Friday, February 13, 2015

Swedish surprise: A Volvo with plentiful pop

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo reviews of the latest motor vehicle models also can be seen on The Sacramento Bee’s website at

This review originally appeared in the December 2014 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Say Volvo to most folks, and you’re likely to get that “you must be ready to retire” look, or your listener offers up some spoken words, like: “Well, I hear they’re really, really safe cars.”

Sure, be that way.  I don’t mind.  And yeah, Volvo cars really are super-safe driving machines, and folks enjoying their retirement years in style do tend to like them.

But scrap those stereotypes for a few minutes and take a ride with me in the 2015.5 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E sedan.  Mine was the front-drive version starting at $39,000.

Sedate is not this car’s signature.  In fact, I had a prolonged blast putting this Volvo through spirited runs on the flats, in the hills and on tight city streets.   The 302-horsepower, 2-liter power plant employs both a supercharger and a turbo to provide a heart-pounding rush when you nail the accelerator.

Talk about a Swedish surprise.  This is no country club loafer.  It’s a genuine performer, definitely not your standard Volvo fare.

So, you might think that this muscular engine would offer lousy fuel mileage.  You’d be wrong.  It came in at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.  Nice.

Fuel mileage is undoubtedly helped by the standard start/stop technology that takes the sedan’s drivetrain heartbeat down to near zero when the car is stopped at a light.  This is not one of my favorite features as it always feels like the car has stalled out, and there’s an uncomfortable, balky sensation in those first couple of seconds when it gets going again.

Otherwise, steering was instantly responsive, and the paddle shifters made for a good time on twisty roads when traffic was light.

An eight-speed gearbox is standard, and a rigid suspension made the car feel solid and secure even on corners taken at grip-challenging speeds.

Volvo apparently wasn’t satisfied with reworking the S60 for the 2015 model year, so the automaker threw more at it for the semi-mythical 2015.5 model.  The mid-model-year touches include sound system and convenience feature upgrades.  Works for me.  I don’t go around telling folks that my car is a half-year ahead of theirs anyway.

The tester was pretty seriously dressed up.  A $3,750 Platinum package of extras included a Harmon Kardon premium sound system, power retractable exterior mirrors, adaptive cruise control and rear park-assist camera.  Then there was another 900 bucks for 19-inch diamond-cut wheels.  Throw in another $900 for a blind spot-warning system.  By the time all the extras were added up, the bottom line was $46,525.  Well, I never said it was cheap.

But hey, it looks pretty good, in a somewhat understated, sporty way.  You’re not going to mistake it for a Mercedes, although the tester might have given some M-B products a good run in the quarter-mile.

Overall, this is a “B-plus” car offering hours of comfort and driving enjoyment for those who can afford the bottom line.  Consider the car’s robust performance a four-star bonus.

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