg city/highway fuel economy, but such is life with an all-wheel drive luxury sedan.
The Volvo S60 T6 AWD starts with an MSRP of $37,700USD. Our test car had every conceivable option package on it. The Premium package adds a power moonroof, power passenger seat and xenon headlights. The Technology package, which best showcases Volvo’s reputation for safety innovation, adds adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, driver alert control, lane departure warning, and pedestrian detection with full auto brake. Throw in heated seats, surround sound audio, navigation and rear view camera, the tab rings up at $46,200, including delivery charges.
In sum, the Volvo S60 is a fine car with no serious flaws. No, it may not be the driver’s car that the BMW 3-series is, but face it, not every buyer looking for a premium luxury car wants that. What the S60 offers is superb comfort, innovative safety features, and good performance with the added confidence of all-wheel drive. A definite must-see if you are shopping for a premium sport sedan. As for my friend Chuck, a Volvo diehard, I don’t doubt he would approve.