2014 Volvo S60 Driving Impressions

With front-wheel drive, the Volvo S60 T5 gets an EPA-estimated 21/30 mpg City/Highway and, according to Volvo Cars of North America, can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds (6.4 in Sport mode), which is respectable performance.

The S60 T6's 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder makes 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque over a broad range, from a low 2100 rpm up to 4200 rpm. When you floor it to pass on a two-lane, it's very satisfying: quick and smooth. You can't ask for much neater and safer passing. You can find more awesome acceleration, but at 5.5 seconds from 0 to 60 mph, according to Volvo with the new Advanced Quick Shift, the T6 looks really good in the affordable real world. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg.

Take the S60 R-Design with 325 horsepower on those same roads, and passing ability gets even better. There's more torque, too, but it comes in a narrower band: 3000-3600 rpm. Zero to 60 mph can be accomplished in 5.3 seconds using Advanced Quick Shift, according to Volvo, which is quite quick. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg City/Highway (same as the T6 AWD). Volvo says the S60 R-Design is not intended to compete with the BMW M3 and Audi S4. Those cars are faster and ought to be, for their price.

The 6-speed automatic transmission uses a console lever, with a manual mode. This is the sportiest Volvo ever, finally adding paddle shifters for 2014.

The original S60 was tested on old roads in the UK, and the Dynamic suspension developed there. We were fine with the standard Dynamic Chassis, on the road. Our T6 gave nothing but pleasure, and proved that it can handle rough surfaces while cornering tightly. It felt solid without feeling heavy, and was precise. For those who'd rather have a softer ride than precise cornering, there is the Touring chassis, standard on the T5.

Even the very firm tuning of the R-Design suspension was okay on the road. But it's for Volvo enthusiasts who know what they're getting, not for the relaxed pace of city driving. Specifically, the S60 R-Design has 15mm shorter and 15-percent stiffer springs; monotube rear shocks replacing twin tubes; stiffer rear bushings, thicker front antiroll bar, and a front strut tower brace. An R-Design pushes the limit of stiffness, but won't cross that barrier.

All models have a system called Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring, which moves torque to the outside wheels to help steer the car around a turn, reducing understeer. We still managed to find big understeer at Thunderhill, an undulating racing circuit in Northern California, with the S60 R-Design, but at a corner where even racecars often understeer.

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