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  • 2011 Volvo S60

    Posted on September 22nd, 2010 ninarussin

    Luxury sedan pampers the driver and protects pedestrians

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Volvo S60

    For runners and cyclists, driver distraction can be life-threatening. While luxury sedans pamper their passengers, none until now have protected people outside the car. The 2011 Volvo S60 automatically brakes for pedestrians, preventing low-speed injuries and significantly reducing trauma from high-speed events.

    Pedestrian detection is the next stage in obstacle detection following City Safety: a Volvo technology that debuted on the current XC60 crossover. The original system recognizes a stopped car ahead of the driver, applying the brakes if it detects a potential collision due to driver inattention.

    Advanced software in the S60 sedan recognizes pedestrians by monitoring arm and leg movements, turning heads, and reflections of bodily fluids such as the eyes. The camera monitors the front of the car, and 45 degrees to each side. If the S60 is moving at 22 miles-per-hour or less, the system prevents a collision. At higher speeds, it slows the sedan down to reduce the force of impact.

    Focus on dynamic handling

    2011 Volvo S60

    The 2011 S60 is Volvo’s sportiest luxury sedan, with a coupe-like exterior, 300-horsepower turbocharged engine and standard all-wheel drive.

    While Volvo hopes to lure new customers with its enhanced safety features, the automaker knows  performance is the deal-breaker in a segment dominated by German sport sedans. A 5.8-second zero-to-sixty time puts the S60 on the radar of car enthusiasts who might not have thought of Volvos as Autobahn material.

    The US-spec S60 rolls into dealerships this month, priced from $37,700. While the first S60 appealed to Volvo‘s core audience, the 2011 model is engineered to conquest. Designers gave the sedan a more aggressive grille, long hood and short rear decklid. Eighteen-inch wheels perched inside large wheel arches are all business.

    Inside, a driver-focused cockpit seats up to five passengers, with bolstered leather seats, new premium audio and technology options.

    The US model has the same suspension as the European car: a MacPherson setup in the front and independent multi-link in the rear. Customers wanting a more compliant ride can order a no-cost touring package in lieu of the standard dynamic. Driving enthusiasts can opt to add Volvo’s Four C active chassis control system.

    A faster steering gear, shorter, stiffer springs and bushings make the driving experience more exciting. Throttle response and steering are more aggressive in sport mode, which allows the driver to select gears manually.

    A “my car” feature enables the drive to adjust steering weight: either lighter or heavier than the medium default setting.

    Volvo contains ownership costs with an all-inclusive four-year/50,000 mile warranty that pays for scheduled maintenance, provides free roadside assistance as well as wear-and-tear coverage.

    Designed for a global market

    Volvo designed the 2011 S60 for a global market, with the United States, Europe and Asia each accounting for a third of sales. The sedan, now in its second iteration, competes in the luxury C/D segment.

    Its global focus reflects the automaker’s recent sale to Zhejiang Geely Group Company Ltd.: a holding company overseeing car, engine and transmission manufacturers in China. As part of the agreement, Stefan Jacoby, former CEO of Volkswagen North America succeeds Stephen Odell as Volvo’s president and CEO. Jacoby’s experience marketing European products to American drivers is key to the company’s revised strategy.

    While Volvo continues to design, engineer and manufacture vehicles at its facilities in Sweden and Belgium, the automaker is clearly excited about making inroads into China’s fast-growing automotive market. The new midsized S60 is a cornerstone, competing against products such as the Audi A4, Acura TL, BMW 3 Series and Infinity G37.

    Test drive in Oregon

    Volvo recently hosted a media event for North American journalists outside of Portland. We test drove the new S60 on rural roads and highways between the coast and Mount Hood. A combination of perfect late summer weather, challenging roads and spectacular scenery made of a great day of driving.

    The test car is equipped with most of the options Volvo is offers on the sedan. A climate package adds $800 to the base MSRP, including heated seats and windshield washers, and an interior air filtration system.

    A multimedia package ($2700) adds Dolby surround-sound, navigation and a rearview camera. Pedestrian detection is part of a technology package ($2100) that also includes adaptive cruise control, collision warning, driver alert and lane departure warning.

    The moonroof, power passenger seat and bi-xenon adaptive headlamps comprise the premium package ($1500). Keyless ignition and the personal car communicator- a theft detection feature- cost $550. Copper paint adds $550 to the $37,700 base price. The options, plus an $850 delivery charge bring the MSRP to $46,200.

    All the comforts of home

    Volvo S60 Interior

    While the S60 exterior points towards Volvo’s global future, the interior is true to the company’s roots as a humanistic brand. Designers used vegetable dyes on the leather upholstery, and eliminated chromium and other toxic materials inside the car.

    There is a sense of comfort inside the S60, despite its sporty focus. Interior designer, Jonathan Disley, explained that the difference is in the details: an architectural mantra.

    Bright trim, formerly made of aluminum is now composite: a material which doesn’t get hot or cold in temperature extremes. Knobs are designed to fit well in the hand. The human schematic in the center of Volvo’s signature floating center stack says it all.

    Bolstered seats keep driver and passengers in place on twisting roads, yet are as comfortable as living room furniture. Vents in the B pillars circulate air through the back of the cabin more effectively than in they were located behind the center console.

    Steering wheel controls use thumb scrolls to minimize distraction. The center stack is clean and uncluttered, with intuitive rotary knobs for basic temperature and audio functions.

    Soft overhead lamps illuminate the interior at night. The optional moonroof adds ambient light.

    Standard 12-volt power points, USB and auxiliary ports satisfy the needs of tech-savvy customers to stay connected. All passengers have ample access to cup and bottle holders. A locking glovebox and deep center console bin conceal items inside the car.

    The rear seats have a surprising amount of headroom, and enough legroom for average adults. Large wheel arches limit access and egress: a problem for larger adults.

    Sinuous performance

    Although Volvo marketing execs are pushing the S60’s “naughty” performance, the sedan is not a 911, nor is it meant to be. German sports cars have clinical strength; Swedish cars have soul.

    Would Usain Bolt enjoy his current popularity if he simply set speed records? I don’t think so. Every time the world’s fastest sprinter does his thunderbolt dance in front of an audience, the crowd goes crazy. Bolt’s soul makes him more than a running machine: it makes him human.

    The same applies to the S60. The sedan has the power and performance to surge through wide sweepers. Three hundred twenty-five foot-pounds of torque gives the sedan is low-end acceleration and superior hill climbing ability.

    On the other hand, there’s a gentle side of the car that makes it ideal as a commuter car in dense urban areas. The steering is quick, but not unforgiving. Braking is firm without being dicey.

    The dynamic suspension is remarkably compliant. The secret is in the damping. Engineers tuned the suspension in England on old Roman roads: the types of surfaces that rattle teeth loose. If a suspension can manage 3000 year-old cobblestones, a few errant potholes shouldn’t be a problem.

    Eighteen-inch wheels and tires are nicely matched to the chassis, providing a large, stable footprint with enough shock absorption for everyday use.

    Engineers did a good job of isolating passengers from road and engine noise. There is some wind noise around the A pillars. Since the test cars are early production, one hopes that this problem can be mitigated by a few manufacturing adjustments.

    A clearer view of the outside world

    Volvo Pedestrian Detection

    Luxury cars isolate their passengers from the outside world with quiet, pollution-free interiors. But the driver must be keenly aware of his surroundings. Blind spots around the vehicle perimeter are accidents in the making.

    Volvo’s accident avoidance technology is based on this concept. Blind spot monitoring warns the driver when cars pass the car’s rear corners. Rear obstacle detection systems sound an audible charm if the sedan approaches an object the driver can’t see. Rearview cameras make parking easier by providing a wide angle view to the back.

    A new front blind view monitor shows a 180-degree image, detecting pedestrians about to cross the car’s path, and obstacles near the front wheels.

    Volvo’s pedestrian detection system uses a radar mounted in the grille and camera in the rearview mirror to monitor the view ahead. As with eyesight, the system’s effectiveness depends on light: it cannot “see” pedestrians moving in front of the car if the area is dark.

    Available bi-xenon headlamps project a beam that’s longer and closer to daylight than halogen. The headlamps swivel according to steering inputs to light corners  in the road.

    An optional driver alert system sounds an audible warning if it senses that he is dozing off, while lane departure warning prevents the driver from inadvertently drifting over the line.

    Adaptive cruise control maintains a preset distance from the vehicle in front, enabling the driver to garner fuel economy benefits in urban traffic.

    The S60 also features a full roster of active safety systems including antilock braking, traction and stability control. The stability control has a new roll angle sensor to mitigate understeer before the driver loses control of the car.

    Plans for hybrid and diesel models

    The initial roll-out in the United states is limited to the inline six-cylinder gasoline engine. However Volvo is talking about bringing a clean diesel model stateside as well as a gasoline/electric hybrid.

    Volvo builds the S60 alongside the XC60 in its Ghent, Belgium assembly plant.

    Likes: An attractive, ergonomic sport sedan with segment-leading safety.

    Dislikes: Difficult access and egress to rear seats due to large wheel arches. Wind noise around the A pillars.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Volvo
    Model: S60
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $37,700
    As tested: $46,200
    Horsepower: 300 Hp @ 5600 rpm
    Torque: 325 lbs.-ft. @ 2100 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 5.8 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 18/26 mpg city/highway

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