2012 Volvo S60 Introduction

We said in our review of the redesigned 2011 Volvo S60 that it was a sports sedan that does it all. Well, not quite. The 2012 S60 R-Design, added to the lineup, does quite a bit more, in the areas of speed, handling and style, both exterior and interior.

The inline 6-cylinder S60 T6 AWD has been selling very well since its introduction last year, including 40 percent to women over the years, according to Volvo. Because it was all new for 2011, the S60 returns unchanged for 2012, but redesigned T5 and R-Design models have joined the lineup.

The S60 R-Design raises T6 horsepower from 300 to 325 hp, and torque from 325 foot-pounds to 354. This drops the 0-60 acceleration time from 5.8 seconds to 5.5. The sporty R-Design has a sleeker nose, firmer suspension, 18-inch wheels, more seat bolstering, unique steering wheel, and racier instrumentation.

The five-cylinder T5 front-wheel-drive model returns after two years away, with an all-new engine making 250 hp, a 6-speed automatic (replacing a 5-speed), better fuel mileage and a lower price.

Volvo suggests the S60 competes with the BMW 335i and Audi A4. It costs thousands less.

The Volvo S60 has beautiful lines that are carefully drawn. It's stylish, clean and sophisticated. Same with the interior, which features standard leather in the T6 and aluminum trim that looks like sculpture in some spots. The dashboard and center stack, with the optional 7-inch display screen, make the driver feel successful and in command.

The chassis delivers excellent handling. The all-wheel-drive T6 offers secure cornering and even the front-wheel-drive T5 features a system called Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring, which moves torque to the outside wheel/wheels to help steer the car around a turn and reduce understeer.

The S60 suspension was developed on old roads in the UK. The 2011 S60 redesign got shorter, stiffer springs, firmer bushings, more travel in the shock absorbers, and a new steering column with faster steering ratio, using front MacPherson struts and rear multi links. The T6 uses Volvo's Dynamic Chassis, while the T5 uses the Touring Chassis, the difference being in the stiffness of bushings, springs and dampers; but each chassis is available on the other car, should you want a soft T6 or firm T5.

In the S60 T6 there's also the optional Four-C active chassis offering Comfort, Sport and Advanced settings. The S60 R-Design has no settings, you get what it comes with, which is firmer than the Advanced setting on the S60 with Four-C. The S60-R pushes the limit of stiffness, but for Volvo enthusiasts won't cross it.

The T6 engine is a 3.0-liter turbocharged intercooled inline six-cylinder, making 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque at a low 2100 rpm. It's wonderfully smooth and quick when passing on two-lanes. It gets an EPA-estimated 18 City and 26 Highway miles per gallon. The pumped up S60-R gets the same fuel economy rating.

The new T5 engine is a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder, iron block with aluminum cylinder liners, intercooled turbocharger, making an impressive 250 horsepower with 266 foot-pounds of torque, plus a feature that gives 295 foot-pounds of torque for 10 seconds. Zero to 60 mph can be accomplished in 6.8 seconds. Volvo estimates the T5 will get 20 city, 30 highway miles per gallon, and costs the 2012 S60 T5 costs thousands less than the prior model similarly equipped. The T5 uses a new 6-speed automatic. We think the T5 offers good value, considering its power, safety engineering, comfort and style.

The S60 R-Design makes 25 more horsepower and 29 more foot-pounds of torque than the T6, thanks to ECM programming for more boost, fuel, and sharper throttle response. It's quite noticeable. We drove the S60 T6 on the track at Oregon Raceway Park and the S60-R at Thunderhill in California, and the S60-R clearly runs harder. For the track, it's a good thing the suspension is stiffer. Despite Torque Vectoring, it still understeers when cornered at the limit (meaning the front tires lose grip before the rear tires).

Volvo has broken new ground in safety yet again. There's an optional system called Pedestrian Detection, which brings the car to a halt at any speed below 22 mph, without the driver's involvement, when a pedestrian is in the vehicle's path.

The S60 carries Volvo's Safe and Secure warranty plan, with free scheduled maintenance for the first 5 years or 50,000 miles, including wear and tear coverage and roadside assistance.

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