Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: 2011 Volvo S60 T6

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Volvo is typically compared to other upscale German makes; after all, they’re going for the same sort of buyer. For example, if BMW has their 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz their E-Class, Volvo has the S80. The same goes for the rest of Volvo’s line-up from Edward Cullen’s ride—the C30, all the way to the large, 7-seater XC90. However, the Volvo of late is shifting direction. Not anymore are they content with merely being a German alternative, they’re working to reaffirm the brand’s unique Swedish identity. Consider the move an upward shift in Volvo’s Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. There’s no need for the Swedish automaker to involve itself in a pissing match with the Germans; no, this time, they’re carving their own turf.

The all-new Volvo S60 is the first to lay the ground work for the brand’s new direction. All in all, the S60, especially in T6 guise, is every bit a Volvo: stylish and luxurious, but now given the guts of a true sports sedan. Though it isn’t as sharp to drive as its competition, you wouldn’t care less. The S60 has plenty more impressive qualities that give it a unique edge. Think of it as the sports sedan for those who don’t want the typical sports sedan.

The S60’s quest for its unique identity starts with the exterior design. You certainly won’t mistake this car for anything hailing from Germany or even Japan. The body style itself is overtly masculine with the subtle curves and nice, fuss-free lines. And it gets even better in the details: the chunky headlamps with LED ‘fangs’ (Volvo’s new corporate face), inverted L-shaped tail lamps and turbine-inspired 18-inch alloys make the S60 all the more sleek and stylish. Even the Blazing Copper paintjob is a perfect fit for the car. This certainly isn’t your dad’s Volvo.

Similar things can be said with the S60’s interior, where a general theme of Swedish simplicity takes Volvo away from the god-awful single knob, single button fare seen on just about every German car. Instead, there’s a single screen with a vertical row of buttons on the floating center stack. The gauge cluster is a breath of minimalist fresh air too, with two small display screens for vital information housed within the large speedometer and tachometer. At night, the cluster gives a metallic luster that’s both very upscale and pleasing to the eye. There’s no need for more push buttons or information clusters in here; the S60’s less-is-more approach is definitely refreshing.

Of course, the move to lessen the S60’s buttons presents one shortcoming: it takes a while to understand every vital function. Control settings for the entertainment and driver aids, for example, takes going through layers of menus and sub-menus. Though not as complicated as those found in other luxury cars, more than once, you’ll find yourself wishing for more shortcut buttons.

The overall feeling though, is that the S60’s cabin is indeed a nice place to spend time, with supportive leather seats placed in an interior made of well-crafted materials. Every surface feels superb—there are no moments of cheapness in here. Everything feels refined and soothing without appearing or feeling over-the-top. There are no big surprises inside the S60 and the end result is a cabin that’s genuinely comfortable and built to last.

The T6 represents the top-end in the S60 food chain, powered by Volvo’s turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. Producing 300 horsepower and 440 Nm of torque, these numbers alone tell you that the S60 isn’t something to be laughed about. With a six-speed automatic, the T6 delivers all that power via an all-wheel drive system.

Monstrous as those figures are on paper, the S60 T6 doesn’t deliver the power as aggressively as you may think. Raunchy is certainly isn’t and though some people would want the feeling of being shoved into the driver’s seat, the T6 isn’t about that kind of experience. It’s much more relaxed with the gearbox shifting up as quickly as possible. And with the lack of steering wheel paddles, it can cast the S60 in a less than sporting light.

That said, don’t discount the S60’s performance figures: if pushed, it still has plenty of power and prowess to keep things interesting. With torque available between 2,100 and 4,200 rpm, the off-the-line punch is excellent. And with a claimed 0-100 km/h time of 5.8 seconds, it’s no slouch.

Helping the S60 T6 carve corners is Volvo’s Haldex all-wheel drive system. Though Volvo’s tuning means it’s more front-bias, there’s no noticeable understeer or nose-heavy characteristics when going through bends. The 235/40 R 18 Continental tires offer plenty of grip when needed as well. Overall, the S60’s easy to drive while providing dollops of fun when provoked. The S60 is certainly for people who want a premium sports sedan that acts less like a wacky performance car and more like a proper luxury vehicle.

And being a Volvo, you can’t talk about the S60 without brushing on the topic of its safety features. It comes fully loaded with all the prerequisites that you’d expect including a myriad of airbags, anti-lock brakes and DSTC or Dynamic Stability and Traction Control. However, Volvo goes a step further by giving the S60 much more stuff which sound something straight from Science Fiction such as City Safety (low speed collision detection), Pedestrian Detection (automatically applies the brakes if a pedestrian is detected in front of the car), lane departure and driver drowsiness warning systems. As good as they sound though, these systems give off a lot of false alarms. This is especially true with City Safety which considers the cramped conditions of Philippine roads as a constant recipe for a crash, resulting in a blaring visual and audible warning to the driver. More often than not, you’ll find yourself switching some, if not all of these, off if you don’t want to be disturbed while darting in and out of Manila traffic.

If you’ve got the money, people will expect you to opt for a similarly priced German car. However, Volvo knows this perfectly well and has altered its approach. In the process, it has given the S60 its own unique charm. Instead of trying to be a BMW-beater, Volvo crafted a handsome, luxurious sedan that still offers plenty of driving enjoyment but in a package that’s much more accessible. The S60 may still not be the enthusiast driver’s first choice, but the Volvo S60’s top-class interior refinement and unique style works well for an automaker that’s trying to reinforce its one-of-a-kind image while providing for itself a recipe for additional success.

2011 Volvo S60 T6
Ownership T6
Year Introduced 2010
Vehicle Classification Sports Sedan
The Basics
Body Type 4-door sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 3.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Layout / # of Cylinders Inline 6
BHP @ rpm 304 @ 5,600
Nm @ rpm 440 @ 2,100-4,200
Fuel / Min. Octane Unleaded / 95~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,628
Width (mm) 1,865
Height (mm) 1,484
Wheelbase (mm) 2,776
Curb Weight (kg) 1,680
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-Link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Vented Disc
Tires 235/40R18
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Front, Rear
Auto Lights Yes
Auto Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Electric
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 8
Steering Wheel Controls Yes

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