Executive wheels: Safe — and sexy

2015.5 VOLVO S60 T6 DRIVE-E
2015.5 VOLVO V60 T6 R-DESIGN

Everyone seems to think that Volvos are stodgy vehicles, long on safety and all that, but short on power and the sexiness of, say, BMW, the European luxury brand most associated with performance. These Volvos rank right up in performance and quickness and handling and all of the BMW-like things, plus they have Volvo’s legendary smart design and quiet ride. Trust me, if you are thinking BMW, go at least test-drive one of these Volvos.

I first drove the sedan, the S60, and I was very impressed. It was not AWD, but on some icy Denver streets during my test-drive, it performed admirably. Indeed, what with such standards as the 8-speed automatic transmission, dynamic stability traction control, dynamic chassis with advanced stability control, corner traction control through torque vectoring, and electronic brake distribution and assistance, I had to check to make sure it wasn’t AWD.

So this S60 Drive-E had a smallish engine, a 2.0-liter 6, but it was super-charged and turbo-charged and put out an amazing 302 hp – even though it is rated an ULEV II – Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle. You can see that in the gas mile rating: 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway (combined 28 mpg), but you would never know it from the gas pedal. This car is quick, fast, and will lay you back in the seat upon acceleration.  

The V60 R-Design, on the other hand, had a larger engine – a 3.0-liter turbo 6 – rated at a wonderful 325 hp, and it was even quicker, although barely. The say this engine is also ULEV II, but of course, with the larger capacity and the AWD the gas mile was significant lower: 19 city/28 highway/22 combined. It didn’t feel like a wagon; it felt like a race car with amazing handling capabilities. Plus, it had beautiful two-tone – black and tan – leather upholstery that everyone who came close to said was exceptional.

So, except for price (which I will soon address), those were the main differences. Here are some bullet points I made during the two weeks I spent with these Volvos:

• Very fancy windshield with wavy lines in them, which were wires that heated the glass. Nice touch for quick cold-morning going, although probably very expensive to replace.
• Car heater, especially below the seat level, didn’t work well, so when you went to adjust seat your hand was cold. Heat came out of the dash vents just fine, but not so much on the floor.
• Auto fold-in mirrors that fold when you lock and unlock the car with the key fob. You get the benefit of having the mirrors tucked away when parking and they fold-in so you know the car is locked instead of a noisy “beep.” Nice ouch.
• Very quiet interior. Adds to the luxurious feel.
• Nice, as in large and comfortable second seat, with plenty of room for three passengers.
• Typically (all Volvo) heat and cold controls, with a person cut into three pieces to direct the air flow (head, torso, feet) and easy-to-use knobs for temperature and fan adjustments.
• Magnificent sound system with AM/FM/Satellite and Sirius Weather radio, with the requisite hook-ups for all the modern stuff – hands-free phone, phone-driven music, etc. (app sync with smart phone).
• “Infinity” mirror – that is, a mirror without an edge, like a window floating in air.
• Heated seats (great) and also heated second-row seats, which is rare.
• Adequate, but small, sun roof.
• Washers for the headlamps.
• Start/stop technology. I understand it saves gas, but it is a little disconcerting with the engine turning off at every stop. This is less annoying than some; a little smoother.
• Wonderful blind-spot warning system, and lane keeping aid system. Also, wonderful collision warning system with auto braking (I tried it at ultra-low speed in a parking lot and, sure enough, my car stopped itself.  
• Beautiful interior, comfortable seats, and an outstanding console with good storage and nice cup holders that hide away.
• A slight turbo lag.

The S60 T6 Drive-E carried a base sticker price of $39,000. They added on another $8,500 or so in packages and stuff, including the blind-spot/lane change/cross traffic alert systems, upgraded sound, and more technology, and with $925 in destination charges the bottom line was $47,675.

The V60 T6 R-Design featured a base price of $45,160 then they added on a climate package (heated seats, steering wheel, etc.) and all the blind-spot stuff, and the bottom line came to $49,275.

The bottom line is that I personally like wagons, and I would opt for the larger engine and the AWD. But the truth is that the sedan was great. I would recommend either of these related vehicles to just about anyone. They are nearly perfect.