Volvo S60 T6 2011 Review

Recently, to prove Volvo is no longer a maker of safety obsessed, vanilla vehicles, pro race driver Jonny Reid lapped Hampton Downs in the new S60 T6 sedan. Big deal you might say. Well he did do it blindfolded (click here to view video).  Some may see this stunt as little more than a cheap promotional trick, but it illustrates the redefining new direction the Swedish carmaker has taken. An awareness, pride and continuation of Volvo’s safety innovations remain but the new top-spec S60 T6 has been given eye-catching, flowing design, serious power output and sporting dynamics. Car and SUV wasn’t given a blindfold, or time on a racetrack but did get a drive in the very same S60 T6 that lapped Hampton Downs. Here are the results.

Volvo’s solid and boxy design language is now almost fully extinct and the S60 shows more curves than a hip-hop video. A dipping front end with two-piece headlights and a broad signature grille give the S60 a modern and distinctive face. A steeply raked windscreen and coupe-like roofline define its low-slung profile. At the back end, wrap around taillights and a subtle boot lid spoiler are features. Contrasting hard plastic cladding is used to good effect on the S60’s lower edges, this helps give it genuine sporty appeal. It also combines with the widened rear panels and high boot deck to create an athletic stance. Like a sprinter paused in their blocks the S60 looks alert, muscular and dynamic. Other signals of go-fast intent include 7-spoke 18-inch alloys and dual, integrated exhaust tips. Any aesthetic concessions aren’t required in owning a new S60. Particularly in T6 form, it’s a sexy machine and Volvo has achieved it without resorting to more generic styling, it’s distinctive but still clear in its origins.

In the cabin, the coupe theme continues with a cosseting sports-inspired atmosphere. A high centre armrest dissects driver and shotgun passenger with all switchgear placed close to hand. The build quality has a bulletproof feel and the materials are mainly high-grade with the exception of some harder plastics. There is a luxury feel in the S60 cabin and while it can’t quite match pricier European brands it’s a step up from more direct Japanese competitors. The waterfall control stack is a highlight being finished in brushed metal and housing the majority of buttons and dials. A recessed 7-inch screen displays all main information in full colour and is positioned high for easy checking on the fly. The control system interface isn’t immediately intuitive but with regular use drivers will learn its ways. The instrumentation is Spartan but effectively designed with two large dials surrounding digital displays that offer vehicle information. Phone, cruise and audio buttons are housed in a thick leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The black leather front seats are a delight; they’re very comfortable and are finished in a soft, grained hide with multiple electronic adjustments and memory settings. It’s easy to get comfortable in the S60 and the low driving position furthers an overall sporty feel. In the back seat, space isn’t as abundant, legroom isn’t bad but the seat will struggle to pack in three adults comfortably and taller passengers’ headroom and side visibility may be restricted by the S60’s coupe roofline.  In the boot cargo capacity is 380-litres and if more space is required the rear seat back splits 60/40 and folds forward.

Standard equipment on our T6 variant included practical kit like voice controlled satellite navigation, climate control air-conditioning, 12 volt power outlet in the boot, automatic headlights, parking sensors, Bluetooth and a premium sound system with auxiliary input.

As the T6 name may suggest the top-spec S60 has an inline six-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. It’s a strong unit and pumps out 224kW of power and a healthy 440Nm of torque from 2100rpm. This allows the S60 plenty of urge off the line with the 0-100kph sprint completed in 6.1 seconds. There’s no doubt it’s a performance sedan but the power is delivered in a smooth linear nature without an intense turbo surge. The generous torque allotment gives the S60 capability at any speed and plenty of mid-range gusto for open road overtaking. While it feels most content during low rpm cruising, keep the T6 higher in its rev range and it’s certainly an engaging drive.

The T6 engine comes mated to six-speed ‘geartronic’ automatic transmission, it’s a smooth diligent unit that functions with minimal fuss. It’s also smart enough to know when to hold gears longer and offers a suitable spread of ratios. If manual shifts are desired there is a sequential option on the gearstick but steering wheel paddles are noticeably absent. Fuel economy is rated at 9.9l/100km combined, but have a little fun and you’d be hard pressed to keep it under 12l/100km. That’s on the high side in the current low-consumption obsessed automotive climate and should be taken into account.

Power is directed to all four wheels through Volvo’s AWD system. It works effortlessly giving the T6 a sure-footed feel regardless of conditions. Any form of wheelspin is hard to achieve with the ample torque well distributed. Rear-wheel-drive competitors may have a slightly sportier driving feel but the S60 has tenacious grip and can navigate twisted roads at an express pace. The ride quality is edgier than older Volvo product and the T6 does ride quite firm. That said, it’s not a jarring experience even on broken surfaces and the firm suspension set up allows for flatter and faster turn in. The steering may be a little light for some tastes but is quick acting and precise.

Refinement is typically relaxed and quiet, some tyre noise does kick up off the tarmac but, wind noise is minimal and the engine only makes a quiet hum unless pushed hard.

With all this talk of style and sporting dynamics safety enthusiasts may begin to worry that the S60 isn’t for them. They shouldn’t, this is still a Volvo and there is a huge range of safety kit included as standard or as optional equipment. An advanced stability and traction control system stands guard and uses a torque vectoring system for ultra safe cornering. Volvo’s City Safety system is standard across the S60 range and automatically brakes the car to avoid nose-to-tail collisions up to 30kph.  All seatbelts have pretensioners and whiplash protection is included for the front seats. If you must go further then the really high-tech safety gear like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and a pedestrian detection system are available at an additional charge.

So how does the S60 T6 stack up in the sports sedan market?

It’s a unique proposition and priced at $79,990 the S60 is placed squarely between Euro competitors like the crowd-favourite BMW 335i and cheaper Japanese fare like sports versions of the Subaru Legacy or Honda Accord Euro. What you get for the money is a Volvo with attractive sports styling, a robustly comfortable interior and an attention grabbing power output. On road ability is more smooth than frantic with a fair compromise between refinement and dynamic ability. Safety systems remain a natural strength with the AWD set up adding a reassuring feel. The S60 T6 isn’t just a model for Volvo badge fans, it’s been built with a much broader appeal in mind. The end result is well worked and worthy of a test drive for any buyer looking in this price bracket and the one above as well.

Price: $79,990

What we like:

  • Exterior design and interior packaging
  • Strong engine that delivers smoothly
  • All-wheel-drive grip

What we don’t like:

  • Space in the rear seat
  • Fuel economy
  • Ride might be too firm for conservative tastes

Who will buy this car: Hard to call, but could suit buyer’s of any age. Potentially, newly retired gents or those with young families who want safety and prefer sedans to wagons.

Cool Factor: High, the S60 in T6 form is, without doubt, the coolest model in the current Volvo range. It’s a sharp-looker and has plenty of passenger impressing tricks.

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

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