2015 Volvo V60 Driving Impressions

It's rapid and silky. Can you imagine a few years ago, saying that about a four-cylinder engine? That's the way the new turbocharged four-cylinder feels in the base Volvo V60. It does that zero-to-sixty time of 6.1 seconds with nary a noise or vibration. You can't feel redline, and you can't feel gear changes in the new 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. The car gets you to feel things not so visceral, including the world around you because the V60 is not distracting to drive. The V60 loses no soul by being seamless. This is 2015 and it's a family hauler. And it will tow 3500 pounds.

You can tell you are accelerating though, because you can feel torque steer. Compared to, say, the 1995 Volvo V70R, it's nothing, a mere gentle tug at the steering wheel and not an angry yank; but torque steer is not gone, just mostly erased.

Other programs to assist the handling include Corner Traction Control with Torque Vectoring, which gives the outside front wheel more power in turns, balancing the grip on the tires and keeping the car true. This feature operates on the front wheels for the V60 T5 Drive-E and both the front and rear wheels for the T5 AWD and R-Design.

The $1500 T5 Sport Package offers a whole lot for the money, starting with the sport chassis featuring a lower ride height, strut tower brace, monotube shocks (compression and return damping use the same valve, quickening the response) with stiff bushings, and beautiful 19-inch alloy wheels. The package throws in paddle shifters, and sport seats.

The dynamics this package brings to the car are superb. The ride is superb; steady and firm, but not too firm for comfort, unlike the memorable V70R. It takes bumps and undulations with nary a hitch. On a rough freeway at 60 mph the Sport Package gets a bit jagged, like a good sport suspension should, because it would be too soft if it didn't. The base Touring Chassis should do better on patchy freeway. The fit and bolstering of the leather sport seats soaks up a lot. This is a road trip car.

It hugs the road and takes corners flat, precise and predictable; it should, with fat 19-inch Michelin tires. The electric power steering is sensitive and quick, so you might find yourself turning too much especially on bending freeway curves, but a driver naturally adjusts.

The brakes are sensitive too, but it's all good there. You won't find yourself on your nose. The brakes just get you stopped without much pressure on the pedal.

As for the new 8-speed automatic transmission, when it's not in Sport mode you can't even feel it. In manual mode with the all-business paddles, everything works for the symphony, and that's rare: seat, pedals, paddles, and transmission. In Sport mode or when using the paddles, the shifts quicken by 20-30 percent in third to sixth gears, and up to 50 percent from first to second gear. Between these quick shifts and the turbo boost to 285 pounds-feet, you begin to see where that speedy 0-60 time comes from. However, the transmission doesn't seem to like poking around town as much. We heard it thunk a couple of times, as if the software mapping ran off course. Especially it thunked under deceleration from 65 to 30, in Eco-coast mode.

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