Test Drive: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD volvo car test drives luxury cars
2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD. Click image to enlarge

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Manufacturer’s Website
Volvo Canada

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Photo Gallery:
2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD

My first thought after picking up the 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD tester was, “Geez, this thing would have put up a good fight in our Compact Luxury Car Shootout.”

And such is the plight of Volvo. It’s not the first marque to mind for shoppers looking at Euro-luxury brands. Much of the current problem is lack of fresh product. There’s lots of new stuff on the horizon, but for now the S60 sedan, into its third year, is the only real player outside of their aging crossovers.

But here’s the good news. For 2013, Volvo now offers AWD as a $2,400 option on the 250-hp turbo five-cylinder S60 T5 model, which starts at $39,150. Previously, only the 300-hp turbo six-pot T6 got AWD, and that car bows at $46,550.

And here’s even better news. The 2013 T5 AWD is the best in the lineup—it’s all the S60 you’ll ever need.

So what about the rip-snorting $54,650 325-hp T6 R-Design? Yes, it looks hot and goes like stink, but it has a harsh ride, is nose-heavy and understeery. It’s trying to be something it’s not.

Conversely, the T5 AWD is everything it should be. Beautiful to look at both inside and out, supremely crafted, has some of the best seats in the business and combines the classic Volvo safety with all-wheel drive. It handles well and eats up highway kilometers with rock-solid comportment and quiet serenity.

Test Drive: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD volvo car test drives luxury cars
Test Drive: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD volvo car test drives luxury cars
Test Drive: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD volvo car test drives luxury cars
2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD. Click image to enlarge

The T5 is no wuss at the stoplights either. For 2013 the 2.5L turbo five gets some mechanical changes that reduce internal friction and increase the compression ratio from 9.0:1 to 9.5:1. Output continues at 250 hp and 266 lb-ft, but there is now a ten-second 295 lb-ft overboost function (second to sixth gears) that, in combination with faster gear changes in sport mode, zips the T5 AWD to 100 km/h in 6.6 seconds.

It’s a smooth engine with an underlying five-cylinder growl that gives it some character. Unusual for turbo engines, this one doesn’t require premium fuel—a fact that will certainly offset running costs when looking at the more efficient Audi A4 and BMW 328i xDrive with their premium-drinking direct-injection turbo-fours.

Official figures for the T5 with AWD are 10.2 L/100 km city and 7.0 L/100 km highway. My week of approximately 75 percent highway duty in the T5 AWD concluded at a reasonable 10.2 L/100 km—but not close to the 2013 BMW 328i xDrive tester that just posted 8.3 L/100.

This shows just how fast the game is moving on. You know the next generation of Volvos will be playing the direct-injection four-banger turbo game with more than just the T5’s six-gear transmission.

Fuel economy aside, this is a very satisfying drivetrain.  Power delivery is seamless and smooth and the fifth-generation Haldex AWD system features torque vectoring that applies braking to both inside wheels when cornering to help reduce understeer.

The steering is nicely linear and well weighted.

This tester was the third-tier T5 Premium Plus ($43,150) with added $2,400 AWD. The Premium Plus gets sunroof, leather, powered passenger seat, proximity key, active xenon headlights, front and rear park assist and Homelink. You have to move up to the $46,450 T5 Platinum to get navigation and back-up camera.

For 2013, all T5s now have standard rain-sensing wipers, headlight washers, increased steering wheel scroll control functionality and a cool illuminated gearshift knob.

Test Drive: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD volvo car test drives luxury cars
Test Drive: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD volvo car test drives luxury cars
2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD. Click image to enlarge

I’ve always liked the S60’s interior. It’s airy, simple and usually enhanced with lighter hues that mercifully stray from the default coal-bin black. You sense the Nordic aesthetic here, although the stylish cluster of buttons on the centre stack are small and fussy—not particularly glove-friendly. The standard audio sounds great, but changing from AM to FM requires three steps that requires you to take your eyes off the road. Also, since first driving the S60 a couple of years ago, I’ve griped about the non-backlit gauge cluster that can be hard to read at a glance.

Volvo, this is basic safety stuff. Look at Nissan, Audi, VW, Infiniti, and Honda to see how it’s done.

Of course, the rest of the safety stuff reads like a laundry list. Let’s start with the articulated Xenon headlights that follow the curve of dark, twisty roads. Literally brilliant.

All S60 models come with City Safety 2 low-speed collision avoidance technology and active whiplash mitigating seats. This tester had the $800 Blind Spot detection system but not the comprehensive $2,100 Technology Package that layers on adaptive cruise, collision warning with full auto brake, pedestrian protection with full auto brake, distance alert, driver alert control, lane departure warning, active high beam, and road sign information.

It seems Volvo is getting more aggressive (realistic) with its package pricing. Last year, blind spot warning and most of the Tech Pack  (sans active high beam and road sign information) was rolled into the $4,500 Driver Support Package. So for 2013 we’re saving $1,600 and getting active high beam and RSI thrown in.

Test Drive: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD volvo car test drives luxury cars
2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD. Click image to enlarge

Despite the fastback coupe roofline, headroom is not at a premium in the back. One of the keys to this is rear seating that was lowered and, for the outward positions, carved out a bit, allowing adequate headroom. The trunk is nicely finished and with the 60/40 rear seats down, it allows for a decent shop at Ikea.

Bottom line? If you read our recent Luxury Car Comparo (Audi A4, BMW 328i xDrive, M-B C 300 4Matic, and Cadillac ATS) and are heading out with a fist full of cash, do yourself a favour and check out the 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD.

Beautiful. Competent. Comfortable. Fast. It feels as solid as the day is long, and for those who don’t require the default premium badges, it’s just (enough) left of the mainstream. A four-year or 80,000-km warranty that includes scheduled maintenance, roadside assist, and even wear-and-tear coverage is nothing to sneeze at either.

Now, if Volvo would just give us the fetching and functional V60 wagon version of this car…

Never say never.

Pricing: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 Premium Plus

Base price: $43,150
Optional equipment: Haldex AWD $2,400; BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) $800; Caspian Blue metallic paint $800
A/C tax: $100
Destination charge: $1,095
Price as tested: $48,345




About Peter

Peter Bleakney is a Toronto-based automotive journalist. He is also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).