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  • 2013 Volvo S60 R-Design AWD

    Posted on March 12th, 2013 ninarussin

    Sport sedan features its most powerful engine to date

    By Nina Russin

    Volvo S60

    For years, the name, Volvo conjured up images of safe, if somewhat uninspired-looking automobiles. No more. The S60 R-Design sport sedan is a hot rod in the best Swedish tradition.

    The test car exterior is ‘Rebel Blue.’ The name says it all. When I pull up to the coffee shop, conversation stops, and all eyes point in my direction.

    The biggest news, however, is under the hood. A turbocharged six-cylinder engine gives the S60 325 horsepower and 354 foot-pounds of torque. From its snarky blacked out grille to the three-inch dual exhaust tips in back, the Volvo S60 R-Design is a mean machine. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 5.8 seconds.

    Base price for the test car is $43,900. A climate package adds heated front seats, an air filtration system and heated washer nozzles ($700). Adding in the destination charge, final MSRP is $45,495.

    Rain in the desert

    Volvo S60

    Smooth roads and perpetual sunshine make Phoenix an ideal place to test cars for performance. However, the lack of precipitation can make it a challenge to evaluate traction. Fortunately, a late winter storm rolled through town this week, giving me a change to put Volvo’s all-wheel drive system through its paces. The sedan still cornered as if on rails.

    The new engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, is a sweet piece of work. It took me a few minutes to get used to the throttle’s quick tip-off. But unlike many engines that have the same feature, the Volvo block’s power curve doesn’t drop off. There is a smooth, linear build-up all the way to wide-open throttle.

    The engine has a surprisingly low compression ratio considering its power and the fact that it’s a turbo. As a result it runs just fine on unleaded regular gasoline, reducing overall ownership costs.

    A hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering system feels pleasantly heavy on the highway, with excellent on-center response. There is plenty of assist at low speeds for moving through traffic. The large 18-inch alloy wheels on the test car increase the car’s turning diameter over the base model to 39 feet. It’s possible to do a U-turn, but only on wider, suburban roads.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and multi-links in the back. The front springs on the R-Design model are shorter than other S60s, to allow the car to sit lower. They are also considerably stiffer. A strut brace under the hood links the two strut towers. I noticed no tendency for the chassis to dive during a sudden stop: quite a feat for a car with a transaxle.

    Along similar lines, the all-wheel drive system with torque vectoring does an excellent job of maintaining traction during aggressive maneuvers. When I took a decreasing radius turn at speed, there was no tendency towards understeer.

    Visibility to the front and sides of the car is quite good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in the adjacent lanes on the highway. Thick D pillars create some rather large blind spots in the back corners, but the side view mirrors do a good job of compensating.

    Engineers increased the front rotor size from 12.4 to 13.2 inches on the R-Design model to give it better stopping power.

    Safety a priority

    Volvo S60

    Despite its performance orientation, the S60 R-Design is one of the safest cars on the road. Volvo’s safety systems do more than protect the driver. Pedestrians are also a priority: as a runner, that makes me a huge fan of the brand.

    Volvo positions the engines in its vehicles so that there is a buffer space between the block and the grille. In a vehicle-pedestrian accident, the hood gives some to minimize the pedestrian’s injury.

    Crash boxes inside the bumpers mean that low-speed collisions don’t translate to big repair bills. I experienced this first hand when my husband’s C30 was rear-ended coming out of a parking lot. The bumper showed absolutely no damage.

    City safety will stop the car at speeds under 20 miles-per-hour if the system detects that the car in front is stopped. Pedestrian detection, included in an optional technology package, stops the car if it senses a pedestrian in its path.

    Driver-focused interior

    Volvo S60 Interior

    Inside, the S60 R-Design features special leather upholstery and a blue watch dial instrument cluster that is really eye-catching. Aluminum pedals are also part of the R-Design package.

    Standard keyless entry and start saves the driver for fumbling for the key fob before entering the car and firing the ignition. To unlock the car, the driver touches a small depression on the door handle. Touching the same spot locks the vehicle upon exiting. If the driver accidentally leaves the key fob in the vehicle, it will not lock from the outside.

    Three-position driver’s seat memory enables multiple family members to share the car. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel keeps smaller drivers a safe distance from the front airbag and allows a clear forward view.

    I found the driver’s seat quite comfortable for trips lasting over an hour. Adults should also feel quite comfortable in the second-row outboard positions. The car’s floor tunnel and center console location limit legroom in the second row-center position.

    A floating center stack is a design feature found throughout the Volvo lineup. In the S60, it is tilted slightly towards the driver, in keeping with the car’s performance focus. The stack brings comfort and convenience controls within easy reach of both the driver and front passenger, and creates a storage space for a purse or small pack.

    Interior lighting is both functional and attractive, including a U-shaped light over the front row and reading light over the second row. There is also ambient lighting in key places.

    The trunk is spacious enough for luggage, groceries, golf bags and small camping equipment. A pass-through enables owners to extend the cargo space for skis and snowboards.

    Standard safety

    The Volvo S60 R-Design comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, whiplash-resistant front seats, tire pressure monitoring, antilock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control. A driver information center helps owners keep track of scheduled maintenance.

    Volvo builds the S60 R-Design in its Ghent, Belgium assembly plant.

    Like: A stylish sport sedan with excellent performance and segment-leading standard safety.

    Dislikes: None

    Quick facts:

    Make: Volvo
    Model: S60 R-Design
    Year: 2013
    Base price: $43,900
    As tested: $45.495
    Horsepower: 325 Hp @ 5400 rpm
    Torque: 354 lbs.-ft. @ 3000 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: 18/25 mpg city/highway






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