Keith Griffin's picture

2011 Volvo S60 Not Naughty as Marketing Implies - It's a Nice Premium Sedan

In 2010 at the New York Auto Show, Volvo introduced the 2011 Volvo S60 as the naughty new Volvo. At the time, it seemed kind of a silly thing to do because, honestly, when has a Volvo ever been naughty? It's not a vehicle that bad boys aspire to.

It took all of two minutes for the 2011 Volvo S60 to grow on me. Hopping on the highway, I was impressed by the quick acceleration offered by the standard 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine that delivers 300 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. According to published reports, it can hit 0-60 in six seconds, which is more than fast enough in real world driving situations.

Because this is a turbo-charged six, the maximum torque kicks early in the power range at only 2,100 rpm. Typically, you're hitting north of 4,000 rpm before that can be said of most engines. And, as Volvo is quick to point out, the torque output of the turbocharged inline six equals that of the 4.4-liter V8 in other Volvo models.

The best part, though, is how smooth the delivery of power is. There is no discernible turbo lag and torque steer is negligible thanks to the all-wheel drive.

But don't take my word for it (just in case anybody was inclined to take my word for it). The T6 was selected as one of Ward's 10 Best Engines for 2011. "Volvo clearly benchmarked BMW in developing the supremely smooth T6 engine, based on its delicious mid-range power band and paucity of turbo lag," noted Tom Murphy, Executive Editor of Ward's AutoWorld. "This engine is perfectly suited for the all-new S60 and powers it into contention against bigger, better-established luxury entries."

Fuel economy is midrange on the S60. It is rated at 18-mpg highway and 26-mpg highway and it's going to hit those numbers. Even with some spirited driving thrown in, the S60 averaged 23.1 mpg for the week I had it.

The interior has Volvo's typical Swedish warmth. It's functional and full of brushed aluminum. You'll like it if Ikea is your design sense. What is most effectively does is achieve neutrality. There's nothing not to like about it.

One feature I cannot wait to try out on a test track is Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring. (I might have tried it on dry, springtime roads with nary a touch of black ice lurking.) It's a new technology that puts the torque on your outer wheel to help aid the S60 around turns. It works on the front and back wheels because of the all-wheel drive system. I'm hoping there's some track time at Monticello with the S60 this fall.

One technology I'm not that interested in trying out is Volvo's somewhat lamented Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake. A radar and camera system work together to detect pedestrians in the front of the car (inattentive mall parking lot walkers to the rear are out of luck). If the driver doesn't respond to the pedestrian, the S60 jams on the brakes with full power to avoid collisions up to 22 mph. Faster than that and the Volvo tries to minimize the damage by slowing the sedan as much as possible.

I say pedestrian detection is somewhat lamented because it has not done well in some demonstrations. Here's hoping the Swedish engineers are busy tweaking it.

Pedestrian detection with full auto brake is part of the S60's optional Technology Package that also includes adaptive cruise control with new queue assist, collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, driver alert control and lane departure warning. Saab used to say it was the safest car in Sweden despite Volvo's claims but this latest burst of technology has to belie that claim.

The safety technology is especially impressive considering the starting price of the S60 is only $37,700 (a drop of about $2500 from the previous model). Add in all the technology (i.e. the profit centers) and the price of our tested model jumped to $47,920 with delivery.

That's not a high price when compared to the competition such as the BMW 335i, the Saab 95 and the Mercedes-Benz C300 (all with all-wheel drive). The Volvo actually matches or beats the other sedans when it comes to interior space.

Brand new for 2012 is a T5 model with a 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder engine. It's a great alternative if you still want a roomy, comfortable sedan but not quite the same high level of performance (and without all-wheel drive) at a price tag of $30,975.

The Volvo I really want, though, is the Volvo V60, the station wagon equivalent of the S60 that was unveiled recently. It's the powertrain I have longed for: a plug-in, hybrid diesel. That troika will deliver low C02 emissions, low fuel costs, and an amazing extended range on a highway, thanks to its diesel engine. It's what the Chevrolet Volt should become. Unfortunately, no plans have been announced to bring it to the United States, yet. I suggest we start a Facebook fan page!


  • Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
  • Length: 182.2 inches
  • Width: 73.4 inches
  • Height: 58.4 inches
  • Curb weight: 3812 lbs.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter, inline six
  • Horsepower: 300 hp @ 5600 rpm
  • Torque: 325 ft-lbs. @ 2100 rpm
  • EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 18/26
  • Base price: $37,700
  • As-tested price: $47,920
  • Also consider: (a comparative vehicle) BMW 335i, Mercedes-Benz C300, Saab 95

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