Posted: March 06, 2012

Executive wheels: A wicked fast Volvo

Power, performance -- it's got it all

Jeff Rundles

When I was a kid in my little hometown of Flint, Mich. – home to Chevrolet and Buick – it would have been unusual to see a Volvo. Foreign cars weren’t very popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s anywhere, really, but in Flint they were anathema. But when I got to Ann Arbor, a college town, in 1970, there were many Volvos and I remember thinking they were stodgy – except for the 1800, which was rare – and while solid and somewhat upscale, they were relatively uninspiring. This, for my money, remained the same throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s – I used to say that Volvo was the Subaru for people with money.

Indeed, what Volvo sold – the image it created – over the past 30 years or so was safety and reliability – not necessarily luxury, and surely not performance.

Well, I’ve seen nothing to think that Volvo has gone away from safety and reliability, but this 2012 Volvo T6 AWD R SR should change the thinking on performance. This is one bad-ass car, and the thing that is most obvious once you get behind the wheel is that it is wicked fast.

It sets you back in the seat the moment you hit the accelerator. It doesn’t just move, it roars and moves so quickly that you’d think they switched the nameplates and it really is a BMW or a Lotus. I kid you not – this R T6 is one of the quickest cars in this class I have ever driven. It surprised me, it pleased me, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I got curious how it stacks up to the competition I mentioned, and the answer is not just well, but wonderfully.

The comparable BMW is the 335i, which sells for pretty much the same price (except that AWD, the X-drive in BMW, is extra, boosting the cost and lowering the comparison). The BMW 335io has a 3.0-liter I6 engine with 300 hp – and it is a great car, but the Volvo T6R is quicker. Really.

The Audi A4 – and for comparison purposes, I also looked at the A6 – is very nice and a proven winner with AWD. But the Volvo S60 is less expensive and more powerful.

I am not denigrating the BMW 3 or the Audi A4 and A6 – I am just pointing out that Volvo has a magnificent car in this same class that more than holds its own with those other European models.  Many people aspire to the BMW and Audis, as well they should, but they would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t at least test drive the T6 R Volvo.

A little note on AWD. As anyone who has read my reviews over the years knows, I am a big proponent of AWD for Colorado driving, and I love the fact that AWD is now becoming a regular component of passenger sedans (Colorado is the leader is sales per capita for AWD in the nation, by the way).

So I don’t normally think of Volvo as AWD, but in this S60 I was able to drive it during my test-drive week in some very snowy and icy conditions during February in Denver, and I was more than impressed. At first I was worried because the car had relatively low-profile tires which, in my experience, detract from the AWD. But not here. The car was a tank. It was equipped with 18” alloy wheels – beautiful – and all-season tires, and I could have driven it through snow banks in Washington Park with confidence (I didn’t). My street and neighborhood were a mess of snow and ice, and the Volvo didn’t even break a sweat.

The S60, while on the smallish side, drove like a larger, heavier car, which I liked, and was very, very quiet. It handled like a dream, cornering with ease with no leaning, yet was still a driver’s drive, meaning that it had great feel for maneuvering. I took it out on the highway and up the mountain, and while I have already said it is fast – wicked fast – it is also a wonderful cruiser – comfortable and roomy inside – and is can pass a truck or a line of slower drivers (almost everyone else) like they are standing still without panting.

Inside, the Volvo S60 is great, like all Volvos. They have that human-body outline to control the climate controls, and it is among the nicer design and functional features in any car on the market. The sound system – with unbelievable sound – was quite easy to use, very intuitive, and just about everything was so easy to use and figure out – the LCD monitor for navigation, back-up camera, sound system touch maneuvering – that I wish every car manufacturer drove a Volvo and made their own systems this user friendly.

My back-seat consultant – my 13-year-old son – proclaimed the S60 comfortable, roomy, with easy doors and seat belts, and he (and I) very much liked the power moonroof. We also found the trunk spacious, and the 60/40 split rear seat easy to operate, with the added advantage that the “40” side of it left ample room for a person to sit comfortably.

The base price on the S60 T6 R-Design is $42,500 and that included all of the luxury features – and the AWD – that you’d expect on a car in this class. This, as I have noted, is a very competitive price. For $2,700 they upgraded the sound system, added the rear camera, and featured navigation with voice commands, then tacked on $800 bucks for heated front seats, headlamp washers, heated windshield washers, and an Interior Air Quality System. Add in $875 for destination charges, and the bottom line is $46,875.

You get a lot of car – a lot of luxury, a lot of comfort, a ton of performance – for the money here.

The “R” must stand for Racing.

The Wicked-Fast Volvo S60 T6 R. Loved it.

RATING: 4 WHEELS (OUT OF FOUR)

 

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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