For the most part, the 2013 Volvo S60 models deliver on the performance they suggest with their aggressive styling. Although even at the top of the performance ladder, the R-Design models might not quite deliver the sharp-edged performance weekend-racer types want.
There's plenty to delight everyone else, though, and there's a solid lineup of turbocharged in-line five- and six-cylinder engines. And for 2013, the lineup of base five-cylinder Volvo S60 models grows larger with the introduction of new all-whee-drive S60 T5 models. The compression ratio has been upped and turbo boost is higher (16 psi), to allow 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds with front-wheel drive--pretty quick for the base engine.
The S60 T6 gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder, rated at 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. It feels even stronger than its numbers might suggest, and while it's disappointing that there's no manual gearbox available the six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive pair for easy driving, fast acceleration, confident traction and great all-weather capability. These models can get to 60 mph in about 5.8 seconds.
At the top rung is the S60 R Design, which essentially gets a 'chipped' version of the same turbo six good for 325 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque; and there's really no fuel economy or drivability tradeoff. To go with it, the R Design gets a unique tuned suspension system standard, offering crisper handling and sportier ride.
There are a couple of disappointments related to the transmission, though. The S60 doesn't offer paddle shifters on the steering wheel, instead forcing those who want to shift manually to use the console-mounted lever; the manual mode also doesn't hold gears like you'd expect, unexpectedly downshifting on heavy throttle when you might want to use a lower gear.
Even in its other variations, the S60 already steers and handles well, and a MyCar menu system that offers three different levels of driver-tunable assist for further enhancement. The S60 is a little heavier than it looks, yet it's nimble enough for hairpins and maneuverable enough for tight city streets. For 2013 Volvo has increased the front disc brake diameter of R-Design models, from 12.4 to 13.2 inches, which should address one performance issue we noted on the track.
All considering, the S60 isn't quite a track-day sport sedan, even in its R-Design trim, where it still doesn't feel as sharp as you might hope. It's better-suited to the street, where it feels responsive enough, without making too many compromises.