Safety with style

Posted on 19 Sep 2014 at 5:50am

Volvo’s reputation for craft obscures its bona fides as an appealing ride

S60-rear

SUPERCHARGED | Fuel economy and a powerful 240 hp engine provide a masterful balance in the T6. (Photo courtesy Volvo)

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

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’15 S60 T6
Volvo. 320 hp., 2.0 liter Turbo-4. 24/35-MPG city/hwy. As-tested price: $47,925.

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Back in January, I drove the updated Volvo S60 during a preview in Las Vegas. Whether cruising The Strip or slapping down highways and mountain roads out in the desert, the changes were significant. I couldn’t wait to get one home and slip it on. True to Volvo reputation and tradition, the S60 is safer than a condom — and a lot more stylish.

In the desert, there was time to stomp the throttle and run up to unmentionable speeds … with the speed warning indicator blinking the entire way. Let’s just say the T6 is very happy climbing through triple digits, unbothered by hot mountain air, and has the brakes and chassis to live there.

Volvo’s new “Drive-E” powertrains demonstrate money put to good use. Two new supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines deliver 240 horsepower and 25/37-MPG city/hwy. (T5) or 302 horsepower and 24/35-MPG city/hwy. (T6). We tested the T6. Superchargers provide low-end torque for thumpin’ acceleration; turbos enhance gusto during high-speed traveling. The combination of fuel economy and power is impressive. Both engines were engineered for application in future hybrids.

I’ve driven many Volvos over the years (including the S60) and they always feel solid and safe, but not particularly athletic. At times, on rough roads, they even felt clunky. Driving this S60, one immediately notices a lighter, more precise feel in the suspension and steering, helped by torque-vectoring that uses the braking system to cut a tight cornering line. Aggressive curves and rising crests are much more enjoyable.

Outside, it’s an incredibly sleek car with a roof that ends almost at the end of the car, but design cues like a strong horizontal grille with logo, strong shoulders, and taillamps that wrap into the decklid tell you it’s a Volvo. Subtle use of chrome adds class while cool alloy and dark gray 19-in. Bor Diamond Cut alloys look dashing. No gaudy spoiler is needed.

I’d buy an S60 just for the plush and supportive seats. By Swedish tradition, the cabin is comfortable and well-made, but not ostentatious. The thin control stack with storage behind, striated metal-look paneling, simple chrome, and new LCD instrument cluster with digital speedometer feel contemporary. A power moonroof, premium audio, Bluetooth calling/streaming audio and rain-sensing wipers dress the model.

Being a Volvo, you can bet the S60 comes packed with the latest safety gear. Besides a full array of airbags and body structure that aced the super-tough small-offset crash test, our loaded model has advanced electronics to avoid using them. Lane departure warning, front and rear park assist (beepers with dash display), rear camera and cross traffic alert systems are as expected. Safe sex is up to you.

Volvo takes it further with a pedestrian and cyclist detection system that can completely stop the car if you don’t. Adaptive cruise control keeps a safe distance on the highway and can also bring the car to a halt. In case you aren’t paying attention, red lights appear as ever-brightening glowing embers at the base of the windshield, politely saying, “Uh, pay attention, darlin’.”

A new Volvo design language begins arriving with the XC90 this fall, but the impressive Drive-E powertrains and an unassailable reputation for safety will carry on. Base S60 T5 sedans start at $33,300, but our safety-enhanced T6 with the up-rated engine came to $47,925 — fully competitive with cars like the Mercedes C300, Cadillac ATS 3.6, Buick Regal Turbo and Audi A4.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 19, 2014.

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