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2013 Volvo S60 T5 Rocky Mountain Review By Dan Poler

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By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

As you go shopping for a small luxury sport sedan, think about which manufacturers would make you’re A list. Probably Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, and Mercedes Benz.

… But why not Volvo?

Our recent week with the S60 T5 proved to us that if Volvo isn’t on your shopping list, it should be. It checks all the boxes – stylish exterior, comfortable interior, great power, exemplary safety features, and a blast to drive.

For 2013, not much has changed for the S60 which has been around in its current form since 2011. The base T5 engine configuration carries over with the same horsepower and torque specs, but updated configuration provides for increased acceleration and a much-improved sport mode which make the car much quicker to 60 MPH than in years past.

On the outside, the S60 is curvy and distinctive, while still maintaining some distinct Volvo flavor reminiscent of the old, boxy Volvos of days past. Perhaps our only quibble on the outside – and it’s a minor one – is that the 17” wheels our tester came fitted with looked to be a little on the small side relative to the shape and size of the vehicle; choosing an 18” option would be recommended.

As one sits in the cabin, the word “sophisticated” instantly leaps to mind. The interior is refined and comfortable with soft leather seating contrasted by cool brushed metal surfaces around controls and around gauges in the dash. Front seats are spacious and comfortable, although the back is somewhat cramped and lacking in legroom. Taller drivers may find entry a bit challenging due to the angle between seat, steering wheel, and door.

There are some unique Volvo-isms present everywhere, such as the simple-to-use “Mode Man” control to direct airflow and storage available behind entertainment and climate controls. Controls and displays are thoughtful and logical – Volvo is one of the few to still use quite a number of buttons for stereo and phone control, and we prefer the feel of physical buttons to the integrated display systems we frequently see in luxury cars these days. In particular, Volvo’s setup of physical buttons with an integrated display is much appreciated – the display, although small, keeps clock, climate, radio, and phone information presented at all times. Despite generally being one of the better integrated setups we’ve seen, there are, as always, a few operations that feel like they take more steps than they should, such as changing the radio band.

A curious control available to the driver is the ability to electrically lower the rear headrests. We assume that this is to provide better visibility out the rear window in tight quarters, but because the headrests will fold 90 degrees forward, we also suspect it could be used to provide a correction to unruly passengers in the back seat. We also wonder about the placement of a cigarette lighter directly between the front cupholders, raising the possibility of putting it along with any electronics plugged into it in harm’s way from spilled beverages and the like.

Driving the S60 is a pleasure. Steering is crisp and responsive, and the amount of power available from the base T5 engine is surprising – so much so that we went back to verify that we were indeed driving the T5 and not the more powerful T6 – with a good deal of torque at low RPM. There is the slightest hint of turbo lag present when your foot is to the floor, but it’s brief and followed by powerful engine response belying the S60’s 250 HP – the turbo makes the vehicle perform and respond like a far more powerful vehicle. Power is put out to all wheels via a 6-speed shiftable automatic, and the all-wheel drive system makes the vehicle competent and stable on all roads we could throw at it, including some fairly slushy and icy conditions. All told, we averaged 26 MPG, not bad for a car with such power.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Volvo review without some discussion of safety. The S60 continues in Volvo’s storied history on this front, providing as standard equipment ABS, traction and stability control, full-length side curtain airbags, front seat side airbags, front head restraints designed to reduce whiplash injury, and Volvo’s City Safety feature which uses an infrared laser mounted by the rearview mirror to sense other vehicles or stationary objects and can apply brakes to assist in avoiding a low-speed collision. Although this feature is not unique anymore, Volvo is a pioneer of the technology and the only manufacturer to provide this as a standard feature across every trim on the S60 and on most of the rest of their product line. An optional package not equipped on our tester provides for even more advanced safety features, including pedestrian detection, warnings for driver inattention, lane departure, and imminent collision with automatic braking.

All told, Volvo’s S60 is a fun-to-drive, quirky, comfortable, and pleasant entry-level luxury sedan that compares well against it’s more traditional competition. Perhaps the most compelling part of the tale, however, is its value – our tester carried an as-built price of $38,170.00 which places the S60 thousands below a comparably equipped vehicle from the likes of BMW or Mercedes – in fact, in the configuration we tested, the S60 came very nicely equipped for less than the base price of BMW’s 328i xDrive. If you’re looking at smaller luxury cars, we strongly recommend you jump at the chance to try out an S60.

2013 Volvo S60 T5

Base Price: $31,900.00

Price as Tested: $38,170.00

Engine Type: Turbocharged five-cylinder with DOHC continuously variable valve timing

Engine Size: 2.5 liter

Horsepower: 250 @ 5,500 RPM

Torque (lb-ft): 266 @ 1,800 RPM

Transmission: 6-speed Geartronic shiftable automatic with sport mode

Wheelbase / Length (in): 109.3 / 182.2

Curb Weight: 3,548

Pounds per HP: 14.2

Fuel Capacity (gal): 17.8

Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded

Tires: Continental ContiProContact; 235/45VR17

Brakes: Ventilated disc

Suspension, front/rear: Macpherson strut / Multi-link

Drivetrain: All-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - MPG city / highway / observed: 20 / 29 / 26

Towing capacity (lb):

Base Trim Price: $31,750.00

Options and Charges

S60 Premier: $2,200.00 (Power glass moonroof, leather seating surfaces, auto dimming rearview mirror, accessory prep cable, power passenger seat, keyless drive with personal car communicator)

Climate Package: $700.00 (Heated front seats, interior air quality system, heated windshield washer nozzles)

Electronically controlled all-wheel drive with instant traction: $2,000.00

Trunk spoiler: $375.00

17” NJORD alloy wheels: $250.00

Delivery: $895.00

Price as tested: $38,170.00