The Truth About Cars » Volvo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:58:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Volvo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/volvo/ Volvo Drive-E Modular Engines Lay Foundation For Future Hybrids http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/volvo-drive-e-modular-engines-lay-foundation-for-future-hybrids/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/volvo-drive-e-modular-engines-lay-foundation-for-future-hybrids/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 12:01:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776865 volvo-drive-e-engine000-1

Beginning with the 2015 model year, Volvo’s S60, V60 and XC60 will come with the automaker’s new Drive-E Volvo Engine Architecture family of small three- and four-pot gasoline and diesel engines, laying the foundation for PHEVs down the road.

Autoblog Green reports the VEA engines now making their way into 2015 models include a turbo/super-four gasoline monster pumping 302 horsepower, a 240-horsepower turbo-four, and a twin-turbo-four diesel good for 178 horses. All three displace 2 liters under the bonnet, and are mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission designed to Drive-E’s goal of enhancing fuel efficiency.

By MY 2017, Volvo will introduce an additional pair of 2-liter turbocharged gasoline engines and a trinity of 2-liter turbodiesels, all organized in two clusters of four split between performance and economy. The economical gasoline engines are expected to range between 148 and 186 horsepower, while the diesels will move 118 to 147 horses.

The VEA family came about in 2007 during Volvo’s time with Ford, where the automaker’s engineers used Ford engines to build upon their own ideas, only to realize a better way by making the business case for building their own engines so as to not disturb Ford’s manufacturing processes.

However, when the case was presented to CEO Alan Mullaly, Mullaly directed the Swedes to future owner Geely, as Ford was in the process of selling Volvo to the Chinese automaker at the time. The VEA project became a key part of the sale to Geely in 2010, receiving a huge push to the tune of $11 billion, shared with Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture set to underpin future vehicles.

Speaking of the future, the engines were designed with PHEVs in mind, and thus include necessary components that could be easily connected to an electric motor system fitted either with the engine — thanks to the latter’s compact size — or in the rear of the vehicle. At present, the VEA Drive-E family offers stop-start technology, brake regeneration, CVVT and more.

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Volvo, Geely Aiming For BMW, Mercedes With A-Segment Lineup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/volvo-geely-aiming-for-bmw-mercedes-with-a-segment-lineup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/volvo-geely-aiming-for-bmw-mercedes-with-a-segment-lineup/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 17:52:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=767329 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-005

Volvo, with parent company Geely, is developing a lineup of premium A-segment vehicles aimed at the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class.

Edmunds reports the upcoming lineup will include a five-door crossover, a sedan and a hatchback, and will also offer the opportunity for Geely to sell their wares in the United States while offering a similar lineup in its home market.

Under the bonnet will be a range of engines driving either the front or all four wheels, including gasoline, diesel and their respective hybrid pairings, all based upon Volvo’s current four-cylinder engine family.

The A-segment joint venture will be based upon the upcoming Compact Modular Architecture developed in their China Euro Vehicle Technology research and development center, with the first cars due in 2017 at the earliest.

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First Drive Review: 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/first-drive-review-2015-volvo-v60-t5-sport-wagon-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/first-drive-review-2015-volvo-v60-t5-sport-wagon-with-video/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=725274 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior

There was a time when wagons roamed the interstates, ferrying families from one National Lampoon vacation to another. With the rise of the crossover, those looking for the original “looks practical but handles like a sedan” mode of transport have few options, and most of them live in the luxury segment. Let’s count them before we go too far. We have the soon-to-be-cancelled Acura TSX, the last-generation Cadillac CTS , the Volkswagen Jetta, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 3-Series and the Toyota Prius V. Even if you expand things to include “off-road wagons”the list only grows by three (Audi Allroad, Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70.) Despite the shrinking market, Volvo’s brand has long been associated with practical wagons. It’s almost hard to believe it has been three full years since Volvo sold one in America. That’s about to change with the 2015 V60.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Back in 2010 Volvo was selling two wagons in America. The V50 was based on the compact S40 sedan and the V70 shared its underpinings with Volvo’s 5-series competitor the S80. Although the V70 is still sold in Europe and the V40 (the replacement for the V50) splashed down in 2013, Americans will have to settle for Volvo’s middle child, the V60 wagon. Based on Volvo’s S60 sedan, the V60 competes internationally with wagon variants of the 3-Series, C-Class, Audi A4 and many others. But this is America and Volvo’s only direct competitor is the BWM 328i xDrive wagon. More on that later.

Despite ditching the boxy form years ago, Volvo’s style remains the automotive Birkenstock to BMW’s Prada. The entire Volvo lineup in America (except for the XC90) received a 2014 face lift with a more aggressive grille and more creases in the hood. Volvo has finally tucked their radar cruise control module behind a plastic panel that blends into the grille rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Out back we get bumper cover integrated exhausts, a large black surround on the rear glass that made me wish it was separately hinged, and a continuation of those oh-so-sexy Swedish hips. Volvo’s engineers kept the V60′s roofline fairly high at the rear, but even the Swedes have given in to modern “coupé” styling cues, most notably in the greenhouse shape. The raked rear glass looks sexier, but takes a toll on cargo space.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-003

Interior

Birkenstocks are comfy. Prada? Hit and miss. (Or so I’m told.) And so it is with Volvo and BMW interiors. The S60 on which the V60 is based is now 5 years old.  Aside from massaging color and trim options, the only substantive changes to the interior since it was launched is Volvo’s LCD disco dash, a new steering wheel with shift paddles (optional) and a new gear shift knob. Despite its age, the Scandinavian chic cabin has what it takes to complete with BMW, especially now that the 3-Series has gone slightly down-market with more hard plastics in this generation. My only major gripe is the small 7-inch infotainment display that is clearly outclassed by BMW’s ginormous iDrive screen.

Despite lacking the range of motion that the competition affords, Volvo’s thrones continue to be the segment’s ergonomic benchmark. Volvo equips all V60 models headed to America with aggressively bolstered front seats and even more bolstering is available in a sport package.  If you’re a larger driver, you will find the sport seats confining and may even have issue with the standard seats as the bolstering seems to be designed for slim to average builds. Rear passengers are in for a mixed bag with less rear leg room than Acura’s TSX and quite a bit less than BMW’s 3-Series. Checking the numbers, the 2015 V60 actually slots in behind my old V70R, which wasn’t exactly spacious in the rear.

Wagons have long been about practicality and cargo capacity. The V60 scores points on the practicality front with a fold-flat front passenger seat and a standard 40/20/40 folding rear seat back. Volvo also tosses in a plethora of shopping bag holders, a built in cargo divider and additional cargo capacity below the load floor. Unfortunately the sexy profile cuts storage behind the rear seats to 43.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The pursuit of fuel economy has meant the loss of a spare tire which may be a tough pill for road trippers to swallow. Volvo says buyers can option up some form of spare tire but details were sketchy.

2015 Drive-E Engine, 2.0L Engine, Picture Courtesy of Volvo

Drivetrain

The V60 lands at the same time as Volvo’s new engine family. If you want to know more about Volvo’s four cylinder future, check out our deep dive from a few days ago. Volvo’s engine lineup is getting a bit confusing as they transition to their new engine family resulting in two totally different “T5″ models. Front wheel drive T5 models use a new four-cylinder direct-injection engine good for 240 HP and 258 lb-ft while T5 AWD models get the venerable 2.5L 5-cylinder engine making 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This is the point where most companies would stop. Indeed, BMW is only offering the 3-Series with a 241 horsepower 2.0L turbo gas engine and a 180 horsepower diesel I4 in America. The TSX isn’t long for this world but is only available with the familiar 2.4L 4-cylider engine.

In an unexpected twist, Volvo confirmed that there  will be a third engine with two performance levels bound for America. The T6 AWD model will get a 3.0L twin-scroll turbo inline six cylinder engine cranking out 325 HP and 354 lb-ft. This engine takes the S60 sedan from 0-60 in 5.05 seconds and I expect the V60 to post similar numbers. If that isn’t enough, Volvo will go one step further and bring a 350 HP, 369 lb-ft Polestar tuned variant to America good for sub-5-second runs to Ikea.

The new 2.0L engine is mated exclusively to Aisin’s new 8-speed automatic transaxle, also found in the 2014 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport. The new cog swapper enables standard start/stop on the V60 along with a coasting mode (similar to ZF’s 8-speed) which essentially shifts into neutral when you let off the gas on a level road. Due to packaging constraints, 2.5 and 3.0 liter engines get an Aisin 6-speed automatic and standard Haldex AWD.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-012

Drive

The only V60 model Volvo had for us to play with was a front-wheel-drive T5 model with the new 2.0L turbo. Lacking the supercharger for low-end response (available in the S60), the T5 model felt very similar to BMW’s 2.0L N20 engine in the 3-Series with a hint of turbo lag to start and a broad power band. The German mill cranks out less torque, but is required to motivate less curb weight, so I suspect 0-60 times will be fairly similar. Because of the limited time I had behind the wheel we don’t have verified 0-60 numbers but Volvo says the V60 will do the sprint in 6.1 seconds, which is about 1.5 seconds faster than the TSX.

Despite the healthy torque numbers, the V60 presented relatively little torque steer. Volvo didn’t say what they had done to improve on things vs the last T5 FWD model I drove but they did say no suspension designs were changed. (This is a contrast to the S60 T6 FWD which had plenty of torque steer in first gear.) Volvo’s test fleet consisted of Sport Package models only, which are tuned toward the firmer side of the segment. The tuning is certainly firmer than BMW’s standard 3-Series suspension and on par with the Sport Line wagon.

The V60 handled winding roads with composure thanks to wide 235/45R19 (part of the sport package) tires all the way around but the lighter and better balanced 328 wagon feels more nimble out on the road. Meanwhile the TSX and Audi Allroad feel less connected. Since the BMW is only available in America in AWD trim, a comparison to the T5 AWD and T6 AWD may be more appropriate, so check back when we can get our hands on one.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-006

No Volvo would be complete without new safety tech and the V60 spearheads several improvements to existing systems. Volvo’s blind spot system has moved from a camera based system to radar. The switch improves accuracy, allows it to operate better in fog and inclement weather and increases the range. There’s also a new self parking system to parallel park the V60, but we didn’t have an opportunity to test it. City Safety, Volvo’s autonomous braking system, now operates at up to 31 MPH and can now detect cyclists in addition to cars and pedestrians (optional packages apply). Volvo tells us that they expect the system to provide autonomous braking for large animals like moose in the next 1-2 years.

The V60 has been priced aggressively for 2015 starting at $35,300,  an $800 upsell over then S60 and $6,150 less than a base 3-series wagon. Adjusting for feature content, the base V60 is still $5,000 less. If bargain wagons with premium badges are your thing, the TSX is king at $31,985, but the delta shrinks to less than two grand when you adjust for the V60′s feature set. The $36,800 might be the more appropriate competitor for the AWD-only 3-wagon, but a more interesting match up is the $44,300 V60 T6 AWD. Configuring a 3 or the CTS wagon with the same equipment you find on the Volvo will set you back at least $2,000 more. In addition to the value factor, the Volvo brings 35% more power to the fight. The extra power and AWD go a long way in compensating for the better weight balance in the BMW or the Caddy. Since GM hasn’t refreshed their wagon yet, the 3.0 and 3.6 liter V6 engined are outclassed in every metric by the Swede. Option your V60 with every conceivable option and you end up at $54,480.

As a former Volvo wagon owner, I’m probably biased, but all the reasons I opted for a Swedish cargo hauler in 2006 apply to the V60. Aside from the fact that “value” strikes a fire in my loins, the Volvo is the clear performance option in this segment. Want more shove than the $44,300 Volvo? Pony up $64,900 for the CTS-V wagon or $102,370 for an E63 AMG wagon. I’ll reserve my final judgement until I can get my hands on one for a more thorough evaluation, but in the mean time the V60 is quite simply the best performance and value option in this phone booth sized segment.

 

 Volvo provided travel, lodging, meals, the vehicle, insurance and gas for this review

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Volvo XC Coupe Concept Unveiled Prior to 2014 Detroit Auto Show Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/volvo-xc-coupe-concept-unveiled-prior-to-2014-detroit-auto-show-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/volvo-xc-coupe-concept-unveiled-prior-to-2014-detroit-auto-show-debut/#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 15:10:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=694841 Volvo XC Coupe Concept 01

The second of three concepts hinting at Volvo’s new styling direction, the XC Coupe Concept has been unveiled ahead of its official debut at next week’s 2014 Detroit Auto Show.

 

The Sino-Swedish two-door seats four, rides on 21-inch wheels under heavily accentuated wheel arches, and boasts a taller roofline while the distance between the dashboard and front axle helps emphasize the muscularity that could end up on the upcoming XC90.

Of course, Volvo wouldn’t be Volvo if they didn’t have a few safety concepts on-board. Thus, the XC Concept possesses an IntelliSafe 360-degree camera system up front, paired with Surround Radar mounted in the rear bumper. Internally, the framework is composed of high-strength boron steel used to form structures with advanced decoupling methods, improving upon safety while shrinking the size of the vehicle overall.

The concept is the second of three to demonstrate not only Volvo’s new design language — the first being the Concept Coupé, which debuted at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show — but also the automaker’s new Scalable Product Archecture, which will underpin the entire range in time.

Volvo XC Coupe Concept 01 Volvo XC Coupe Concept 02 Volvo XC Coupe Concept 03 Volvo XC Coupe Concept 04 Volvo XC Coupe Concept 05 Volvo XC Coupe Concept 06 Volvo XC Coupe Concept 07 Volvo XC Coupe Concept 08 Volvo XC Coupe Concept 09 Volvo XC Coupe Concept 10 ]]>
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The Cars We’ve Lost in 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/the-cars-weve-lost-in-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/the-cars-weve-lost-in-2013/#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 12:30:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=676202 2012 Acura ZDX-014

Every year, new cars arrive in the showrooms. Some are brand new to the world, others go through evolutions and revolutions. Yet, every year, some cars are sent off to the showroom in the sky.

This year, we’ve lost seven vehicles. Some died due to poor sales, some to improper marketing, and others to horrible execution. 2014 will bring about the deaths of these seven vehicles.

  • Acura ZDX 
  • Cadillac Escalade EXT 
  • Nissan Altima Coupe  
  • Toyota Matrix 
  • Volkswagen Routan
  • Volvo C30
  • Volvo C70

In some cases, like the ZDX and Routan, the product was poorly conceived and faced an equally poor reception in the marketplace.  In other cases, like the Escalade EXT and Altima Coupe, they were based on previous generation cars and the business case wasn’t strong enough to justify a replacement. The Volvo twins and the Matrix weren’t necessarily bad cars, but they were long in the tooth and faced declining sales, thus leading to their euthanization.

2013 Volvo C30 Polestar. Photo courtesy Car and Driver. 2013 Toyota Matrix 2012 Acura ZDX 2013 Volvo C70 2013 Nissan Altima Coupe 2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT Volkswagen Routan. Photo courtesy GoMotors.net ]]>
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Capsule Review: 2013 Volvo XC70 T6 Polestar – Brown Wagon Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-2013-volvo-xc70-t6-polestar-brown-wagon-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-2013-volvo-xc70-t6-polestar-brown-wagon-edition/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501161 photo (3)

If you had to pick a Q-Car, the vehicle you see above would be nobody’s first choice. Something like a Camry V6, a Pentastar Avenger, or perhaps even a Verano Turbo with a Trifecta tune would be a more suitably anonymous roller skate with enough power to pummel most “civilian” cars on the street. Or perhaps a Regal GS. In grey or some other nodescript color. I am thinking about this as I wander aimlessly within my lane on Lakeshore Boulevard, the Polestar-tuned I6 humming along at a sedate 1800 rpm in 6th gear. CBC Radio is broadcasting yet another nebulous documentary extolling Canada’s secular state religion of diversity, as my Costco grocery list scrolls through my head. How banal and bourgeois.

And then I hear the staccato vocalization of a small block Chevy V8 breathing through a set of big pipes. A glance in the mirror reveals a 4th generation Camaro convertible coming up fast behind me in my mirrors. In a flash, he’s past me by a few car lengths, and I can just make out the “SS” badge on the decklid. If I were in another T6-powered Volvo, say, my parents XC60 T6, I’d step on the gas, wait a brief second for the turbo to spool up, and hope that I’d be in the powerband long enough to catch him. With a standard T6, peak power (295 hp) comes in at 5600 rpm while peak torque (325 lb-ft) arrives at 2100-4200 rpm In this car though; 354 lb-ft comes in from 3000-3600 rpm, while all 325 horsepower are available from 5400 all the way to redline. From a roll, this car is a monster.

It doesn’t take long after nailing the throttle for the gap to close between us, and while the Camaro is droning out its V8 song, there’s just a muted hum from the Volvo’s blocky hood, while barely audible diverter valve noises can be heard through the open windows. A red light conspires to bring us next to one another, and I can see him regarding me with the faux-menacing glare typical to most underemployed 20-somethings brimming with insecurities. He’s much more handsome than I am, and his girlfriend is in the passenger seat.  I smile and give him the thumbs up.

“You think you can beat me?” No change in demeanor from him.

“Actually, I do.” I respond.

There’s no revving, no theatrics, no Fast and Furious Limp Bizkit sound track despite the corny but spontaneous exchange. But when the light goes green, he disappears behind me. And I didn’t even get a good look at his girlfriend.

This is really a silly car. The XC70 sells in inconsequential numbers, even for a Volvo. Last year,  the smaller XC60 outsold the XC70 by a ratio of 4:1, as Volvo customers, my parents included, opted for the higher driving position, easier ingress/egress and crossover-look of the XC60. Wagon fans insist that if only Volvo would bring back a real wagon, then all would be well, the brand would have its mojo back, and American consumers would finally learn that their enlightened European brothers had it right along.

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Notgonnahappen.com, whether we’re discussing social safety nets, rail transportation networks or diesel engines. But there is good news. The XC70 and the XC60 are basically the same car. I know this because I had the chance to test them back to back. It’s true that the XC60 has a bit more ground clearance and a higher ride height, and the XC70 is perhaps a bit higher than a regular V70, but to tar either them with the “crossover” brush, is incorrect. These are as much crossovers as the last generation Outback was, and the extra cladding and slightly taller springs are red herrings. Of course, driving a wagon signifies that one has sophisticated, Continental tastes, which is more important to many than how these vehicles actually perform on the road.

What’s most interesting is the changes in spec between the XC70 and the XC60 owned by my folks. Their XC60 has three adjustable steering programs as well as the Volvo 4C system, which employs active shock absorbers made by both Ohlins and Monroe. Three modes are available, labeled Comfort, Sport and Advanced. Comfort is fairly soft, with Sport cranking it up by just a bit. Advanced, however, is truly stiff, sacrificing ride quality for flatter cornering. The XC70, by contrast, has one steering setting (equivalent to the heaviest setting on the XC60) and no 4C system. My own handling loop was illustrative of the differences: the XC70 felt as if it possessed more bodyroll, whereas the XC60  felt a bit more surefooted with the 4C shocks set to “Advanced”. But Advanced mode also makes the shocks rather unpleasant in everyday driving, and when set to “Sport” or “Comfort”, it’s a wash between the two cars.

All this talk of performance for a station wagon may seem out of place, but when the car’s main marketing proposition is the Polestar engine tuning, it’s hard to ignore it. The XC70 is also a very practical vehicle. Despite my bearishness on wagons as a commercial proposition in the marketplace, I quite like them. I tried in vain to convince my parents to buy the XC70, hoping that the giant stuffed German Sheppard in the back of the showroom demo model would sway them (it looked identical to an old stuffed dog from my childhood). Instead they hemmed and hawed and made vague remarks about the “height” of the XC60′s cargo area (for the one time of the year when they’d bring home tall garden plants) and the extra length (8 inches longer, which does count when parking in urban areas) as reasons to get the XC60. This time, I was determined to induct them in the “cult of the wagon”.

Tossing the keys to my parents for a “blind taste test”, they were more impressed with the revised interior than the driving dynamics or the lower seating position (which they also enjoyed, in a reversal of their previous stance on the car). While my folks car invokes the usual “Swedish furniture” cliche, with black baseball stitched leather and aluminum trim (no surprise if you know them: they wear more black than an amateur theatre troupe and my mother obsesses over modern furniture like we do over rear-drive BOF Fords), the XC70 is much more organic, with generous helpings of wood and natural tone leather. Volvo’s IP and telematics interface remains unchaged, and is thankfully devoid of touch screens or haptic controls.

It takes a few minutes to learn the ins and outs of the buttons-and-knobs, but once you do, it becomes second nature, and one can navigate their iPod music selections without taking their eyes off the road. The navigation system was far less cooperative – while the controls were easy enough, it failed to recognize even well known streets, forcing me to use my iPhone as a navigation aid. The XC70 also came with Volvo’s “Premium Sound System”, something my father chose to forgo when he declined the navigation system in the XC60. It’s worth the money, something he readily acknowledged after one playthrough of Gil-Scott Heron’s Bridges. Cargo proved to be one area where the extra length didn’t lend the XC70 too much of an advantage. The XC60 has 67.4 cubic feet of space, with 30.8 cubic feet with the seats up, while the XC70 has 72.1 in total, with 33.3 if the rear seats remain intact. In practical terms, it’s possible to easily fit a full-size mens bicycle with the seats down in the XC70, while the XC60 takes a bit of finagling. For most every day items, it was inconsequential, with grocery bags and suitcases fitting fine in both cars. The XC60′s reduced length does make it easier to park, something I can appreciate given that my parents live in an area with abundant street parking that seems to be sized for C-segment cars at best.

In that light, it’s understandable why they chose the XC60, but after driving the wagon, I am not ready to take their side. Nonwithstanding my mocking of the commercial viability of the station wagon, I like this one a lot. It’s difficult to find a car that does it all so well. Where else can you find something that can turn on a dime from being an invisible luxury commuter appliance, to a bike hauler to a stoplight dragster that can be used in every weather condition, 365 days of the year? It just makes so much sense. Which is its biggest problem. We as humans rarely want what makes sense for us, whether it’s choosing an incompatible lover, a consumer item we can’t really afford or voting for a politician that sways us with charming rhetoric rather than policy that may be beneficial to our station in life.

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At $50,310, it’s not exactly within the reach of the common American family either. This car, even without the Polestar, is an incredibly niche proposition. But that’s a big part of its charm. It will never be loved like the Brick Volvos of yore, nor the upcoming V60 (which will be lauded as a return to form for Volvo), but it has earned its place, along with the Subaru Legacy 2.5GT and Audi S4, in the lore of “great wagons we got in America that nobody appreciated”.

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Track Tested: 2012 Volvo S60 T5 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/track-tested-2012-volvo-s60-t5/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/track-tested-2012-volvo-s60-t5/#comments Wed, 17 Oct 2012 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=463865

When our own Michael Karesh reviewed Volvo’s entry-level entry-luxury aeroback, he advised TTAC readers that the optional Dynamic Package was “…a must for anyone who cares about driving.” Hey! I care about driving! Trouble is, the rental companies don’t.

As some of you know, I spend a dozen or so weekends every year doing driver coaching with various organizations. My favorite among the miscellany of groups optimistic or stupid enough to let me endanger their students is TrackDAZE. I had agreed to coach at their Summit Point Shenandoah event, but the froglike little Korean coupe I’d hoped to drive at the event fell through. My Boxster was making some groaning noises, so I decided to source an Altima or similar from a rental company for the trip.

Imagine my surprise when I had the chance to bump up to a Volvo for five dollars a day extra! This, incidentally, would be a compelling argument if Volvo made it directly to the American people: “A nice Camry is $28,000. A nice Volvo is $35,000. That’s $140 a month extra in payments, or basically five dollars a day. For five dollars a day extra, wouldn’t you rather have a Volvo?” Sure you would, at least in the short term — and sure I did.

Shenandoah is an 850-mile round trip for me. During that time, the S60 was all of these things:

  • Noisy. As a Town Car driver, I’m a bit spoiled quiet-wise, but a brief spin in an Accord afterward confirmed it: this little fellow is noisy, and it’s mostly wind noise. How ironic, because the car’s regrettably Civic-esque suppository-shape is theoretically a product of aerodynamics. It sure isn’t a product of wanting to look expensive.
  • Economical. I saw 31mpg in mixed freeway/two-lane driving, rarely below 80mph, not consciously conserving fuel in any way. Impressive.
  • Easy to operate Everything from the iPod integration to the seat controls is intelligently done and quite convenient to operate. The climate control area looks a bit dopey but it works.
  • Not super well-equipped. No nav, no heated seats, no boomin’ system, no gimmicks at all, really. Other than leather seats, I didn’t see any equipment that you wouldn’t get in an Accord LX.
  • Nice and quick on the road. It’s about as fast as you could want for merging into traffic, making it to a “hole” in the next lane, and whatnot. I figure it’s about as quick in a straight line as an ’88 Corvette or a new Camry V-6.

I’m not actually sure what the selling point of this car is, now that I’ve mentioned the Camry V-6. It’s not as big or roomy as the transplant mid-sizers. It’s no faster than the up-cannoned versions of said mid-sizers. It looks like a Civic, which is to say cheap and dorky. The only unique technology is something that keeps you from hitting pedestrians at city speeds. I turned that shit off on principle the minute I got in the car. If I wanted to interfere with evolution, I’d go to that super-awesome museum in Kentucky where they have a diorama of a caveman riding a Triceratops.

This video shows Shenandoah pretty well; it’s a 1:51 lap done by a fellow driving an R-package Miata on Hankook R-compounds. Feel free to watch it so you get a sense of what’s where.

Click here to view the embedded video.

As noted in an earlier review, I’m going to try to use the Trackmaster system wherever I can to give you an honest, third-party, warts-and-all perspective on my performance in a particular car. I drove three sessions in the S60. In the first one, the brake pads caught on fire and I had to come in. In the second session, I had two additional passengers in the car. This session was set with a single passenger. Although there was some traffic in every lap, it wasn’t anything too troublesome. Cut and paste the below link to see my whole session. Ignore the fact that the car is listed as “Mazda2″. That’s me being lazy.

http://www.mytrackmaster.com/#SessionEditPlace:ag1teXRyYWNrbWFzdGVychsLEgRVc2VyGPvbewwLEgdTZXNzaW9uGKfuBgw

The fastest lap was the first one — 1:53.996. That’s about two and a half seconds shy of our friend in the Miata. I left the transmission in “S” for the whole lap. You can negotiate the data and see my exact line around each corner for every lap. Note that the G-meter sometimes shows braking when all that it really happening is steady-state cornering.

So. The first thing to note is positive: this is a car that gets 30mpg during a very comfy 400-mile trip and once you get there it performs pretty closely to a lightly-prepared Miata. Did I mention that I was listening to “The Lumineers” during the lap? Now you know. I think the song was “Flowers In Your Hair.” It’s the kind of hat-wearing pseudo-retro hipster crap I associate with young women in Nashville. Anyway.

On the back straight, the Volvo bops the 100-mph mark briefly before requiring some very conservative braking to get turned for the big hairpin, which is Turn 17 on most maps. The tires were no-season nondescript junk and they really howled; one of the TrackDAZE guys said he could hear the Volvo almost all the way around the track. And yes, there is UNDERSTEER AT THE LIMIT. Quite a bit of it. But it isn’t hopeless. Just grind the outside tire a bit, look for your exit, and then appreciate the remarkably decorous and torque-steer-free way the Volvo rockets to the outside curb. The transmission is pretty smart and it rarely dallies too much in the high gears.

On the boost, the S60 will surprise cars like a Honda S2000 or un-tuned WRX briefly because the punch happens from low revs and it’s linear in the way it goes about delivering power. We’re to another hairpin before you know it and this time I’m going to use my left foot to tap the brakes and deliberately slew the Volvo sideways a bit. It’s happy to so and there’s never a suggestion that you might lose control. Props.

In the “Cave” S-curves that follow, the S60 feels a bit out of place. It doesn’t change direction very well and the tires are to blame. Body roll is signifcant but controllable. Our Miata friend doesn’t really brake for the left-hander to the next long straight, but we have to. Then it’s time for the power again, and as I demonstrated again and again to my students, the S60 will eat sixteen-second quarter cars like Miatas very easily here.

Check out my line into Turn Three! I don’t screw around with setup at all here. I brake late and ride the track all the way in as if the turn didn’t exist. That’s a losing strategy in a NASA race but here it’s just fine since we want to maximize the time the Volvo’s engine works. Now to grind the tires through “The Hook”. Guess what? You can hit the curbs so hard the S60 goes briefly sideways with the violence of it — and it’s still totally safe and controllable.

The stability control on the S60 never turns all the way off… until you overheat the brakes. Then it does and there’s a nice little notice to let you know about it. What we gain from that we lose by having the brakes that hot, so although my in-corner speeds were higher once that happened the lap times weren’t as good overall. Through Turn Eight and up the back straight the Volvo can really annoy Subarus with its power and the relaxed way it gets the front wheels off the ground on the Bridge Straight. Time to smoke the sobbing brakes and jump nose-first into the Carousel.

Here the stability control gets very upset if it hasn’t already given up, grabbing the brakes as your nose bobs and the G-forces become positively ridiculous. I gave the S60 full throttle three concrete pads before the end so it would be on boost to jump up the hill. Hit every curb gangster hard to rotate the Volvo. It can take it. But in the Corkscrew, my photographer captured something scary:

Can you see the problem?

Can you see it now? That’s no good. I’d want better tires before I went back with one of these cars. Poke and strech may be popular among the “dubbers” but it has no place on a racetrack. No wonder the car felt so wonky.

A note about the Volvo’s steering: it’s fine, very trustworthy. The power steering never lost assistance and I never got any unusual transition damping or responses from the helm. It has my approval, particularly for a Dynamatted fat-ass of a front-wheel-drive sedan. Even when the inside front tire was spinning — which was, oh, I don’t know, EVERY SINGLE TURN — it was reliable and informative.

Corkscrew was no fun! Time to get back on the power, use the left foot to rotate in Big Bend, and throttle across the line. Everybody liked riding in the Volvo. It was completely confidence-inspiring. I’m not sure you could crash it unless you were a complete fool who has no business whatsoever on a road course. Sometimes I just took my hands off the wheel and let it go its own way like Lindsay Buckingham. It didn’t crash. It’s stable and nice like that. Even over curbs.

After a full day of track abuse, the Volvo drove home just as nicely as it had driven to the track. Still noisy, you know? But pleasant and given that I had to stay awake for 40 hours in a row to make the trip possible without spending any money or time on a hotel I have to say the car felt like my ally, not my enemy, in that effort.

The big question has to be: Would you buy this car over a 328i? Why would you? It looks flimsy and low-status. It isn’t loaded to the gills like an ES350. It might not last very long or be very affordable to repair. Who knows what the Chinese will do with their stewardship of Volvo. An Infiniti G37 would smoke it around the track for the same kind of money, although to be fair, the Volvo was just eight seconds a lap behind a time set by a new Porsche 991S at the same track by another track-rat journo recently. How badly do you want that time?

My money would go somewhere else. This wasn’t a compelling car for me, and in the end it’s a combination of the noise and the bargain-basement styling that does it. Still, it has plenty of virtues, it’s perfectly respectable as a road-trip proposition, and on the track it was solid and trustworthy. Come to think of it, isn’t that what you want from a Volvo?

Disclaimer: Nobody gave me nothing.

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Review: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/review-2013-volvo-s60-t5-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/review-2013-volvo-s60-t5-awd/#comments Sat, 06 Oct 2012 13:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=462338

When Volvo introduced the S60 in 2011, the Swedes advertised their mid-sized sedan as the naughtiest Volvo ever thanks to a 300HP turbocharged engine. While I’m sure former “R owners” would disagree, the S60 has met with sales success with over 18,000 units sold so far this year, a 14% increase over last year. In 2012 Volvo added a less powerful FWD model to the mix to cut the price of entry. For 2013 Volvo has further expanded the S60 line by adding a torque vectoring AWD system to the lightest S60. Volvo also tells us they have completely refreshed their T5 engine for 2013 and tweaked the transmission for the naughty Volvo’s first retouch ahead of the rumored 2014 refresh. Huh? Yep, Volvo’s gettin’ down with the yearly refresh. Does that make the T5 AWD the naughtiest Volvo ever? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

From the outside, the S60’s sheet metal is a departure from Volvo’s traditional past, but still retains Volvo’s strong shoulders and something of the iconic Volvo two-box style. If it were not for the over-sized proboscis, the design might rival the original S80’s form for the most elegant Volvo ever penned, but as it is, passengers and observers were mostly undecided whether they liked the schnoz or the short trunk lid. Light pipes in the tail lamp modules, subtle swoops over the wheel arches, and a coupé-like C-pillar conspire to add a touch of modernity to the new S60. Polarizing style has never been a Volvo hallmark however and taken as a whole the new S60 is conservative luxurious rather than daring. As before, Volvo remains the Birkenstock to BMW’s Prada.


Interior

Birkenstocks are comfy. Prada? Hit and miss I’m told. And so it is with Volvo and BMW interiors. The S60 is only 3 years old, so aside from massaging color and trim options, the only substantive change is the new transparent shifter. I’m not quite clear what Volvo was trying to accomplish with the new lighted plastic knob. Whatever it was I’m not sure it worked. Still, the rest of the cabin is pure Scandinavian Chic from the soft dashboard to the floating center console and supremely comfortable seats. Despite lacking the range of motion that the competition affords (seriously, have you see the number of buttons on a BMW sport seat?), Volvo’s thrones continue to be the segment’s ergonomic benchmark. Helping keep the interior trendy interior is a new black/baseball glove color scheme. Volvo has also improved sound deadening materials to reduce both road and wind noise in the cabin.

Once upon a time Volvo’s sedans occupied a half-step between the C and D segment cars from the German competition. Fast forward to today and the 3-Series has caught up with the Swedes and the S60 and 328 are essentially the same size. The BMW’s dimension stretch pays dividends with two more inches of rear seat room, an important number because four six-foot-two adults fill the Swede to capacity.

Like many luxury cars in the industry, Volvo has taken to a coupé-like rear profile that reduces the trunk opening to more of a cargo slot. This problem isn’t unique to Volvo, but the opening is a hair smaller than the new 328i’s recently enlarged cargo hold. As with the S60 models we reviewed earlier, the T5 AWD continues to use trunk hinges that cut into the available trunk space as well as the opening.

Infotainment, Gadgets & Safety

Volvo’s Sensus system has been around for three years and continues to deliver a competitive experience in the segment. The 7-inch LCD is essentially the same size as other entries in this segment aside from BMW’s 3-series which brings an 8.8 inch display to the fight. While Volvo has fixed many of the glitches the original system suffered from, the system still does not allow for voice commanding your USB/iDevices like the latest Acura and Lexus systems. Still, the Germans haven’t figured this out yet either. Overall the system is more intuitive than COMAND and MMI, but not as snazzy as iDrive. While I’m complaining, Sensus lacks internet connectivity and App integration that MMI and iDrive sport. Does that matter? Probably not, but I’m sure someone cares.

On the gadget front, Volvo is touting their new full-range cruise control which will now take the S60 to a complete stop in heavy traffic and keep you stopped until traffic moves again. (You just press the resume button.) The system works extremely well and easily ties with Mercedes’ Distronic Plus as the most natural feeling radar system. Bundled with the optional ($2100) radar system is a collision warning system with tailgating alert, lane departure warning, road sign information and automatic high beams.

Volvo’s City Safety system is standard on all S60 models and uses a camera and laser scanner to watch traffic and pedestrians ahead of you. For 2013, the system is active up to 31MPH (up from 19MPH) to keep you from running down Jimmy on his way to school. While the system isn’t perfect, Volvo claims the Volvo models with the system is responsible for the S60 and XC60 being involved in some 25% fewer at-fault accidents than the competition.

Drivetrain

Volvo may have committed to an all four-banger future, but that hasn’t prevented them from face-lifting the trusty 2.5L 5 cylinder for 2013. Yes, you read that right, this is not the same 2.5L 5-cylinder engine under last year’s hood. To improve efficiency, Volvo increased the compression to 9.5:1, dropped in new pistons, a new crank, and revised the software. The result of the overhaul is a 1MPG bump in fuel economy, but more importantly, a new over-boost feature is along for the ride. While the performance figures (250HP at 5,500RPM and 266lb-ft of twist from 1,800-4,800RPM) are the same as before, overboost cranks the twist up to 295lb-ft for 10 seconds when you bury the throttle. In addition to the extra twist, Volvo tweaked the Aisin transmission’s software for faster and crisper shifts and now offers a $2,000 optional AWD system. The new engine and tweaks drop the FWD T5′s sprint to 60 by 2/10ths and allows the T5 AWD to hit the mark in 5.93, only 0.26 behind the T6 AWD.

Compared to the competition, the 5 cylinder’s 250HP class leading with Audi still using ye olde 211HP 2.0L TFSI and Mercedes’ new 1.8L turbo spooling up 201HP. It even compares well with BMW’s 240HP 2.0L turbo. (However, the 328i’s lighter weight and 8-speed transmission allow it to hit 60 0.17 seconds faster.) Volvo’s 5-cylinder produces a distinctly “dustbusterish” kind of sound that is less entry-level than a four-cylinder engine but not as refined as BMW’s sixes. BMW’s 2.0L may be the pinnacle of four-cylinder refinement but even it is not as smooth as Volvo’s 5-pot. Audi? The 2.0L engine sounds rough around the edges and the A4 transmits far more engine noise into the cabin than the BMW or Volvo.

Drive

We should get one thing straight right up front: no matter how many wheels get the power, little is going to make up for having 3/5ths of your weight on the front axle. While many reviews complain about the fact that the Audi A4′s engine is completely in-front of the front axle, it still has a better (54/46) weight balance than the S60 with the engine completely above the front axle. That being said, the S60′s chassis is well composed on all road surfaces and is perhaps one of the best FWD platforms currently on offer in America. Checking that AWD option box however turns the S60 into a different animal on the road delivering [literally] 96% of the performance of the S60 T6 for $6,700 less. In addition, putting the S60 on an engine diet means the T5 AWD weighs 200lbs less than the T6 AWD.

When the road bends, the S60 T5 surprises with more handling prowess than its front heavy numbers would indicate. The primary reasons are the 235-width tires and Volvo’s ABS system based torque vectoring software. Rather than using a limited slip differential, the Volvo system uses the ABS system to brake the inside wheels in corners to send power to the outside wheel. While the system is not as effective as the more expensive mechanical active diffs, it allows more rear end rotation than you would expect. The result is a car with extremely confident road manners in all driving situations. While the A4 can be more fun as it has a RWD bias, the A4 was less predictable and less composed on the back-country roads I frequent.

With a starting price of $33,750, the S60 T5 AWD is the bargain choice in this segment undercutting the A4 Quattro by $850 and the 328xi by $4,750. Adjusting for feature content, the S60 comes out further ahead at around $1,300 less than the Audi and between $4,200 and $5,800 less than the BMW (depending on content). Despite being the segment’s value choice, I’d call the S60 T5 AWD my second choice in this segment behind the 328i and ahead of the A4 Quattro. The BMW’s larger dimensions, sportier aspirations and impressive list of “techogadgetry” justify the 14% price jump in my mind. Audi’s rough and underpowered engine combined with their complicated MMI infotainment system help push the king of AWD one notch down below the confidant smooth S60. If value factors into your decision-making, then the S60 is about two paddle shifters and a 5% better weight balance away from perfection. Until then the 328i reins supreme in this segment, but the T5 AWD is an excellent option if you’re cheap like me.

 

Volvo provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.93 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.5 Seconds @ 95 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 26.5MPG over 895 miles

2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear spoiler, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gear shift, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, infotainment/HVAC controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, Sensus Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, Sensus Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, Sensus Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Engine, 2.5L 250HP I5, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Engine, 2.5L 250HP I5, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, T5 badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, tail light, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, front seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, 3/4 view, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2012-volvo-xc60-r-design-polestar-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2012-volvo-xc60-r-design-polestar-take-two/#comments Fri, 13 Jul 2012 14:51:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449629

Volvo has long been the “safe choice” in more ways than one. The brand’s reputation is steeped in safety, but for the past 30 years “luxury with a hint of performance” has been a secondary focus. Even still, arriving at the country club in a Volvo won’t bring out the green-eyed-monster. Your fellow socialites will just think you were being safe and practical. Volvo may be the Birkenstock of the automotive world, but that doesn’t prevent them from creating the occasional irrational vehicle. While Volvo isn’t ready commit to build the insane 508HP S60R, they will sell you the most powerful small crossover in America: the 2012 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design with Polestar. (If you don’t count the bat-s**t-crazy (in a good way) Nissan Juke R. Michael Karesh was able to wrangle an XC60 R-Design out of a local dealer for a quick take in December, but what’s the Polestar tweaked XC like to live with for a week? Click through the jump to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Founded in 1996, Polestar is rapidly becoming Volvo’s “pet” tuning company. While they have been “on the scene” for a while in Europe, the fact that Volvo North American is willing to cover Polestar upgrades under the factory warranty shows how serious the marriage is. Because Polestar is primarily a tuning company, there is little to distinguish the more powerful XC60 from its lesser brethren on the outside. The same modern lines blend with the traditional Volvo “hips” to form one of the more attractive crossovers on our shores. While the look is instantly recognizable as a Volvo, it is also thoroughly modern. If you doubt me, just park an XC60 next to an XC90 and compare. For R-Design duty, Volvo tweaked the bumper covers, added some chrome bling and swapped out the stock 235-width tires for the biggest rubber Volvo has ever used: 255/45R20s. Sadly the ever-safe Swedes shod the R-Design with all-season tires, fortunately that is easy to fix.

Interior

Volvo has long had a tradition of extended model lifetimes sprinkled with mid-cycle refreshes and yearly tweaks. To that end, the majority of the interior looks the same as the XC60 we had in December 2010 but Volvo has made some improvements to keep the XC fresh. Starting in 2011, all XC60 models get a 7-inch infotainment display in the dash. (Previously base models had an awkward cubby if you didn’t get the lackluster navigation system.) Also new for 2011 is a redesigned leather steering wheel with a thick rim and new infotainment controls. While there are still a few “Volvoisims” to be found (like the storage area behind the center stack and the off-beat two-tone upholstery color palate), the XC60 is mainstream luxury crossover all the way. Fit and finish in our tester was excellent and the soft-touch materials and leather easily tie with the BMW X3 for the best in this class. After a week with the XC60, my only complaint about the interior is the location of the infotainment/navigation screen. Volvo ditched their trademark “pop-up” LCD that was positioned high on the dash for a more conventionally located display. The new location means taking your eyes further away from the road to look at the map. With 30.8 cu.ft. t of space behind the rear seats, 67.4 cu.ft. with the rear seats folded and a standard folding front passenger seat, the XC60 will swallow more cargo than any of the Euro competition including those bulky IKEA furniture packs.

Infotainment

Volvo’s new “Sensus” system is a welcome (and long overdue) improvement. It combines a high-resolution, standard aspect ratio LCD in the center of the dash. While I remain disappointed that Volvo missed the opportunity to use a larger screen, the size is competitive with Mercedes’ COMAND system, the Q5′s MMI and the base screen in the X3. (BMW’s optional 8.8-inch iDrive screen is much more attractive however.) Volvo’s new interface is easy to use, well laid out and controllable via the steering wheel or the buttons and knob on the center console. Voice commands work as well as any of the competition but Apple iDevice integration continues to be a weak point. Navigating your iDevice is fairly easy but not as responsive as many systems and there are no vehicle specific apps with the Volvo system like BMW offers. The new system will certainly make XC60 owners happy, but they may get a twinge of techo-jeallousy when they step into their buddy’s Bimmer.

Well tuned audio systems have long been a Volvo hallmark. The XC60′s base 160-watt, 8-speaker system comes with standard HD Radio, Bluetooth phone integration, USB/iPod/Aux connectors and XM Satellite Radio. An optional 650-watt, 12-speaker premium sound system is available and adds Dolby ProLogic II decoding to the mix. Despite having a lower speaker count than BMW’s sound systems, I found the balance and tone of both system to be more pleasing than the German wares.

Drivetrain

When Volvo first launched “R-Design,” it was simply an appearance package, thankfully that’s changed. Instead of designing a unique engine for the R-Design vehicles as they did with the former S60R and V70R, they turned to Polestar to boost the power from the existing turbo engine. The result is a 3.0L inline 6-cylinder engine with a single twin-scroll turbo that cranks out 325HP and a stump-pulling 354 lb-ft of twist. Power is routed to all four wheels via a standard Aisin 6-speed automatic and Haldex AWD system. Polestar was also allowed to stiffen the springs by 10%, fiddle with the steering ratio and reprogram the transmission for sportier shifting. Perhaps in deference to the rural Swedes that live with miles of unpaved dirt roads, Volvo left the Jeep-like 9.1 inches of ground clearance intact.

Drive

You’d think a curb weight 4,264lbs and over 9-inches of ground clearance the XC60 would handle like a pig, but the only swine metaphor that’s applicable is: this thing takes off like a stuck pig. We clocked a solid 5.6 seconds to 60, just 1/10th behind the 2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i but more importantly a whopping 1.5 seconds faster than the first XC60 T6 we tested in 2010. The observant in the crowd will note this is 1/2 a second faster than the Q5 3.2 and nearly a full second faster than the GLK350. Suspicious? Indeed, but a trip to a local dealer with our testing equipment revealed identical times with the two R-Designs on the lot. When the going gets twisty the tall XC60 handles impressively despite the ride height and the all-season tires. The BMW is still the handling king of the luxury CUV class, but as unlikely as this sounds, the Volvo is a close second. The downside to this unexpected handling prowess is a harsh ride from the stiffer springs and low-profile tires.

No Volvo would be complete without a bevy of electronic safety systems to save your bacon. Unlike Infiniti however, Volvo takes a different approach to electronic nannies. Infiniti’s systems act obtrusively, intervening well before the point of no return while Volvo’s systems only act after the vehicle decides it is too late for you to do anything. For 2012 Volvo has updated their City Safety system to recognize pedestrians as well as vehicles in your way. As long as you are driving under 19MPH the system will intervene and stop you completely if it thinks an accident is unavoidable. Thankfully Volvo realized that 19MPH is a bit slow for American traffic and has announced that starting with the 2013 model year the system will act at speeds up to 31MPH. (No word if existing Volvos can be upgraded.) On the luxury feature front, the optional radar cruise control has been tweaked to handle stop-and-go traffic taking you to a complete stop and accelerating again when the traffic moves. The system behaves smoothly and ties with the latest Mercedes system for the best dynamic cruise control system available.

I think the XC60 R-Design might just be the best kept secret in the luxury market. While the X3 xDrive35i is the obvious sporty choice to quench your sporty CUV thirst, the XC60 R-Design delivers 99% of the performance and 95% of the technology for around $3,000 less. The XC60 R-Design proves that Volvo can make a dirt road-capable CUV with styling flair, BMW competitive performance, and enough electronic nannies to satisfy the risk-adverse in the crowd (not to mention your insurance broker). The real question is if buyers will actually cross-shop the Volvo with its German competition.

Volvo has long had a reputation for building cars that are safe and durable, but less than sexy. With a reputation like that, and a distinct lack of advertising to the contrary, the XC60 R-Design is likely to remain a niche product. Seriously, when was the last time you even saw a Volvo commercial on TV? Me either. Pity because the XC60 R-Design’s performance to cost ratio make it quite simply the best all-around luxury crossover.

 

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Volvo provided the vehicle, one tank of gas, and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.21 Seconds

0-60: 5.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.3 Seconds @ 99.5 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 20.1  MPG over 825 miles

 

2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Interior, gauges, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Interior, gauges, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Interior, radar cruise control display, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, wheels, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, front, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, front, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Exterior, rear, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, engine, 3.0L twin-scroll turbo T6, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, engine, 3.0L twin-scroll turbo T6, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, engine, 3.0L twin-scroll turbo T6, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, engine, 3.0L twin-scroll turbo T6, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, steering wheel, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, infotainment and HVAC controls, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, Sensus infotainment system, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, front seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, rear seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, rear seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, rear seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, rear seats folded, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, cargo area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, cargo area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, cargo area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Polestar, cargo area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Hedonist vs. Frugalist: 2012 Volvo C70 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/hedonist-vs-frugalist-2012-volvo-c70/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/hedonist-vs-frugalist-2012-volvo-c70/#comments Mon, 11 Jun 2012 13:32:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=446330

 

Manufacturers rarely realize where their best opportunities lie.

Case in point, Think about the overload of SUV’s that were offered in North America by 2005. Everyone had one. Even sports car companies were getting in on the act.

Likewise, the $50,000 mid-level convertible market now has more manufacturers competing in it than the minivan market. Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, Nissan, Porsche and Volvo all have at least one player in this market segment.

Do all these competitors translate into strong sales and profits for all? As we say in the redneck locales of Georgia, “Hell No!”. All of these models generate about 50,000 units a year altogether, and that total is spread between 12 models. Most of them are cookie cut from a more mainstream model.

Overall, sales translate into a bit less than two months worth of Chrysler minivan sales in the USA & Canada.  Mid-level convertibles have never been a big market over the last 30 years and to be frank, if half these competitors ceased to exist, few would miss them.

With that said, should the Volvo C70 become one of the dodo’s?

Jacque Hedonist: The Volvo C70 is slathered in style. I’m not talking about the style that’s derived from some mid-level 3-series wanna-be Yuppie-mobile that has been given discordant cuts in the sheetmetal to make the retractable hardtop fit. I’m talking genuine style. The type where a manufacturer starts withgood underpinnings and designs a jack-of-all-trades mid-level ride from the chassis up.

The Volvo C70 is a good design, which says a lot in this particular segment. The lines maintain their fluidity from the front fascia to the rear without any of the buggy-eyed or Bangle butt botox that mars most of today’s sport and luxury models.

Stefan Frugalist: The wheels are too big.

Jacques: What???

Stefan: The wheels are too big.

Jacques: Oh, piss off! The wheels are the best design element on the vehicle. It makes the C70 look like something that came from the good part of Hollywood. If Volvo had enough marketing dollars, I could have easily seen this vehicle becoming the lead in Transformers instead of the Chevy Camaro.

Stefan: Are you nuts? Those wheels look to me like they came straight from a rim shop. I can’t think of a single wheel design from a manufacturer that has attracted so much love/hate attention. The black exterior complements their look. But I don’t see lighter colors performing the same trick.

Stefan: Okay, well the interior is fantastic. The seats are thick, well-stitched, and designed for the long hauls that make Volvo’s so well-liked for their interior comfort.

Jacques: What I especially loved was the absolute lack of ‘must see’ infotainment trash on the dashboard. No exposed propietary GPS that will require upgrades at the dealership or become outdated within three years. No multi-step sound system controls or climate control options that require you to keep your eyes on a screen instead of the road.

There was also an excellent balance between the quality of the  interior materials and the ergonomics for the driver and passenger. Those sitting in the passenger seat are not subjected to the customary cheap dashes and an assortment of plastic buttons pointed away from them.  The designers deserve special kudos for paying attention to the ‘riding’ experience along with the driving experience.

Stefan: Volvo still has too many buttons in the middle of the console. But within a few days, you get use to the design and their functionality is never in question. 95+% of what a person needs requires only the press of a single button or turn of a single knob. In that respect, Volvo deserves to be in this market just for the interior accoutrements alone.

 

Jacques: On the road, the c70 offers a healthy balance between sport and luxury. You don’t get the bottomed out thunks of some of the sportier competitors like the IS350c. The highway ride isn’t darty at all. In fact, I found the C70 to offer a near optimal level of sport and luxury for most of the daily driving folks actually do. The car always feels composed and, in true traditional classic Nordic form, the platform feels like it is constructed out of a single solitary piece of steel.

Stefan: The power is all there too… and then some. 250 horsepower for the upgraded T5 engine with the Polestar upgrade along with an 18/28 fuel economy rating means that you can get a sound level of fuel economy without having to resort to all the new and unproven technologies that other manufacturers are now trying to put in this market space. I’m aware of the improvements in fuel economy that the C70′s competitors offer. But I am a bit wary of their potential cost of repair.

Most folks buying these cars are not DIY types. Personally, I would have no qualms with taking the C70 and having it maintained by an independent mechanic.

Jacques: I did think the C70 is missing a few things. The dashboard has some nice thick leather all the way around (Lexus take note) but it would have been nice for Volvo to have provided some nice thick genuine woods for the interior dash and door panels. The Volvo brand has an implicit link to the Swedish penchant for developing popular ‘quality interiors’ thanks to IKEA and to a limited degree, old Volvo wagons.  I think applying that more Scandinavian wood instead of high quality plastics, would go a long way to making the C70 a true standout in this segment.

Stefan: Yeah, but most folks don’t value that anymore. A consumer looking at the C70 is more than likely trying to find one of two things. Either they want a personal luxury coupe that offers a retractable top, exceptional comfort, and plenty of power for the open road. Or they are looking to buy a car that has a bit of rarity to it.

Everyone’s mom, cousin or former roommate has owned or driven a Lexus or BMW. A nice looking Volvo going down the road is something that would make many an enthusiast look twice.

Jacques: One other feature that deserves mention on the C70 was the mid-level boost. Saabs used to offer phenomenal acceleration from 40 to 70 mph and this Volvo offers the exact same punch. You don’t really need it, but I can easily see a car like this gulping down a lot of highway miles and the solid torque curve the C70 offers for these customers makes me want to recommend it to the TTAC faithful.

Stefan: I don’t know. This car retails for $47,500 MSRP. Even if you can find one at a fire-sale price, say, $44,000, you could still get two very nice vehicles that would be a far better collective value than this one. While I was driving this car I kept on thinking about the Fiat 500C Pop cabrio and, dare I mention them here, the Camry and Passat. You can have two great cars. One to do your daly duties that offers far more room and practicality than the Volvo C70. The Fiat quite frankly offers more in-town fun and a nicer look to it than the Volvo.

Jacques: Still looking at MPG’s and practicality above all else? Forget it! Cars like this are about a nice road trip for two. They are about getting where you want to go with plenty of power, style, and who cares about back seats or hauling stuff? The buyer of this car is looking for that perfect fit for one and a great weekend outing for two.

Two can squeeze in the back. But this car is more for the single executive or empty nester than the fellow looking for four seats or an around town scoot around car.

Stefan: I will say one thing. The Volvo C70 competes well without the cachet of other marques and models in this segment.  But I seriously doubt that most of them will even bother to cross-shop a Volvo. It’s a shame because this model certainly deserves more attention than it gets.

Note: Volvo provided a tank of gas, insurance, and a long list of specs for the 2012 Volvo C70. Emails? Comments? Thoughts? Ramblings? Feel free to comment below or email me at steve.lang@thetruthaboutcars.com

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Review: 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-volvo-s60-t6-awd-r-design-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-volvo-s60-t6-awd-r-design-take-two/#comments Sun, 19 Feb 2012 15:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431390
While Volvo has had the occasional flirtation with performance (the 850R and S60R/V70R twins spring immediately to mind) the Swedish brand is most know for a dedication to safety. It was safety that attracted me to buy my first Volvo, a 1998 S70 T5 (5-speed manual of course), but it was performance that resulted in my second Volvo purchase, a 2006 V70R (6-speed manual). Unlike my Swedespeed.com brothers, however I had no delusions about the future of the R brand as Volvo doubled-down on their core. The R-Design models are a concession to speed freaks with a Swedish soft spot. Let’s see if they can fill the void.

Much like Audi, Volvo believes in the “one sausage different lengths” school of design. From the S40 to the S80 and even the XC60, the Volvo “look” of “narrow at the shoulder, broad at the hip” is unmistakable, often imitated and undeniably sexy, in a safe, practical sort of way. While the front overhang on the S60 is long compared to some of the German options, the overall look has grown on me since I drove the non-R-Design S60 last year. While the S80 remains the best proportioned of the bunch, the S60′s greenhouse screams four-door-coupe which is inexplicably all the rage. R-design models get a subtle update to the bumper with stabilizing fins, a tiny spoiler, more aggressive exhaust, a new front bumper that ditches half the chrome in favor of a more aggressive pose and a set of 18 inch 5-spoke wheels.

While the outside of the R-Design was treated to the same level of updating the former R models received, the interior gets less love. That’s not to say the interior of the S60 is uncompetitive – the build and parts quality is only a notch behind Audi and a decent step above the Mercedes C-class, there’s just not much inside to say “I got the sporty one” save a small emblem on the steering wheel. True to Volvo’s minimalist style, the buttons are clear, easy to read and easy to reach. If you’re looking for some funky Swedish character you won’t find any in modern Volvos. They are almost Germanic in their arrangement. Speaking of those controls, the slot for the “key” is located fairly high on the dash, so if you don’t pony up $550 for the keyless-go option, your keys will bang around in a fairly undignified fashion. Volvo should make this feature standard in a market where discount Nissans can be had with it.
All S60 models sold in the USA come with Volvo’s 7-inch LCD infotainment system, with or without navigation. Our R-Design tester was equipped with Volvo’s $2,700 “Multimedia Package” which bundles navigation, the backup camera and their premium audio system together. Should you decide to navigate solo it’ll set you back $1,895. Compared to the big hitters in the market, Volvo slots neatly in the middle behind iDrive and MMI but well ahead of Mercedes’ and Lexus’ aging systems and perhaps a tie with Infiniti. Menus are all logically laid out and easy to navigate, iPod and Bluetooth integration are fairly easy. While I prefer a hybrid controller/touchscreen system like Infiniti, I have to say that the steering wheel controls on the Volvo proved a decent and welcome alternative. A week back to back in a BMW proved that while iDrive is by far the more attractive system and more feature rich, Volvo’s interface is easier to use and less distracting.

Rear seat passengers in any of the European small sedans won’t be as happy as they would be in a Lexus ES350 or an American sedan, but in comparison to the A4 and the C-class, the Volvo delivers essentially the same dimensions in the back. While the previous S60R and V70R came with acres of “pearlescent” leather in wacky shades of orange and blue, the R-Design is available with sensible black leather faced seats. As someone who owned a full-leather upholstery V70R, I find myself torn between the feel of real leather on the doors and dash and the hours I had to spend caring for it all.

Volvo’s funky and polarizing 5 cylinder turbo engine is now an item for the history books. While I loved my 5 cylinder Volvos, I have to agree that they were a little different sounding. The S60R/V70R’s 2.5L engine also suffered from heat soak in hot weather. When the S60R/V70Rs were killed, R-Design became a sport and styling exercise at Volvo, so the S60 R-Design’s power bump came as a welcome surprise to the Volvo faithful. Volvo called in Polestar, their preferred tuning company to tweak the 3.0L twin-scroll turbocharged inline 6 for R-Design duty. The result was a modest bump from 300 HP and 325 lb-ft of torque to 325 HP and 354 lb-ft, but that only tells half the story as the torque and horsepower curves are improved compared to the stock engine. The 2011 S60 T6 AWD we tested last January ran to 60 in 5.67 seconds, which was notably behind the S4 and 335i, while the R-Design sprinted to the same number in 5.05. So marked was the difference that I headed to my local Volvo dealer and performed the test again with a T6 and R-Design fresh off the lot and recorded essentially the same figures. We all know BMW underrates their engines, but Volvo? Who knew. If you have access to an AWD dyno (we couldn’t get in one on short notice) let us know in the comment section below and maybe we can work out a rematch with Volvo.

My grandfather used to always tell me not to bring a knife to a gunfight. Apparently Volvo’s engineers didn’t have granddad like mine. The R-Design may bring cool blue-faced gauges and a willing engine to the fight, but sadly the unloved Aisin 6-speed automatic tagged along. It’s not that the Aisin transmission is a belligerent companion – in fact, the unit has been reprogrammed to be more eager to downshift when prodded. The problem is that in the R-Design it’s no less eager to upshift when you enter a corner, a trait that I find more annoying than a transmission that holds a gear but resists downshifting. Perhaps this is because my heart longs for an AWD Volvo with a manual transmission? While I didn’t find this behavior that distressing in the regular S60, I had hoped for at least some paddle shifters and a manual mode that didn’t shift until I requested. The Volvo rumor mill tells me a 6-speed manual may make a return soon, it can’t come fast enough.

The previous V70R and S60R corner carved with curious aptitude and strangely little road feel. The new S60′s electric power assist steering is actually a considerable improvement on the previous system and while it is not as direct and involving as last generation’s 3-series it has about the same amount of road feel as any other EPAS system on the market. I was told some years ago to be careful not to confuse heavy steering with road feel, but in our EPAS world they tend to be the same. The R-Design suffers from a 3,877lb curb weight (almost 60% of which rests over the front wheels) and 235-width rubber. It’s the weight and its distribution rather than the rubber that dogs the S60R in corners, where it exhibits an unwillingness to change direction much like the similarly overweight S4. The S4 delivers a more refined feel while heading off into the bushes.

For reasons that Volvo could not explain, their adaptive suspension system, a truly innovative feature on the S60R and V70R, is only available on the non-R-Design models. This means that should you want the extra power you’re stuck with the stiffer suspension all the time. I would not call the ride harsh, but it is notably stiffer than the standard suspensions one would find in an A4 or 3-series. Price likely has a role to play, with the R-Design starting at $43,375 – more expensive than my 2006 V70R, but significantly cheaper than an Audi S4. Our tester was equipped with the navigation system, rear view camera, up-level audio system, heated seats and washer nozzles, headlight washers, rain-sensing wipers, power retracting side view mirrors and Volvo’s blind spot monitoring system bringing our total up to $48,025. While that sounds like a large price tag, our own Michael Karesh estimated the R-Design undercuts the S4 by some $7,700.

One cannot review a Volvo without discussing safety. From collapsible steering columns, anti-whiplash seats and “anti-submarining” guards to Volvo’s latest active safety systems that will intervene when you fail to, we can easily say the safety box is well and duly ticked. Volvo’s City Safety with “pedestrian detection and full-auto-brake” is slowly working its way through Volvo’s line up and is standard on all S60 models. Personally I think this system should be standard on all Volvo models, even if it means a higher base price. The previous generation City Safety system saved my bacon in the XC60 I reviewed last year, so I’m confident it will do the same here. The S60 takes this system to the next level by detecting pedestrians as long as they are over 31-inches tall. After a week with BMW’s night vision system, which will warn you about pedestrians (but only at night) yet takes no action, I have to say my risk averse side prefers a system that acts instead. I was unable to find a volunteer to stand in front of the system so we could test it. Understandable, as I am told the system errs on the side of running into the obstacle rather than slamming on the brakes if it is unsure. Still, preliminary insurance data indicates that the system does work. Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.


With the S60 R-Design, Volvo has made a competent AWD sedan that is finally as fast as the Germans offerings. Whet they haven’t done is resurrect the hopes and dreams of the Volvo R line, nor have they created a compelling reason for S4 or 335i buyers to look elsewhereh for their next car. While the R-Design may be far from a replacement for the S60R, it is a vehicle that finally lives up to Volvo’s “naughty” branding by giving Audi A4, 328i and C350 shoppers a viable option from the frigid north.

Volvo provide the vehicle, insurance and one tank go gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30 MPH: 1.9 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 5.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.5 Seconds @ 104 MPH

Observed Average Fuel Economy: 24 MPG over 724 miles

 

2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, infotainment and navigation, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, backup camera, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes IMG_5442012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, HVAC and infotainment controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, keyless go, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, seat controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes IMG_54522012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, driver's door, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, Trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, dash, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, driver's side dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, 3.0L twin-scroll turbo engine, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, 3.0L twin-scroll turbo engine, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes volvo-s60-thumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/2012-volvo-xc60-t6-r-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/2012-volvo-xc60-t6-r-design/#comments Mon, 19 Dec 2011 22:02:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422834

With Saab’s death dragging on month after month, fans of Sweden’s plucky little auto industry haven’t had much to celebrate recently. Volvo launched the most powerful car in its history, the 325-horspower Volvo S60 T6 R-Design, and hardly anyone bothered to notice. When one of the buff books got around to testing the compact all-wheel-drive sport sedan, they compared it to a four-pot front-wheel-drive Buick, and concluded that the Buick is better. Against the Audi S4 I found the S60 a clear second. Those seeking a segment-leading Swede need not despair, though. Just do what I did right after driving the S60 in Charleston, WV, and check out a different, less mature segment: compact premium SUVs. The XC60 T6 R-Design, with a couple of power bumps since it was introduced two years ago, might just be the best of the bunch.

Though no one will mistake it for a Honda, the XC60’s exterior has never worked for me in gray-cladded, small-wheeled base trim. The R-Design treatment addresses my reservations, and then some. Paint the cladding body color and fit 20-inch five-spoke wheels, and suddenly the overhangs don’t appear oddly stretched. Most likely this is the look the designers had in mind when they were carving the clay.

Scandinavian furniture has been popular among a certain social stratum for decades for a reason: northern Europeans are masters of tastefully stylish modern design. The same aesthetic has been applied inside the latest Volvos, including this one. Nothing remotely over the top, but even in the tested dark gray with cream accents much warmer than a German auto interior. Materials are more-or-less in line with the price.

This being a Volvo, the seats are among the most comfortable you’ll find. Much cushier than those in German competitors, yet also properly supportive fore-aft and laterally. But the S60 sedan has similar, perhaps identical seats, and they haven’t been enough to win comparison tests. So what’s the XC60 got that the related sedan doesn’t? Answer: a higher, much more open driving position. You can more easily see over the dash and between the more upright pillars of the crossover. The XC60 might not be ye olde 240, but it’s more of a spiritual successor than the new S60. This enhances both perceived agility and actual safety. The driver rightfully feels more confident behind the wheel.

The XC60 is also a much happier place for rear seat passengers. The crossover’s back seat is much roomier and mounted comfortably high off the floor. And cargo space? A sedan with a smallish trunk can’t begin to compete with a crossover. The front passenger seat folds to extend the cargo area in both, a rarity in premium cars, but this feature is even more useful with a rear hatch. The V60 wagon variant, currently not offered in North America, would put up more of a fight.

For 2012, the XC60 T6 R-Design has the same powertrain as the S60 T6 R-design, a transversely-mounted 325-horsepower, 354 pound-feet turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six connecting to all four wheels via a manually-shiftable six-speed automatic and Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system:

Sorry, couldn’t resist sneaking in this photo. The dealership’s owner parks his personal collection in the service area, and it includes a “continuation” Cobra. The service writer who popped the hood for me reported that this beautiful multi-throttled V8 was a $30,000 option. The Volvo’s engine:

The Polestar tune adds 25 horsepower and 29 pound-feet to the engine that powered last year’s R-Design and that continues to power the regular T6. The engine in the 2010 R-Design was good for “only” 281 horsepower. You can get more than 325 horsepower in a compact sedan. But in the compact SUV segment this is the most potent powerplant available. (At least on paper; BMW might understate the output of the X3 xDrive35i’s 300-horsepower engine.) The XC60 crossover weighs significantly more than the S60 sedan, 4,236 to 3,877 pounds. But from the driver’s seat the XC60 feels at least as quick, perhaps even a little quicker. Credit the more commanding driving position, from which you can better view the outside world as the Volvo passes rapidly through it. The Haldex system does have the same limitations here. It doesn’t instantaneously shunt power to the rear wheels, so with a hard launch there’s a split second of wheel spin and torque steer.

By any objective measure, the S60 outhandles the XC60. There’s no defeating the laws of physics as they apply to extra pounds and a center of gravity farther from the ground. But expectations are also lower for a crossover, and direct competitors are less talented. Audi offers no S variant of its Q5. And the BMW X3 xDrive35i, while certainly an outstanding performer, has vague steering and a cold personality. The XC60 does not have the S60’s selectable-assist steering. The system it does have is similar to the sedan’s in its “light” setting, but with a less artificial feel. Not sportily hefty, and not as communicative as the system in an Audi Q5, but intuitive and good for perceived agility. The crossover’s suspension tuning isn’t as aggressive as the sedan’s nor is it abetted by brake-based torque vectoring, and partly as a result its handling feels more fluid and natural while its ride feels smoother and steadier. Add in the XC60’s driving position, and I actually found it more fun to drive than the more stiffly suspended S60 or any competing compact crossover. While the BMW would be quicker along a challenging road, I enjoyed the Volvo more. Well, until I had to stop. Even more than in the S60, Charleston’s steep winding roads made it clear that the Volvo’s brakes aren’t as strong as its engine.

Equipped like the related sedan, the XC60 lists for about $2,000 more. The R-Design starts at $44,025. Add a couple packages and the blind-spot warning system to get heated seats, keyless access, nav, and an outstanding audio system, and you’re at $50,175. But, as is often the case with a crossover, the XC60 includes more features than the S60. Things like a power liftgate, two-panel (instead of conventional) sunroof, bi-directional obstacle detection, rear privacy glass, and a slew of cargo-related accessories. Adjust the XC60’s price for this additional content using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and the XC60 emerges the better value by about $900. And a similarly-equipped BMW X3 xDrive35i? It’s $3,750 more before adjusting for feature differences, and about $2,700 more afterwards.

The XC60 T6 R-Design is roomier, more comfortable, more functional, and more fun-to-drive than the S60 sedan. A BMW X3 is a stronger performer and better handler, but the Volvo has more attractive styling, a more natural feel, and those oh-so-comfy seats. On top of this, the XC60 fits Volvo’s heritage. While three generations of R sedans have never quite achieved top shelf status, people have long gone to Volvo for fast, functional wagons. The XC60 is the natural evolution of these wagons, a little taller but casting a smaller shadow. Car buyers seem to agree. It’s easy to find a dealer with plenty of S60s in stock. XC60s are another matter. If I were to buy a premium brand compact crossover or a Volvo, it would be this one.

Vehicle provided by Chris Myers of Smith Company Motor Cars in Charleston, WV. Chris can be reached at 304-746-1792.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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Review: 2012 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/review-2012-volvo-s60-t6-r-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/review-2012-volvo-s60-t6-r-design/#comments Tue, 13 Dec 2011 14:02:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422126 Although it might not be evident from my review of the T5, I really, really want to like the Volvo S60. Why? Because unlike the Audi and BMW with which it’s intended to compete, it’s not the obvious choice. We cognoscenti live to unearth hidden gems, great cars of which the general public is unaware. Volvo used to be on the general public’s car map, but fell off during Ford’s ownership. For driving enthusiasts, the 325-horsepower 2012 S60 T6 R-Design is the most promising Volvo in quite some time, perhaps forever. Its specs suggest it can go toe-to-toe with the Audi S4. And?

Even since the groudbreaking 1983 5000, Audi has been a leader in car design. But, let’s face it, they haven’t broken any new ground recently. The current S4 is attractive, but also safe. With the the latest S60, Volvo attempted to break out of its traditional box without losing all visual ties to its past. When fitted with its chunky standard equipment 17-inch wheels, the Volvo S60 overly resembles some cars that cost far less, among them the Oldsmobile Alero from over a decade ago and the 2006-2011 Civic. The R-Design treatment helps take the sedan upscale, with a subtle body kit and bi-color five-spoke 18-inch wheels. Some people will take exception with the Volvo’s distended snout, but overall it is a sporty, stylish sedan that looks like nothing else in the segment.

The interior will be familiar to anyone who has been inside a current Volvo. The style is minimalist modern, with more character than you’ll find inside the Audi (or the other German compacts). Materials are good but short of luxurious. My main problem with the cabin: the center stack buttons for the infotainment system are hard to find and to operate at first glance.

I first drove the new R-Design in Charleston, West Virginia, in the midst of a week with an Audi S4. Given the strong similarity between the two sedans’ specs, and roads far more challenging than you’ll find anywhere near Detroit, the time and place were ideal. The first thing I noticed after climbing out of the Audi and into the Volvo: the relief provided by the latter’s much cushier—yet still laterally and longitudinally supportive—sport bucket seats. Later, while sampling a second S60 R-Design around Detroit, I had to wonder if the Volvo’s seats were overly squishy. But better too much cushion than too little, as in the Audi.

In my head the S60 is a larger car than an S4 or 335i. But in reality it’s in the same size class, and this is more evident with the swoopier shape of the current car. While the Volvo’s front seat feels roomier than that in the Audi, its rear seat, mounted low and just roomy enough for a pair of average adults, is very much that of a compact sedan. At 12 cubic feet, the Volvo’s trunk is no larger than the Audi’s marginal bin. But the Swedish sedan does have much more room in its center console and glove compartment. Neither is a useful size in the Audi.

The real story with the S60 T6 R-Design is its engine, a turbocharged 3.0-liter transversely-mounted inline six tuned by Polestar to produce 325 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 354 foot-pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm. The six is hard to fault, with no detectable lag, just a strong smooth rush of power, and a thrilling (yet never overbearing) soundtrack. It’s not quite as efficient as the latest direct-injected competitors, with EPA ratings of 18 city, 26 highway (the S4 manages 18/28 with a seven-speed automated dual-clutch manual). Around the burbs while babying the car the trip computer reported 23.5. Exercise the engine and the stat drops into the mid-teens (or even into the single digits if you give the twin scroll turbo no rest). Otherwise Volvo’s six is as good as any and better than most. Just one more cylinder than you get in the S60 T5, but so much better in just about every way.

Such an outstanding engine deserves a better partner than the manually-shiftable six-speed automatic. Though not a bad box, the Aisin has a tendency to lug the engine when left to its own devices and shifts could be smoother and quicker. To get the proper gear you often must intervene, and no paddles are provided for the task, only the shift lever. Currently this transmission is mandatory: no automated dual-clutch or conventional manual is offered. In the S5 you have a choice of either.

The R-Design’s engine is strong enough that aggressive throttle mapping isn’t needed to exaggerate its potency. But Volvo has fitted the car with the most aggressive throttle mapping I’ve experienced in recent memory. This does lend the car an overtly sporty character that’s too often lacking in current Lexusized cars, but smooth starts require conscious effort. Switch into the Volvo from another car, unthinkingly hit the gas to get the car moving and everyone’s heads will be snapped into the pillowy headrests.

The heft of the S60 T6 R-Design’s steering can be varied among three levels (but only if the car isn’t moving). The difference is most evident at low speeds, where “light” and “heavy” feel, well, light and heavy. “Medium” falls in between, but closer to “heavy.” I couldn’t decide which mode I liked best, as the car feels more agile with “light” but more planted with “heavy.” The amount of feedback isn’t much affected: there’s more than in past Volvo’s (including the previous R) but (of course) less sense of a direct connection with the front wheels than I’d prefer.

Now, unfortunately, we come to the S60 R-Design’s primary weakness: its chassis. Swedish engineers have done their best to mitigate the car’s inherently nose-heavy weight distribution, with a performance-oriented Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system (kicks in following the merest whiff of front wheelspin and torque steer) and brake-based torque vectoring. Push the car hard and it will adhere to your intended line. The tires make a difference: the West Virginia dealer car was fitted with ContiProContact all-seasons, while the press car wore ContiSportContact 3 summer tires. The latter felt sharper as their significantly higher limits were approached. And only as the car’s limits are approached does understeer overwhelm the electronic countermeasures.

The problem with this approach: especially when driving the car moderately hard you can feel the electronics selectively apply the brakes to force the chassis to hold a line it otherwise would not be capable of. Effective, but not nearly as transparent as some systems. The feel is artificial and forced rather than natural and fluid. You learn what the chassis is capable of, but you don’t feel it in your gut. Instead, your gut keeps telling you the chassis is going to do something else—like plow for the outside shoulder. This said, the S60 does feel better the harder it is driven.

The Audi S4, in contrast, feels balanced in addition to acting balanced, despite also having most of its weight over its front wheels. An optional active differential permits progressive yet never excessive oversteer upon your right foot’s command. The Volvo’s drivetrain is less flexible. And the Audi’s brakes are noticeably stronger than the Volvo’s. Add it all up, and the S4 can be driven along a mountain road with much more precision and confidence.

The Volvo rides more softly than the more firmly sprung and suspended Audi, but this advantage is compromised by its poorer control over body motions. The Volvo absorbs minor road imperfections better—it’s the superior Interstate cruiser—but provokes more head toss over larger bumps. Though certainly not nearly as crude, compared to the Audi the Volvo’s tuning recalls Detroit’s early attempts at “European sport suspensions.” Additional polish would be welcome.

The 2012 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design starts at $43,375. The car tested in West Virginia, with nav, outstanding 650-watt audio system, heated seats, keyless access and ignition, and blind spot monitors, listed for $48,125. Not cheap, but a similarly equipped Audi S4 checks in $7,700 higher even after a $450 adjustment for feature differences, based on TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool. So the Volvo might not handle as well as the Audi, but it also doesn’t cost nearly as much. On the other hand, a G37x costs about $4,000 less than the Volvo, but is not without its own shortcomings.

So the Volvo S60 T6 R-Design is fast and fun, but rough around the edges and simply trying too hard. Compared to the Audi S4, it’s more comfortable but less confidence inspiring. So it’s not an obvious choice over the obvious choice. Instead, it’s a viable choice for those who want a powerful premium compact sedan and who prioritize seat comfort—or who simply don’t want the same car their friends have. For the rest of us…another round or two of fine tuning could do wonders.

The first car tested was provided by Chris Myers of Smith Company Motor Cars in Charleston, WV. Chris can be reached at 304-746-1792. The second one was provided by Volvo with a tank of gas and insurance.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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Review: 2012 Volvo S60 T5 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/review-2012-volvo-s60-t5/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/review-2012-volvo-s60-t5/#comments Mon, 23 May 2011 23:17:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=395915

Quite a few of you balked at the idea of a $47,610 not-quite-midsize Volvo sedan. Well, for 2012 a T5 joins the S60 range. While the T6 might venture a bit deep into Audi and BMW territory, with a $31,850 base price the T5 is within striking distance of the similarly semi-premium front-drive Acura TSX and Buick Regal. But how much of the T6’s self-proclaimed naughtiness must one do without? Is the more affordable T5 a match for the Acura and Buick, much less the Germans?

Silver is not the new S60’s best color, and the standard 17-inch wheels also don’t do the long-nosed, high-belted exterior any favors. With “ember black metallic” paint and more delicate 18-inch alloys, the previously tested T6 was considerably more attractive. As tested, the T5 appears less upscale than some decidedly non-premium compacts. Not that a 240 looked upscale, either. But Volvo loyalists won’t recognize the object of their devotion in the S60’s coupe-like sweeping roofline. Which leaves the new S60…where?

The T5 has the same oh-so-Scandinavian interior as the T6, though without the $1,900 Premium Package (on both photographed T5s) the former’s seats are upholstered in T-Tec (think soft-sided luggage). The optional leather has an attractively heavy grain, and looks especially warm in “Beechwood.” Add the $800 Climate Package and the seats will also feel warm. Heated or not, these seats are among the most comfortable and properly supportive you’ll find. The Acura’s front buckets aren’t far behind, but the Buick’s are. The Regal wins back points for materials and workmanship. An especially sore point within the Volvo: the oversized shifter feels clunky and literally rings hollow. Though none of the cars in this class are especially foursome-friendly, the Volvo’s aft cabin is especially tight.

Unlike GM, Volvo realizes that 220-or-so horsepower is no longer enough for street cred. So ye olde boosted five kicks out 250 horsepower at 5,500 rpm in its latest iteration. While this is only ten more than the naturally-aspirated inline six offered in other Volvos, the T5’s peak torque of 266 pound-feet at 1,800 rpm outgrunts the six by 30. On paper it’s the superior engine. Drop a half-liter of displacement and AWD, and the EPA ratings improve from the T6’s 18/26 to the T5’s more respectable 20/30. This is better than the TSX V6 (18/27), Regal 2.0T (18/28), or the slightly larger Volvo S80 when fitted with the naturally-aspirated six (19/27), but not quite as good as an Audi A4 2.0T (22/30).

Problem is, the boosted five doesn’t deliver its numbers with the smooth feel and lusty sounds expected from a premium sport sedan. Despite the early torque peak, at low rpm the engine feels soft and responds sluggishly. Even the turbocharged four in the Buick sounds and feels better. The responsive, sweet-sounding six in the TSX is beyond comparison.

Handling similarly takes a hit. When I drove the T6 the salesperson said that Volvo was concerned that the car’s ride was too firm. The tires were a touch thumpy, but that car felt alive in a way no Volvo sedan had in recent memory. With the standard suspension, the S60 T5’s body motions are less well controlled. There’s more lean in turns and more bobbling over bumps. The Acura does a little better here, the Buick much better. The T5’s steering, though still satisfyingly quick, feels less direct and less precise than the T6’s. Partly because the Michelin Primacy tires lack grip, the stability control cuts in far too early. There’s no convenient button to dial it back; instead, this must be done through menus (think iDrive, but with the controls high up and to the right on the center stack). The Dynamic Package, with the T6’s 18-inch wheels, selectable effort steering, and firmer suspension, would close the handling gap with the Buick. It’s a must for anyone who cares about driving. But it also swells the price by $900. Even with this package, the T5 lacks the additional handling flexibility provided by the T6’s all-wheel-drive.

Even with the base suspension, the S60 T5 doesn’t ride as smoothly or as quietly as the Acura or the Buick. Compared to those cars it seems slightly raw, and not in a good way. The ears report a lesser car.

“Naughty” posturing notwithstanding, Volvo continues to push safety. “City Safety,” which can totally prevent hitting objects in front of the car up to 9 mph and minimize damage up to 18 mph, is standard on all S60s. I again lacked the nerve to test it. A full array of more commonly found safety features is also standard, of course.

Equip an S60 T5 to match the features of a $32,000 Buick Regal 2.0T or a $36,000 Acura TSX V6, and the MSRP ends up at $37,300. So not far off the latter, and very close to a similarly equipped $37,100 Audi A4 2.0T. Discounts should be larger on the Volvo, though.

Most notably, the Volvo S60 T5 starts a considerable $7,725 lower than the T6, but how much are you really saving? Equip both with heated leather, sunroof, adaptive xenon headlights, and the Dynamic Package, and the difference shrinks to $4,625, $36,250 vs. $40,875. (Add another $2,700 to either for nav plus a 650-watt surround sound audio system.) Volvo charges $2,000 for all-wheel-drive in the XC60 crossover, so figure $2,625 for the T6’s engine. A little steep for just one additional cylinder, but in this case it’s a must. Even if the inline six’s additional performance isn’t needed, the larger engine sounds and feels so much better than the cobby five—it adds ten grand to the perceived value of the car. The Germans have certainly charged much more for less.

Dwyer and Sons Volvo in Commerce Twp, MI, provided the car for this review. They can be reached at (866) 759-0593.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

S60 T5 rear quarter S60 T5 front quarter S60 T5 front seats 2 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail S60 T5 instrument panel S60-T5-thumb S60 T5 instrument panel 2 S60 T5 front S60 T5 view forward Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail S60 T5 side S60 T5 rear quarter 2 S60 T5 front seats S60 T5 trunk S60 T5 engine That's when I reach for my re-Volvo...

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Review: 2011 Volvo S60 T6 AWD Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/review-2011-volvo-s60-t6-awd-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/review-2011-volvo-s60-t6-awd-take-two/#comments Wed, 16 Feb 2011 21:03:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=384119

Judge me if you must, but when I think of “naughty Swede,” NSFW images of a blonde au pair in a slutty French maid outfit flash in my head. It therefore struck me as a bit odd that Volvo, long known for being the Birkenstock of the auto, would start running TV and internet ads calling the new S60 “naughty.” What exactly is a naughty Volvo? As the former owner of a V70R, I had to hit Volvo up for one to find out.

Now that Volvo belongs to the Chinese, it would seem that a new corporate direction is working its way through Gothenburg. It’s not some crazy new idea but an old one: profitability. Apparently Volvo’s new Asian masters want Volvo to actually make some cash, and to that end a drastic reduction in the brand’s US lineup is already underway. With an automotive austerity campaign underway, expect to see only a few Volvo models on showroom floors, with the S60 occupying the volume sales leader position. This of course places the new Swede in some serious competition with the likes of the Audi A4/S4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class. Does Sweden’s most popular sedan have what it takes?

Though the new S60 has grown compared to the outgoing 2009 model, the competition has grown as well, meaning the safe cars from the land of ABBA are no longer a “half-step” between the vehicles from the German competition. With an overall length of 182-inches and a wheelbase of 109.3-inches, the S60 could even be said to be a “middle of the pack” contender. Similarly, the 300HP twin-scroll turbocharged 3-liter inline 6-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic lands the new S60 solidly at the upper end of the Euro competition (at least on paper). But does that make the S60 “naughty”? Not quite.

The 2011 S60 carries a $37,700 base MSRP in T6 AWD trim ($30,975 for the newly announced T5 FWD model), which represents an increase of approximately $1000 over the previous top-end S60. Luckily, that’s still a relative bargain in the Euro segment where competition in the form of the BMW 335xi starts at $43,100 and Mercedes C350 starts at $39,990 (especially when you consider standard equipment). Volvo forum-fan boys are all aflutter over Volvo’s continuing price hikes. Sorry cheap Swede fans, the truth of the matter is Volvo needs to remain a premium brand in the USA to be profitable. Until we are all buying Chinese built Volvos, labor rates in the EU will keep Volvo’s premium cost structure and premium brand position.

From the outside, the new S60’s sheet metal is a departure from Volvo’s traditional past, but still retains the strong shoulders of the outgoing S60 and something of the iconic Volvo two-box style . If it were not for the over-sized proboscis, the design might rival the original S80’s form for the most elegant Volvo ever penned, but as it is, passengers and observers were mostly undecided whether they likes the new schnoz. Light pipes in the tail lamp modules, subtle swoops over the wheel arches, and a coupé-like C-pillar conspire to add a touch of modernity to the new S60, but taken as a whole the new S60 is still more conservative than mischievous. Naughty? I’m not so sure, especially without the bright orange paint our tester came with. I’m also not sure naughty sells cars; Audi’s latest cars wear sheet metal that is the “Midwest farm girl” of the auto industry, and their sales are on fire.

While the exterior might be a departure for Volvo, the interior is typical of the Nordic brand: high quality parts, logically-placed controls and subtle Scandinavian style. Volvo entered the 21st century with interiors that were class leading in design and materials, but in the past decade the competition has evolved and improved. While Audi may have little to fear, and I’m sure the next generation 3-series will continue to build on BMW’s interior renaissance, the S60 delivers materials an interior build quality on par with the best in the Euro luxury market. How about the rest of the competition? Mercedes’ C-class interior feels cheaper than the new S60 and the Acura TSX is cute but the fake wood and plastics are only a mild step above the Honda line.

Anyone familiar with Volvo’s product portfolio will feel right at home in the S60, as interior appointments are mainly borrowed from, or are subtly tweaked versions of those in the S80. From the seated-Swede shaped climate control buttons, to the large easy to use dials, the interior continues Volvo’s tradition of function and form being equally important. All the controls are easily within reach and fairly logically laid out. The only fly in the ointment is the key-fob slot to the right of the steering wheel. If you decide not to opt for the $550 “PCC” key-less go option, your fob will need to be inserted in this hole while driving, meaning the rest of the keys are free to bang on the dash ad nauseum. I understand the need to have a low MSRP, but really, given this design, the PCC key should be standard.

Our tester is proof that Volvo still loves the less pedestrian interior color combinations. In a world where even Subarus are suddenly becoming mainstream beige, we can only hope Gothenburg keeps the quirks and odd colors inside and out. In a world gone bland world, they make Volvos all the more interesting. Sadly the “Creamcicle” white/orange interior in some of the press photos is not an option in the USA. Pity. Still, the orangeish-brown leather interior is striking when accompanied by the shiny copper metallic paint job our tester had. Naughty? Bring me that Creamsicle interior or something in lime green and then we’ll talk.

If there is one area where the old S60 was severely lacking it was the electronic gizmo department. The 2011 S60 may not be revolutionary, but it is thoroughly modern. In addition to offering optional radar cruise control, lane departure warning, and monitoring your alertness, it also finally offers basic luxury features such as Bluetooth, iPod/USB integration, Satellite and HD radio as standard features. Speaking of audio, the base and up-level sound systems both deliver excellent sound with the 12-speaker Audyssey system easily matching the high-end systems from the competition in terms of clarity and beat-for-the-buck. The heart of the system is the all-new high resolution 7-inch screen (standard in the USA, other markets may get a standard 5-inch screen) is bright and clear with well-designed graphics and intuitive, logical menus. The new system combines audio, vehicle and navigation settings together and is controlled by a knob and button in the center console, or via a scrolling wheel/button on the steering wheel.

The interface proves to be fairly responsive and delivers high quality graphics, however with self-proclaimed competition being the BMW 3-Series, I have to ask why Volvo didn’t pop a BMW-like wide screen display in there? Opportunities lost. Still, the only thing I found myself missing was a broader range of voice commands for controlling audio devices, alá Ford Sync. The Swedish rumor mill indicates we should expect this same infotainment system to trickle down to the XC60 in a mid-cycle refresh and the S80/XC70 sometime later. Meanwhile, the system offers a nice twist to Volvo’s safety conscious reputation in that it allows quite a bit of leeway to fiddle with the infotainment system while in motion. Naghty? Perhaps.

Speaking of gadgets, rounding out the list on the new S60 is Volvo’s revised radar cruise control. The new system will now bring you to a complete stop and keep the vehicle stopped until traffic moves again. I have tested systems from Lexus, Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW, Ford and Infiniti and oddly enough the system in the new S60 is quite simply the best I have ever tested. Systems in cars costing three times more than the S60 don’t work this smoothly. Who knows what programming wizardry has been done under the electronic hood, but this system reacts quickly and without drama when a car cuts in front of you, it works well on fairly windy roads and doesn’t have the same strange “lag” that some systems do where they drop far behind the traffic when accelerating. Included with the radar cruise is a collision warning system that lets know you if you are tailgating and if a doom is impending. The system works we’ll and unlike similar systems from Ford we never experienced a “false alarm” caused by windy mountain roads. A Volvo that lets you drive feet-free, now that’s naughty.

One cannot review a Volvo without discussing safety. From collapsible steering columns, anti-whiplash seats and “anti-submarineing” guards to Volvo’s latest active safety systems that will intervene when you fail to, we can easily say the safety box is well and duly ticked. The biggest improvement in the new S60 is City Safety with pedestrian detection and full-auto-brake. Personally I think this system should be standard on all Volvo models, even if it means a higher base price. If you recall, the previous generation City Safety system saved my bacon in the XC60 I reviewed last year, so I’m confident it will do the same here. The S60 takes this system to the next level by detecting pedestrians as long as they are over 31-inches tall. While Volvo may have some egg on their corporate face for the failure of the system to act in some recent demonstrations, if the system keeps at least one person from plowing down little Jimmy running after a ball, then it’s worth it in my book. Oddly enough I was unable to find a volunteer to stand in front of the system so we could test it. Is a safer Volvo naughty? No, but I’ll take the safer car any day.

Heading out to the coast for some Highway 1 time I was hoping to find the S60’s inner daemon. Volvos in the past decade have been far from slow but lacked the engagement you find in a BMW or Audi. When the road gets twisty the new S60 delivers more than I expected but less than forum fanboys would hope for. The S60 chassis is very stable, surprisingly well balanced and delivers very confidant handling. The available adjustable electric power steering allows you to tune some heft into your steering, but regardless of mode it remains fairly isolated. While the S60 will never be a 335xi, it actually does manage to put the likes of the Audi A4 on notice. The 3-liter turbo engine our tester was equipped with is an eager and willing companion, as long as you put your foot in it. Tallish throttle mapping and a transmission programed for efficiency take a toll on the fun factor unless you are willing to romp on the go pedal often. Fortunately the car responds well to being flogged and easily delivered a 5.67 second run to 60 every time it was asked. Top speed? 130. Naughty? Not bad at all.

Speaking of those options, let’s talk pricing. The base MSRP of $37,700 for the T6 AWD trim, gets you the base city safety system that detects cars only (it will just plow Jimmy right over), dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, and more safety acronyms than I have ever seen in my life. Our tester was equipped with: the $2,100 “Technology Package” which included Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with Auto Brake, Pedestrian, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control and Lane Departure Warning. We also had the $2,700 multimedia package: up-level audio with 650 watts, 12 speakers, Dolby pro logic, the voice command navigation system and a backup camera; $1,500 premium package including the moonroof, power passenger seat and steering Xenon headlights; $800 Climate package which included heated seats, heated washer nozzles, headlight washers, rain sense wipers and an air quality system. The above packages bumped our tester to $45,675 including a $875 destination fee.

While the BMW 335xi is faster and more fun to drive, similarly configured it tips the scales at $56,375. The slower RWD only C350 from Mercedes doesn’t offer the range of features as the S60 so it’s difficult to compare but the S60 ends up being cheaper when similarly configured. The most natural competition for Volvo appears to be the Audi A4/S4, while the S4 is faster and more powerful than the S60, similarly configured the S60 is almost $6,000 cheaper and the A4 2.0T lacks the zip for a similar price point.

At the end of a week with the S60 I can honestly say this new Volvo isn’t naughty at all, but that’s OK because this car is designed for real people. It’s not brash, nor loud, and it doesn’t scream ego. Instead the S60 T6 AWD is an extremely competent sedan that is well priced and offers compelling safety features. If an AWD Euro sedan is what you seek, the S60 should be at or near the top of your list. The newly announced S60 T5 model may yet be a better deal, as, priced at just over $30,000 starting, it delivers all the style, many of the same features without the AWD and 300HP. Volvo’s new S60 looks ready to do battle with the competition for another 8-9 years, let’s hope it doesn’t have to fight single-handedly for that long.

Volvo provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for the review.

Performance statistics as tested:

0-60MPH: 5.67 seconds

30-60MPH: 3.5 seconds

Average economy: 24.5MPG

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Review: 2011 Volvo S60 T6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/review-2011-volvo-s60-t6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/review-2011-volvo-s60-t6/#comments Wed, 06 Oct 2010 19:01:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=367773

Remember the 240? Volvo clearly wishes you didn’t. Instead, they’d rather you think of the thoroughly redesigned 2011 S60 T6 as “naughty” despite a bevy of new safety features. Just a tease—again—or does this Volvo actually put out?

The 2001-2009 S60 added some curves to Volvo’s traditional Amana-inspired design aesthetic, but retained strong shoulders as a link to the past. With the 2011 sedan, the shoulders have been softened and flowing curves predominate. Front-drive packaging and safety standards have conspired to distend the nose, but this is the extent of the exterior’s flaws. Unless looking more than a little like a more tightly proportioned second-gen Olds Aurora also counts as a flaw. Volvo has not copied the recent Benz-BMW practice of adding extraneous details in a bid to dial up the drama. And yet the new S60 is more eye-catching than the German competition. Unfortunately, Oldsmobile is proof that excellent styling isn’t capable of saving a dying brand.

A note on the “ember black metallic” of the tested car. In photos it appears black, but in sunlight brown metallic undertones are evident. Interesting, but overly subtle.

The tastefully stylish theme continues inside the car, where as in other recent Volvos the influence of Scandinavian furniture design is evident. Materials are upscale without seeming opulent. A heavy grain to the leather lends character. In the center stack overly similar buttons ring a phone pad. Breaking these buttons up into logical groupings would make them easier to operate. Thankfully, four large knobs have been provided for the most common functions.

Front seats have long been a Volvo strength, and those in the new S60 continue this fine tradition, providing both excellent comfort and very good lateral support. The driving position is about perfect. The rear seat is a much less happy place. Despite a comfortably-shaped cushion the seat is not comfortable. Likely because of the coupe-like roofline, the cushion is mounted too low to the floor, and knee room is in short supply. The S60 has always seemed a half-size larger than the BMW 3-Series et al., but in the rear seat it certainly isn’t. Trunk space is similarly constrained, tying the 3 at 12 cubes.

When I drove (and reviewed) the XC60 R-Design a few months ago, I was impressed enough to wonder why the late V70 wasn’t as enjoyable to drive. After all, it should be easier to get a wagon, with its lower center of gravity, to handle well. And the straight six—unique in a transverse application—felt and sounded so good I wondered why anyone bothers with a V6. But couldn’t Volvo wring more than 281 horsepower out of a turbocharged 3.0-liter?

Well, for 2011 horsepower has been bumped to a nice, round, BMW-tying 300, at 6,500 rpm. Torque has also been bumped, to 325 pound-feet, all of it at least theoretically available from 2,100 to 4,200 rpm. In practice, the engine feels strong throughout its range, with hardly any turbo lag. Though it weighs nearly two tons, the latest S60 is a quick car. If only ex-parent Ford’s EcoBoost felt nearly this responsive or sounded nearly this good.

Unlike in the 2004-2007 R, no manual transmission is offered. The six-speed manually-shiftable automatic performs passably well, though it’s getting long in tooth. Newer transmissions are both more responsive and smoother.

The brakes feel firm and strong. Automatic-braking at low speeds (“City Safety” in Volvoese) is standard. A $2,100 Technology Package adds adaptive cruise, distance alert (a series of lights displayed on the lower windshield let you know when you’re getting too close, plus an audible alarm if a collision seems likely), automatic high-speed braking, pedestrian detection (on the Volvo site: “unprotected road users”), a driver alertness monitor, and lane departure warning. I did not test the automatic braking or pedestrian detection. Of the bunch, the distance alert is most likely to prove useful on a daily basis.

The standard all-wheel-drive system remains a Haldex design, though as in other recent Volvos it’s pre-charged to very quickly transfer torque to the rear wheels as needed. To this Volvo has added “corner traction control with torque vectoring.” What this means: the brakes are selectively applied to proactively counteract understeer. And it works. Until its high limits are approached the S60 has a very neutral feel for a nose-heavy car. Engage “sport mode,” seriously prod the throttle, and oversteer is even on the menu.

The biggest, most pleasant surprise with the new S60: the steering retains only a hint of the numbness that has long afflicted the marque’s cars, including the late, lamented R. By current luxury car standards it feels direct and almost communicative. The chassis has been similarly tuned with driving enthusiasts in mind. The new S60 still doesn’t feel as delicate or precise as a BMW 3-Series, and isn’t as engaging, but in terms of overall driving enjoyment it actually isn’t far off. The tested car wasn’t fitted with the $750 adaptive shocks. They’re not needed.

The dealer asked my opinion of the ride. Apparently Volvo asked them to. They’re concerned that it’s overly firm for the typical customer, and assured me that an optional “Touring Package” with a softer suspension is on the way. Personally, I wouldn’t want it. But I’m not the typical Volvo customer. That buyer is likely to find the ride overly firm. Not so much because it is firm as because the tires clomp over every bump and divot. Figure out how to eliminate this noise, and the ride would seem much better. Even with it, the new S60 sounds and feels like a premium sedan.

As it better, given the $47,610 sticker on the tested car. It’s possible to shave $2,100 by doing without the Technology Package, another $2,700 if you can live without the fantastic 650-watt audio system and nav, and so forth down to the $38,550 base price. When both cars are similarly loaded up, BMW 335i xDrive lists for $5,500 more. At invoice the difference is just over four large. Not pocket change, but still a bit close. And the 2007 R? Despite having fewer features (about $1,700 worth based on TrueDelta’s price comparison tool), it listed for $1,800 more when both cars are comparably equipped. Then again, the R died.

Volvo has not resurrected the true “R” appellation for the new S60 T6. Yet I enjoyed driving it more, thanks to a stronger, better-sounding engine, more responsive steering, more balanced handling, and a generally tighter feel. The new, come-hither styling also doesn’t hurt. So, “naughty,” even if successfully participating in Deathrace 2000 is not an option? No home run on the first outing—the new S60’s not that kind of car—but certainly good for a triple. I’d love another date. Now if only they’d offer the V60 here…

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

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Review: Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/review-volvo-xc60-t6-r-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/review-volvo-xc60-t6-r-design/#comments Fri, 07 May 2010 16:03:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=355678
Not so long ago Volvo attempted to poach some customers from BMW by offering high-performance R variants of the S60 sedan and V70 wagon. Then it decided these weren’t selling well enough to justify the expense of developing them. So now we’re offered “R-Design” variants instead. These involve larger wheels, a mildly stiffened suspension, and a slew of styling tweaks. Not part of the recipe: additional horsepower. Halfway through the 2010 model year the XC60 gained such a variant. All sizzle, or is there some steak here as well?

Proportioned more like an SUV than the wagon-based XC70 but lower and more car-like than the larger XC90, the XC60 seeks out a happy medium between the two vehicle types. A diagonally bisected trapezoidal grille, sizable shoulders, and tall twisty tail lamps mark it as a Volvo. In standard form the XC60 looks interesting but also a bit odd, with a pinched midsection and overly long nose. Volvo clearly tried to break further out of its traditional box with this one, and the results seem mixed…until you see the R-Design. Add body color, silver-accented rockers and attractive 20-inch five-spoke alloys, and suddenly the crossover’s curves and proportions work. So transformed, the XC60 T6 R-Design looks tight and athletic, and more distinctive than the competitor Audi touts as distinctive. I hadn’t realized that the regular XC60’s black lower body cladding and smaller wheels were doing the underlying form such a disservice.

The interior undergoes less of a transformation. The instruments have blue faces, the leather seats have contrasting inlays, and textured aluminum replaces brushed aluminum on the center stack. Tastefully restrained Scandinavian design, floating center stack, semi-premium materials with no untoward glitz—you’re in a Volvo. If you want outright luxury, go elsewhere.

Another sign you’re in a Volvo: the front seats. Neither too hard nor too soft and shaped for long-distance comfort, these seats probably trail only safety among the reasons to buy a Volvo. This said, those in the last true R cars were larger, even more comfortable, and provided more lateral support. There’s not a lot of room in the front seat, but the driving position is about perfect, and the A-pillars are thinner than most these days despite Volvo’s safety emphasis. The back seat is high enough off the floor and smartly contoured to provide adults with lumbar and thigh support, but knee room is in short supply. The XC60 is truly a compact crossover. You might find large-car quantities of rear legroom in mainstream cute utes like the CR-V and RAV4, but not here. The Audi doesn’t offer much more, but only the EX35 offers less. Cargo room is similarly just adequate. If you want more, there’s always the XC90.

In the U.S. the XC60 is offered with a 235-horsepower 3.2-liter naturally aspirated inline six and a 281-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter variant of the same. The R-Design is offered only with the latter— though bereft of a bespoke engine, performance does remain part of the R equation. It seems odd, a transversely-mounted inline six. But the turbo 3.0 feels so smooth and sounds so delightful, you wonder why anyone bothers with a V. Or with an inline five for that matter. Some premium car buyers might wish the engine were a bit less vocal, and more in line with the low levels of wind and road noise, but anyone who loves driving will dip deeper into the throttle just to make it sing. If only Ford’s 3.5-liter “EcoBoost” V6 sounded or felt nearly this good. Thrust with the Volvo turbo six isn’t at EcoBoost levels, but there’s more than enough for all but the most enthusiastic drivers. It makes a great case for quality of power delivery over quantity.

Not that the quantity of power delivered is bad—the T6 powerplant is only 19 horsepower short of the last R engine, a more aggressively boosted 2.5-liter five-cylinder. Paired exclusively with a manually-shiftable six-speed automatic, it’ll get you to sixty in about seven seconds. And yet, 281 horsepower isn’t much for a turbocharged 3.0-liter. Would it be that hard to dial up the boost a bit, if only to make the R-Design a little more special?

Elsewhere, boost could stand to be taken down a notch, or at least finessed. Steering effort isn’t overly light, and weighting is decent, but there’s an omnipresent syrupy numbness that has characterized Volvo steering for as far back as I can remember. Even the R cars were similarly afflicted. On the other hand, even with the XC60 T6 R-Design’s huge low-profile tires the suspension strikes a very good balance between handling and ride comfort. The R-Design certainly has none of the feel of a sports car, but it doesn’t feel large or bulky and takes curves with commendable balance and poise. There’s no plow, no float, no rocking, and no harshness. So why bother with the standard suspension that underpins other XC60s? Relative to the competition, this is Volvo’s best handling vehicle. But not the best-handling vehicle in the segment—that continues to be the BMW X3, followed by the Audi Q5. Note to Volvo: fix the steering.

With a base price of $42,400, the XC60 T6 R-Design starts $3,750 higher than the regular T6. But the R-Design’s standard xenons and sunroof account for two grand of that. $1,750 seems a more than reasonable amount to pay for the R-Design’s larger wheels, massaged suspension, and styling tweaks. With options, you’re in the mid-to-high forties. Seem high? Well, run the XC60 T6 R-Design and the Audi Q5 through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, which similarly configures both vehicles then adjusts for remaining feature differences, and you’ll find that the Teutonic crossover runs a significant four-to-five grand higher.

It’s always disappointing to see a marque’s ambitions scaled back, and this disappointment could easily have rubbed off on the R-Design cars. The XC60 T6 R-Design isn’t quite an R inside the engine compartment, and this is a bit of a shame since true R status is only a few pounds of boost away. But it’s quick regardless, the R-Design tweaks do dramatically improve the exterior styling and finesse the ride-handling compromise, and the price is competitive. So, while the T6 R-Design isn’t a home run without further tweaks to the engine and steering, it’s a strong contender and clearly the one to get if you’re getting a Volvo XC60.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online provider of auto reliability and pricing data

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Review: Volvo XC60 Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-volvo-xc60-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-volvo-xc60-take-two/#comments Mon, 01 Mar 2010 15:21:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=346980

Over the bridge and through the woods till mödrars hus vi gor. When Volvo first started their love affair with jacked up wagons equipped with AWD and some extra ride height, they had two groups in mind: The Swedes that live in rural Sweden with miles of unpaved dirt roads in the forest which turn to mud in the long dark winter, and the American soccer mom who thinks she needs an SUV like vehicle to cross the puddle in the Neiman Marcus parking lot. Thanks to our recently departed leader Robert Farago, we know how the XC60 does on pavement, but since Volvo offered to give us an XC60 for a week, I decided to take a different approach and review the XC60 in the dirt back-roads of coastal northern California and the icy roads of the Sierra Nevada to see if you can actually combine living off the grid and “Scandinavian luxury.”

On paper the XC60 looks like just what the yuppie doctor ordered. The XC60 boasts a Grand Cherokee and LR2 besting 9.1 inches of ground clearance, the same AWD system as the LR2 (which it should be noted was originally borrowed from Volvo’s S80 to begin with), sexy curves and some rugged looking plastic on the front and rear overhang. At 4174lbs, the XC60 is no lightweight but does somehow manage to be slimmer than both the LR2 and the Grand Cherokee.

Visually the XC60 is actually a departure from the Volvo styling that has been in place since 1999. Volvo’s design department somehow managed to make the XC60 instantly recognizable as a Volvo, yet change the form enough that when parked next to Volvo’s larger XC90 it makes its older brother look ancient.

Inside the XC60 is modern Volvo all the way. The only low point in this otherwise well designed cabin is the Nav system. Volvo used to be known for their trick pop-up nav system, and the coolness factor of the pop-up was a welcome distraction from the basic design of the system. Instead of this arrangement used in all other Volvo models, the Swedish design team crafted an Audi like pod for the nav screen in the center console and moved the screen for the radio up to a strange binnacle on the dash. There are two problems with this: First, the radio controls are way too far from the radio’s screen, and secondly the nav screen looks ill fitted and far too small for the hole they gave it in the dash. Adding insult to injury is the fact that should you not opt for the $1,800 nav system you get a bizarre cubby where the screen should go that tells all your passengers you were too cheap to splurge for the nav. I have been told to expect the new 2011 S60’s totally revamped Nav and audio package in the 2011 XC60, let’s hope so; it can’t get here fast enough.

With the rear seats up the XC60’s sloping rear profile means you are limited to 31cu ft of cargo space which expands to 67 cu ft with the rear seats folded. Compared to the Euro competition the XC60 packs a week’s worth of camping supplies (including water) with relative ease. Once off the beaten track it becomes obvious that the base 17” wheels are more on- than off-road tuned, but fortunately the rest of the suspension is up to the task. Suspension travel is well suited to heavily rutted dirt and mud roads and Volvo kindly supplies approach departure and breakover angles (22, 27 and 22 degrees respectively) which proved useful while navigating the many treacherous roads that litter the Lost Coast region of Northern California. Volvo’s optional skid plates, bumper bars and scuff plates are probably something Volvo should add to their press fleet as it was my mission to go where no $47,000 Euro CUV should ever be taken.

Let’s get things clear from the start, the XC60 is not, and never will be, a rock crawler. If you plan to ford more than a 10”of water or crawl over boulders or logs, then a Wrangler is what you need. If a luxury rock crawler is more your style and you only have $45K to work with, try a used Range Rover. The Haldex AWD system the XC60 uses is capable of delivering a 50/50 power split should it be needed, sending 90% of the power to the front under normal conditions.

Unlike a “true” SUV, the Haldex system operates using a locked center differential (to be honest there is no center diff at all, the transmission has the front and rear power outputs permanently locked), between the rear diff and the transmission lays a Haldex clutch pack that infinitely varies the connection between the transmission and the rear wheels. Power transfer takes less than 1/7th of a tyre rotation should a slip be detected, and the system can vary the clutch pack on its own whenever it feels like it. The system operates as advertised and strikingly well on sand, several inches of mud, steep ruts, a few inches of snow and moderate off-roading. As with many crossover AWD systems, when the going gets icy, the lack of a locking center differential becomes readily apparent. When climbing a steep driveway with an inch of slippery ice coating it, the XC60 spent much of its time spinning the front wheels, it was only when the traction control was disabled that the car shifted power to the rear and made it up the drive. That being said, I clocked over 26 hours on unpaved backcountry roads in the XC60 and didn’t get stuck. There were ditches we had to stop and fill in with logs to traverse, trees that had to be moved out of the way, and jaw-dropped looks from ATV and jacked up Wrangler owners we passed along the way.

On the road the XC60 handles with more prowess than it’s curb weight or FWD-biased drivetrain would suggest, but unfortunately Volvo’s choice of tires isn’t quite up to the task. The Pirelli Scorpions squeal at the slightest provocation and fail to grip when the going gets muddy or icy. Powering this Swedish cute-ute is Volvo’s sweet 3.0L twin-scroll turbo inline 6, which was introduced just a year ago. Quite similar in design to BMW’s new N55 3.0L I-6 engine, the T6 as Volvo calls it, pumps out 281 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque with the typically-Volvo flat torque curve. Mated to an Aisin 6 speed automatic, power delivery is smooth and strong, and with a 0-60 time of 7.4 seconds, one might almost say quick, almost. The XC60 climbs up rugged, un-paved muddy trails with composure, never seeming taxed.

One cannot review a Volvo without discussing Safety. Volvo proudly touts the XC60 as the safest vehicle they have ever built, and my experience with the electronic systems in the XC60 may just bear that out. After Volvo’s PR company handed me the keys to the XC60 I hopped on the freeway for my 30 mile drive home and like any techno-nerd the first thing I did was play with the electronics. The first thing the car did was bing at me and tell me I wasn’t driving in an alert manner. I hate it when my car is right. The second thing the XC60 did was scold me for following too closely with LEDs that reflect on the dash. And the last thing the XC60 did for me was save my bacon.

As traffic slowed, the adaptive cruise control disabled (Volvo’s system turns off and returns control to the driver below 5MPH) and my inattention returned. I was distracted by an accident on the other side of the freeway when the XC60 in rapid succession beeped loudly at me and piled on the brakes, snapping me back to attention. “Auto braking by city safety” appeared on the dash, completing the XC60’s party trick. Effective from approximately 2 to 19MPH, the XC60’s laser scanners detect moving and stationary cars and will either come to a complete stop or at least drastically reduce your speed at the last minute to avoid or reduce the effect of an accident. City safety is standard on the 2010 XC60 and I can safely say, it worked as advertised. Of course Volvo includes a whole host of other electronic nannies that are too numerous to list, but it’s safe to say Volvo’s reputation for building Swedish tanks is alive and well.

The XC60 proves that Volvo can make a dirt road-capable CUV with styling flair and enough electronic nannies to satisfy the risk-adverse in the crowd (not to mention your insurance broker). The real question is if buyers will actually cross-shop the XC60 with its German competition. Stacked up to the Q5, X3 and GLK, the Volvo shines with more power, excellent cargo capacity, unique styling and a suitably upscale interior. Starting at $33,000 for the FWD 235HP, model, our Volvo provided tester hit the nosebleed section at a whopping $47,395. Admittedly this can seem like a bargain when you look at the Q5’s starting price of $37,350 and a similarly equipped price of $51,625, the question is: Can Volvo get you to buy one?

Volvo provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

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Review: 2009 Volvo XC60 T6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/06/capsule-review-2009-volvo-xc60-t6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/06/capsule-review-2009-volvo-xc60-t6/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2009 22:40:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=317516

As an Elvis fan, I have to say that the singer created an enormous body of completely unlistenable music. The Hollywood years are particularly execrable, generating as they did an entire canon of crap. In the same sense, Volvo. In recent history, the American-owned Swedish automaker has unleashed a range of vehicles that did little more than remind us how far the iconic brand has fallen. For example, Volvo's minivan, which---oh wait. They didn't make a minivan. Right. Volvo's XC SUVs arrived late, with the wrong engines, with a rep for tank-like build quality and unimpeachable reliability that was only obvious by its absence. Ditto Volvo's sedans. And now, Volvo's '68 Comeback Special: the XC60.]]>

As an Elvis fan, I have to say that the singer created an enormous body of completely unlistenable music. The Hollywood years are particularly execrable, generating as they did an entire canon of crap. In the same sense, Volvo. In recent history, the American-owned Swedish automaker has unleashed a range of vehicles that did little more than remind us how far the iconic brand has fallen. For example, Volvo’s minivan, which—oh wait. They didn’t make a minivan. Right. Volvo’s XC SUVs arrived late, with the wrong engines, with a rep for tank-like build quality and unimpeachable reliability that was only obvious by its absence. Ditto Volvo’s sedans. And now, Volvo’s ’68 Comeback Special: the XC60.

First, let’s get something into the open: I don’t like CUVs. I understand that an elevated driving position creates a sense of control and (perceived) safety. But if I’m high, I want to be mighty. Or, at the very least, driving something that’s mighty big inside. Every CUV I’ve driven was either a gas-sucking lard ass, a poorly packaged gas-sucking lard ass or a joyless hybrid.

The moment I laid eyes on the Volvo XC60, I felt my anti-car-on-stilts position softening. The crossover’s press shots make the model look goofy (you shouldn’t see the ones I didn’t publish). In the metal, the XC60 is as perfectly sized and proportioned as a Steinway piano. The Swede’s shape and stance—boasting better ground clearance than many trucks—generates a look that’s solid without being stolid; projecting macho ruggedness and dynamism.

Volvo gets credit for attaching a brand-faithful snout to a highly raked windshield without creating an acre of dashtop plastic or A pillars that could support Trump Tower. The XC60′s profile is appropriately outdoorsy, in a diminutive but not dainty sort of way. The XC60′s rear is also particularly well wrought. It’s got that Land Rover take stuff anywhere thing happening, and mellifluously melds melted tail lamps with a roof spoiler and shark fin.

Taken as a whole, I’ll take it.

Inside, rental car. I so didn’t want it to be so. XC60 buyers who share this desire will find it easy enough to generate the necessary suspension of disbelief to con themselves that they’re driving a premium product. The Volvo’s interior design is fastidious. The controls are ergonomically sound and appropriately Ikea-like. The jaunty little LCD screen popping up from the top of the XC60′s dash is as cute as Wall-E’s itty bitty face. Sure, there’s no surprise and delight, but c’mon, it’s a Volvo. The brand that schlepped a thousand minimalists.

Yeah, well, it’s a $40K Volvo. Swedish style, careful craftsmanship and totally flat-folding rear seats can’t mask the XC60′s low-rent materials’ quality. Equally dire: the switch-gear operates with all the satisfaction of a lowfat deep-fried peanut butter sandwich. Let’s hope the XC60′s haptically hideous plastics are Ford tough; I can’t think of any other reason to remind yourself you overpaid for a Volvo. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Volvo XC60′s interior is “Blue Hawaii” to the Audi Q5 cabin’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

The XC60′s engine is a hit. The 281hp 3.0-liter in-line six sounds distinctly MOR, and there’s a touch of turbo-lag from the git-go. But once underway, there’s a hoon of torque underfoot: 295 lb·ft. @ 1,500-4,800 rpm. The XC60′s stable yard is never, ever shy of horses. Which is just as well for a four-plus-one seater that burns gas at 15/22 mpg.

In terms of actual hoonery, the XC60′s grip and composure will leave you wanting better seat bolstering. Once again, damn the man who invented all-season tires. Thanks to its overly stiff rubber, the XC60 is just that little bit too hard riding. It ruins any chance of an upscale vibe, serving an unwelcome reminder that the XC60 shares its underlying architecture with the ill-fated Land Rover LR2.

Do I have to mention safety? How about this: if you can find a Volvo XC60 without the $1695 Technology Package (Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with Auto-Brake, Distance Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Driver Alert Control), that’s the way to go. In other words, file all those gizmos under “more electronic shit that will go wrong” and “more evidence that Volvo’s brand managers don’t get it.”

For under $30K, Volvo would sell XC60s all day long. Even in the current economic climate. Even if Wo Fat buys the brand. Knocking on $40K, Volvo’s high-priced cute ute is almost as inadvisable as a Lincoln MKS. But not quite. ‘Cause the XC60 is a “real” Volvo—provided it goes the distance mechanically.

If not, well, the King of Rock and Roll ended his career in a blaze of self-parody, picking invisible bugs off his arms as he tried (and failed) to remember lyrics he’d been performing for twenty years. I’d hate to see Volvo go the same way. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Review: 2009 Euro Wagon Shootout: BMW 535xi Wagon, Mercedes E350 Wagon, Volvo XC70 T6, Volkswagen Passat 2.0T Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/review-2009-euro-wagon-shootout-bmw-535xi-wagon-mercedes-e350-wagon-volvo-xc70-t6-volkswagen-passat-20t-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/review-2009-euro-wagon-shootout-bmw-535xi-wagon-mercedes-e350-wagon-volvo-xc70-t6-volkswagen-passat-20t-wagon/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2008 14:04:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=184992 Station wagons, or “estates” as they are known across the pond, occupy that strange place in the auto market between SUVs, minivans and sedans. On the surface, wagons promise the holy grail of cargo schlepping and fuel sipping. But they're not as sexy as a sedan, not as practical as a modern crossover and they can’t haul as much crap as a minivan. In the new world “station wagon” brings up PTSD style flashbacks of 1970s Country Squire wagons with a roof-rack and eight kids in the back on the way to summer camp, 8-track blazing, and your dad at the helm wishing he had a terrier and a 240Z instead. Thankfully, this is not your dad’s Oldsmobile Customer Cruiser. For this comparo we’ve selected the BMW 535xi Wagon, Mercedes E350 Wagon, Volvo XC70 T6 and the Volkswagen Passat 2.0T Wagon.]]> Station wagons, or “estates” as they are known across the pond, occupy that strange place in the auto market between SUVs, minivans and sedans. On the surface, wagons promise the holy grail of cargo schlepping and fuel sipping. But they’re not as sexy as a sedan, not as practical as a modern crossover and they can’t haul as much crap as a minivan. In the new world “station wagon” brings up PTSD style flashbacks of 1970s Country Squire wagons with a roof-rack and eight kids in the back on the way to summer camp, 8-track blazing, and your dad at the helm wishing he had a terrier and a 240Z instead. Thankfully, this is not your dad’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser. For this comparo we’ve selected the BMW 535xi Wagon, Mercedes E350 Wagon, Volvo XC70 T6 and the Volkswagen Passat 2.0T Wagon.

Exterior

Outside, all four of our Euro wagons could have easily been designed by the same person. The 535xi strikes the most masculine poses with the raked headlamps and long hood. Better yet, Chris Bangle was on vacation when the rear was designed. Overall, this German speaks of solid, unfussy design.

From the land of ABBA 2008, the Volvo has lost its trademark flat rear window (and with it some cargo room). And yet it still manages to be the mid-west farm girl of the pack: wholesome and attractive but miles and miles from sexy.

VW’s Passat retains the brand’s ubiquitous chrome schnoz while seemingly longing to be a Volvo and BMW all at the same time. Way to split the difference Wolfsburg!

And last, and in this department least comes the minger of the pack: the E350. Seriously Dr. Z, what’s up with that rear? Any self-respecting modern German with a trunk like that would have been on Nip/Tuck by now. Overall winner: BMW

Interior

While three of the wagons might look similar on the outside, the inside is where the differences really show. Mercedes seems to have picked “Buick chic” for their interior design theme. While there are high quality parts in this cabin, my tester’s were ill-fitted and accompanied by cheap feeling knobs, questionable plastic and an interior design from Detroit. Contact with the steering wheel when in motion is generally considered a requirement; sadly the E350′s tiller if full of highs and lows. I dig the burl wood and leather combo, but the rubbery buttons and oddly styled airbag are serious turn offs.

The E350 wagon’s only real advantage: seven passenger capacity. The Merc is the only hauler in this matchup that offers ye olde 70s flash back rearward facing child seats. Actually, as they’re sized for Lilliputians and their use precludes cargo, forget it. Despite being the second most expensive in this lineup, the fully loaded Merc wagon delivers none of the toys its 66 grand price tag implies: no radar cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot info, no heads up display, night vision, not even parking sensors. In the gadget shoot-off, the half-price Passat beats the Merc hands down. For shame.

The 535’s interior is typical BMW: Goth. It’s assembled with proper Germanic precision, and the materials quality is suitably high. Other than anal retentive stylistic qualms about the arm rest, the awkward cup holders and the much maligned iDrive controller are the cabin’s only significant quirks. If you’re a gadget freak, the much-maligned mouse-driven controller is a boon; you can even adjust the percentage of air you or your passenger would like to come out of the dash air vents. iDrive 4.0 debuts in Spring 2009, promising even more with web updates and an integrated hard drive.

Inside the Swede, Volvo’s XC70 T6 has taken IKEA perfection to all new levels. The build quality is on par with the Bimmer’s, but Volvo’s ditched shiny wood trim for a subdued matte finish. Simplicity is the XC70s game: all the buttons are clear, logical, glove/blue rinse brigade-friendly and easy to use. Practicality is Volvo’s trump card; the XC offers a whopping 51 percent more cargo room than the BMW (seats upright) and more load carrying options than The Container Store.

The XC70 is also the only vehicle in this quartet rated to tow anything (3300lbs). Kiddie friendly features include an available dual screen entertainment system, booster seats and an available built-in kennel for multiple Vallhund transportation.

The Passat’s interior duplicates the BMW’s black theme, without the same attention to fit and finish quality. Buttons and switches feel solid, but don’t expect leather seats or other sybaritic touches. Gadget lovers will appreciate the umbrella holders, decent Nav system, keyless drive and a bevy of stanard and not-too-expensive optional features.

Engines

Crank-up the engines in these family haulers and the lines between them are drawn even more clearly. The Passat’s 2.0-liter turbo engine is an excellent four cylinder powerplant. But in this pack, two extra pistons buy far more refinement than VW’s highly evolved four-banger can muster. With 200 ponies under the hood and the lightest curb weight in the group, the Passat gets to 60 in a respectable 7.4 seconds.

The E350s 3.5-liter V6 looks great on paper. In reality, the power comes on late, especially when sampled back-to-back with the turbo engines in this crowd. And the Merc has more weight to carry around. Mercedes claims a 6.9 second 0 – 60 time, but I failed to break seven.

BMW and Volvo both come to this fight with a 3.0-liter inline six engine. BMW sports twin turbos; Volvo mixes it up with a single turbo with twin scrolls. These turbo wagons are far smoother and more aurally enjoyable than the Merc or the Vee Dub. Volvo’s T6 engine offers excellent linear response. Unfortunately, the Aisin automatic seems reluctant to shift when pressed hard; it ends up hunting for gears when things get hilly.

Push the go-pedal in anger— as grandfather clock-carrying antique dealers are wont to do— the BMW is the obvious winner. With a 5.8 second sprint to 60 (the XC70 does it in seven flat), you’ll find yourself forgetting you are piloting the mommy-mobile BMW. If “normal” cliff face depreciation isn’t painful enough, there’s even an optional manual transmission. Sleeper? Q-ship? You bet.

Handling

Throw a curve at these wagons and you can pretty much guess what happens. The Passat gets scared and runs for the edge of the road. The Volvo wallows (thanks to an SUV-like 8.3″ of ground clearance_. The Mercedes electronic nannies remind you that a station wagon is not supposed to be fun to drive. The BMW hikes up its flared fenders and carves up the road. With a near 50/50 weight distribution and a rear wheel-drive biased AWD system, the oxymoronic ultimate driving wagoneer has but one choice.

Safety

Sadly, IIHS and NHTSA crash test data is not available for all of these vehicles. So we turn to Euro NCAP, which gives a star rating along with a numeric score for adult occupants, child occupants and pedestrians hit by the car. Volvo’s five-star adult rating shows their reputation for safety is well deserved. The Passat and E350 run a close second (also five stars but a slightly lower score of 33 vs 34).

The BMW crashes in with a four-star rating and a score of 29. Child protection scores come in at four stars all around (child scores were not available for the E350). The XC70 comes equipped with Volvo’s WHIPS whiplash prevention system, rated best in the business by Euro NCAP. Combine that with built in two-stage child booster seats and an allergy free interior and the Volvo is the winner in this category.

Value

In terms of value (a.k.a. quality for the money), there’s a clear winner. The BMW is the performance and gadget king– but that will cost you with a price tag that easily goes over $70k. The Volvo is middle of the road at $37,250 base and $53,215 as tested, offering most of the same features as the 535 with the benefit of soft roader ability. The E350 crashes this party with the second biggest price tag, the fewest goodies brought to the table and styling only its mother could love. Advantage Passat.

Final Ranking

4. Mercedes E350 Wagon – If you want to get a wagon and all that matters to you is that it has a Mercedes badge on it, then the E350 Wagon is for you. Sure, it’s more exclusive than the XC70 and Passat , but it has to be based more on its lack of features and lackluster styling than its price tag and badge snob value would indicate. A well deserved last place goes to the E350 Wagon.

3. Volkswagen Passat 2.0T Wagon – The Passat is the undisputed value leader in this pack. The 2.0L turbo engine isn’t appreciably slower than the Volvo or Merc, but it is more frugal. Interior quality is very good for this price point and the feature/gadget compliment is competitive– with the notable exception of good iPod connectivity. Third place and best value pick is the Passat Wagon 2.0T.

2. Volvo XC70 T6 - Most wagon buyers are after kid, dog and crap schlepping ability. This is where the Volvo shines. With the largest cargo capacity, kid-friendly features and enough safety acronyms to provide Lincoln with model names for the next century, a very close second place and the overall practicality pick goes to the Vovlo XC70 T6.

1. BMW 535xi Wagon - OK, this is not one of those Car and Driver deals where the BMW always wins cause the reviewers don’t have to spend their own money and they tend to choose the best hoonmobile. The 535xi is a deeply satisfying vehicle, aesthetically and dynamically. You don’t have to be an enthusiast to love it. But if you’re not when you buy it, you will be later.

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Review: 2009 Volvo XC70 T6 Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/review-2009-volvo-xc70-t6-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/review-2009-volvo-xc70-t6-review/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2008 14:09:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=181542 Saab’s 9-3 Turbo X SportCombi doesn’t live up to the make’s potential. So, what’s someone seeking a Swede that can haul (cargo as well as ass) to do? Well, Volvo also offers a wagon powered by a turbo six. Any enthusiast would prefer a turbocharged V70 to a turbocharged XC70, the latter essentially a V70 with high ride height, less grippy treads and SUVish exterior styling. But, thanks to lack of enthusiast love for the last R, the V70 isn’t available with a turbo in the U.S. So if you want power in a midsize Volvo wagon, it’ll have to be the XC70. ]]> Saab’s 9-3 Turbo X SportCombi doesn’t live up to the make’s potential. So, what’s someone seeking a Swede that can haul (cargo as well as ass) to do? Well, Volvo also offers a wagon powered by a turbo six. Any enthusiast would prefer a turbocharged V70 to a turbocharged XC70, the latter essentially a V70 with high ride height, less grippy treads and SUVish exterior styling. But, thanks to lack of enthusiast love for the last R, the V70 isn’t available with a turbo in the U.S. So if you want power in a midsize Volvo wagon, it’ll have to be the XC70.

Stylistically, the 2001-2007 XC70 was a poorly proportioned patchwork, especially when light-colored paint was paired with dark fascias. On some cars, the base model has cheap-looking unpainted bumpers. In the old XC70’s case that look cost extra. The new XC70 looks much better— the SUV cues integrate with the brawnier new design. Even with light paint, the dark cladding no longer appears tacked-on. Instead, the various bits now flow cleanly from end to end. Best of all, the silly rearmost side window-shrinking inserts are gone. Aside from plus-one rims, the turbocharged T6 looks just like the regular XC70— a clue to the point of the extra horses.

The current Volvo V70/XC70 is essentially the S80 in wagon form. In a $56k flagship sedan, the mostly shared interior doesn’t impress. In a $46k wagon, it does. Materials look and feel first rate. The combination of heavily grained off-black soft leather, matte-finished dark wood and real chrome accents oozes tastefully restrained Scandinavian style. Comparisons to the Saab 9-3 also play heavily in the Volvo’s favor.

Traditionally, the primary reason people buy Volvos has been safety. The second reason: seat comfort. Or at least it ought to be. The XC70’s front seats are among autodom’s most comfortable chairs. Lateral support is also good, considering this car’s mission. The rear seat is merely adequate in terms of both room and comfort, but still considerably better than in the Saab 9-3.

In previous generations a rear-facing third row, good for occasional child use, was available. Volvo has decided that anyone who needs to carry more than five people should get the full SUV treatment offered in the XC90. So no more third row in the wagons. Thanks to an unapologetically wagonish rear roofline, the XC70’s cargo area ranks as the most voluminous among today’s shrunken population of U.S.-market wagons. The cargo area carpeting looks and feels so nice that you’ll want to put it into protective custody beneath the optional accessory load liner.

When it moved from the old S60 platform to the new S80 platform last year, the XC70 picked up a few hundred pounds of curb weight, for a total over two tons. As a result, the new 235-horsepower 3.2-liter inline six wasn’t up to the task, even when hitched to a six-speed automatic. Enter the turbo, which bumps output to 281 horsepower even with a reduction in displacement. That’s not a lot of power for a 3.0-liter turbo; this is clearly a low-pressure design optimized for driveability rather than full-throttle performance.

And so it plays out on the road. The XC70 T6 doesn’t feel quick the way the top Saab does, but it feels considerably stronger than the 3.2. With the boost, acceleration in regular driving feels appropriately effortless. A Haldex all-wheel-drive system that preloads the rears means no embarrassing tire squeal (even if you floor the throttle mid-turn) and no torque steer.

Chassis tuning is much the same. You won’t want to seek out a curvy road. But when pushed, the XC70 behaves better than a wagon-on-stilts on SUV-wannabe treads has a right to. We’re torquing limited amounts of roll and plow, very good composure and a workable amount of grip. The all-wheel-drive system lacks enthusiast-friendly tricks, but helps balance the chassis. And the extra power provided by the turbo reduces perceived bulk on the road (the base XC70 can feel ungainly). Sadly, numb steering remains embedded in Volvo’s DNA. Aside from the occasional unexpected jolt, the car rides smoothly and quietly.

By avoiding a sportwagon mission and the expectations that follow, Volvo has crafted a more satisfying wagon than Saab. Though not fun to drive, the XC70 T6 is exceedingly pleasant to drive, thanks to the butt-and-back-cosseting front seats, premium interior and smooth, quiet ride. The regular XC70 falls short on oomph even for the mainstream market; the turbo fixes this. So, if exceedingly pleasant is what you’re looking for, and the $40k+ price looks good compared to the German competition, then Volvo has a wagon for you. If, on the other hand, you’ve been waiting for a better R, you’ll be waiting for a very long time.

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Review: 2009 Volvo C30 T5 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/11/review-2009-volvo-c30-t5/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/11/review-2009-volvo-c30-t5/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2008 12:50:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=150651 You ever to try to find a good hamburger? It’s not so easy. Garbage fast food is all around us. And sure; if you want a good steak you just wander into any number of fancy-pants restaurants and pay (through the nose) for a juicy bone-in rib eye. But a juicy burger you actually enjoy eating? Not so much. Switching to an automotive metaphor, all many people want is simple, basic transportation. But like a good burger, have you looked? There’s a whole gaggle of nicotine-stained grifters eager to sell you a Ford Focus. And even more well-coifed grifters are hungry to show you the joys of entry level luxury. But what if you only want a good small car? Friends, let me tell you about the Volvo C30.]]> You ever to try to find a good hamburger? It’s not so easy. Garbage fast food is all around us. And sure; if you want a good steak you just wander into any number of fancy-pants restaurants and pay (through the nose) for a juicy bone-in rib eye. But a juicy burger you actually enjoy eating? Not so much. Switching to an automotive metaphor, all many people want is simple, basic transportation. But like a good burger, have you looked? There’s a whole gaggle of nicotine-stained grifters eager to sell you a Ford Focus. And even more well-coifed grifters are hungry to show you the joys of entry level luxury. But what if you only want a good small car? Friends, let me tell you about the Volvo C30.

Like many female residents of Las Vegas, the first thing you notice about the diminutive Swede is its backside. Yeah, yeah, yeah– they were trying to ape the lines of the old 1800 shooting-brake. But credit where credit’s due: these cats did a better job. Years ago, Volvo decided it was the safety brand and began sticking monstrously over-sized (and terrible looking) taillights on all their cars. Except the lights on the C30’s derriere, which are (somehow) both cute and suave. The front-end is nothing but the Volvo schnoz writ small. Handsome sure, but… yawn. The side profile works best when painted lighter colors (say Orinoco Blue or Gecko Green). That way the black sills and wheel arches have a slimming effect. Otherwise the little hatch looks a little obese.

Unlike main competitor MINI’s ADD-inducing asylum, the C30’s interior is covered in an almost stark layer of Scando-simplicity. But it’s a ruse. At first the controls seem only calming and Ikea-fied. In fact, they’re brilliantly thought-out. Take the HVAC/Audio display. It uses a single digital graph to illustrate temp, fan speed and volume levels. While this might seem too-basic, it’s a warm bath compared to the maddening complexity of Audi’s MMI screens. I love the floating waterfall center console. And the handy storage bin behind it. Every surface, texture and design element has a rare “that’s how I would have done it” quality.  Like the mesh pockets attached to the front of the seats that are perfect for holding cell phones. You can even fit actual adults in the rear seats. Just smart.

Under the hood sits a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5 good for 227 horses and 236 torques. That’s potent by any yard stick. But you’d never know it. Not that the C30’s slow; it’s just not a show off. Running around town the power seems perfectly adequate. It’s only when you neglect to upshift and the revs climb into the 5,000 rpm range that you realize this sucker can haul the mail. We’re torquing 6.6 seconds to 60 mph. Not only is this faster than the MINI Cooper S (6.9), the C30’s quicker than a VW GTI (6.7). And those two are performance icons.

What you may not know about the C30 is that it rides on the Mazda3 chassis. The same beloved Mazda3 you all voted the best car of 2008. Go Ford parts bin, go! More to the point, the handling is– if not top shelf– pretty damn close to the summit. You’d be hard pressed to find a front-driver that’s more eager to eat corners. And there simply aren’t any as composed. Is it ideal? No. The dull all-season tires need to be swapped in favor of serious meat. And the bouncy rear end could use cut springs, firmer dampers and a strut brace. At that point you’re pretty close to ideal.

But again, performance isn’t the C30’s raison d’être. To understand what is, we need to take a closer look at the country of Sweden.

The Swedes have a term with no good English translation: Lagom. Roughly translated Lagom means “enough” or “adequate,” and is said to sum up the Swedish psyche. The phrase “Lagom är bäst” means “Enough is best.” Contrast this with our Yankee “bigger is better” mentality and it’s obvious (to some) how we bankrupted ourselves borrowing to get our greedy hands on 4-door, AWD, leather-lined pickups that sit in front of our 3,500 square-foot McMansions. Not me, of course. I’m a good patriotic American. Ahem.

My point is, the Volvo C30 T5 is all the car you need. The more I drove it, the more I was struck by the feeling that this is exactly what a car should be. And nothing more. To recap: it’s good looking with a great interior, has more than enough power and handles with class-leading aplomb. Our single option tester (metallic paint) stickered at less than $24,000 and gets about 30 mpg on the highway. As our Swedish friends might say, good enough.

[Volvo provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance and a tank of gas.]

c30e c30f c30a c30b c30d c30g c30h c30i c30k c30j

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2008 Volvo S60 2.5T Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/03/2008-volvo-s60-25t-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/03/2008-volvo-s60-25t-review/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2008 17:02:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008-volvo-s60-25t-review/ 12054_2_1.jpgThe S60 is Volvo's neglected middle child. Baby brother S40 is hipper, faster, and gets all the chicks. Older brother S80 is bigger and more luxurious. Where does that leave the S60? Not languishing on dealership lots, given that it's Volvo's best-selling sedan (if barely). But I'm hard-pressed to figure out why. Apparently, Volvo can't figure out why either-- the S60 has purportedly been on the chopping block for a couple of years now, though no one seems willing to make that final cut yet. So let me take a stab at it.

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12054_2_1.jpgThe S60 is Volvo's neglected middle child. Baby brother S40 is hipper, faster, and gets all the chicks. Older brother S80 is bigger and more luxurious. Where does that leave the S60? Not languishing on dealership lots, given that it's Volvo's best-selling sedan (if barely). But I'm hard-pressed to figure out why. Apparently, Volvo can't figure out why either– the S60 has purportedly been on the chopping block for a couple of years now, though no one seems willing to make that final cut yet. So let me take a stab at it.

From the outside, the S60's unmistakably a Volvo. It comes with the standard Volvo-esque design cues, with little to differentiate itself from the other sedans save subtle trim differences (the T5 gets a spoiler, this one gets bupkis). These cars are so anonymous they're part of the standard package you get when you enter a witness protection program. Maybe it's a safety feature: people are less likely to accidentally swerve into your car if it doesn't suddenly catch their attention (I'm sure people who drive Lambos and STIs get that all the time).

The interior is imbued with adequate, standard, not-an-inch-more-than-necessary luxury. The leather on our tester was unsightly and about as baby's-bottom buttery as a pleather diner booth. Don't look up; that rat-fur headliner will prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the beancounters had their dirty, dirty way with this car.

12048_2_1.jpgThe S60's premium package includes wood trim, which is a surprisingly nice fit for the taupe interior. A ginormous center stack dominates the dash, its glove-friendly, intuitive buttons lost in oceans of plastic. It also sports a vertical storage slot that defies understanding– anything you put in there slides out at the first press of the gas.

Also incomprehensible: a flip-out rear seat cupholder in the armrest that renders the rest useless whilst deployed. Maybe I'm a big baby that wants to put my elbow somewhere comfy.

And Junior doesn't need a big gulp anyway, if you can even fit him in the ridiculously undersized rear seats. This is bigger than the S40? No way. The larger proportions seem to mostly go towards trunk space instead of rear seating room; disappointing for anyone shopping for a "family" sedan.

Starting up the S60's engine reminded me a lot of my mother, if only because she grew up driving tractors. I apologize and retract my earlier dismembering of the Ecotec in the G5. Only John Deere himself would enjoy the unholy racket the five-cylinder turbo makes. While the engine makes entirely satisfactory loud rumbling noises during brisk acceleration, it also makes them all the rest of the time, even at idle. 

12053_2_1.jpgSo on one hand, there's nearly no turbo lag, it being mitigated well by high torque at low RPMs. On the other, it's the noisiest turbo I've ever encountered (or I'm just a spoiled enthusiast who likes the turbo magic of a Subaru or Volkswagen). Sure, the S60's mill provides an appreciable amount of propulsion, but Nine Inch Nails concerts are easier on the eardrums. Anything this loud should sport a sub-five-second 0-60 or STFU.

Handling-wise, the S60 is safe, in the "nothing special" sense of the word. The sedan does a great job handling average bumps on average roads in average conditions. The steering is numb, but not in an overly disconcerting way. Even without any road feel, you still feel in control of the car. There's nothing to be excited about, or anything to truly hate. I would wager that the power and handling are perfect for 90 percent of the general driving population. More demanding drivers would pick it to pieces.

And speaking of safe, the S60's technologically advanced safety features rule the roost. Unfortunately, those same features push it to a punishing 3500 lbs. A few hundred pounds less in steel and safety features might just make this ugly duckling into a swan, but something has to set Volvo apart. Too bad the Subaru Legacy GT scores higher on crash tests and is a thousand times more fun (and only marginally cheaper quality-wise). Even Ford touts safety as a selling point. And let's not talk depreciation. The S60 tanks faster than Ikea furniture.

12055_2_1.jpgThe S60 falls short on the luxury features, too. A new IS250 costs the same as a leathered-up S60 and comes with some truly indulgent options. (Forget grocery bag holders, why doesn't the Volvo have pre-collision avoidance and parking assist?) I don't even know how it competes with the S40 turbo unless you're too wide for the S40's seats. 

Maybe the Volvo S60 is a great car and I don't get it, but I can't think of anything that this car does that someone anyone else doesn't do better, including Volvo. 

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2008 Volvo V70 Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/01/2008-volvo-v70-euro-spec-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/01/2008-volvo-v70-euro-spec-review/#comments Fri, 11 Jan 2008 14:23:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/reviews/2008-volvo-v70-euro-spec-review/ 4820_2_1.jpgVolvo is finally coming to grips with the fact that the brand doesn’t stretch much beyond wagons. Reflecting this new/old reality, rumors abound that Volvo’s about to axe their range-topping S80 sedan in favor of an upmarket V100 wagon. Add in a recent Consumer Reports’ study showing that American consumers still rate Volvo number one for safety, and you begin to understand the importance of the new V70 wagon. As wagons are what keeps Volvo’s ost on their smorgasbord, “getting it right” was essential. So, did they?

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4820_2_1.jpgVolvo is finally coming to grips with the fact that the brand doesn’t stretch much beyond wagons. Reflecting this new/old reality, rumors abound that Volvo’s about to axe their range-topping S80 sedan in favor of an upmarket V100 wagon. Add in a recent Consumer Reports’ study showing that American consumers still rate Volvo number one for safety, and you begin to understand the importance of the new V70 wagon. As wagons are what keeps Volvo’s ost on their smorgasbord, “getting it right” was essential. So, did they?

In the last 10 years, Volvo has gone from Ugly Betty to Swedish beauty. Since 1998, every Volvo model has been bred from the same DNA: restrained styling, sexy hips and hood creases culminating in a grill with the classic Volvo sash. Thankfully, the new V70 has all the requisite shapes, excepting the sloping rear windscreen.

4816_2_1.jpgDespite the looks, the V70 is all-new. The hauler is now based on the flagship S80 sedan instead of the mid-sized S60. The larger overall car is also equipped with considerably better interior bits. While the cheaper Volvos’ interiors look like IKEA specials, there’s nothing cheap about the new V70’s interior.

Our Euro-spec tester was swathed in matte finish wood trim and light grey “Sovereign hide” leather, which rivals the luxury feel of [former] PAG mates Jaguar and Aston Martin’s bovine wrappers. Sadly, North American buyers can’t get premium cow, and someone in Sweden figured ventilated seats were more important in the Arctic Circle than the tropical American south. Anyway, all the V70’s seats are supportive and comfortable for long trips.

4821_2_1.jpgThe wagon’s glove-friendly knobs and switches are placed in the usual logical locations. The now ubiquitous floating centre stack is along for the ride. While the cute cubby behind it will accommodate a few very small oddly sized nick-knacks, out of sight also means out of mind. Speaking of mindless, the V70 gets the new for 2008 keyless start system. As the alternative is the oddly located fob-slot in the dash– which makes your keys bang against the dashboard at gauge level– it’s $500 well spent.

Regardless of continent, all buyers get Volvo’s new two-stage child booster seats with redesigned curtain airbags. After thorough testing with two kids in the proper weight bracket (33-80 lbs), I can certify that the new feature protects adult sanity when struggling to get multiple progeny onboard.

4811_2_1.jpgAt the back end, Volvo continues to put hauling stuff at the top of their design priority list. Inside the power operated tailgate lie enough organizing options to keep Detective Monk busy for hours (if not an eternity). There are grocery bag holders, cargo dividers, rails with load hooks, nets, straps and locking compartments. The 40/20/40 split rear seats fold flat easily. As with all Volvos, the front passenger seat also bows down to the gods of goods; loading a 10ft ladder or a full-size grandfather’s clock is a breeze.

Volvo’s silky smooth 3.0-liter six-cylinder T6 turbo engine purred under the hood of our Euro-tester. The mill cranks out 285hp and 295 ft.-lbs. of torque. It’s mated to a six- speed slushbox and Haldex AWD (all wheel-drive) system. The V70’s 6.7 second zero to sixty sprint time feels quicker in person, due to the plateau-like torque curve, despite its decidedly porky 4100 pound curb weight.

4837_2_1.jpgThe V70 AWD system’s “instant traction” feature assures zero torque steer for European buyers. Yes, yet again American shoppers get shafted: both the T6 engine and AWD system are Euro only options. On this side of the pond you must satisfy yourself with the 235hp 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine, endure torque steer and grow old as you attempt to reach 60 from a standstill (7.8 seconds).

Out on twisty roads, the V70 feels almost nimble. The car’s front heavy nature is abundantly evident through the corners, but the cornering limit is surprisingly high. Equally important, steering feel is excellent. And when things do break loose the electronic nannies rein you back to a safer angle of attack. The Euro-only active suspension proves a faithful companion, eliminating any signs of wallow, tip or dive. It affords GTI-stiff dampeners at the corners for that race from the daycare to work.

4824_2_1.jpgWhile the V70 isn’t as dynamically satisfying as a BMW 5-series wagon or as luxurious as a Mercedes E-Class estate, the V70 is nevertheless an excellent competitor in this niche market… If you live in Europe. In fact, this is the perfect example of sending the wrong models to the wrong places. The 20.3 T6 model is too thirsty for Europe. But as a base engine in North America? Perfect. And while we’re at it, where’s OUR luxe leather, AWD and active suspension?

Until Volvo gets their product placement strategy is corrected, they’ll remain a niche player, good wagon or not.

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Volvo XC70 Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/12/volvo-xc70-review-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/12/volvo-xc70-review-2/#comments Mon, 10 Dec 2007 11:38:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/reviews/volvo-xc70-review-2/ 11034_2_12.jpgSo Ford’s taking Volvo upmarket. Never mind why. How? On the face of it, the Swedish brand is as suited to life at the top as Volkswagen, whose mighty Phaeton died for their premium-priced aspirations. Volvo owns the sensible, safety-oriented, “car for life” mindspace. While it’s become a full-line automaker, Volvo’s station wagons best exemplify the underlying ethos. And here comes the all-new XC70, and extremely pricey people mover. If Volvo can take their station wagon upmarket, well, Ford might be onto something...

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11034_2_12.jpgSo Ford’s taking Volvo upmarket. Never mind why. How? On the face of it, the Swedish brand is as suited to life at the top as Volkswagen, whose mighty Phaeton died for their premium-priced aspirations. Volvo owns the sensible, safety-oriented, “car for life” mindspace. While it’s become a full-line automaker, Volvo’s station wagons best exemplify the underlying ethos. And here comes the all-new XC70, and extremely pricey people mover. If Volvo can take their station wagon upmarket, well, Ford might be onto something…

Only a deeply committed Volvo fan could/could be bothered to distinguish an ‘08 XC70 from its predecessor. The new wagon’s rear glass extends further down than the side windows (for improved rearward visibility), and the sloping rear window and “hexagonal style” add a stump of chic. Up front, alternating silver and black rings ‘round the fog lights give the XC70 an outdoorsy, raccoon-like look. Clean, simple, modern, done.

11044_2_1.jpgIf the words “Scandinavian Luxury” have any meaning, it’s found inside the XC70’s cabin. Organic shapes with smooth, flowing lines intersect with seamless precision. Surfaces are swathed in high quality materials, [optionally] accentuated by warm natural wood. In terms of ergonomics, the XC70’s interior design is like an Audi for long-sighted, glove-wearing architects. Or, if you prefer, the XC70 is the anti-iDrive BMW. That said, while Volvo’s now signature floating center console is logical enough for a Vulcan, the cubby behind remains less than useless.

In the toy department, a liberal hand with the options tick list unleashes Fredrik Arp’s Wonder Emporium. Volvo’s trick pop-up satellite navigation system returns (and then hides). Volvo’s 650-watt MP3-ready Dynaudio surround sound system with twin subwoofers will restore some valuable street cred for teenage drivers. The dual screen (headrest-mounted) rear video system is a much-appreciated palliative for younger family members. And a brace of Sponge Bob fans can rest easy on the world’s first height-adjustable integrated child booster cushions.

Behind Volvo’s trick power tailgate lie more aluminum rails and tie-down points than a dominatrix’s basement (and a useful grocery bag holder as well). In five-passenger mode, there’s 33.3 cubic feet of köttbullar-schlepping. Fold the 40/20/40 rear seats– now a one-step affair– and anal retentive owners are rewarded with 71 cubic feet of cargo carrying capacity. For antique dealer’s grandfather clocks and surfers too lazy to strap their board to the roof, Volvo’s front passenger seat also folds flat. Try THAT in your Jeep Grand Cherokee.

11174_2_1.jpgTo strengthen the XC70’s case against PC poisonmobiles (i.e. fuel-sucking SUVs) and amp-up the lifestyle marketing angle (wagons ho!), Volvo has raised the station wagon’s ride height to 8.3”, which is HIGHER than a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Volvo makes a point of advertising the XC’s approach, departure and break over angles (19.2, 19.8 and 24, in case you were wondering).

Although most XC70 buyers would no more venture off-road than go fur trapping, the new XC is an amazingly competent mud-plugger. Volvo’s “Instant Traction” part-time all wheel-drive system channels the power where it’s needed, and the Hill Descent Control gets five stars from Off-Roading for Dummies.  

10993_2_1.jpgRiding on Volvo’s new large car platform, the XC70’s on-road manners offer effortless highway cruising and stressless pothole surmounting. But when it comes to cornering, the high-riding XC70 floats like a bee and stings like a butterfly. Hustling the wagon is both counter-intuitive and counter-productive– especially if the rear passengers’ digestives systems aren’t fully developed. Sadly, the active suspension system from last year’s XC– which completely quelled the cetaceous behavior typical of crossovers– is a Euro-only option.

Volvo’s 3.2-liter powerplant nestles into the XC70’s engine bay, sideways. The inline six brings yet more honor to the excellence of its basic configuration. The acceleration is automotive cashmere, and the sound emanating from the twin tailpipes under wide open throttle is intoxicating. Unfortunately, the XC70 has gained weight. Pitting 235hp against 4100 lbs. yields an 8.4 second zero to sixty sprint. That’s a full second slower than last year’s XC70 (with a turbocharged five cylinder engine underhood). Worse yet, fuel economy is a tad lower than before.

11039_2_1.jpgAye, there’s the rub. No car can have it all: safety, passing power, handling, practicality, reliability, luxury, excellent fuel economy and a competitive sticker price. If Ford wants to take Volvo upmarket, the brand must become a master of one core competency, rather a Jakob of all trades.

Meanwhile and in any case, the XC70 will please those relatively few fans who can pay the freight. But the idea that this $37k to $50k wagon will deliver massive profits to Ford is entirely mistaken. At this price, the XC70 has to hunt with upmarket German wagons– and it's still a small niche. If Volvo stripped-out the XC70 and dropped the price by $10k (and then some) they’d have a better chance of a major hit. In that sense, the all-new XC70's excellence proves that Ford’s got their Volvo brand strategy exactly backwards. 

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