PORTLAND, Oregon—Volvo has come up with its long-awaited new S60 model to make a far greater splash in the entry sporty premium mid-size market. The automaker calls this 2011 model “the best driving Volvo in history.”
The 2011 S60 is a fast, stylish, sporty sedan with a road-hugging look and many advanced safety features, I found while testing it on challenging roads at a media preview near Portland, Ore.
Past owners of boxy old Volvos might never have expected such a model from this Swedish automaker. The five-passenger S60 somehow still retains the Volvo look despite its stylish new design, which the automaker says “has been sculpted to move the brand in a bold new direction.”
The $37,700 S60 is one of the sportiest Volvos ever, with a coupe-like profile despite its four doors. It has nearly a 2.4-inch increase in wheelbase over the previous-generation, dated S60 for a much-welcome roomier back seat.
Rear passengers have a 2.1-inch increase in leg room and more knee space. However, those with large thick shoes will find they may not be able to put their toes behind the bottom of the front seats.
The new interior looks and feels inviting—a picture of modern Scandinavian design, thanks partly to upscale materials and comfortable front/rear sport seats. Controls are conveniently placed, but I had a hard time reading the speedometer and tachometer in bright sunlight. Controls for the dual-zone electronic climate control are large, but sound system controls are small.
The S60 is well-equipped with convenience and luxury items, although options include a $2,700 package with upscale sound and navigation systems, a $1,500 Premium Package with a power glass sunroof and power front passenger seat and an $800 Climate Package with items including heated front seats.
The 2011 S60 has an intercooled, turbocharged 3-liter inline six-cylinder engine with 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. It shoots power through a responsive six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature (via the shift lever) and an advanced standard Haldex all-wheel drive system.
Maximum torque is available from only 2,100 rpm, so acceleration is strong from low speeds. The 0-60 mph time is just 5.8 seconds, and top speed is 130 mph.
The S60 weighs a hefty 3,901 pounds,and that holds estimated city fuel economy to 18 mpg, although the highway number is a respectable 26 mpg. Only regular-grade fuel is needed.
Volvo long has been known for advanced safety, and the S60 offers the world’s first “Pedestrian Detection With Full Auto Brake” system that works at speeds up to 22 mph.
Should a pedestrian step in front of the S60 and a driver fails to respond in time, the radar-and-camera-based Pedestrian Detection system stops the S60 without hitting the person. The system stopped the S60 just in time, without my foot near the brake, after I accelerated to about 20 mph toward a stationary object resembling a child during a Volvo demonstration at the preview.
The Pedestrian Detection system comes in a $2,100 Technology Package that contains key driver-assistance technologies, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with automatic braking–besides Distance Alert and Driver Alert Control systems and a Lane Departure Warning.
It almost seems as if the S60 just falls short of driving itself.
Available are front/rear parking sensors and a Park Assist rear camera. Also offered is a camera in the front grille with a 180-degree vision field that can “see around the corner” to help a driver park with greater safety.
The speed-sensitive steering has driver-selectable settings and is plenty quick. A sport suspension provides sharp handling with the standard Dynamic chassis, which provides a fairly supple ride. The anti-lock brakes are strong and controlled by an easily modulated pedal.
The taut Dynamic chassis is among three offered: Dynamic, Touring and Four-C Active. The Dynamic chassis—on the preview test cars—has tighter steering, stiffer springs and bushings and more damping. Helping keep the car on the road are standard dynamic stability and traction control systems.
The Dynamic chassis works with 18-inch alloy wheels and summer tires that are noisy on some pavement. However, 17-inch alloy wheels with quieter tires are offered at no charge.
The Touring is a no-cost option and delivers a smoother ride on poor roads. The $750 Four-C active chassis, which has a confusing name, lets a driver select three individual chassis settings to alter the car’s ride: Comfort, Sport or Advanced. (The ”Four-C” stands for “continuously controlled chassis concept.”)
The large trunk has a low, wide opening, and rear seatbacks fold forward for added cargo space.The pass-through area from the trunk to the rear-seat area is fairly large.
The new S60 is nicely built and has a very solid feel. A 5-year/60,000-mile warranty that includes regularly scheduled maintenance is another plus.
On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:
- Buy it
- Lease it
- Rent it or
Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a busines news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times–far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008. For of Dan’s thoughful and insightful reviews please visit his web site HERE.