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2011 Volvo S60 T6 AWD Preview

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2011 Volvo S60

See Also: Volvo Buyers Guide
See Also: E-Carmony: Is The 2011 Volvo S60 Your Perfect Match?


2011 Volvo S60 T6 AWD Preview

When you think of Volvo, you think of safety, right? No surprise, as the Swedish automaker has been at the forefront of safety research and technology for many years.

But there's another side to Volvo - performance. Yes, really. The Volvo performance pedigree includes European Touring Car racing (at one point, successfully, with wagons!) and the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge series. The championship winner of the GT class in that series this year? Randy Pobst, in a Volvo S60. The old S60, modified for racing, of course.

I say "old S60" as the second generation has just been introduced to the media as a 2011 model, and should be in showrooms soon.

By design, the 2011 S60 the sportiest Volvo yet, with all early-delivery examples to be in T6 300 horsepower turbocharged all-wheel drive specification, with the European suspension tuning. A longer wheelbase means more room inside, especially for rear-seat passengers. It's the most emotionally-styled Volvo yet, with the newest development of the design language that tossed the box over a decade ago, and sees the first use of LED lighting by Volvo, for the front marker lights and position lights in the tail lamps, for instant recognition at night.

Under its sleek skin, the new S60 shares its basic architecture with the larger, more formal S80, meaning suspension design (not tuning details!), and floor pan and other structural stampings. Such is the way of the automotive world today, and in reality, there is quite a difference between the two automobiles. As a Volvo spokesman said during one of the product presentations, the S80 and S60 both share a "Spa" concept. For the S80, that means a health resort. For the S60, that means Francorchamps… the famous road-racing course in Belgium. Which is only appropriate, as the car will be built at Volvo's factory in Ghent, Belgium.

The press intro was staged in Newberg, OR, a southern suburb of Portland. We began with a look at the car, then a detailed product and marketing description, and then the ride and drive, by means of well-paved and little-traveled secondary roads and a bit of highway from Newberg to Hood River, then by highway from Hood River to Oregon Raceway Park, near Grass Valley on the high plains of the eastern part of the state. The drive route provided an excellent overview of the car's abilities and comfort, and any lingering questions about sport-level performance were answered, affirmatively, at the track. Cars were fully-equipped, with all option packages and some key standalone options. Details follow…

But first, Volvo and safety. The 2011 S60 sees the debut of "Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake", which integrates data from a grille-mounted radar unit and a camera mounted at the front of the inside rear-view mirror via image-matching and motion-detection software that can automatically stop the car at speeds under 22 mph, or severely slow it at higher speeds. Before heading out on the road, it was time to test this by driving, at 20 mph, toward a human-shaped inflatable dummy. The first time I tried, I hit the brakes long before the car did. Such are instincts from years of driving… so on the next go-round, driving at 20 mph, I aimed at "Junior". And the car stopped.

APPEARANCE: One of the most stunning cars on last year's auto show circuit was the Volvo S60 Concept. The production version is remarkably little-changed externally, with sleek, near-fastback coupe-like lines that, while showing kinship with the old S60, make that car look old. And S60 Generation One aged very well. Most notable are the bolder front, with its assertive grille and prominent headlamps, the "double wave" shoulder line that arches over the wheels, and the distinctive L-shaped taillights.

COMFORT: Sport plus luxury, Volvo-style. With leather seating, soft-touch materials on most interior surfaces, and aluminum trim, the new S60's interior is an inviting place to spend time. The flowing lines are more integrated than ever before in a Volvo, and less austere than expected from Swedish Modern design. Fit and finish is comparable to the best in the midsize sport-luxury class. Seat comfort is typical for Volvo, first-rate, with better side bolstering than in most previous Volvos. The now-trademark semi-detached center stack is angled toward the driver, for better access. Most interior systems can be controlled from the steering wheel. A high-quality audio system, DVD-based navigation system with real-time traffic information (not much of that in Eastern Oregon), and backup camera are in the Multimedia Package.

SAFETY: "Volvo" is not Swedish for "safety", but you may be excused for thinking so. As mentioned, the S60 introduces "Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake" as part of the Technology Package, which also includes Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Driver Alert Control, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Distance Alert. The Blind Spot Information System is a standalone option. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Hydraulic Brake Assist, Optimized Hydraulic Brakes, Ready Alert Brakes, and Fading Brake Support, plus the Dynamic Stability and Traction Control system, as well as a full complement of airbags, three-point safety harnesses for all seating positions, and solid, safety-cage construction are all standard.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Volvo has finally figured out suspension and steering calibration! Earlier Volvos fell into two groups - standard, quite comfortable but a little on the soft side, or overly-stiff to the point of harshness in the "R" sports variants. The new S60 falls neatly, perfectly, between extremes. Tuning is the same as is standard in Europe, firm but well-damped, with an excellent match between spring and shock rates. The result is minimal body roll, fine compliance, and, allied with quicker steering, a lovely driving experience fully equal to that of any competitive sports-luxury sedan made. Customers who find the standard suspension too firm have two choices - a softer "Touring" calibration is a no-cost option, or there is the adjustable, active FOUR-C package, offering "comfort", "sport", and "automatic" modes. The ride and drive cars had the standard suspension, and the standard all-wheel drive system with torque vectoring Corner Traction Control. Which was not particularly noticeable on the road at sane or legal speeds. I won a lottery for hot laps with Randy Pobst driving around Oregon Raceway Park, in a car with the FOUR-C chassis (in "sport"). Oh yeah, that torque vectoring works, very well thank you! And the 2011 S60 is by far the most capable road-legal Volvo yet made.

PERFORMANCE: Turbo done right. All early examples of the 2011 S60 will be T6 spec - meaning with Volvo's 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. Internal modifications result in more power, 300 horsepower worth (at 5600 rpm), and more importantly, more torque - 325 lb-ft between 2100 and 4200 rpm. Which means acceleration, now! whenever needed or desired. The six-speed automatic transmission has been massaged, with faster shifting, and features regular, sport, and manual modes. In sport mode, throttle response is quickened and upshifts take place at higher revs. With the engine's strong torque plateau, "D" worked surprisingly well on twisty country roads -- and even on the track. Manual shift, by console-mounted lever, is there for times when the computer doesn't quite figure it out. Other drivetrains, presumably non-turbo, will come later.

CONCLUSIONS: Best Volvo Ever!, with the new 2011 S60, Volvo shows that it can build a sports-luxury sedan as well as the Germans or Japanese.

2011 Volvo S60 T6

Base Price			$ 37,700
Price As Tested			$ 47,450
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 24-valve turbocharged
				 inline 6-cylinder
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 180 cu. in.
Horsepower			300 @ 5600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			325 @ 2100-4200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with "Geartronic"
				 manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		109.3 in. / 182.2 in.
Curb Weight			3901 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.0
Fuel Capacity			17.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P235/40 R18
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / disc, ABS, HBA, OHB, RAB,
				 FBS, DSC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 on-demand all-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 26 / n/a
0 to 60 mph				5.8  sec (mfgr)
Towing capacity				3300 lbs.


Climate Package - includes:
  heated front seats and windshield washer nozzles,
  rainsensor windshield wipers, headlight washers,
  Interior Air Quality System				$ 800
Multimedia Package - includes:
  Volvo Premium Sound System, Volvo Navigation
  System with Real-Time Traffic, Map Care with
  two complimentary updates,
  Rear Park Assist Camera				$ 2700
Technology Package - includes:
  Pedestrian Detection With Full Auto Brake, 
  Collision Detection With Full Auto Brake, 
  Driver Alert Control, Lane Departure Warning,
  Adaptive Cruise Control, Distance Alert		$ 2100
Premium Package - includes:
  power glass moonroof, power passenger seat,
  dual xenon gas discharge headlamps with 
  Active Bending Light					$ 1500
Vibrant Copper Metallic paint				$  550
Blind Spot Information System				$  700
Personal Car Communicator with Keyless Drive		$  550
Destination Charge					$  850