By Jim MacPherson
Redesigned and improved for 2011, the Volvo S60 sedan returns this year with two new models added to the lineup, the base T5 and the high performance T6 R-Design.
The T5, with its 250-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, now serves as the entry-level Volvo sedan, following the demise of the compact S40 last year.
The T6 R-Design S60 features a 325-horsepower turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, a sport suspension and all-wheel drive. Sandwiched between these two models is the T6, which is carried over from 2011. This version is powered by a 3.0 liter six-cylinder engine that produces 300-horsepower. All-wheel drive is included as well.
All S60s have a six-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode and manual shift capabilities.
Volvo gave us the R-Design for this review. It was quite a car.
“The T6 R-Design is the best value in the premium performance vehicle segment, says Jeff Swierbutowicz, a sales representative at Gengras Volvo in East Hartford.
Its value is enhanced by the Volvo Safe and Secure package: a five-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with maintenance that includes coverage for such wear-and-tear items as wiper blades, brake pads and rotors. “It’s the least expensive premium European car to own,” Swierbutowicz says.
The inline-six in the R-Design is very smooth and exceptionally powerful. Acceleration from a stop is impressive and the engine becomes increasingly eager as speeds climb.
Mid-range acceleration for passing or merging is excellent; the car’s responses might even be considered addictive by some power-hungry drivers. Our zero-to-60 sprint took just 5.3 seconds, with the all-wheel drive system doing the power-to-pavement transfer with no drama whatsoever. Throttle response is excellent. Fuel economy was 21.7 miles per gallon after a week of enthusiastic use.
This newest S60 R-Design also handles very well. It responds nicely to steering inputs, is far more agile than its size suggests and proves to be nicely balanced in turns, where it displays exceptional grip. All-wheel drive imparts an added level of composure to all maneuvers, even on dry pavement.
The steering, which can be set at one of three levels of power assist, is precise and informative. I settled on the adjustment that required the most effort since this also seemed to provide the best feedback. The S60 earns a very high “fun-to-drive” rating.
The ride in the R-Design, with its sports suspension, is decidedly firm but it proves neither unyielding nor uncomfortable over big bumps and potholes Noise levels were relatively low, but not quite as good as those in other, comparably priced, luxury cars.
The front seats are comfortable for the larger set, even with the sunroof. This picture deteriorates for back seat adult passengers. Here, leg room is limited when the front seats are moved back on their tracks. Owners of Volvos from the ‘80s and ‘90s may be disappointed with this limited space.
However, this seems to be the price for the sleeker and far more aerodynamic body shapes that have graced recent Volvos. The trunk is competitive in size, but once more styling crimps practicality. The small trunk lid complicates loading larger objects.
Driving the S60 T6 R-Design is simply too much fun to worry about these minor shortcomings. If you think it’s better to hear an occasional gripe from an adult in the back seat than to drive an uninspired sedan, this Volvo is for you.
Starts at: $31,300
Turbocharged Engines: I-5 I-6 I-6 R-Design
HP 250 300 325
Torque 266 325 354
EPA 20/30 18/26 18/26
Next Week: Audi Q5