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Volvo isn't what it used to be, and positively, the Volvo S60 is a poster child for what the brand has evolved to--combining a more curvaceous exterior with a cool Scandinavian interior design, class-leading safety, and performance that sets its sights on the likes of the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, and Acura TSX. And for 2012, the S60 has a little more appeal yet for driving enthusiasts, with the introduction of a new 2012 S60 R-Design model aimed at those who might just take their Volvo on the track once in a while.The 2012 S60 is more rakish and aggressive than any previous Volvo sedan on the outside, with smooth contours and swooping lines matched up with a low, wedgy front and pert tail, and framed with large flashy alloy wheels. It's handsome yet expressive from a few paces back. Inside, the S60's cabin is very stylish, yet functional, with a 'floating' center stack of controls that pushes the Swedish design ethos into a hipper direction. Textures and design themes inside are far from the ordinary for luxury sedans.
Last year, all Volvo S60 models came in high-performance T6 form—with a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. Now for 2012, a more affordable front-wheel-drive S60 T5 model (powered by a 250-hp 2.5-liter five-cylinder) has joined the lineup, as well as a new enthusiast-focused R-Design mode that offers a 'chipped' version of the six, making 325 hp. In both the S60 T6 and R-Design models, the engine is smooth, strong, and sweet-sounding, with an uninterrupted rush of power when you need it. The six-speed automatic transmission (there's no manual...yet) doesn't always respond as quickly as you'd hope from a sport sedan.
In T6 or T5 forms, the S60 doesn't feel quite as sharp as focused enthusiast sedans like the Mitsubishi Evolution, Subaru WRX STI, or Nissan G37 or BMW 3-Series, but some will prefer it that way, as a tight, quiet cabin and good ride quality factor in to give it a true luxury-car feel. The 4C dynamic chassis system in the T6 makes it the pick of the bunch for combining performance and comfort; T6 models get driver-selectable steering feel, too. But the T6 R-Design throws that out in favor of a dedicated Sport suspension that's lowered and noticeably stiffer; it also brings out the road noise.
The S60 is just a bit smaller than most U.S.-market mid-size sedans, yet it's a five-seater with true space for four adults. The swoopy roofline allows enough headroom for most, and provided you're not positioning the lankiest passengers front-to-back, there's decent legroom.
Though the curvy S60 doesn't have the versatility offered by those box-on-wheels designs Volvo built through the 1990s, this sport sedan does hold true to another Volvo expectation: safety. Volvo's Pedestrian Detection safety system can automatically stop the car if it detects a pedestrian and the driver fails to react. And while it hasn't yet been tested by the feds, the insurance-affiliated IIHS has already fully tested the 2012 S60 and made it a Top Safety Pick.
With base prices on the S60 dropping to about $31k for 2012 with the introduction of the front-wheel-drive S60 T5, the S60 is looking like a stronger deal for 2012 for those who simply want a well-equipped yet stylish luxury sedan. The T5 includes a long list of features, including tech extras like Bluetooth calling and audio streaming, HD Radio, dual-zone climate control, and a power driver's seat. The S60 T6 upgrades to leather upholstery and larger alloys, in addition to all the performance upgrades, and the top R-Design includes xenon headlamps and a moonroof among the many trim upgrades.
- Strong, sweet-sounding engines
- Adjustable steering feel (T6)
- Supple, quiet ride (all but R-Design)
- World-first pedestrian detection
- Stylish interior
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- No paddle-shifters or full manual control
- Road noise (R-Design)
- Seats not as supportive as in other Volvos
- Pricey in T6 and R-Design form