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2003 Volvo S60 T5 Sedan Review

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SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide


    Old Volvo: boxy and boring, safe and good for you. Solid, 
sensible, but not really fast or luxurious, Volvos of the 1970s 
through mid-1990s were kind of the automotive equivalent of those 
negative-heel Scandinavian shoes that were popular with the Volvo 
demographic in the 1970s.
    New Volvo: Still safe, still solid, but with sleek style, exuberant 
performance, and refinement to match the best sport-luxury sedans 
the world has to offer. The car that best exemplifies the new Volvo 
is the S60 sedan. A variety of S60 models are offered with naturally-
aspirated and low-pressure turbocharged 2.4-liter engines to satisfy 
the mainstream market, adding style and refinement to the traditional 
Volvo values. With a 2.3-liter high-pressure turbo version of Volvo's 
inline five-cylinder engine, the T5 adds serious performance to the 
    I've been driving an S60 T5 for the past week, and it's been a 
pleasure. It combines distinctive style with great comfort, and a 
healthy 247 horsepower with commendable 24 mpg fuel economy. 
Volvo hasn't always been thought of as a maker of sports sedans, 
except by an underground of enthusiasts, but with the S60 T5 it has 
a car that challenges the world's best-known manufacturers of such 
machinery. And, if 247 horses aren't enough, watch out for the 
upcoming S60R. With all-wheel drive, 300 horsepower, and a 
sophisticated electronically-controlled suspension, it's aimed at the 
premium ultra-performance German ``tuner'' sedans.

APPEARANCE: Volvo has always marched to its own tune in 
styling, with rounded cars when others were square, and square cars 
when others were rounded. Volvo styling is still unique, but now, 
especially with the S60, it's good-looking as well as aerodynamically 
functional. The new hasn't worn off the S60, either. Its broad 
shoulders and long hood, short rear deck shape are enhanced by a 
coupe-like roofline to give it a dynamic appearance that mixes 
performance with elegance.

COMFORT: Swedish design is known for its uncluttered simplicity 
and use of colors and geometric forms. Even though the Volvo 
design team is international in scope, the S60's interior is very much 
an example of Swedish Modern style. Good design and use of 
materials, textures, and colors makes the car seem even roomier than 
it is, and there is no shortage of space for people and their luggage. 
The front seats are supportive and comfortable, even for long 
periods, the better to keep the driver and passenger alert - safety is 
everywhere in a Volvo. A ``cockpit'' semi-wraparound instrument 
panel presents necessary information well, and all controls are within 
easy reach of the driver. Volvo's iconic climate control switches are 
the most self-explanatory in the industry, and set the tone for the 
S60's control design. There is no need to consult the fine print in the 
manual. In the T5, both front seats are power-adjustable, and the 
manual tilt-and-telescope adjustable steering wheel helps the driver 
to find the perfect position. There is good rear-seat headroom, and, 
as in the larger S80, rear seat passengers have B-pillar climate 
control vents. Numerous small, useful storage spaces add 
convenience. The trunk is large for the car's size, and the rear seat 
folds with a 60/40 split when it's necessary to carry oversize items.

SAFETY: Volvo is nearly synonymous with safety, and the S60 has 
a full complement of standard safety equipment. Its chassis features 
a strong central safety structure around occupants, with front and 
rear crush zones and side impact protection. All seating positions 
have three-point safety belts, and the seats are designed to reduce 
the possibility of whiplash. Dual-stage front, side-impact, and side-
curtail air bags are standard in all S60s. The Dynamic Stability and 
Traction Control (DSTC) system is standard in the T5.

ROADABILITY: To me, the S60 T5's suspension calibration best 
exemplifies its refinement. Older Volvos could be on the harsh side, 
especially on bad roads. There is no such problem with the S60 in 
any trim, and especially with the T5, even with the optional sport 
suspension, which my test car had. It is more ``sport-touring'' in 
calibration than hard-core sports, which makes it perfect for the real 
world. Anchored to a very rigid chassis structure for maximum 
control, it is supple enough for comfort, even on long drives, but 
firm enough for good control in fast cornering. The T5 is a front-
wheel drive car with nearly 250 horsepower, but has no torque 
steer problem.

PERFORMANCE: The 2.3-liter five-cylinder high-pressure 
turbocharged T5 engine is the performance leader of the S60 range, 
at least until the S60R comes along. I drove a T5 with the standard 
manual gearbox shortly after it was introduced, and was impressed 
by the engine's flexibility and power and the transmission's good 
linkage. This week's test car had the optional five-speed automatic, 
with ``Geartronic'' manual-shift mode. Good news: in normal, or 
even enthusiastic, driving, it makes little difference in performance 
compared to the manual. In Geartronic mode, it shifts quickly and 
smoothly, allowing full use of the engine's impressive top-end 
power. In ``Drive'' it shifts at lower rpms, but still allows plenty of 
performance. The engine's broad torque curve is responsible, with 
its maximum 243 lb-ft available between 2400 and 5200 rpm, at 
which the 247 horsepower makes itself felt with a unique five-
cylinder howl. And, fuel economy, at 24 mpg, is as impressive as its 

CONCLUSIONS: The Volvo S60T5 combines power, comfort, 
and elegance.

2003 Volvo S60 T5 Sedan

Base Price			$ 32,825
Price As Tested		$ 38,870
Engine Type			dual overhead cam turbocharged and 
intercooled inline 5-cylinder
Engine Size			2.3 liters / x cu. in.
Horsepower			247 @ 5200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			243 @ 2400-5200 rpm
Transmission			5-speed automatic (5-speed manual 
Wheelbase / Length		107 in. / 180.2 in.
Curb Weight			3446 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	14
Fuel Capacity			18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P325/45 VR17 Pirelli P6 Four 
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, antilock 
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 28 / 24
0 to 60 mph				est 7.0  sec (auto)

Metallic paint					$    450
Climate package - includes:
  heated front seats, headlamp washers
  and wipers, rainsensor			$    495
Touring package - includes:
  grocery bag holder, laminated side windows,
  Interior Air Quality System			$    495
Automatic transmission with Geartronic	$ 1,200
Premium package - includes: 
  Leather seating surfaces, power glass
  moonroof					$ 1,995
Sport package - includes 17-inch alloy wheels,
  sport suspension				$    750
Destination charge				$    660