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Volvo S60 Sedan (2001)

SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyer's Guide

by Carey Russ

Volvo's newest sedan, the S60, is both evolutionary and revolutionary. It replaces the previous S70, and utilizes engines developed in the S70. It is, as expected of a Volvo, loaded with safety features. But, there is something obviously very different about the S60 - passionate style.

Volvo styling trends only hinted at before have reached maturity. Although it bears a strong resemblance to the flagship S80, the S80 and S60 share no body panels. Befitting its sportier, more youthful nature, the S60 replaces the S80's executive formality with a very coupe-like look. In designing the S60, as Volvo styling chief Peter Horbury said, Volvo "kept the toy and threw away the box." S60 is built on the same platform as the S80 sedan and V70 and Cross-Country wagons. Three versions are offered, all front- wheel drive with inline five-cylinder engines. The entry-level S60 2.4 has a 168-horsepower 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated engine. The most popular model is expected to be the 2.4T, which uses a 197-hp low- pressure turbocharged version of that engine also found in the Cross-Country. And, for performance enthusiasts, the T5 is offered with the 2.3-liter, 247-hp, high-pressure turbo engine also found in the V70 T5.

I had the opportunity to drive all versions at the press introduction in Stockholm, Sweden, last fall, and have been driving a T5 for the past week. On one day I needed to make a 250-mile round trip. In the S60, that was a pleasure. Volvo aspires to membership in the exclusive community of premium automobile manufacturers. Given its current lineup, and the direction pointed to by the S60, it's well on the way.

APPEARANCE: Dynamic, daring design was considered a must for the S60, and the result speaks for itself. The S60 looks more like a coupe than Volvo's C70 coupe, thanks to the semi-fastback rear roofline. From the front, it is nearly identical to the V70 wagon, similar to but leaner than the more formal S80 luxury sedan. The S60 is definitely a contemporary Volvo, with the rectangular, vertically-barred grille, triangular hood bulge, and strong shoulder line. Even the taillights look like those of the S80, but, like the rest of the car, are smaller and sleeker. None of the residual boxiness of the old S70 remains.

COMFORT: The S60's interior combines driver-oriented ergonomics with luxury comfort in a Swedish Modern design. Despite the coupe-like roofline, the S60 has more rear-seat headroom than the S70. Most other interior measurements are up, too. Although classified by the EPA as "compact," the S60 is noticeably roomier than other import sport-luxury compacts inside. The basic interior design is shared with the V70 and Cross-Country, and is an evolutionary development of that of the old 70-series. Nothing wrong there - the instruments and controls are placed well, and are easy to see and use, even at night. The climate controls deserve special mention for ease of understanding and use. There's even a pen holder in addition to multiple cupholders. Especially in T5 trim, the S60 is a driver's car, but passenger comfort is not forgotten. The optional sport leather seats combine soft comfort with fatigue-free support, a rare combination. As in the S80, rear seat passengers have B-pillar climate control vents. Numerous small, useful storage spaces add convenience. The trunk is larger 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 known for safety, and the S60 has a full complement of safety features as standard equipment. All seating positions have three-point safety belts, and the WHIPS anti-whiplash system is standard, as are dual-stage airbags and a sturdy safety cage chassis structure with crush zones. Antilock brakes are standard, and dynamic stability control is available.

ROADABILITY: If the U.S.-spec T5 is a bit softer than some sports sedans, its suspension tuning works very well in the real world. Yes, there is some body roll in the corners, and the springs and shocks are softer than what would work best on the track, but, in everyday driving it handles well, and pleasurably. And at the end of a long day on varied roads and surfaces, it's still comfortable. Strong antilock brakes add to its capabilities and to its safety. The S60 is an admirable sport-touring machine, not a touring car race-replica. Interior noise levels are low, and it's stable in crosswinds and at speed.

PERFORMANCE: The S60 2.4 T's low-pressure turbo engine is well-suited for American driving conditions, with good low- and mid- range power. But the T5's 2.3-liter high-pressure turbomotor is more fun, and is still flexible enough to cope with traffic well. Like classic turbos, it requires adjustment in driving style for the best result. It's a little weak right off the line, but has good midrange response. And the top-end rush is reminiscent of the best turbos of the 1980s turbo era. At that point, power comes on strong, and quickly, and the five- cylinder engine makes music like half of a Formula One V10. It almost has a dual personality - a mild-mannered and fuel-frugal engine at low revs, and a take-no-prisoners, full-afterburner sports motor at the top. For everyday use, shift at 3000 rpm or so, and enjoy good fuel economy. To take full advantage of the turbo, keep it above 3000 for instant power. The "Spaceball" manual shift lever not only looks great, the shift linkage makes shifting a joy. The available five-speed automatic transmission features the "Geartronic" manual shifting system, one of the best such made, and also works well.

CONCLUSIONS: Stunning style, safety, and substance are combined in the 2001 Volvo S60.

2001 Volvo S60 T5

Base Price              $ 31,800
Price As Tested         $ 35,925
Engine Type             turbocharged and intercooled dual 
                          overhead cam 20-valve inline 5-cylinder
Engine Size             2.3 liters / 141 cu. in.
Horsepower              247 @ 5200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)          243 @ 2400 rpm
Transmission            five-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length      106.9 in. / 180.2 in.
Curb Weight             3377 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower   13.7
Fuel Capacity           21.1 gal.
Fuel Requirement        unleaded premium, 92 octane
Tires                   P235/45 VR17 Pirelli P6 Four Seasons
Brakes, front/rear      vented disc / disc, antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear  independent strut /  independent 
Drivetrain              front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      21 / 28 / 23
0 to 60 mph               6.8  sec (mfg)
Coefficient of Drag (cd)  0.28

Sport Leather                        $ 1,300
Sunroof                              $ 1,200
Touring Package - includes: electrical folding rear
 headrests, dash cup holder, grocery bag holder,
 laminated glass, air-quality sensor, outside mirror
 memory, Homelink(r), auto-dimming mirror,
 trip computer                       $    550
17-inch wheels                       $    500
Destination charge                   $    575