“City Safety” meets “chill city” as Volvo re-invents itself to allow safety and style to co-exist exceptionally in their latest project. Calm, cool and collective were my initial thoughts upon driving the all-new Volvo S60 sports sedan. It’s a very chill vehicle that looks great while creating emotional feedback and response. It’s calm and confident due to the standard cadre of technological safety enhancements. A perennial leader in automotive safety advancements, Volvo is always raising the bar beyond traditional expectations. Now imagine if every vehicle on the road came standard with City Safety and Pedestrian Detection. Our kids, family and friends would be much safer on the roads!
The 2011 S60 is a very important vehicle for Volvo. For one, the prior generation S60 sold nearly quarter million units over its life cycle. That being, the new S60 needed to maintain the formula which first attracted customers to the model, yet set the tone for Volvo as — not only a manufacturer of safe vehicles — but as a manufacturer of premium, sporty and technology laden vehicles. True indeed, Volvo’s new S60 has satisfied those expectations as the most engaging and emotional product in the line-up. To accomplish the task the wheelbase was stretched 2.4 inches, which equates to 2” additional rear legroom, the C-pillar was angled more for a coupe like appearance and the grille is positioned within a chiseled and sculpted front end.
Going headed to head with the BMW 3 Series, Lexus ES, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4, Volvo needed to step up its game in the performance spectrum. The newly invigorated T6 3-liter twin-scroll turbo with 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque is now Volvo’s most powerful 6-cylinder engine. The torque is available from 2100 rpm and gives the S60 very formidable acceleration. It’s also 10% more fuel efficient than last year’s T6 engine and achieves 18 mpg city/26 highway. Power especially felt good on high speeds turns when paired with Volvo’s optional ($750) Four-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) Active Chassis (3 distinct modes: Comfort, Sport, Advanced). Sport Mode for example holds gears longer and changes throttle mapping. A Dynamic Suspension for sporty driving and a Touring Chassis, slightly more compliant for rougher roads, are actually standard considerations based on consumer’s needs. For reference, the chassis features all-new components including steering column design, bushings, dampers, springs and mounts. And of course the S60 is all-wheel drive with Instant Traction which features torque vectoring that allows power to be distributed side to side and front to rear. Want more performance technology? Volvo made sure this new S60 was the real deal. No stranger to performance, Volvo used to make “R” models which converted their base models into “pro athlete” models. I still recall hot laps in the S60 R in the south of France some years ago. The “R” models have since been dropped but the new S60 is so well developed it doesn’t need a special letter for characterization. The current S60 is now equipped with Corner Traction abilities, Advanced Stability Control, Dynamic Stability and Traction Control and Hydraulic Brake Assist. With all these advanced ingredients the recipe for road success is preeminent.
In Portland, Oregon where the roads are fun and twisty we spent a day exploring the S60 in and out. I was impressed with its European driving dynamics, interior comfort, driver assistance programs, and convenience packages which make long drives feel short. The driver-oriented cockpit begins with very supportive, leather performance seats, Volvo’s new Infotainment center with a 7” color display for the navigation, HVAC, Rear Park Assist Camera and the Front Blind View Camera (a 180 degree split screen) that displays what’s happening in front of the vehicle. Of course, these are not industry breakthroughs, but most are new for the S60. In route to the Nike campus after my test evaluations, I was able to operate the S60 as an owner utilizing Bluetooth for hands free calling, inputting various destinations for navigation, jamming to “The Joint” on satellite Radio and loading up the trunk after a quick shopping spree at the Nike Employee Store. The cleverly designed center stack is thin and emulates a smart phone with space behind for additional storage. The buttons are small and require more attention until you memorize placements. Also, I had a few problems with the navigation as it requires a little more time than expected for inputting and didn’t always take or find the full address. A thumb scroller on the steering wheel will control all of these features including map zoom in and out. Voice command will also do the same.
Imagine a vehicle that stops when you don’t react quick enough to brake before rear-ending another vehicle. Welcome to City Safety, which is a standard support system that applies full braking up to 19 mph if you don’t. Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake is trained to track up to 64 people in the vehicle’s path to keep the S60 from hitting the individual. The system uses radar and a camera trained to recognize people through a database of 10,000 pictures. It will first alert the driver via an audio warning, and if they don’t apply the brake the vehicle will, and stop the S60 completely from 22 mph. The system won’t recognize bikes, people on bikes or animals. We demonstrated Pedestrian Detection in a parking lot with a kid dummy and just as stated the vehicle came to a full stop when we didn’t! A few more safety systems include Driver Alert Control for tired drivers, Blind Spot Information System, Dual Xenon with Active Bending Lights and Lane Departure Warning.
On sale this fall for $37,700 plus $850 destination, the S60 will be available in two standard colors and five optional colors. A Safe and Secure warranty is complimentary and allows owners to maintain their S60 hassle-free for five years or 60k miles. This includes basic warranty, factory scheduled maintenance, roadside assistance, and wear and tear. Enhancement packages include the $800 Climate Package, $2,700 Multimedia package, the $2,100 Technology Package and a $1,500 Premium Package. The S60 represents a well thought out vehicle with style, grace, and substance. I don’t see 3 Series buyers jumping on the Volvo bandwagon, but if you were going to consider the TL or IS then you should definitely open up opinion for the S60.