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. Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:40:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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/ Capsule Review: Volvo 240GL Estate http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-volvo-240gl-estate/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-volvo-240gl-estate/#comments Sat, 01 Nov 2014 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934626 Volvo might have been one of the beneficiaries of the headlong rush towards European non-luxury in the Seventies but it, like Porsche, was permanently crippled by the American public’s confusion of “unhurried model cycle” with “should only make one specific car, forever”. For the boys from Stuttgart, it was the Yankee preference for the 911 […]

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Volvo might have been one of the beneficiaries of the headlong rush towards European non-luxury in the Seventies but it, like Porsche, was permanently crippled by the American public’s confusion of “unhurried model cycle” with “should only make one specific car, forever”. For the boys from Stuttgart, it was the Yankee preference for the 911 that warped the next thirty years of their product plan into 911-looking things that were not at all like the 911, even if they said “911” on the rump.

Volvo made a different choice when they decided that the twenty-seven years between the 1966 debut of the 144 and the final 1993-model-year 240 were enough and that it was proper to make a clean break between those boxy RWD sedans and the boxy FWD sedans that followed. In so doing, they both doomed the company to permanent irrelevance and inadvertently created a cult.

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Whenever the aliens finally come, they will no doubt conclude that Volvo stopped making automobiles in 1993 and didn’t start again until about five years before whatever the invasion date turns out to be. The successor 700- and 900-series cars often fell prey to the first generation of Europeansdon’tunderstandelectronicsitis. The 850 and its successors raise absolutely zero interest from anyone unless they have a “T5″ or “R” on the decklid. The S80 is a lovely automobile but it doesn’t have any enthusiast following whatseover. The SUVs, of course, are as disposable as any other SUV without a practical tow rating.

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For that reason, most of the Volvos you see on the streets nowadays fall into two categories:

  • recent model, possibly under factory warranty
  • 240DL or 240GL.

There’s just something about those old Volvos that inspires… passion. Most of them are now owned by young people who identify strongly with what the Volvo brand used to represent. They believe in the 240-series and they restore them for daily use, not the Cars-and-Coffee klatch. While the sedans are still popular, particularly the end-of-run aero-headlamp 240DL sedans, the hipster-Volvo equivalent of a ’63 Stingray Fuelie is the late 240 wagon.

As fate would have it, I’ve had a chance to experience two of these lately; a 240DL with glass E-code headlamps and a permanent interior cloud of cannabis smoke, in which I rode to a hilltop park outside Portland, and this 240GL, which I had the opportunity to drive around rural Ohio a few weekends ago. The DL was in like-new condition, thanks to a rust-free life on the West Coast and a thorough restoration at the hands of an owner with considerable mechanical aptitude. This GL isn’t nearly as perfect, being sourced from New York and with a reasonably long list of fixes yet to come, but it’s mechanically outstanding and a genuine pleasure to operate.

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First things first: this is not a large car. Dimensionally it’s similar to the 2003 Accord. Opening the square-shouldered door and taking a seat, however, reveals a quality of seating and available space that both exceed what you’ll find in any Japanese-brand mid-sizer. The almost complete lack of tumblehome allows the seats to be both wide and widely spaced. The overall feeling is airy but solid, thanks to pillar thickness that was rare in any of the decades in which this model was sold.

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The controls and instrumentation are absolutely straightforward, although the mouse-fur trim is no improvement over the more sparse appearance of the DL model. (Apparently there’s a bit of reverse snobbery among Volvo wagoneers, with the DL and its roll-up windows considered the more desirable car nowadays. More Volvo-ish, dontcha know.) Visibility is outstanding all the way ’round, with only the skeletonized rear headrests offering any significant impediment.

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Even after more than twenty miles, this “estate” feels impeccably solid as I pull out onto a 45-mph back road. The steering is trustworthy and the brakes seem up to par. Acceleration, on the other hand…

The Volvo 240 of this era mustered 114 horsepower from its four-cylinder engine, but I’m not totally sure that all of them showed up for work in this particular example. It’s remarkably slow. To the customers who looked at the midsizer Volvo as an affordable alternative to the Mercedes-Benz W123 240D, it was probably a rocketship. Compared to a modern Hyundai Accent, it might as well be a diesel. (Yes, there was a diesel variant, but it did not survive to the Nineties in our market.) Progress is steady but in no way quick.

In just ten or so seconds, however, I’m up to 45mph and ready to try a little bit of the old swerving back and forth for purposes of warming tires and checking lateral stability. Well, there’s not much of that either. Best to calm it back down and just enjoy the Volvo’s core virtues. The ride is steady and relaxed, with plenty of compliance for potholes and rough shoulders. Ten minutes behind the wheel of the 240 will make you feel better about your place in the world, assuming you’re not in a hurry to get anywhere.

What’s not to like about the Volvo, other than the lack of pace? It’s spacious, comfortable, quiet, and reassuring. It’s entirely and refreshingly free of the merest pretense of “sportiness” and all the better for it. It feels as if it will last another twenty years without difficulty. The old phrase “boxy but good” applies here. The current Volvos feel uneasy in their own skins, half-heartedly going through the motions of enthusiast focus and swoopy design, but this is the real deal. I’d rather have this than any brand-new car in a Volvo showroom, both now and twenty years from now.

The Chinese owners of Volvo are no doubt perplexed by the long shadow this vehicle continues to cast on their current lineup. But if they had any sense at all, they’d dig up the old drawings and build it again — or at least come as close to it as the current Mustang does to the Sixties car. In a world where “brand” is all-important, the Volvo brand is nearly worthless. The Volvo 240 brand, on the other hand? That’s a moose of a different color.

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Consumer Reports: Infotainment System Woes Mark 2014 Reliability Survey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/consumer-reports-infotainment-system-woes-mark-2014-reliability-survey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/consumer-reports-infotainment-system-woes-mark-2014-reliability-survey/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 10:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936826 Consumer Reports released its Annual Reliability Survey for this year, focusing some of the attention on the woes experienced by a handful of infotainment systems. According to the publication, the absolute worse of the pack in 2014 was Infiniti’s InTouch system in the new Q50, with over one in five owners wanting to take a […]

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Infiniti InTouch - Infiniti Q50

Consumer Reports released its Annual Reliability Survey for this year, focusing some of the attention on the woes experienced by a handful of infotainment systems.

According to the publication, the absolute worse of the pack in 2014 was Infiniti’s InTouch system in the new Q50, with over one in five owners wanting to take a crowbar to the whole thing. The brand itself took a beating, dropping 14 points to 20th out of 28 as a result of the Q50’s issues, as well as the overall reliability issues in the QX60. Other infotainment systems ironing out the bugs included Ford’s MyTouch, Honda’s HondaLink and Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s UConnect.

Concerning overall reliability, Lexus once again took the top of the podium, while Toyota and Mazda respectively brought home silver and bronze, and Honda finished in fourth. Buick, meanwhile, was the only brand among the Detroit Three to place in the top 10, jumping from 16th to sixth on the strength of its entire portfolio.

As for why the other Detroit brands failed to reach the top 10, Consumer Reports says domestic small and compact cars, along with full-size trucks, are holding everyone back. Tesla also didn’t make the list, but that was due to criteria than low quality: the publication only rates brands with a minimum of two models, a situation that will be remedied when the Model X rolls out next year.

Finally, Audi took fifth behind the Japanese makes, while Porsche took ninth ahead of Kia. BMW and Volvo remained within the top 20. Only Mercedes-Benz took a hit among the Europeans this year, falling 11 spots to 24th thanks to the new CLA and S classes.

The Consumer Reports 2014 reliability survey obtained its information from 1.1 million vehicles, the largest survey of its kind in the publication’s history.

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Volvo Goes Death Metal With Triple-Turbo Two-Liter Four http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/volvo-goes-death-metal-triple-turbo-two-liter-four/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/volvo-goes-death-metal-triple-turbo-two-liter-four/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930858 Channelling its inner Viking death metal chef spirit, Volvo has unleashed a concept 2-liter turbo-four delivering 450 horsepower with the help of three turbochargers. Automotive News reports the concept Drive-E engine — developed with help from Volvo Polestar Racing — would deliver more punch per liter than other engines — such as the Bugatti Veyron’s […]

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Channelling its inner Viking death metal chef spirit, Volvo has unleashed a concept 2-liter turbo-four delivering 450 horsepower with the help of three turbochargers.

Automotive News reports the concept Drive-E engine — developed with help from Volvo Polestar Racing — would deliver more punch per liter than other engines — such as the Bugatti Veyron’s 1,200-horsepower 8-liter quad-turbo — were it to go into production; Volvo says the engine is only a concept, and hasn’t said if it will build the engine.

Unlike old-school turbocharged engines that use exhaust to create power, the Drive-E “triple-boost” engine uses an electric turbo to drive compressed air into the other two turbos, quickly spooling up the power while eliminating lag.

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Chinese-Built Volvo S60L Bound For US Market In 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chinese-built-volvo-s60l-bound-us-market-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chinese-built-volvo-s60l-bound-us-market-2015/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927706 CEOs and senior execs going on shopping runs to Staples may soon be able to leave their MKTs at the parking garage when the Chinese-made Volvo S60L arrives next year. Automotive News reports Volvo plans to ship 5,000 units to the U.S. annually, with sales to begin in H2 2015. The move will save the […]

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CEOs and senior execs going on shopping runs to Staples may soon be able to leave their MKTs at the parking garage when the Chinese-made Volvo S60L arrives next year.

Automotive News reports Volvo plans to ship 5,000 units to the U.S. annually, with sales to begin in H2 2015. The move will save the Sino-Swede automaker considerable cash, as the vehicles will be imported from a factory not involved in a joint venture like Volvo’s competitors, according to CEO Hakan Samuelsson.

He also says Volvo will position the S60L as an “executive car,” offering more features and options in its 112.5-inch wheelbase than the S60, which will take its place as a sportier variant.

As for quality, product development chief Peter Mertens said the longer S60 fared better than the European-built standard model based on the company’s internal quality audits.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Volvo V60 T6 R-Design http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2014-volvo-v60-t6-r-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2014-volvo-v60-t6-r-design/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 20:45:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=919634 Is it really necessary to beat the dead horse again? We know that enthusiasts love wagons, demand more wagons, praise wagons and don’t buy wagons. We should be lucky we have any wagons left in our marketplace. The Audi A4 and Subaru Legacy wagons gave way to the Allroad and Outback, two jacked-up, cladding-encrusted faux-crossovers that […]

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Is it really necessary to beat the dead horse again? We know that enthusiasts love wagons, demand more wagons, praise wagons and don’t buy wagons. We should be lucky we have any wagons left in our marketplace. The Audi A4 and Subaru Legacy wagons gave way to the Allroad and Outback, two jacked-up, cladding-encrusted faux-crossovers that are really just wagons by another name. Volvo did the same thing too, axing the V70 wagon while retaining the XC70. And then they relented.

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Volvo is pitching the V60 as a “sport wagon” or a “lifestyle” vehicle, or anything but a station wagonIn terms of hauling people and cargo, the XC70 is more of a station wagon than the V60 is. At 182 inches long, the V60 is about 10 inches shorter than an XC70, and the XC70 has it beat in practically every interior dimension. Cargo capacity for the V60 is 43.8 cubic feet, compared to 72.1 for the XC70.

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As we determined in our last review of the XC70, the oft-repeated trope that CUVs offer inferior driving dynamics compared to station wagons was dismissed – between an XC60 with the 4C active shocks and an XC70, it was a wash. The V6 has the advantage of being, on average, 300 lbs lighter than the XC60, and the performance tires on the R-Design amplifies whatever benefits the lighter weight and smaller footprint contributes to the V60’s dynamics.

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Of course, this is a Volvo, so don’t expect crisp, Germanic responses or the last word in steering feel and feedback. The V60 gives you enough rope to have some fun on twisty back roads or cloverleaf interchanges, but between the all-wheel drive system, the electronic nannies and the understeer-oriented chassis, there’s never enough to hang yourself. Much like the S60 that it’s based on, the V60 is best drive at a relaxed to moderately spirited pace.

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Lesser V60s can be had with boosted 4 and 5 cylinder engines, but the R-Design features a 3.0L straight-six (transversely mounted), making 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. With a broad, fairly flat torque curve, the Volvo’s engine delivers lots of usable power throughout the rev range. A hint of lag is the tradeoff for a brawny motor that doesn’t run out of breath at higher RPMs, much like today’s lesser crop of boosted mills tend to do, though the biggest letdown is the dated 6-speed automatic, which is on its own, more relaxed work schedule.

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The V60’s interior is an oasis from the over-complicated, touch screen and leatherette-laden cabins of many German competitors. Volvo is still all-in on buttons and knobs, while the climate control system incorporates a hand diagram of a seated human that can direct airflow to various regions of your body. The infotainment system is simple to use and can be navigated while driving without becoming overly distracted. The stereo is crisp and clear while the front seats are some of the best in the business. When wrecked V60s start appear in junkyards, I’ll be harvesting one of the front seats to turn into my next office chair.

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Where the V60 starts to fall apart is in, well, being a wagon. There’s not a ton of room for rear seat passengers, and the swoopy, coupe-like silhouette and compact footprint lend the wagon an undersized cargo area. Two adults could each pack a suitcase for a weekend visit, but this is not the Volvo wagon of yore where a whole family’s worth of luggage, people and pets could be stuffed in and taken away on summer vacation. For that, you’ll need to XC70, or one of Volvo’s crossovers.

$51,775 is a lot of coin simply for the privilege of having a cool looking station wagon that isn’t exactly great at fulfilling the promises of a station wagon. You don’t need to be Tim Cain to understand that it’s not the most potent recipe for sales success.

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Volvo provided the car, insurance and one tank of gas for the review. Photos courtesy of Autoguide.com

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North Korea Owes Sweden $428M For 1,000 Volvos Swindled In 1974 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/north-korea-owes-sweden-428m-1000-volvos-swindled-1974/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/north-korea-owes-sweden-428m-1000-volvos-swindled-1974/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904857 Forty years ago, the North Koreans and the Swedes entered into an agreement where the latter’s socialist and industrialist interests aimed to bring recognition to the former’s regime while filling its pockets from the country’s mining industry. Part of this agreement included 1,000 Volvo 144 GLs, which were meant to be paid in copper and […]

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Stolen Volvos in North Korea

Forty years ago, the North Koreans and the Swedes entered into an agreement where the latter’s socialist and industrialist interests aimed to bring recognition to the former’s regime while filling its pockets from the country’s mining industry. Part of this agreement included 1,000 Volvo 144 GLs, which were meant to be paid in copper and zinc.

But that was 40 years ago.

Newsweek reports North Korea, under Kim Il-sung’s regime, ultimately absconded with the Volvos and other Swedish goods during a Swedish-Korean trade fair in Pyongyang, all within the same year the vehicles were delivered.

Since then, the Swedish Export Credits Guarantee Board has calculated the interest owed on the debt linked to those goods. Total debt after inflation plus interest holds at kr3 billion ($428 million USD).

As for the Volvos, they were ordered for taxi service within the North Korean capital. As of 2008, those cars were not only still running, but, according to photographer and entrepreneur Tor Rauden Källstigen, were treated well:

I think I’ve never been inside such an old car even back home in Sweden. This taxi was very well maintained too, close to mint condition it seemed.

Were Il-sung’s grandson and current ruler, Kim Jong-un, to sell the vehicles at current book value, he would net $2.6 million — or 0.6 percent of the debt — for the trouble.

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Volvo Restructuring To Three Families, Configurations By 2019 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/volvo-restructuring-three-families-configurations-2019/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/volvo-restructuring-three-families-configurations-2019/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 10:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903194 By 2019, the face of Volvo will change as the Sino-Swedish automaker begins restructuring its offerings, with the new XC90 leading the way. Autoblog reports Volvo will align its lineup portfolio around three families (40, 60, 90) and three designations/configurations (S sedan, V wagon, XC crossover). In turn, the 40 family will share a platform […]

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By 2019, the face of Volvo will change as the Sino-Swedish automaker begins restructuring its offerings, with the new XC90 leading the way.

Autoblog reports Volvo will align its lineup portfolio around three families (40, 60, 90) and three designations/configurations (S sedan, V wagon, XC crossover). In turn, the 40 family will share a platform with parent company Geely’s offerings, while the 60 and 90 families will use Volvo’s SPA modular platform.

Additionally, the V40/V60/V90 wagons will have a Cross Country variant, matching up with Audi’s and Subaru’s offroad formula for their respective non-rugged base offerings. Meanwhile, R-Design and Polestar will apply their magic performance touches to a few of the new vehicles, going up against similar efforts from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

All of the above are expected to come online within the next four years, but no coupes or convertibles are in the plans, citing a lack of a case for either at this time. Volvo will instead focus on boosting its volume, with a goal of 800,000 units for 2014 alone.

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Study: Nine Brands Suffer Loyalty Issues Among Their Customers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/study-nine-brands-suffer-loyalty-issues-among-customers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/study-nine-brands-suffer-loyalty-issues-among-customers/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=896834 Honda, Ford and Toyota all have one thing in common as far as Kelley Blue Book knows: All three inspire brand loyalty among over half of its customer base. Alas, nine other brands wish they could be just as inspirational. In its study of KBB data from 33 brands regarding customer loyalty, 24/7 Wall St. […]

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2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Honda, Ford and Toyota all have one thing in common as far as Kelley Blue Book knows: All three inspire brand loyalty among over half of its customer base. Alas, nine other brands wish they could be just as inspirational.

In its study of KBB data from 33 brands regarding customer loyalty, 24/7 Wall St. says the following nine brands are likely to see their customers jump ship to another brand come trade-in or lease time:

  • Mitsubishi: 21.77 percent average
  • Chrysler: 22.72 percent average
  • Dodge: 22.88 percent average
  • Jaguar: 25.45 percent average
  • Scion: 25.79 percent average
  • Lincoln: 27.49 percent average
  • Infiniti: 28.25 percent average
  • Volvo: 29.41 percent average
  • Buick: 29.45 percent average

The study notes the brands with the highest loyalty averages also move the most units off the lot, while low-loyalty brands have sales to match; six of the nine listed sold less than 100,000 units during H1 2014.

As for what inspires loyalty in the first place, KBB senior manager of marketing intelligence Arthur Henry says price and reliability play the most important roles in whether a customer will stick with a brand. However, luxury makes like Jaguar, Infiniti and Buick suffer not from perceptions of poor reliability, but fierce competition from within the U.S. luxury market.

That said, Arthur notes customers can switch loyalties no matter how a brand is perceived, citing economic conditions and changing consumer preferences as factors in switching.

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Volvo Teases New XC90 Ahead Of Late August Unveiling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/volvo-teases-new-xc90-ahead-late-august-unveiling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/volvo-teases-new-xc90-ahead-late-august-unveiling/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=892922 Near the end of this month, Volvo will fully unveil its Mjönir-eyed second-generation XC90, the first vehicle in the Sino-Swedish automaker’s lineup to use its Scalable Product Architecture. Automotive News reports until then, Volvo dropped a handful of teaser shots of the upcoming SUV. Senior vice president of R&D, Peter Mertens, explained what the new […]

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2015 Volvo XC90 Mjolnir Teaser

Near the end of this month, Volvo will fully unveil its Mjönir-eyed second-generation XC90, the first vehicle in the Sino-Swedish automaker’s lineup to use its Scalable Product Architecture.

Automotive News reports until then, Volvo dropped a handful of teaser shots of the upcoming SUV. Senior vice president of R&D, Peter Mertens, explained what the new XC90 means for Volvo:

SPA and the XC90 are firm evidence of our Volvo-by-Volvo strategy. The XC90’s outstanding combination of luxury, space, versatility, efficiency and safety will bring the SUV segment into a new dimension, just as the original XC90 did in 2002.

The XC90 will take on the likes of the Lexus RX, Cadillac SRX and Mercedes M-Class when it goes on sale in the United States early in 2015, while its architecture will make its way into the rest of the Volvo global lineup as each model enters a new generation.

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Volvo To Conduct Electric Road Study With Focus On Inductive Charging http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/volvo-to-conduct-electric-road-study-with-focus-on-inductive-charging/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/volvo-to-conduct-electric-road-study-with-focus-on-inductive-charging/#comments Wed, 28 May 2014 10:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=833433 Coming off its study of stationary vehicle wireless charging, Volvo will turn its attention toward on-road charging of its Hyper Bus diesel-electric in a year-long study with partner Swedish Transport Association. Autoblog reports the two parties will build a 300- to 500-meter section of electrified road that would use inductive charging for the PHEV’s batteries […]

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Volvo Hyper Bus PHEV

Coming off its study of stationary vehicle wireless charging, Volvo will turn its attention toward on-road charging of its Hyper Bus diesel-electric in a year-long study with partner Swedish Transport Association.

Autoblog reports the two parties will build a 300- to 500-meter section of electrified road that would use inductive charging for the PHEV’s batteries while shuttling passengers back and forth along the way. Currently, the buses use charging stations at either end of the route, delaying further travel until fully charged.

The road will be located in central Gothenburg, and is expected to be the herald for the ElectriCity route between Chalmers and Lindholmen, which will provide more data on charging and electric power for heavy vehicles such as buses for future industrial and political decisions.

The intended result of the study is to prove the viability of electric roads, including their impact on the environment as a piece of a greater puzzle involving sustainable transportation.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/capsule-review-2014-volvo-s60-t6-polestar/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/capsule-review-2014-volvo-s60-t6-polestar/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 12:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=749793 To the pro audio crowd, boom and sizzle is a descriptive insult. The extreme overemphasis of low and high frequencies makes a strong first impression that often wows the uninformed. The 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design is a boom and sizzle kind of car. Let’s review for a minute what an S60 is underneath […]

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2014 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

To the pro audio crowd, boom and sizzle is a descriptive insult. The extreme overemphasis of low and high frequencies makes a strong first impression that often wows the uninformed. The 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design is a boom and sizzle kind of car.

Let’s review for a minute what an S60 is underneath all the Norse mythology. A Ford Mondeo. Other EUCD platform-mates include luminaries such as the Land Rover LR2 and Ford Galaxy. All are fine enough, but only Audi has been able to transform similarly modest front-drive roots into a credible premium European luxury brand.

side view of 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design

The Volvo S60’s basic engineering is good stuff. Compared to the original S60 the structural rigidity is up overall, the suspension’s springs, bushings, dampers and mounting points are stiffer, and Volvo says it paid particular attention to removing flex from the steering column. This information is old news; the second generation of the S60 debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010. Since then, Volvo has been tweaking and tweezing a little bit every year. The tinkering has culminated in a new front end for 2014, which makes the newest S60s easy to spot on the road. “There goes a Volvo fan,” you’ll say.

The S60 T6 R-Design AWD is the ultimate Volvo fan’s Volvo. The new front end sheetmetal wraps around the big-honker 3.0 liter turbocharged inline six cylinder. This is the engine that lets Volvo brag about kicking BMW’s ass. By the numbers, it’s a solid upper-cut. The transverse six peaks at 325 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, enough that you can show the small blue Polestar emblem on the trunklid to just about anyone.  It’s a powerful, responsive engine, with a lot of midrange guts thanks to the turbine-fed lungs. The engine is the boom, a piston-powered subharmonic synthesizer to shake the room, if you will.

front view of 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design

The sizzle is delivered by the styling. More specifically, the R-Design gingerbread. The standard S60 tries its best to be distinctive, which mostly means it’s got front- and rear-end treatments evolved from the now-seminal 1998 S80. In between are slabby doors with as much sculpting as Volvo could muster. The new-for-2014 front end is made up of larger headlights, a bigger, re-shaped grille, new quarter panels and a hood that’s got more figuring stamped into it. It helps the S60 banish the occasional whiff of anteater you’d glance in the 2011-2013 models. It’s the sharp end of bland styling.

To make it look more special, Volvo gives the R-Design the Euro-equivalent of a 1950’s chrome bonanza. That means metallized accents like the mirror caps, a chrome accent around the windows, a special R-Design grille with a badge denoting its specialness, diffuser-ish looking trim on the rear bumper and dual exhaust tips that are more better-er than other S60s. I was also treated to the upgraded 19” Ixion wheels. This made the Haldex all-wheel drive system work extra-hard in the winter, thanks to the ridiculous aspect ratio and tires without a snowflake on the sidewall.

close up shot of Volvo Ixion wheel

The only option for shifting is a pity of a six-speed automatic. You do get the obligatory manual gate so you can pretend you’re in control, but shift paddles or no, the transmission is in charge and response is slow. Leave it in Drive and don’t expect too much and you’ll be fine. The all-wheel drive tames the Scandinavian wrestling match that used to happen in the feisty T-square days. One thing I was surprised to learn: The S60 will hang its tail out in the right conditions. You have to tell the stability control to stand down first, but it’s a bit of behavior that lends credibility to the performance overtures Volvo is making here.

The turbo six is very responsive, and it’s maybe too much engine for the rest of this car. The power is all-in quickly, with a torque response plot that looks like a line drawing of a sofa table. I never wanted for power, and the R-Design trim comes with a sportier chassis tune and a strut tower brace to work in tandem with the stiff structure. The spec sheet looks good, but it doesn’t gel as well as the numbers might suggest. Remember, the competition is Audi, BMW and Mercedes, along with Cadillac, Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti, too. Tough room.

Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design engine

The S60s competes on its wits and value more than its capabilities as a sedan that can hang with the high-performing competition. In other words, it’s like a wheeled pop song with smiley-face EQ. The numbers are one thing, but you have to endure a stiff-kneed ride and dull steering. The sporty all-seasons on the S60 I drove probably didn’t help steering feedback during a deep winter cold snap, either. The big wheels clop about tangibly, even if the S60 stays stuck pretty well to the road. There’s head-toss, and my admittedly overabundant supply of body fat took to jiggling uncomfortably thanks to the suspension tuning. For all the turgidity, there’s still more body roll than I expected. The back seat is tight, so is the trunk, and the joie de conduissez isn’t as deep or accessible in the Volvo, even as competition like the 3 Series is getting knocked for going soft. The S60 T6 AWD is a hell of a drag racer, though.

The interior is done with Volvo flair. That means great basic ergonomics, though there are a lot of small buttons on the center stack. Platinum-package outfitting in my test car means I got to experience all the options, from a great-sounding 12-speaker premium audio system to power-retracting side mirrors to navigation. I also spent the first few hours figuring out how everything works – Volvos remain quirky that way. I never did warm up to the navigation and infotainment interface. It’s laggy, slow and cumbersome. Redundant controls on the steering wheel spokes help. Otherwise, you’re left adjusting stuff with a rotary dial and multi-layered menus.

Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design instrument panel

The instrument cluster is driver-oriented. A large central speedometer and left and right LCDs display information clearly. You can select between display themes, which will also change the information displayed. The choice of information display is a nice touch, and I was most amused by the “Power” modulometer. My test car had all sorts of stuff, driving the price up. It had the Climate Package, Technology Package, Volvo Sensus Connected Touch with Navigation, Blind Spot Information System with Front and Rear Park Assist, and those 19″ wheels with summer tires. The result of all that up-fitting is a price tag around $54,500.

Materials in the R-Design are top-notch for the class. This is where some of that Volvo value proposition comes shining through. You get leather seating, classy textured metal and tasteful satin-finish trim rings. The seats are generally very comfortable, but the overly-aggressive head restraints force weird posture and they’re non-adjustable. This has been an unfortunate Volvo trait for a while. In the R-Design, the seats get handsome contrast stitching and R-Design logos embossed in the seatbacks.

Volvo S60 interior

In practical matters, the S60 T6 R-Design is solid for the class. The 12 cubic foot trunk is small, but so is everyone elses’, and the rear seatbacks do fold down. Good luck with that tiny trunk opening, though. Fuel economy was 22 mpg during my time with the car, or what you’ve been able to expect from turbo Volvos since forever. You could crest 30 mpg on the highway pretty easily, especially if you keep your boot out of the power and let the adaptive cruise control handle things. The self-regulating cruise control is admirably well-tuned, though it’s still more herky-jerky than an attentive driver. It’ll bug you if you abhor the use of brakes as a speed-control technique on the highway, as I do.

rear view of 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design

You’ll have a hard time getting a BMW 3 Series, Audi S4, or Mercedes C Class as well-equipped and muscled-up as the S60 T6 R-Design for the Volvo’s price tag of $43,000 to start. Even though my test car was loaded, it’s still price-competitive when you compare the competition with all those features piled on. It’s easy to appreciate the high-quality interior, the distinctive styling, and solid value.

The S60 is a well-built car, my flip comments about its platform origins aside. Most people will be easily wowed by the impressive engine and wouldn’t know what to do with a competent chassis, anyway. For those that know, however, the S60 T6 R-Design is a 7/10ths execution on performance measures. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just not as satisfying as the excellence available for similar money in this class. Volvo earns a 9/10ths on the luxury car side of things, though, which is where you’ll sacrifice in other brands for a better driving experience. It’s a valid tradeoff, and for the public at large, the S60 T6 R-Design has got it where it counts. A four-on-the-floor disco track is never going to impress a Jazz Cat who wants nimbly-executed changes in 11/4 time.

2014 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design front view of 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design side view of 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design 2014-volvo-s60-t6-20 rear view of 2014 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design 2013-volvo-s60-t6 close up shot of Volvo Ixion wheel 2013-volvo-s60-t6-3 2013-volvo-s60-t6-4 2014-volvo-s60-t6-5 2014-volvo-s60-t6-6 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design engine 2014-volvo-s60-t6-8 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design instrument panel 2014-volvo-s60-t6-10 2014-volvo-s60-t6-15 2014-volvo-s60-t6-22 2014-volvo-s60-t6-23 2014-volvo-s60-t6-24 Volvo S60 interior 2014-volvo-s60-t6-26 2014-volvo-s60-t6-27 2014-volvo-s60-t6-28

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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. […]

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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 […]

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

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