Thursday, April 7, 2011

New offering from Sweden is a sweet treat

This review originally appeared in the March edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Something new arrived from Sweden, and no, it was not an upgraded meatball recipe.

It’s the new-for-2011 Volvo S60 T6 AWD luxury sedan. For a five-passenger luxury car loaded with standard features, this Volvo is fairly affordable at $37,700. Alas, a ton of extras boosted the bottom line on the tester to $46,200. So, yes, now we’re in the luxury price category.

Keeping in mind that a Volvo sedan typically scores low on the “sexy styling” list, the S60 actually looks pretty good – coupe-like sporty, signature Volvo front end and nicely sculpted at the back end. The “Vibrant Copper” paint job – think bright orange – also looked pretty nice. However, a derivative of that color mixed with dark brown in the interior was not so hot.

If you don’t like Vibrant Copper, Volvo offers 14 – yes, I said FOURTEEN – additional exterior color options.

As the S60 TV commercials suggest, performance is key to this car. And on that front, it’s definitely a winner.

The 3-liter turbocharged six with variable valve timing churns out 300 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque. Matched with the AWD system, this S60 can be ripped around at outrageous speed, and yet the car’s traction/stability systems make it nearly impossible to spin. And believe me, I tried. Road-hugging excellence was off the charts, especially on sharp downhill turns taken at high speed.

Even during aggressive maneuvers, interior comfort and quiet stood out. Good feelings were enhanced by a ridiculously long list of standard comfort/convenience features. Per usual for Volvo, safety features were likewise numerous and provided a feeling of home-in-bed security when the car was on the fly.

Some features, however, are better than others.

All S60s have a standard perk called City Safety. In a nutshell, the car automatically brakes if the driver fails to react in time to a slowing/stopped vehicle ahead. Likewise, City Safety reacts to any object stopped in the road dead-ahead. This was tried in rush hour traffic, and it’s a great way to avoid the sudden-stop fender bender. My insurance policy thanks you.

But then there’s Lane Departure Warning system that sends out jarring beeps if the system senses that you’re straying from your path between the roadway lines. The system beeps if you have not used a turn signal, assuming you’ve mentally checked out. Problem is, it also beeps on gently winding roads and forks in the road requiring only a slight turn of the steering wheel.

The sound of beeps during completely normal operation is incredibly annoying. At least Volvo gives you a center stack-mounted button to turn it off, which I did.

Otherwise, this is a Swedish sweet treat that likely will please the “I make pretty good money” suburban crowd. In a world of mundane car “freshenings” and not-so-new introductions, the S60 really is something new, with quality.

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