RSS icon Home icon
  • 2017 Volvo S90

    Luxury sedan is the future of automotive performance

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volvo S90

    2017 Volvo S90

    Although the Volvo S90 luxury sedan is not an inexpensive car, its performance and leading-edge safety technology make it a tremendous value. Imagine an all-wheel drive sedan that averages 31 miles-per-gallon on the highway, thanks to its supercharged and turbocharged two-liter direct injection engine: a block that also puts out 316-horsepower and 295 pound-feet of peak torque. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is under six seconds: a lot of wow for an engine block the size of two milk jugs.

    An eight-speed automatic transmission provides large overdrive gears to extend fuel economy on the highway, with low gears tuned for optimum power off the line.

    The sedan comes standard with City Safety, the original autonomous braking technology since copied by many competitors. Unlike those competitors, the Volvo system recognizes cyclists and small animals in addition to other vehicles and pedestrians. That’s important, since each requires separate software.

    Base MSRP is $52,950 excluding delivery. Options include a vision package adding a 360-degree view camera and blind spot monitoring, climate package including heated washer nozzles, heads-up display, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel, and a convenience package with power trunk lid, front park assist and pilot park assist. Final MSRP is $66,105. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E

    Game changing sport sedan
    By Nina Russin

    Volvo S60

    Volvo S60

    Volvo has thrown the old playbook out the window and rewritten the rules for the new S60 sport sedan, with engine technology that is truly revolutionary. Traditional wisdom dictated that four-cylinder engines stretched fuel economy but sacrificed power. A supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the Volvo S60 T6 develops 302 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque while averaging 35 miles-per-gallon on the highway according to the EPA.

    A new eight-speed automatic transmission provides large overdrive gears to further improve gas mileage during low-load situations. The engine automatically shuts off at idle to save gas in stop-and-go traffic. The ignition turns back on as soon as the driver takes his foot off the brake pedal.

    Volvo is known for its leadership position in active safety technology, with features such as City Safety with pedestrian detection standard equipment on the mid-sized sedan. Optional blind spot detection adds cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and front and rear parking aids.

    A new Sensus Connect infotainment feature works via a smartphone app downloadable to either Android or iPhones. It includes emergency notification of police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a collision, enables car owners to schedule service visits using the app, adds apps such as Pandora, Stitcher and Yelp via cloud-based technology, creates a WiFi hotspot and adds an on-screen owner’s manual. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E

    Safety, performance and humanism

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Volvo XC60

    2015 Volvo XC60

    For years the Volvo brand has been synonymous with safety but not necessarily performance. Despite its transition to sexier, more compelling exterior styling and more powerful engines, Volvo has tended to take a back seat to German brands among fans of European performance.

    There is certainly a difference in core philosophy between the two cultures. In Germany, the machine reigns supreme. In Sweden, the approach is humanistic. It’s almost like comparing a jet fighter to a marathon runner. No matter how elite the runner, the jet fighter is always going to be faster.

    But there are times when it’s best to bet on the human element. Passenger cars don’t live on racetracks. They reside in cities, with noise, pollution and maddening traffic. They share the roads with distracted drivers and others who are just flat out rude.

    And in the United States, people live in their cars, just as they live in houses. They spend hours commuting, and during those hours, a car is also an office and a sanctuary. It needs to be ergonomic, attractive and safe. Volvo, with its humanistic approach to design and engineering does this better than anyone else in the business. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Volvo Drive-E Model Line-Up

    New engine family enhances performance on XC60, S60 and V60

    By Nina Russin

    Volvo S60, V60 and XC60

    Volvo S60, V60 and XC60

    The media’s initial reaction to Volvo’s announcement two years ago, that the automaker planned to abandon its current engine lineup for an all four-cylinder family was skeptical. Volvo produces some fairly large, heavy cars: the XC60, XC90 and V70 among them. How could small displacement engines provide adequate power’

    Volvo’s answer was to boost engine efficiency with blowers, adding electrification down the road. This week, I had the opportunity to drive the first generation of cars in the Swedish automaker’s new four-cylinder lineup: the 2015 S60 sport sedan, V60 sport wagon and XC60 crossover.

    There are two new engines: the T5 that produces 240 horsepower and the T6 that delivers 302. That might seem like a lot for four-bangers, but it pales in comparison to the automaker’s Formula 1.5-litre turbocharged block that packed 900 horses under the hood.

    Both gas engines are turbocharged, but the T6 adds a supercharger for additional power on the low end. Volvo has also developed a common rail diesel engine, but there are no plans at this point to bring that powerplant to the states.

    A new eight-speed automatic transmission extends fuel economy on the new gasoline engines. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Volvo S60 R-Design AWD

    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. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Volvo C30 R-Design

    Polestar tuning gives three-door hatch a performance boost

    By Nina Russin

    Photo courtesy of Volvo Cars Corp.

    When I drove the first Volvo C30 in 2008, I liked the car so much that my husband and I decided to buy one. My husband, who is the primary driver, has used the C30 to commute across paved and dirt roads on the Gila River Indian reservation, through Phoenix summer monsoons, extreme heat and crazy dust storms.

    The turbocharged five-cylinder engine is as fuel efficient as it is powerful, with excellent performance at altitude. The six-speed manual gearbox shifts crisply, with a light clutch pedal which is easy to engage in stop-and-go traffic.

    Although the C30 is too small to hold a bicycle, the hatchback can easily accommodate some moderate-sized camping gear, luggage, skis and snowboards. I sat in the second row seats for short trips around town and found them quite comfortable. Access and egress is surprisingly good for a three-door car. After four years, we have yet to have any mechanical or electrical problems, and a modest amount of routine maintenance.

    This year, Volvo sweetens the C30 with two offerings: an R-Design package and Polestar performance tuning. The R-Design option dresses the exterior up with special alloy wheels, a unique grille, 3-1/2 inch dual exhaust tips, and a rear spoiler.

    Inside R-Design cars get special blue-faced gauges, two-tone leather upholstery, and a leather and aluminum steering wheel. The package also includes some chassis tuning, stiffening up the suspension and modifying steering response for aggressive driving.

    Volvo’s racing partner, Polestar, offers a re-flash for the onboard computer which adds 23 horsepower and 37 foot-pounds of torque to the five-cylinder engine. The tuning enhancement increases turbo boost and modifies the throttle map beginning at 3000 rpm. It also affects wide-open throttle, taking .3 seconds off the car’s zero-to-sixty time. The re-flash doesn’t affect emissions, nor does it decrease the C30’s 24 mile-per-gallon fuel economy.

    Base price for the 2012 test car with R-Design is $27,450, excluding the $875 delivery charge. A platinum package adds active bi-xenon headlamps, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and headlamps washers, electronic climate control, power moonroof, daytime running lamps, an audio upgrade with Sirius satellite radio and a cargo cover ($4400).  An interior air quality monitoring system costs $1700, which the Polestar performance enhancement adds $1295, bringing the price as tested to $35,720. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design and XC70 with Polestar

    Motorsports affiliate gives Volvo’s crossover vehicles a performance boost

    By Nina Russin

    Volvo XC60

    Volvo’s active lifestyle focus and commitment to humanistic design are two reasons I feel a special connection to the automaker. My husband and I have owned three Volvos, including a C30 currently parked in our garage.

    Before its demise, Saab had the reputation of attracting niche performance enthusiasts, whereas Volvo was the volume leader, focusing on safety in lieu of sportiness.

    Volvo sought to shed its sedate image, beginning in 1995 with a series of R cars. The R cars looked like standard issue Volvos, but they were a lot faster. One encounter with the 850 T-5R was all most drivers needed to rethink their misconceptions about Volvo performance.

    Unfortunately, the R cars remained a well-kept secret, despite their availability in the United States until 2007. If Volvo hoped to conquest performance enthusiasts from German and Japanese automakers, it was going to have to get more aggressive.

    So it did. Beginning in 2009, Volvo began working with its motorsports partner, Polestar, on factory performance packages for its production models. Those products launched in North America last year. Today, owners of C70, XC70, XC60 and C30 models can add power with Polestar performance tuning.

    Polestar recalibrates the car’s on-board computer for quicker throttle response and more turbo boost. The re-flash also modifies spark timing and fuel delivery, so the vehicle maintains its original fuel economy and remains emissions legal.

    Buyers who want to push the performance envelope a step further can purchase R-Design models, which add unique styling, wheels, suspension tuning and brake components. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Volvo S60 AWD Sedan

    Forward-thinking sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Volvo S60

    One could argue that the 2011 S60 is Volvo’s most significant car to date. The mid-sized sport sedan is the first Volvo to feature pedestrian detection: the newest enhancement to the city safety system that debuted on the XC60. The radar and camera-based technology detects pedestrians in the vehicle’s path and automatically deploys the brakes, stopping the car completely at speeds below 20 miles-per-hour.

    Volvo’s newest flagship competes against some formidable German and Asian marques in the largest luxury passenger car segment. Going head-to-head against the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Acura TL and Infiniti G37, there is no margin for error.

    In addition, the S60 roll-out in the fall of 2010 coincided with Zhejiang Geely’s corporate takeover. Volvo’s transition from being part of Ford to one of China’s largest automotive manufacturers raised more than a few eyebrows.

    Personally, I think it’s a match made in heaven. If one looks beyond centuries of politics, traditional Chinese culture espoused a remarkably similar outlook on man and his role in the universe to modern Sweden.

    The Chinese philosopher Confucius believed that men who followed the example of nature in their personal relationships would lead full and rewarding lives.

    Swedish architecture is based on the idea that nature is the foundation of all good design. What applies to architecture also holds true for automobiles and furniture. Cars become the interface between man and his environment. Their role is somewhat Confucian. What could be more Chinese than that? Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Volvo S60

    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. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Pedestrian Detection Debuts in Volvo S60

    New sedan automatically brakes for pedestrians

    2011 Volvo S60

    2011 Volvo S60

    The 2011 Volvo S60 rolls out this fall, with a ground-breaking safety system that will make the streets safer for pedestrians. Pedestrian detection is the newest component of Volvo’s city safety technology. City safety, which debuted in the XC60, automatically applies the brakes if the driver fails to see a vehicle stopped ahead.

    Pedestrian detection takes city safety one step further by applying the brakes if a pedestrian moves in front of the car. The system uses a radar sensor in the car’s grille and a camera in front of the rearview mirror to monitor for pedestrians.

    The radar device detects objects within a sixty degree range: about five degrees to either side of the headlamps. If the on-board camera identifies the object in front of the car as a pedestrian and the driver fails to slow down, the vehicle automatically applies full braking.

    At this point, the detection system cannot recognize bicyclists or small animals. Volvo engineers are currently working on expanding system capabilities to protect these groups as well.

    Pedestrian detection can bring cars travelling under twenty miles-per-hour to a complete halt, and slow vehicles moving at higher rates of speed by as much as 22 miles-per-hour.

    Volvo’s research indicates that eleven percent of all traffic fatalities in the US are pedestrians. Pedestrian detection has the ability to prevent or greatly mitigate pedestrian injuries caused by inattentive drivers.