Maybe it’s Subaru’s fault for stealing Volvo’s core clientele of cross-country skiing, Birkenstock-wearing, outdoorsy granola-crunchers during the 1980s. Or perhaps it’s Ikea’s fault for forever associating Swedish design with the cheap-and-cheerful college crowd. But for whatever reason, Volvo is now arguably the most overlooked and underrated of all the premium marques. Folks shopping for a BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus or Cadillac seldom consider trying a Volvo. And that’s a pity, because Volvo is making some pretty impressive cars these days.

Take the S60. Introduced for the 2011 model year, Volvo’s second-generation S60 is a compact executive sedan that’s thoroughly competitive with – and refreshingly different from – the hordes of BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C Class sedans out there. It’s available with a range of different engines and either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, to satisfy everyone from the thrifty-minded commuter to the power-hungry performance enthusiast.

For 2015 Volvo has given the S60 a bit of a facelift, with a new front fascia and grille, new hood and fenders, new headlights, and new integrated exhaust pipes at the back. Interior changes include a new adaptive TFT instrument display in some models, new paddle shifters in the T6 AWD and R-Design models (also available optionally on the T5), upgraded transmission programming with Advanced Quick Shift in Sport mode, and a bevy of new available technology features including pedestrian and cyclist detection with full auto-braking.

The new front-end styling takes a conservative approach, looking less insect-like than before but perhaps a little staid, with a wide expanse of grille dominated by a large Volvo “Ironmark” logo. The underlying structure remains as rock solid as ever, and in combination with all the available safety technology this earns the S60 a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS.

Under the hood, the 2015 S60 is available with a couple of efficient new “Drive-E” four-cylinder turbocharged engines, each displacing 2.0L and developing either 240 horsepower in my test car’s T5 guise, or 302 horsepower (thanks to an additional supercharger) in T6 guise. Unfortunately, however, these new engines are only available in the front-wheel drive models. All-wheel drive models get either a 2.5L five-cylinder developing 250 horsepower (T5 models) or a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six cranking out 300 horsepower (T6 models). Oh, and there’s also the T6 R-Design, which has all-wheel drive and a more powerful I6 that serves up 325 horsepower. It makes for a rather dizzying and confusing lineup on Volvo’s website, but essentially, once you decide whether you want front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and whether you want reasonable power (T5) or plentiful power (T6) then Volvo will decide which engine you get to accomplish that, and you can concentrate on choosing the trim level you want.

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