Review and photos by Paul Williams

2013 Volvo S60
2013 Volvo S60. Click image to enlarge

Competing with the pesky Germans in the luxury compact segment is a challenge, but as the Volvo advertisements suggest, trying a little “Swedish metal” as opposed to “German techno” could prove satisfying.

Choosing a Volvo means you get a different look, a different style and maybe you get to be, well… different. Surely there’s a market for that. And indeed Volvo Canada has something of a success on its hands with the S60 sedan (and its sibling, the XC60 crossover), being the bestselling model(s) in its lineup.

We drove a 2013 Volvo S60 from Ottawa to New York City for the auto show there, and we got to hang around town for a while to see some of the sights. With a round trip of 1,500 kilometres or so, you get up-close to a car. Is it something you could live with for the long haul? A trip like this clarifies things.

Starting at $39,140 for the base front-wheel-drive model, our $46,350 S60 T5 AWD Premier Plus included the $800 Blind Spot Information System, and is priced in the same ballpark as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Lexus IS.

The “T5” designation means it’s powered by a five-cylinder engine producing 250 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. For 2013, that engine receives an increase in compression ratio from 9.0:1 to 9.5:1, and a reduction in internal friction. It also features a standard over-boost function that raises maximum torque to 295 lb-ft for 10 seconds in gears two through six.

2013 Volvo S60
2013 Volvo S60. Click image to enlarge

The Haldex all-wheel-drive system, by the way, is newly available for the 2013 S60 T5 as a standalone $2,400 option. The transmission is a six-speed “Geartronic” automatic with Sport Mode, with a new illuminated gear-shift knob.

Premier Plus adds active xenon headlights, front and rear park assist, Homelink garage door opener and a compass in the mirror to the leather seating surfaces, power passenger seat, sunroof, keyless entry and start and auto-dimming rearview mirror found in the Premier version.

For 2013, rain sensing windshield wipers and headlight washers are standard, as is a Tunnel Detection system to turn your headlights on and off when you enter and exit a tunnel. The Technology Package, available on all S60 models, adds Active High Beam, which detects oncoming traffic at night and adjusts headlights accordingly; and Road Sign Information, which displays traffic speed signs via a Forward Looking Camera. The package also includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Driver Alert Control and Lane Departure Warning.

However, our vehicle wasn’t equipped with the Tech Package, nor did it have a navigation system: a typical extra-cost item in the luxury sector even at this price.

We left Ottawa on a very cold late-March day with more luggage than you’d think two people would need. Fortunately, the trunk was large enough to carry multiple bags and cases, and the rear seatback folds forward to accommodate larger items if required (it also includes a ski pass-through).

2013 Volvo S602013 Volvo S60
2013 Volvo S60. Click image to enlarge

The front seats, always a point of pride for Volvo, were comfortable and supportive and stayed that way, their full power adjustability enabling a good driving position for my fringe proportions (short legs, long torso).

The thick-rimmed steering wheel feels substantial in your hands and the instrument panel is a model of simplicity. Likewise the centre stack – which on some cars now looks like the console of a sound engineer’s studio — maintained a straightforward layout of controls to manage communications and comfort settings.

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