Call it Mission Impossible. Build a stylish four door mid-size sedan with
comfortable seating for five that looks like a two door sports coupe and
nothing like you’d think or remember a Volvo should like (ie., a brick on
wheels). Exceed Volvo’s own well-earned reputation for comfort, convenience,
safety and environmental responsibility. Then give it the power, handling
and braking of a sports car.
Volvo’s designers must have felt like Ethan Hunt of the Impossible Missions
Force in taking on this job, but they responded to the challenge, developing
what Volvo calls “an elegant sedan with a sporting soul.”
And elegant it is, from its incredibly comfortable front power adjustable
(and heated) leather seats to the graceful curves (yes curves) of the new
Volvo look – first seen in the S80 – raised hood and trunk lid giving the
car that refined, full-fendered visage coming into vogue with designers of
up-market automobiles today.
Sport comes in the form of a turbo-charged and intercooled 2.3 litre, 5
cylinder power plant that puts out 247 horsepower at 5200 rpm. Shift it
yourself or leave it in drive, you’ll see 5200 rpm as often and as quickly
as you want.
Whether motoring lazily along the boulevard or accelerating rapidly onto the
freeway, the transmission in our automatic equipped S60 always seemed to be
in the right gear and shift at the right time. After playing with the manual
mode for a short while, I came to realize the transmission knew better than
I when to shift, so I just left it in drive.
Power alone does not make a sport sedan, though. Handling is equally
important. Being a front wheel drive car, the S60 is no BMW, but then BMW
could learn a thing or two from Volvo when it comes to comfort (those
wonderful seats again).
But for a front-wheel driver, the S60 is indeed a good handling car, thanks
to a wide track, balanced front to rear weight distribution (57/43) and high
torsional rigidity. The S60 really comes into its own though when the
conditions are less than ideal. Equipped with dynamic stability and
traction control, and four-channel, anti lock brakes with electronic brake
distribution, our T5 tester inspired confidence on snow covered and slippery
surfaces. I felt more at ease, more confident as a driver, behind the wheel
of the S60 T5 than I did driving either of the all wheel drive or four wheel
drive vehicles I’ve tested lately.
Though it is an excellent vehicle, I still had a few gripes with the S60.
The rear seats are built purposely low to provide head room where head room
is at a premium. They are difficult to get in and out of and for long
legged passengers, nearly impossible to sit in.
The brakes on our tester were sensitive in the extreme, requiring an equally
sensitive foot to keep the car from coming to a screeching halt.
And finally, the cup holders – I know (yawn), not another cup holder gripe.
But the between the seats cup holders are located too high and too far back.
My arm and the coffee cup were continually in conflict. Nor could I reach
the cup without an opposite hand cross body reach. And passenger access was
obstructed by the hinged cover that opened on the passenger side.
An aggravation for sure, but in reality just a minor complaint in an overall
great driving car.