Maximizing Safety and Sportiness
I’ve experimented with adaptive cruise control systems, but never to the extent that I dared push Volvo’s Queue Assist setup. Apparently, this system will bring the S60 to a complete halt if that’s what traffic ahead is doing. It will then allow the vehicle to follow stop-and-go traffic, all without requiring the driver to touch the brake or gas.
Sure, I thought.
On a freeway run, I set the adaptive cruise control to well above the posted limit, then allowed my tester to follow slower traffic for several kilometres, which it did flawlessly. I exited onto another highway in which there was no nearby traffic.
The 2012 Volvo S60 smoothly accelerated until reaching my set speed. All was good. As we neared slower traffic, I knew that the car would decelerate to match the speed of those ahead in my lane; what I wasn’t so sure of was whether it would successfully stop behind vehicles, without effort from me, as we approached a red light.
Exercising nerves of steel, I resisted the urge to settle my foot on the brake. With breath held tight, my Swedish chariot smoothly applied braking while maintaining a safe but diminishing distance from the car ahead. We came to a full stop one car length from the vehicle ahead.
When the traffic began moving, I hit the reset button with my left thumb and the S60 played along. It followed the traffic around a left turn and maintained a consistent speed with the cars ahead. We stopped at several more traffic lights and proceeded through a business district – all without my assistance on the brake or accelerator. Was I impressed? You bet.
But that’s not all that impressed me with Volvo’s upscale midsize sedan.
S60 setting new direction for Volvo
The sleek lines of the S60 are quite un-Volvo-like, and that’s the point. Volvo is working hard to shed its conservative image, and the S60 is the latest in that effort. This vehicle is aimed at the sort of customer that may also be considering a BMW 3 Series as their next purchase.
Although my tester was pulled along by its front wheels, all-wheel drive is an option, and one that I would seriously consider if I were in this sort of market. Nonetheless, the front-wheel-drive configuration served me well during my test period, and presented only minimal torque steer when acceleration was pushed to the max.
The engine delivering that get-up-and-go is somewhat unique.
5 cylinders run smooth
My tester was the T5 model, in reference to its turbocharged 2.5L 5-cylinder powerplant. While not as turbine smooth as some 6-cylinder engines, Volvo’s 5-banger is delightfully peppy and suitably refined for this upscale application. It produces 250 hp @ 5,500 rpm and 266 lb-ft of torque from 1,800 to 4,000 rpm.
A small annoyance for me was the abruptness of throttle tip-in. Touching the gas a little too aggressively when setting off tends to produce unintended wheelspin, especially on wet roads. Again, a most un-Volvo-like characteristic. More in tune was the 6-speed automatic transmission hooked to the engine.
The autobox favoured fuel economy over performance but functioned well nonetheless. When fully tasked, the S60 T5 can climb from zip to 100 km/h in well under 7 seconds. Thanks to turbocharging, power comes on early and is sustained through the majority of the rev band.
The transmission’s contribution to squeezing the most out of a litre is evident in the fuel economy rating for the S60 T5, which stands at 10.5L/100km and 6.6L/100km, city and highway driving respectively. My real-world about-town driving netted me a reasonable 10.8L/100km, but the S60’s about a lot more than decent performance and economy.
I’ve always found Volvo cabins, especially those of late, to be well thought-out and highly attractive. My tester’s interior real estate was just that, with leather upholstery and wood inlays that nicely fulfilled expectations.
Head and leg room up front is expansive and most controls are logically presented. I say most, because I was largely confounded by the cluster of buttons on the centre stack. Of particular challenge was determining how to make audio adjustments and tune in stations.
After some putzing about, I figured out the audio controls and also how to program the navigation system, which is not all that intuitive unless using the voice command interface. Interestingly, I found Volvo’s voice command system to perhaps be the easiest I’ve ever used.
Wrapping the Swede
While the S60 T5 has what it takes performance-wise to compete with upscale sports sedans, it has in many ways more than its competitors. Much of what sets the S60 apart from other Euro sedans is its commitment to safety and occupant protection.
Volvo is on the cutting edge when it comes to preventing collisions, and reducing damage and injury should one occur. It would take a full-length feature to properly cover these aspects of Volvo design and engineering; trust that no one does it better.
In addition to safety and protection, Volvo has clearly chosen to emphasize sportiness in its S60, giving this attractive sedan driving dynamics to match its avantgarde styling. Buyers seeking a sporty upscale sedan with a strong commitment to keeping the family safe and secure will find those attributes in the 2012 S60 T5, but should be prepared to pay.
Although the base S60 T5 begins at $38,300, my loaded tester crested the $50K mark.
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