2013 Volvo S60

Swedish BMW adds more affordable all-wheel drive

If a handsome, fun-to-drive and surprisingly affordable Euro sedan might be on your wish list, we recommend giving this 2013 Volvo S60 a serious look. We loved its crisp, quiet, two-tone, leather-lined, Scandinavian-design interior, its large, easy-to-read instruments, excellent heating/air conditioning controls and ultra-comfortable seats. Not quite so nice were the sound and navigation system controls, which were less intuitive and a bit harder to figure out than most in this class.

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Driving Impressions

We enjoyed ample test time in urban traffic, on freeways and twisty two-lanes in a 2013 S60 T5 AWD and found its performance, handling, steering and braking as good as, or better than, just about anything in its class and price range. Although the T5's "Touring" suspension is softer and more ride-biased than the T6's stiffer "Dynamic" set-up, our test T5 felt solid, secure and athletic.

It was good for 6.6 sec. 0-60 (a couple ticks slower than the fwd T5) and offered ample power in all conditions, even at high altitudes. We averaged 24.5 mpg vs. EPA ratings of 20 mpg city, 29 highway and 23 combined for the T5 AWD (FWD is one mpg better).

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Affordable All-Wheel Drive

Volvo's best-selling, entry-level, 5-cylinder S60 T5 models have previously been available only with front-wheel drive. If you wanted AWD to better manage slicker conditions, you had to step up to a more expensive (and less fuel efficient) T6. Seeing that as an opportunity, Volvo now offers a $2,000 AWD option on T5 models, even in the most affordable $31,750 version.

The stout 5-cylinder engine is upgraded to 250 hp and a healthy 266 lb-ft of torque, and an "overboost" feature temporarily ups the torque to 295 lb-ft when you want or need extra oomph. It flows to the wheels through a 6-speed "Geartronic" automatic transmission that you can shift manually with the shift lever, but (unfortunately) there are no steering wheel paddles. The optional AWD sports Volvo's "Instant Traction" torque-vectoring system with "Corner Traction Control" that routes torque automatically to whichever wheels have the most traction.

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Other Trims

The up-model S60 T6 AWD ups the ante to a 300-horse turbocharged in-line six with all-wheel drive, 18-inch wheels, leather seating and a more athletic "Dynamic Chassis." Its power is equal to that of BMW's vaunted 3.0-liter turbo six, but the Volvo engine's torque (which equates to acceleration) is an impressive 25 lb.-ft. more at 325 vs. the BMW's 300 lb.-ft.

The S60 R-Design takes the T6 to a higher-performance level. With tuning by Swedish racing and performance parts company Polestar that doesn't affect its EPA economy ratings of 18 mpg city, 26 highway and 21 combined, its most powerful ever production Volvo engine generates 325 hp and 354 lb.-ft. of torque and can launch it from rest to 60 mph in 5.5 sec.

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Looking Back

When Volvo sedans traded their old conservative clothes for sporty work-out duds years ago and migrated to front (and all-wheel) drive, they also enhanced their driving dynamics and performance to go after BMWs and other Eurosport entrees. At the same time, they have further enhanced their long-established reputation for safety. And now (since August 2010), this venerable Swedish brand is owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, a Chinese company with high ambitions for it, including an important new 2013 S60 T5 AWD model.

We were impressed by Volvo's new S60 mid-range sedan when it debuted for 2011, and more enamored with the R-Design performance model that rounded out the S60 line the following year. Even the base 250-hp 5-cylinder, 6-speed automatic S60 T5 offers a slew of standard stuff beginning with a high-performance multimedia audio system and dual-zone electronic climate control and finishing with a full suite of safety features that includes Volvo's exclusive City Safety system that can actively avoid low-speed collisions.

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Tech And Features

All 2012 S60s come with City Safety, the low-speed collision avoidance/mitigation system originally introduced in the XC60 premium CUV. At speeds up to 19 mph, if a vehicle in front suddenly brakes and the system determines that a collision is likely, it pre-charges the brakes and, if the driver fails to respond, automatically applies them. At relative-speed differences less than nine mph, City Safety can help avoid a collision entirely. Between nine and 19 mph, it reduces speed as much as possible prior to an impact.

Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, another exclusive Volvo safety system available as part of an optional Technology Package, uses radar in the grille and a camera in front of the inside mirror to detect objects in front of the car and determine what they are and the car's distance to them. Up to 22 mph, it can help avoid a pedestrian hit. At higher speeds, it helps lessen the severity of an impact.

Also standard on all 2013 S60s are Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC), Corner Traction Control (which redistributes torque to the outer wheels during cornering to enhance stability), sport front and rear seats, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, headlamp washers and LED accent, side marker and turn signal indicator lights in the outside mirrors. An available Premier trim package adds a power glass moonroof, Keyless Drive with Personal Car Communicator (PCC), leather upholstery and a power passenger seat.

Premier Plus adds front and rear park assist and Xenon headlamps, while a new Platinum trim adds Dolby Surround Sound and Real Time Traffic and Map Care navigation. The Technology package also incorporates a whole suite of active safety features including Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake (CWAB), Distance Alert (DA), Driver Alert (DAC) Control and Lane Departure Warning (LDW).

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