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2011 Volvo C60 T6 AWD Review

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SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyers Guide


2011 Volvo C60 T6 AWD

I first met the 2011 Volvo S60 when it was introduced to the automotive press in the Portland, OR area last Fall. After a long day of driving on some of Northern Oregon's scenic rural roads, and a bit of highway driving along the Columbia River, and even a little track time at Oregon Raceway Park in the high plains east of the Cascades, I was pleasantly impressed. To compete head-to-head with the Germans dominant in the Euro sports-sedan class, Volvo had set out to make the new S60 the sportiest and most daringly-styled Volvo yet.

They succeeded. The 2011 S60 combines sports performance and handling with the levels of comfort and safety expected from Volvo, and adds distinctive looks as a bonus. Early examples are all T6 spec, meaning 300-horsepower turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive, and sport-tuned suspension. Debuting the performance version of a car is a daring and unusual strategy, especially for a manufacturer not usually associated with performance. But that would be the best way to become associated with performance… with, naturally, no compromise on safety. The 2011 S60 T6 AWD is a Volvo.

Previous sports Volvos, like the old S60 T5R, have, to me, lacked more than a bit in suspension refinement. A track-stiff suspension tuning is great fun -- on the track, or for a short time on a well-paved road. For longer periods, or on rougher roads, it gets old fast.

Not an issue with the new S60 T6. Careful development means the sort of firm but supple tuning that is expected in the sports-luxury class. It's more "sport-touring" than "track day", and that is far better in the real world. And, as I discovered during the launch, it works just fine on the track.

So how does it work in daily life? To find out, I've just finished a week with an S60 T6 in typical press fleet trim - with nearly all possible options. Little surprise, it was as comfortable and competent on the indifferently-paved excuses for roads in my part of the world as on the much better Oregonian roads, and as good around town and running errands as on back roads and highways. The refined suspension and turbine-like power of the engine, and fine interior design and comfort made it an enjoyable week.

With a $37,700 base price, the S60 T6 is not inexpensive. It's the premium model of the S60 lineup, and was the only model until the recent announcement of the 2012 S60 T5. The T5 is simpler in specification, offered with front-wheel drive only, and with the namesake 2.5-liter turbocharged inline five cylinder engine. But with 250 horsepower and 250 fewer pounds of car to move, expect performance to be close to the T6, and fuel economy to be a bit better. An MSRP of $30,975 will make potential S60 buyers put off by the T6's price happy, too.

APPEARANCE: Evolution of revolution… Volvo has taken the near-coupelike profile and strong shoulders of the first-generation S60 to the next level. It doesn't make the old S60 look like a boxy refugee of the `70s or `80s, but, especially with a bolder griller and headlamp treatment similar to the XC60 crossover, better-defined "double wave" shoulder line, and distinctive L-shaped LED taillights that follow the contour of the rear panel, the new S60 has more presence.

COMFORT: Scandinavian design usually means elegant minimalism. Not quite, here, and for the good of all inside. Elegant, yes. But not austerely minimalist. Flowing lines connect cohesive shapes, and leather seating, soft-touch materials on most interior surfaces, and textured aluminum trim make the S60's interior a pleasant place in which to spend time. Design, fit, finish, and materials compare well to any car in its ultra-competitive class. The main instruments are shaded from glare and easy to read in all light. The trademark semi-detached center stack is angled toward the driver for ease of use, and features Volvo's simple iconic HVAC control and audio system controls. And space behind for storage. Most interior systems are controlled by a roll-and-push thumbwheel on the right-side steering wheel spoke, plus adjacent and other buttons. It looks complex at first, but really is relatively simple. Front seats are as comfortable and supportive as expected in a Volvo, with, appropriately, more side bolstering than usual. With the comprehensive Premium, Technology, and Comfort Package package in my test car, power adjustment and three-level seat heaters for both front seats, a moonroof, and a host of safety features added convenience and safety. Ground lamps and turn signal repeaters in the outside rear-view mirrors help there, too. The contoured outboard rear seats are close to the fronts in comfort and support, and a 60/40 split adds carrying ability. A large trunk is a plus; my car had the "Conti Mobility Kit" pump and sealant instead of a spare tire, though.

SAFETY: Safety Fast? No, that was someone else's slogan, long ago. The S60's safety-cage unibody, full complement of airbags, three-point harnesses for every seating position, strong 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 are further enhanced by the active safety of precise handling and high cornering limits. The optional Technology Package includes Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, 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.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The North American-spec S60 T6's suspension 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. It's not at all uncomfortable, but, for more American tastes, a softer "Touring" calibration is available, as is the sophisticated multi-mode active FOUR-C system. The standard AWD system has torque-vectoring Corner Traction Control for optimum traction in all conditions. Given the suspension compliance, interior quiet, and seat comfort, this is a good car for distance.

PERFORMANCE: Volvo knows how to build a turbocharged engine, having done so since the mid-1980s. Volvo's transversely-mounted turbo twincam, 24-valve inline six-cylinder engine has been upgraded for the 2011 S60 T6, resulting in 300 horsepower at 5600 rpm and, more importantly, 325 lb-ft of torque between 2100 and 4200 rpm. With not much less from just above idle. Meaning quick acceleration Right Now when 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" is all you need and gear selection is hardly an issue. Manual shift, by console-mounted lever, is there for times when the computer doesn't quite get it right or the driver wants to over-ride. Despite being a turbo, the engine is designed to run on unleaded regular gasoline.

CONCLUSIONS: With the 2011 S60 T6 AWD, Volvo moves ahead in the sport-luxury sedan class.

2011 Volvo S60 T6 AWD

Base Price			$ 37,700
Price As Tested			$ 46,200
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 24-valve turbocharged
				 inline 6-cylinder
Engine Size			3.0 liters / x cu. in.
Horsepower			300 @ 5600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			325 @ 2100-4200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with
				 adaptive shift logic and 
				  manual shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		109.3 in. / 182.2 in.
Curb Weight			3812 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		12.7
Fuel Capacity			17.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires				P235/40R18 95W Conti Sport Contact
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, HBA, OHB,
				  RAB, FBS 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 / 19
0 to 60 mph				5.8  sec
towing capacity				3307 lbs.

Premium Package & Technology Package & Climate Package: (together) $4400
Premium Package - includes:
  power glass moonroof, power front passenger seat,
  dual Xenon headlights with Active Bending Light
Technology Package - includes:
  Adaptive Cruise Control With Queue Assist,
  Collision Warning With Full Auto Brake,
  Pedestrian Detection With  Full Auto Brake,
  Distance Alert/Driver Alert Control,
  Lane Departure Warning
Climate Package - includes:
  heated front seats, headlight washers, heated
  windshield washer nozzles, rain sensor,
  Interior Air Quality System (IQAS)

Multimedia Package - includes:
  Volvo Premium Surround System With Dolby Pro
  Logic II Surround Sound, 650 watt, 12 speakers
  MultEQ XT by Audssey, rear park-assist
  camera, navigation system with real-time traffic
  and voice control, two complimentary upgrades	$2700

Metallic Paint						$  550
Destination charge					$  850