Last year’s purchase of Volvo by the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Company Limited can be summed up in two words, which also happen to be one translation of Geely’s Mandarin name: good luck. The double whammy of a global recession and anxiety over the transaction prompted a near-death experience for the venerable Swedish brand. Only 21,423 Volvos were delivered in the U.S. in 2010, down by more than 100,000 units from the decade’s highest mark.
Now that customers have begun returning to the fold, bumping up sales by a factor of three, we deemed it safe to spend some quality time with the newest and possibly best Volvo on the market. The S60 is as close as Volvo has ever dared venture in the BMW direction. It’s conveniently sized, nicely designed, and endowed with ample power and traction. So we added an Ice White 2012 model to our long-term fleet, conducted the usual welcome-aboard performance assessment, and started scribbling insightful observations into its logbook. We have our fingers crossed in hopes of a pleasant long-term relationship.
Passing on the Five, but Not Much Else
For 2012, the S60’s engine choices grew from one to two. A turbocharged five-cylinder now sits at the bottom of the lineup, but we opted for the T6, powered by a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged-and-intercooled inline-six. The R-Design, a late arrival for the 2012 model year, adds another 25 hp to the six’s chart. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission offered. It and the inline-six are bolted end to end and crammed sideways under the S60’s hood. Two ill effects resulting from this arrangement are an unwieldy 39-foot turning circle and front wheels that are burdened with nearly two-thirds of the total curb weight. To help avoid the crippling understeer that’s inevitable with 325 lb-ft of torque routed through the front axle, all T6 S60s are all-wheel drive.
We enriched our test car’s $38,775 base price with seven free-flow options. The $2100 Technology package features Volvo’s vast array of safety gear, including lane-departure warning, collision warning with full automatic braking, and adaptive cruise control. For $800, the Climate package adds heated front seats, headlamp washers, rain-sensing wipers, and an “interior air quality system.” A $2700 Multimedia package adds a dozen-speaker premium sound system, a rearview camera, and a voice-command navigation system. For $1500, we got the Premium package, which consists of a power sunroof, xenon headlights, and a power front-passenger seat. Next came a pair of blind-spot monitors for $700, a $550 “personal car communicator” (an extra-fancy version of the remote key fob), and a $500 front and rear parking-assist system. Our lack of restraint bumped the total tab to a wallet-wilting $47,625.
Staying Safe, Already Getting Slower?
During the next 40,000 or more miles, we’ll pay particular attention to the S60’s wealth of safety systems, since guarding occupants from harm is Volvo’s pet mission. Toward that end, our car is steeped in the latest, greatest ways to avoid calamity. The collision-warning system uses radar and a camera to alert the driver to objects in the path ahead and to apply the brakes when a collision is imminent. Pedestrian detection, also radar- and camera-based, is programmed to provide audio and visual warnings before automatically slamming on the binders to protect some hapless human in the path ahead. Driver alert control sounds an alarm when it senses the pilot’s concentration fading. Distance alert lights up a warning when the clearance to the vehicle ahead in traffic diminishes below a preset amount. Adaptive cruise control locks onto a vehicle in the same lane and adjusts speed to automatically maintain a safe interval. Lane departure warning senses road markings and alerts the driver (audibly and visually) any time the car wanders over a line without a turn signal flashing.
With the break-in miles on the clock, our long-term S60 turned in a test-track report card slightly off the pace demonstrated by a similar car we reviewed earlier this year. The run to 60 mph consumed 6.0 seconds (0.5 second slower), we cleared the quarter-mile in 14.5 seconds at 98 mph, and the governor kicked in at 134 mph. With ABS as the only active safety aid, we halted our tester from 70 mph in a reasonable (at least for a car weighing nearly two tons) 164 feet. That was a couple of feet longer than in our previous test. A second concern is that our new long-termer revealed a slight tendency toward fade. (One of the five stops required 173 feet.) On the skidpad, we detected no stability-control intervention, as was the case in the previous test car, but the 0.88-g limit was, again, slightly in arrears of the S60 tested in January.
Initial logbook entries have been favorable. There is much love for the modern Swedish interior décor that consists of charcoal and beige tones artfully distributed over the textured-plastic and coarse-grained leather trim surfaces. The steering-wheel-mounted infotainment switches and the anthropometrically located climate-control buttons also won positive comments. The lag-free power is a pleasure during passing, and the steering response and feel are nicely geared to aggressive driving. One early gripe: In manual mode, the auto trans upshifts on its own as redline nears.
All-Wheel Drive Has Us Thinking One Thing
We’re especially looking forward to life with this polar bear during the coming white months. Armed with proper winter tires and its Haldex all-wheel-drive system, the S60 T6 should provide an entertaining mix of mirth and mobility on snowy surfaces. Watch this space to see how that turns out.