by Grant Yoxon
All-Wheel-Drive option adds additional measure of safety
Volvo’s sporty S60 sedan, introduced in 2001, receives a new all-wheel-drive option for 2002. Available only on the 197 horsepower 2.4T, the S60 all-wheel-drive system will add $2,500 to the $41,495 2.4T base price.
The car was officially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, but journalists had a chance to drive the new 2.4T AWD at a press introduction held recently in Rockport Maine.
The new all-wheel-drive system is electronically controlled, operates completely automatically and activates almost instantaneously.
In normal driving situations, the S60 AWD primarily powers the front wheels. It is only when the system detects that the front wheels have lost traction and have begun to spin that it delivers power to the rear wheels.
Created by Haldex of Sweden, the electronic AWD uses a mechanical pump and ‘wet’ multi-plate clutch to distribute the power to the rear wheels. Oil is forced to the wet clutch plates housed in the rear differential, pushing the plates together, whenever a difference in rotational speed between the front and rear wheels is detected. A small electric pump is used to pre-pressurize the system so that the power transfer occurs almost instantaneously.
The system is electronically controlled by a module mounted on the rear differential that communicates with other electronic systems in the vehicle such as the engine control module, brake control module and traction control system.
It is not all-wheel-drive in the sense of all the wheels being driven all the time. It is front-wheel-drive that gets a rear-wheel-drive assist whenever the need arises – that is, whenever the front wheels lose traction.
Robert Schreiber, Business Project Manager for Volvo said the AWD system is not designed “to take you off road, but to keep you on it.”
And the AWD option should appeal to buyers who want the additional safety and security that four-wheel-drive traction provides – exactly the kind of buyer who would place Volvo high on their shopping list in the first place.
Even without AWD, the Volvo S60 is an excellent inclement weather vehicle, as we learned when we tested a T5 with Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) last winter. The T5 was sure-footed and unwavering in some of the worst eastern Ontario winter weather.
All-wheel-drive should be even better then, right? For that we’ll have to wait for the right conditions (a good winter storm). But on the back roads of Maine, the all-wheel-drive effect was imperceptible, which is exactly the way Volvo intended it to be. If the AWD was at work, I didn’t notice it.
The S60 AWD provides confident, though not sporty handling. Steering is light and cornering is good, but the car feels a bit heavy.
Interior comforts are plentiful, with super-comfortable leather seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-speaker AM/FM cassette with in-dash single CD player and the full range of power accessories.
The S60 AWD is equipped with the 197 horsepower, low-pressure turbo 2.4 litre engine and a five speed automatic “Geartronic” transmission.
The five-cylinder 2.4T provides smooth acceleration and capable performance. The Geartronic transmission allows clutchless shifting for those who are so inclined, but there is no disadvantage to those drivers who would just prefer to let an automatic transmission do what it is designed to do – shift for you.
The 2.4 T is one of three engines offered in the S60, the others being a 168 horsepower non-turbocharged 2.4 and a high-pressure turbo-charged 2.3 litre engine producing 247 horsepower. All three are inline five-cylinder designs.
By making the AWD system an available option on the mid-performance 2.4T, Volvo recognizes the appeal of all-wheel-drive to safety-conscious buyers, rather than the enthusiast who might be more inclined to opt for the performance oriented T5 with its 247 horsepower, 2.3 litre high-pressure turbo motor.
Volvo intends to integrate DSTC with the all-wheel-drive system, but not for a few months into the production run. With both increased directional control and stability and increased traction, an AWD S60 with DSTC should be the ultimate in active safety.