new 2012 Volvo S60 T6 R Specification Design Review : Model tested: Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder, six-speed automatic: $69,150 ;
The Volvo S60 is being labelled as the sexiest and naughtiest new mid-sizer on the market. But is it really? It has just picked up International Sedan of the Year Award, and its range spreads from a fuel-efficient D5 turbodiesel to a full-blown turbocharged all-wheel drive T6 petrol. It all sounds like the makings of an elegant, intelligent sedan.
Even though the Ford-Volvo marriage has been officially annulled, the Volvo S60 is based on Ford’s EUCD platform (underpinning the current Ford Mondeo). On top of the already well-received Ford Mondeo base, Volvo has implemented a variety of new technologies and Norse finesse to the platform, including big leaps forward in pedestrian safety, a suave interior decor and splashes of contemporary yet cool design.
Our test car is the top of the range T6 with the R-Design package. The R-Design pack ($4200 option) includes a sharp new bodykit including a low chin spoiler on the front (so sharp it will scrub out on driveways if you’re not careful), a piano black grille with an ‘R-Design’ badge, and a racy rear diffuser setup at the back. There’s also a subtle boot lip spoiler and dark-accented 17-inch alloys to top it off. It looks great and reminds you – and onlookers – that this is not your average boring person’s Volvo.
As far as equipment goes, the T6 R-Design comes with the same 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six Ford SI6 engine as the standard T6, producing 224kW of power and 440Nm of hill-flattening torque. The interior is then filled with everything a modern driver needs, including a comprehensive multifunction LCD display with sat-nav, electric front seats, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a sunroof and push-button engine start/stop.
As you’d expect, the S60 is also filled to the brim with safety equipment. Apart from the usual plethora of air-bags, five-star ANCAP safety, SIPS and WHIPS (side impact protection and whiplash protection), centre-stage in the S60′s safety-tech ensemble is the City Safety pedestrian detection system. Using cameras and sensors mounted underneath the rear-view mirror, the system is capable of applying the brakes before a potential collision occurs at speeds under 30km/h.
So if you’re trundling down a mall or pedestrian-busy street and someone walks out from behind a parked car, the system will automatically detect the walker and apply the brakes for you – if you don’t get a chance to brake yourself. Similarly, the system will stop you from rear-ending someone if a car in front suddenly stops, as long as the difference in speeds between you and the vehicle in front is under 15km/h. (Adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning, also using this camera and sensor technology, is optional).
Interestingly, the car has a new Dynamic Stability Traction Control system which has been developed to blend safety with enhanced driver enjoyment (in a Volvo, who’d have ever thought?). Using an Advanced Stability Control program, the S60 is engineered to eliminate understeer and improve stability under serious cornering.
The system also incorporates a torque-vectoring differential setup which sends power to individual wheels according to available traction. For instance, if you’re steering around a left-hand bend, power is sent to the outside (right-hand) wheels to help pivot the car around. The intensity of this assistance is changed to a more aggressive setting when the Sport Mode is selected.
Speaking of using in-car controls, the multifunction screen allows you to navigate your way through all of the media platforms very easily. Whether you’re tuning radio stations, sorting through USB playlists (or even playlists streamed from your mobile phone via the Bluetooth connection), or changing driver’s settings like the DSTC and City Safety, it’s all incorporated into the display.
The dash fascia isn’t cluttered with too many buttons, so you’re not bewildered by functions. The screen itself is quite high in resolution as well, which is perfect when using the sat-nav as you can clearly see street names and interpret directions with just a quick glance. It’s all about user-friendliness.
The rest of the R-Design cabin features tasteful, soft-touch materials. It’s not a case of ‘see how many bright colours we can use to scream how sporty it is’; the S60 goes for a more calm and professional look. The seats are covered in three shades of grey, including a matt neoprene/textile finish highlighted by shiny leather trimmings and Alcantara. The centre fascia is constructed of a metallic patterned-finish face and floats like all new Volvo dashboards.
It’s a very warm and friendly environment inside the S60 R-Design. The seats feel secure and hip-hugging without being too sharp or edgy, and they feature dual-layer cushioning to provide exceptional long-journey comfort. The dashboard and steering wheel are well positioned and the climate and media functions are in arm’s length.
There are obligatory steering wheel-mounted controls as well so you don’t need to take your hands off the wheel to change stations/playlists, or to adjust cruise control settings. Basic Bluetooth phone settings can also be initiated using a button on the wheel.
Boot space is on par with most other mid-sized sedans and the rear seats can be folded down to provide poke-through versatility. Rear passenger legroom is satisfactory for this car segment, however, overly tall passengers will experience the odd head-butt with the roof lining due to the way the roof is designed – a compromise for the good looks.
The rear seats are upholstered in the same fashion as the front, sporting highlighted stitching, mildly-bolstered right and left seats and prominent headrests. Rear passengers are treated to their own flip-down armrest and their own air vents, which are conveniently placed on the B-pillars.
The S60 is targeted at younger buyers, with a major marketing campaign going on at the moment promoting its ‘sexy’ and ‘sculptured to move you’ personality. The R-Design goes a step further and has been tuned to offer more driver enjoyment via enhanced handling.
This variant is lowered by 15mm over the standard T6 thanks to shorter and stiffer springs. A front strut brace connects the top of the front struts to ensure maximum rigidity, while mono-tube dampers replace double-tube items on the rear to ensure quick response to bumps while cornering.
On test, the R-Design was extremely surefooted. There’s no immediate understeer at turn-in, even after a bootfull of power, the outfit remains settled and drama-free. Feeding on the power during very tight corners will provoke some tug at the wheel as the transverse-mounted, front-wheel-drive-inclined engine layout tends to pull the front wheels slightly before sending power to the rear, but it never puts you in a moment of insecurity. The Haldex all-wheel drive system is very responsive in almost all situations, and on take off, the car departs like a train; straight and true.
The engine feels strong and keen to rev. It sounds good, too, with a quiet hum turning into an angry, higher-pitch roar as it makes its way to the 6000-plus-rpm redline (0-100km/h can be achieved in 6.1 seconds). A faint turbo whistle does echo its way through cabin, creating an element of theater.
There doesn’t appear to be any turbo lag from the engine, but the gearbox does give off an unusual moment of hesitation. If you’re in a hurry on take off, there’s a slight pause, as if the car is asking you ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ Even when the gear level is flicked over to the ‘S’ mode – which engages the Sport Mode of the DSTC – the car doesn’t really leap off the mark as quick as you’d think. Once around 20km/h is reached though, the full 224kW is rapidly put through to the ground. And I mean rapidly. One minute it’s a calm and collected Volvo, the next, you’re riding a seriously exhilarating surge of acceleration.
In ‘D’, the transmission did seem a bit clunky during stop/start traffic, and while negotiating give-ways – a distinct clunk was heard on a number of occasions (this may be exclusive to our test car though, it might have been time for a scheduled service). During spirited driving, normal ‘D’ mode is also a bit doughy and the gearbox tends to want to shift into higher gears as soon as possible to save petrol.
Regardless, if you are planning on tackling some curves, this is actually a case where using the tiptronic-style shifter is the better option. If you’re in the right gear at the right time, the combination of 440Nm of torque and the all-wheel drive system truly is smile-inducing. It’s very capable of providing proper sports-car-like g forces in the bends, especially with the standard Continental ContiSportContact 3 tyres.