I'm on again about halo cars. I made reference to them in my 2012 Volkswagen Golf R review and have made comments on cars such as the Acura NSX Concept recently, all of them pointing to the fact that they are very important to brands.
Here's an example about "halos": you're interested in 3D televisions. Your search for the best/coolest/most expensive 3D TV reveals that the Panasonic TH-85VX200 is all of that. At roughly $60,000, it doesn't fit your budget but how likely will it make you consider buying a Panasonic-brand television over another? Exactly.
Volvo has never had a best/coolest/most expensive anything, but they've had "R" cars for nearly 15 years. They've been the ones tasked with garnering interest for the brand. The R cars were the black sheep or bad boys of Volvo's line-up. Bad boys always get attention.
These days, R has transformed into R-Design which, when it was first introduced a few years ago, meant nothing more than aesthetic add-ons. For the 2012 model year, the R-Design S60 and XC60 get more than just some "work" done.
The current S60 is the most dynamically styled Volvo ever. This makes it a perfect candidate for minor extra exterior tweaks such as the more decisive front and rear bumpers with air intake and diffuser, trunk-lid mounted lip spoiler and some phat 18" Ixion diamond-cut aluminum wheels. In a few words: This S60 is hot, especially when painted Passion Red.
The cabin is modern all the while retaining quirky or unique elements that make a Volvo a Volvo. To the design, excellent materials and impressive finish, the R-Design package adds specially configured and stitched sport seats, an exclusive 3-spoke steering wheel and some mystical blue watch-dial-styled speedo and tach.
As with all Volvos, for as long as I can remember, the seats in the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design are nothing short of amazing. They are not only supremely comfortable but they hold its occupants firmly and justly without fail.
This is barely half the story.
Polestar is a performance and tuning company which was kicked off in 1996 by Volvo to develop and promote what they can do. Starting with Volvo's turbocharged 3.0L inline-6, Polestar's tuning coaxes an extra 25 hp and 29 lb-ft with little effort.
Now rated at 325 hp and 354 torques, the S60 R-Design goes from quick to fast. Capable of nailing the 0-100 km/h sprint in 5.8 seconds all day long thanks to a 6-speed autobox, the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design is the first production Swede from this company able to go head-to-head with the BMW 335i.
The I-6 turbo is a real powerhouse and upon kick-down, kicks you back into the seat while boost builds and your vision becomes blurry. The 6-speed Geartronic does have a manual mode but lacks the all-important wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Their absence is the most noteworthy strike against the R-Design. Obviously, this does not affect performance.
The handling to dance with Polestar
Thankfully, Volvo's engineers did not stop at power and body enhancements for the R-Design. In my thirteen years as an auto critic, having driven numerous luxury sport sedans, I can say with conviction that the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design is one of the finest driving of the lot. Seriously, it slots itself up the top of the list with the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G and Audi A4. Seriously.
Volvo endowed the R-Design with an advanced Sport Chassis and with a unique sport suspension. The car also gets thicker anti-roll bars which, together with the Sport Chassis, make for a car that holds the road without sacrificing poise and comfort.
It is with this car that I travelled to and from Toronto on the same day to meet Big Bird. My buddy Olivier and I spent no less than 18 hours (minus a lunch and looking at two cars) in the car and both of still felt very much human at the end of the excessively long day. There aren't that many cars out there about which I could say the same.
As a side note, the 1,400 km that day plus the other 350 I did during the week returned a fuel consumption average of 12 L per 100 km. Not very good considering 80% of the distance was covered on the highway.
I hate intelligent cruise control
While I'm in bitching mode, I have to note that the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design's intelligent cruise control sensor/radar was rendered totally useless in a brief sleet storm, on our way to the Tdot. The radar was covered with a thin layer of slush and until it was removed, cruise control was inoperative.
I've been to Sweden and they get snow. What's the deal?
At a starting price of $50,325 ($58,650 as tested), the R-Design is not cheap but is worth every penny. A basic BMW 335i is $2,800 more without AWD! An equally attractive Infiniti G37x Sport retails for $48,540 which makes it somewhat of a bargain, but it lacks the Volvo's refinement and unique character.
I've long since been a fan of the Gothenburg-based company and it's been a number of years since one of their products earnestly tickled my fancy. The last, you might have guessed, was the V70R. Don't get the obvious A4 or 335i without taking the S60 T6 AWD or R-Design for a spin first.
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2012 Volvo S60 Specifications
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