Comparison and analogy are effective methods to differentiate one thing from another. In regards to Volvo’s S60, those tools are ineffective. There’s simply nothing else like it.
That it’s fast is beyond question. The crew at Polestar (Volvo’s hot rod house) was tapped to ensure its six-cylinder engine could be all it could be. Augmented with a high-pressure turbocharger, the all-aluminum engine produces some 325 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm. However, it’s the style in which this power is delivered that is so remarkable. The S60 leaps from the line with feral intensity. Perhaps “pounce” is a more accurate description. It takes 5.4 seconds to launch the S60R to 60 mph. While most cars tend to squat under hard acceleration, the S60 feels as though all four wheels have equal say. The entire chassis hunkers down the same way a lion does just before it tears the head from an adorable baby antelope. I love that stuff.
Thanks to a beautifully tuned suspension and an AWD system augmented with Volvo’s “Instant Traction” technology, the S60R is hands down the sportiest Volvo ever. Stiffer suspension bushings reduce the feeling of isolation from the road. Coupled with 15 percent stiffer springs, a front strut-tower brace and a 0.6-inch lower ride height contribute to taut body control and quick reflexes. Unlike with the Four-C adjustable chassis system available on T6-powered S60s, the R-Design driver doesn’t get to make on-the-fly adjustments to the ride and handling.
The S60R relies on a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission to harness its power. The system works great during aggressive driving and the sport mode crisply defines gear transitions, especially with the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. It’s during ordinary driving that this transmission becomes less fun—sometimes a bit irritating, in fact. It’s simply not fast nor smart enough to kick down or up without a serious prod. A few times I found myself virtually rocket-launching the car to engage a desired gear.
While previous Volvo cabins tended to be, well, rather Swedish, the S60R appears more elegant and engaging. Our car was equipped with Volvo’s Sensus multimedia package ($2,700) and includes a 7-inch LCD screen. All the functions can be controlled with controls built into the steering wheel or via touch buttons located just below the screen. It also includes a high-performance, eight-speaker sound system that’s capable of blowing the clothes off your passengers.
At speed, the S60R feels incredibly confident, the kind of solidity that inspires mischief. The faster it goes, the more fun it becomes. In fact, a member of the California Highway Patrol took the trouble to discuss just how fun. Ah well, my first ticket in five years. It was worth it. Even the officer mentioned how difficult it must be not to speed in such a vehicle.
The S60R wears R-Design aerodynamics and snarky 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/40 rubber. In Volvo’s rather button-down family, the S60 T6 AWD R SR (its official model description) stands out like a wild cousin. The difference between a “stock” S60 and the S60R is pronounced. While one appears dressed for work, the other appears prepped for Laguna Seca. I suppose building hot rods is what the Swedes do during their long, cold winters.
Ten years ago, the idea of a sporty Volvo wouldn’t have held much sand. The new crew in Volvo’s R&D center has been working hard to change that. These guys are genuine motorheads and their passion has spread to Volvo’s product line.
The S60R competes with the likes of the Audi A4 and BMW 335i. And while the two German marques are fine cars, there’s a certain quality to the S60R that makes it special.
Before pulling the trigger on your next Eurocar purchase, try the S60R. The Swedes built it to please. – Les Bidrawn
2012 Volvo S60R T6
Transverse front engine, all-wheel-drive
3.0-liter I6, dohc, 24-valve, turbocharged
Peak Power: 325 hp @ 5400 rpm
Peak Torque: 354 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
0-62 mph: 5.4 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph Fuel Economy: 18 city, 26 hwy
Price as tested: $46,875
From The Hip
Great engine, singular appearance, fun factor
Lazy transmission, turning radius, multimedia interface