2011 Volvo S60 T6 AWD Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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Volvo has long been recognized for manufacturing vehicles noted for their innovative safety technology, and their latest iteration S60 sedan continues and expands that tradition. First introduced in 2000, the S60 has become the best selling vehicle in the Volvo lineup. According to internal spokespersons, Volvos will continue to be manufactured in Sweden as a Swedish vehicle and the company will operate autonomously, despite its recent purchase by Chinese car manufacturer Geely. Volvo will be overseen and managed by Geely's Zhejiang Holding Company.

Visually, the 2011 S60 might best be described as a Volvo with an attitude. Its all-new design form is sleek, sexy and revolutionary. Gone forever is the clumsy, three box design that Uncle Olaf was used to. The new S60 is the sportiest Volvo produced to date, creating an ever present sense of motion, whether parked or moving. It is in reality, a four-door sedan, but displays the look of a four-door coupe. The roofline is slender and dramatically curved for a coupe-like effect, emphasized by its blacked out "B" pillars. The pronounced shoulder line consists of a sharp contoured edge that creates a "double wave" stretching from the front to the rear. Up front, the dramatically shaped grille is flanked by V-shaped position lights sporting a more prominent Volvo logo. In profile, this latest S60 showcases a "flying wedge" overall form that rides low over the wheels and tires, capped by definitive wheel well arches. Overhangs are short, and add to the sports car feel produced by this Swedish beauty.

Inside, the new S60's cabin envelops one in luxurious surroundings, featuring an all-new infotainment system. A new standard Driver Control Interface manages information from the audio unit, navigation system (if so equipped) and other functions, displaying them on a seven-inch, high definition color monitor in the upper part of the center console. It allows the driver to explore the high-tech features of the car and personalize them to suit his or her needs. All functions may be operated by a thumb-activated rotator located on the right steering-wheel spoke or via buttons on the center control panel located below the screen. A standard high-performance multi-media system includes a CD/DVD player, HD Radio, AUX and USB inputs, MP3 capability, 160-watt amplifier and eight speakers. Also included is a Bluetooth hands-free phone interface with audio streaming and SIRIUS Satellite Radio with a complimentary six-month subscription.

An optional Multimedia Package nets the Volvo Premium Sound System with Dolby Pro-Logic II Surround Sound, 650-watt amplifier and 12 premium speakers. The package includes the Volvo navigation system with real time traffic, DVD map data and remote control, and a rear park assist camera.

Motive force for the all-new S60 comes from a standard 3.0-litre, twin-scroll turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine that sits sideways up front and delivers an impressive 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. Maximum torque is realized from only 2,100 rpm, which remains available throughout the rev range. Emphasizing the car's efficiency, this is the same torque output as the 4.4-litre V8 found in other Volvo models.

The potency of the engine is handled by a standard six-speed "Geartronic" automatic transmission that also allows the driver to select gears. Manual shifts are accomplished via the console-mounted lever, and alas, there are no paddle shifters, which would elevate the S60's prowess to an even sportier level. Another standard S60 feature is Volvo's electronically controlled All-Wheel Drive (AWD), which also includes Instant Traction Control, applicable to virtually any road condition.

Driving dynamics fall into three functionally designed categories: Standard is the Dynamic Chassis focusing on optimizing control and agility without diluting ride comfort. The Touring Chassis, available as a no-charge option is for those who place a greater emphasis on comfort. The major difference between the two lies in the dampers and the front and rear subframes. Both setups provide exceptional ride and handling qualities, while the Touring Chassis has been tuned for a smoother ride on poor road surfaces. Finally, Volvo's FOUR-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) active chassis is optionally available – specifically modified to improve control and comfort. The system employs sensors that continuously monitor the car's behavior, adjusting the dampers in fractions of a second to suit real time driving scenarios, allowing the driver to select from three different settings: Comfort, Sport and Advanced.

Dynamic Stability and Traction Control have been refined with a suite of electronic systems to help optimize handling and control. Advanced Stability Control uses a roll angle sensor to detect and react to oversteer at an earlier stage and understeer in situations such as slip build-up. It also improves handling in evasive maneuvers and gains a new Sport Mode setting to allow controlled rear wheel slip for performance driving.

Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring is another new technology that helps to improve handling by redistributing torque to the outer wheel to help "steer" the car around a turn. This feature operates on both front and rear wheels since the S60 is equipped with AWD.

Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake debuts as a world-first technology, which actively helps the driver to avoid accidents through Volvo's radar and camera based system that can detect pedestrians in front of the car, warn the driver if anyone walks out into its path, then automatically activate the S60's full braking power if the driver fails to respond in time. The system is able to avoid a collision at speeds up to 35 km/h. At higher speeds, the focus is on reducing the car's speed as much as possible prior to the impact. Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake is part of the S60's optional Technology Package that also includes Adaptive Cruise Control with new Queue Assist, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control, and Lane Departure Warning.

City Safety, another world-first technology that made its debut on the Volvo XC60, is a standard driver support system aimed at preventing or mitigating collisions with a vehicle ahead occurring at speeds of 30 km/h or less, utilizing a closing velocity sensor to help determine whether a collision is imminent. Depending upon the closing speed, City Safety either pre-charges the brakes or automatically brakes the S60 to help avoid a rear-end collision.

To avoid any journalistic conflicts during the vehicle's national press introduction, all cars were production models that were identical, riding on optional 18-inch, double-spoke "Sleipner" alloy wheels.

All wore an exterior finish of Vibrant Copper metallic with a two-tone interior done in Beechwood Brown and Off-Black, accented by satin finished aluminum trim pieces. The base price for the S60 T6 AWD was set at $45,450. Adding the Driver Support Package elevates the final tally to $49,950. For those consumers who have higher demands, there are several stand-alone options – among them, the popular Blind Spot Information System.

Traditionally, Volvos are thought of as being among the safest of cars on a global basis and not as a sporty performance vehicle. The S60 is on a mission to change that perception, placing it in a more competitive field.  

Acceleration is rapid, shifting is smooth, the ride quality is compliant, without being either too soft or too harsh, and handling attributes are definitely sporty in nature and response, delivering crisp and nimble reactions.

Bottom-line, the newest Volvo S60 T6 AWD is a superlative four-door sport coupe with an alluring Swedish shape.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Volvo, 2011, S60, $40,000 - $49,999, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: Volvo

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