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The Volvo S60 appears to be a lot of things that Volvo never used to be. But at the same time you might say it's a brawny, good-looking, and handsome model for what Volvo is becoming. As such, the S60 lineup is design-centric inside and out, with class-leading safety, as well as performance that keeps up with some of the top sport sedans--even if it isn't quite as sharply honed. And underneath it all, yes, there are still the leading-edge safety features that has differentiated the brand all along.
With its smooth contours and swooping lines matched up with a low, wedgy front and pert tail, then framed with large flashy alloy wheels, the S60 is indeed expressive in a way that Volvo never was in the past. Inside, Scandinavian design comes together with a little extra flamboyance to bring a cabin that's handsome and functional. Textures, materials, and design are far from ordinary, and the 'floating' center stack of controls pushes the Swedish design ethos into a hipper direction.
Performance-wise, the S60 has its sights set somewhere between the likes of the Acura TSX, the Audi A4, and the BMW 3-Series. Now in the S60's third year, Volvo is rolling out yet more members of the S60 lineup; this time, all-wheel drive is offered in the base T5, making it available with any of the engines. Also new for 2013 is a retuned version of the base turbo five, with a higher compression ratio and peak turbo boost raised 15 percent.
Last year Volvo rolled out an S60 R-Design model aimed at those who might just take their Volvo on the track once in a while. It offered a long list of performance upgrades, most importantly 'chipping' the T6 models' 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine up to 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 only disappointment here is the six-speed automatic transmission, which doesn't always respond as quickly as you might hope for a sport sedan--and it lacks full manual control and paddle shifters. It's also worth pointing out that while the S60 is a blast to drive in T6 or even R-Design forms, it just doesn't feel quite as sharp as focused enthusiast sedans like the Nissan G37 or BMW 3-Series.
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. Front seats aren't quite the Volvo perches we like from other larger models; they're a little bit shorter in the lower cushions. But back-seat accommodations are surprisingly good for adults, thanks to some smart contouring. Factor in the quiet cabin and good ride quality and you have a true luxury-car feel--in all but the R-Design, which picks up more road harshness. 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. The T6 R-Design throws that out in favor of a dedicated Sport suspension that's lowered and noticeably stiffer.In addition to all the expected safety features--such as front, side, and side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; and stability and traction control--what sets the S60 apart is its safety technology. And there's a lot of it. Corner Traction Control directs torque across the car to enhance grip in aggressive maneuvers; a radar-based Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake can identify and brake for pedestrians or other objects in the road if the driver doesn't give the system indication they're trying to avoid it; and there's even a new Road Sign Information system for 2013.
From a base front-wheel-drive T5 model at less than $33,000, to a loaded S60 R-Design Platinum, which when loaded can approach $55k, the 2013 S60 spans a wide range, appealing as a safe, comfortable, tech-oriented sedan to some shoppers or a powerful sport sedan with some of the latest infotainment, convenience, and active-safety features to others. Overall, Volvo has changed the way that S60 models are equipped for 2013; they still come in T5, T6, and R-Design models, but Premier, Premier Plus, and Platinum guises determine the level of extras. Don't worry; there are still a few standalone options as well.