2011 Volvo S60
2011 Volvo S60. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2011 Volvo S60

Portland, Oregon – After a year’s absence, the Volvo S60 is back with an all-new chassis and powertrain, more dynamic styling, a completely new interior, and more safety features, including a world-first pedestrian detection and avoidance system.

Presented by Volvo as “the sportiest Volvo ever,” the new 2011 S60 is aimed directly at established benchmarks like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4. That’s serious competition, even for Volvo, but the S60’s improved driving dynamics, sporty styling, top-notch interior quality, and leading safety technology make this a much more compelling alternative than the previous model.

2011 Volvo S60
2011 Volvo S60. Click image to enlarge

First to the Canadian market is the 300-horsepower S60 T6 (already on sale starting at $45,450) which replaces the T5 sedan that was discontinued in 2009. Then, in January, an entry-level S60 will arrive, successor to the previous S60 2.5T. Unfortunately, there will be no new V70 wagon model in North America; declining wagon sales and the increasing popularity of crossovers like the XC60 are to blame.

The 2011 S60 rides on a platform shared with the S80, XC60, XC70 and V70. Though not significantly larger than the previous S60, the wheelbase is 58 mm (2.3 in.) longer, creating more cabin space, particularly rear seat legroom.

The styling of the new S60 is deliberately bolder than the previous model, particularly at the front. “There’s little point playing the polite Englishman or reserved Swede if you want to make a lasting impression,” said Volvo Cars’ Design Director Peter Horbury at the car’s introduction to the media. “Translated into a car market packed with extrovert models from all the leading makers, this means that you have to sharpen your design pencil like never before if you want to be seen.”

2011 Volvo S60
2011 Volvo S60
2011 Volvo S60
2011 Volvo S60. Click image to enlarge

Styling elements such as the S60’s plunging hood and low nose, LED daytime running lights and wraparound headlight covers, steeply raked windshield, coupe-like profile, wrap-over taillights and dual exhausts present a more muscular, ready-to-pounce stance than the previous S60.

And in the T6 model, those testosterone-inspired looks are backed up by a transversely-mounted 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder motor delivering 300 horsepower and a commendable 325 ft.-lb. torque from just 2,100 rpm – that’s the same amount of torque available from Volvo’s 4.4-litre V8 engine!

Unlike the previous S60 T5, a conventional manual transmission is not offered in the new S60 T6. Volvo’s second-generation six-speed “Geartronic” automatic transmission with manual shift mode delivers the power to a standard all-wheel drive system that can split torque up to 50/50 front to rear when needed via a Haldex differential, but normally runs in a 95/5 split to save fuel.

As well, standard “Corner Traction Control” uses the car’s ABS to briefly brake the inside wheels to send more power to the outer wheels at the front and rear when cornering, also to reduce understeer and oversteer. “You can accelerate out of the curve while retaining your grip on the road,” said Stefan Sällqvist, who was in charge of S60 chassis development. “This system makes it easier to smoothly maintain your desired line on winding roads and on wet surfaces…and is a huge asset when you want to swing out from a small side road to merge with a highway and need to accelerate swiftly to join in with the flow of traffic.”

For 2011, the S60’s standard “Dynamic” independent suspension has stiffer springs and bushings and improved shock damping to improve handling without sacrificing ride characteristics. “We spent many weeks fine-tuning the dampers in the English countryside,” said Sällqvist. “We drove on old Roman roads that have only received a few layers of tarmac over the centuries.”

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