by Greg Wilson
Another European sedan joins the all-wheel-drive party for 2002: the Volvo S60 AWD joins the BMW 325Xi/330Xi, Audi A4 1.8T/3.0, VW Passat 4Motion, Jaguar X-Type 2.5/3.0 and Subaru Outback H6 3.0 AWD. Like the others, the S60 AWD is designed primarily for road holding and traction on snow-covered paved roads or graded gravel surfaces, rather than for off-road driving. The 2002 Volvo S60 AWD is priced at $43,995.
A tempting alternative to BMW and Audi all-wheel-drive models
Volvo’s curvy new S60 sedan replaced the angular S70 last year, completing Volvo’s metamorphosis from a maker of boxy and conservative luxury cars to a purveyor of stylish and sporty luxury automobiles — with its accustomed emphasis on safety.
Image: Grant Yoxon
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The mid-size S60 sedan fits in between the S40 and S80 in Volvo’s lineup and competes with such cars as the BMW 3-Series, Lexus ES300, Audi A4, Acura TL, Jaguar X-Type, Mercedes-Benz C240, and Infiniti I35. The S60 uses the same platform as the more luxurious S80 and the V70 wagon, and is offered in four variations: the base 168 horsepower S60 2.4, the turbocharged 197 horsepower S60 2.4T, the high-performance turbocharged 247 horsepower S60 T5, and new for 2002, the 197 horsepower turbocharged S60 AWD (all-wheel-drive).
The S60 AWD offers a new electronically-controlled on-demand four-wheel-drive system and a higher ground clearance, but is otherwise similar to the S60 2.4T model. Major competitors for the S60 AWD include the BMW 325Xi/330Xi, Audi A4 1.8T/3.0, Jaguar X-Type 2.5/3.0, VW Passat 4Motion and Subaru Outback H6 3.0 AWD.
All-wheel-drive: how it works
The S60’s all-wheel-drive system is designed primarily to improve road holding and traction on snow-covered paved roads or graded gravel surfaces, rather than as a system designed for off-road driving. The S60 AWD doesn’t have a Low Range gear or a huge ground clearance, and is not designed to tackle the Rubicon Trail.
Like previous Volvo all-wheel-drive systems, the S60’s new AWD system operates completely automatically with no input from the driver. The S60 AWD’s system is faster and more sophisticated than previous systems, mainly due to improved electronic controls.
In normal driving, engine power goes to the front wheels only. When the system detects that the front wheels have lost traction, even minutely, power is directed to the rear wheels. The AWD system, built by Haldex of Sweden, uses a mechanical pump and ‘wet’ multi-plate clutch to distribute the power to the rear wheels. The difference in rotational speed between the slipping front wheels and the rear wheels causes the pump (located at the rear differential) to force oil to the wet clutch plates in the rear differential, pushing the plates together to transfer power to the rear wheels. A small electrical pump is used to “pre-pressurize” the system so that power transfer can occur almost instantly. The system is electronically controlled through a module mounted on the rear differential.
The S60’s AWD system is able to determine how quickly to distribute power, and how much power to distribute. For example, when accelerating on a loose surface like gravel, the rear wheels can be engaged quickly with maximum power transfer. During parallel parking or low speed cornering, the system knows that the difference in speed between the wheels does not require the rear wheels to be engaged. As a result, the binding that can occur some full-time four-wheel-drive system is avoided.
In addition, the AWD system is communicates through the car’s Multiplex computer system to the TRACS traction control system and the optional Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC). All three can work together to improve traction and stability.
The S60 AWD is a surprisingly quick, smooth car with lots of bottom end torque from its turbocharged 2.4 litre inline 5 cylinder engine (the only one in its class). This aluminum engine features variable valve timing and a ‘light-pressure’ turbocharger that outputs 197 horsepower at 5,100 rpm and 210 lb.-ft. of torque at just 1,800 rpm. That means quick throttle response in just about any gear as long as the engine is doing more than 2000 rpm. I noticed that the turbo boost comes on strong at 2300 rpm and the car rockets away quickly from that point on. 0 to 100 km/h is in the mid 8 second range, comparable with but not better than its main AWD competitors. The turbocharged engine makes a mechanical whining sound under strong acceleration, but is otherwise a very quiet and refined powerplant.
An interesting feature of this engine is that the radiator is coated with a substance, PremAir, that converts up to 75 per cent of the ground level ozone it encounters into oxygen purely by a chemical reaction. As well, the S60 AWD is classified as an LEV (low emissions vehicle).
The standard 5-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and purposively and though a manual transmission is not offered on the S60 AWD, my test car included the Geartronic manual mode which allows the driver to shift manually without a clutch. I found the manual shift intervals a bit slow, but the manual mode does increase the ‘fun’ factor if you’re out of city traffic and have a twisty highway all to yourself. The transmission also features a ‘Winter’ mode which starts the transmission in third gear to avoid wheelspin on ice or snow.
The S60 AWD is very comfortable on the freeway. At a steady 100 km/h, the engine does just 2000 rpm, and at 120 km/h, it turns over 2,400 rpm in fifth gear. I found the S60 AWD to be quiet, easy to drive, with a very comfortable ride.
The S60 AWD’s engine is approximately 10% thirstier than the S60 with front-wheel-drive, but is on par with other AWD cars in its class. In the city, the S60 AWD model uses 12.1 l/100 km (23 mpg), and on the highway, it gets 8.3 l/100 km (34 mpg).
Its power assisted, rack and pinion is quick and responsive, and the S60 is quite nimble and easy to maneouver. The suspension is fully independent: front MacPherson struts with a stabilizer bar and asymmetrically mounted coil springs, and a rear multilink design with coil springs and stabilizer bar. The standard tires are Michelin MXV4 Plus 205/55R-16 inch all-season mounted on seven spoke alloys.
The S60 AWD’s ‘raison d’etre’, its all-wheel-drive system, is indiscernible when driving on most surfaces. As I mentioned, the S60 AWD runs in front-wheel-drive to save wear and tear and fuel, and only sends power to the rear wheels when needed. This is a subtle power transfer, and in slippery situations, the driver is only aware that traction and directional stability has been maintained. In a rear-drive or even front-drive car, the driver may find the wheels spinning or the car sliding or twisting on a snow-covered road. As a result, the driver may have to drive slower. Conversely, it’s also true that the S60 AWD driver can drive faster in the snow and rain – but I won’t recommend it.
Interior has Scandinavian purposefulness
My test car’s leather-upholstered interior was finished in various shades of grey with limited use of dark walnut trim on the passenger dash and the doors. The leather is very sturdy-looking, and is coarser than the shiny leather found in many Japanese cars. The instruments are plain, simple white-on-black round dials, with ancillary digital readouts for the clock, outside temperature, odometer, trip computer, and transmission indicator.
The centre control panel, which is angled towards the driver, has extra large buttons and dials and a unique ‘pictograph’ showing heating and ventilation functions for the standard dual-zone climate control — the latter includes separate temperature controls but a single fan speed control.
Controls for the stereo are easy to use, but slightly different from conventional stereos — for example, to switch between AM, FM, tape and CD, you turn a round dial. There’s also an unusual storage ‘hole’ on the left side of the centre stack, and a couple of buttons for the front seat heaters.
Other features include a 12 volt powerpoint, a button which turns on the dome lights, a trunk release, two covered cupholders, and a pen holder. I noticed there isn’t a centre armrest with a built-in storage area.
The front seats are wide and comfortable, and include unique flexible pockets on the front of the seat cushions. Both driver and front passenger seats have manually-adjustable lumbar support, but the knobs are hard to reach because they’re positioned between the seat and the centre console.
The back of the front seats are indented providing adequate but not generous kneeroom and legroom for rear passengers while headroom is also adequate. In width, the rear seat is more comfortable for two adults rather than three, but does have three rear 3-point seatbelts. There are also three height-adjustable rear head restraints, and the centre one is mounted lower so as not to impede rear visibility for the driver. New for 2002, the outboard head restraints automatically fold down when the driver presses a button on the dashboard, improving rear visibility even more. The only problem with that is that rear passengers have to remember to pull up the head restraints.
To help keep rear passengers cool in the summer and warm in the winter, there are adjustable air vents in the B-pillars. Rear passengers also have a centre folding armrest with a built-in storage bin and two pull-out cupholders, rear reading lights, a rear 12 volt power point, and rear map pockets.
The trunklid opens wider than 90 degrees and is fully carpeted and the folding rear seatbacks can be released from inside the trunk by pulling on two straps. There’s also a small opening through the rear armrest for skis and poles.
As you might expect, the S60 AWD has plenty of standard safety features including dual-stage driver and front passenger airbags and front three-point seat belts with pyrotechnic pre-tensioners, SIPS side impact protection system with side airbags and Inflatable Head Curtain airbag protection for front- and rear-seat passengers, and WHIPS whiplash protection in the front seats.
A new option for 2002 is an improved DVD Volvo Navigation System with a larger screen and remote control function.
All-wheel-drive competitors for the 197 horsepower turbocharged five cylinder S60 AWD ($43,995) include the 184 horsepower six cylinder BMW 325Xi ($42,100) and the 225 horsepower six cylinder BMW 330Xi ($49,700); the 170 horsepower turbocharged four cylinder Audi A4 1.8T ($37,225) and the 220 horsepower six cylinder Audi A4 3.0 ($44,495); the 194 horsepower six cylinder Jaguar X-Type 2.5 ($42,950); the 190 horsepower six cylinder VW Passat GLX 4Motion ($43,305); and the 212 horsepower Subaru Outback H6 3.0 VDC AWD ($41,995).
The S60 is not the most powerful of the group but it offers more torque at lower rpm’s – 210 lb-ft at just 1800 rpm – than any of its competitors. Of the group, the Audi A4 3.0 is the fastest from 0 to 100 km/h in just 6.9 seconds, and the Subaru Outback H6 and Audi A4 1.8T are the slowest at 8.9 seconds. The S60 AWD is somewhere in the middle at 8.2 seconds, still a decent time. The S60’s average fuel consumption is bettered only by the A4 1.8T.
The Passat and the Outback are the only other vehicles not available with a manual transmission – all the rest can be had with a five or six speed manual transmission.
Next to the Outback, the S60 has the largest interior of the bunch, in part because it is considerably wider than its competitors. The S60 AWD offers the most front and rear headroom and hiproom, but curiously, the least rear legroom.
The S60 AWD’s standard warranty of 4 yrs/80,000 km is competitive with other luxury cars, but both the Passat and the Outback offer an additional year on the powertrain.
The S60 AWD has a more responsive engine than most of its competitors, and a well-equipped, well-designed interior with lots of standard safety features. The S60 AWD’s turbocharged engine doesn’t sound as good as BMW’s engines and it’s not available with a manual transmission, but the S60 AWD is a comfortable, powerful luxury sedan with good looks and the added traction and stability of all-wheel-drive when it’s needed.
|2002 Volvo S60 AWD|
|Price as tested||$44,745|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger mid-size sedan|
|Layout||transverse front engine/all-wheel-drive|
|Engine||2.4 litre 5 cylinder, turbocharged, 20 valves, CVVT|
|Horsepower||197 @ 6000 rpm|
|Torque||210 @ 1800 rpm|
|Transmission||5 speed automatic with Geartronic|
|Tires||205/55 R16 91H/Michelin MXV4+ (A/S) Tires|
|Curb weight||1440 kg (3175 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2715 mm (106.9 in.)|
|Length||4576 mm (180.2 in.)|
|Width||1804 mm (71.0 in.)|
|Height||1428 mm (56.2 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||(Seats Up) 394 litres (13.9 cu. ft.)|
|(Seats Down) 1034 litres (36.5 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 12.1 l/100 km (23 mpg)|
|Hwy: 8.3 l/100 km (34 mpg)|
|Warranty||4 yrs/80,000 kms|