2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD is everything it should be
Volvo is not the first marque that comes to mind when shoppers look at Euro-luxury brands. Much of the problem is the lack of fresh product.
North America doesn’t get the sharp new V40 hatch, the S80 full-size sedan is ancient, and Volvo’s two crossovers, the XC90 and XC60 are getting on, too. There’s lots of new stuff on the horizon but, for now, the three-year-old S60 sedan is the only real player.
But here’s the good news. For 2013, Volvo is offering AWD as a $2,400 option on the 250-hp, turbo five-cylinder S60 T5, which starts at $39,150. Previously, only the 300-hp, turbo six-pot T6 got AWD, and that car starts at $46,550.
Here’s even better news. The T5 AWD is the best in the lineup — it’s all the S60 you’ll ever need.
So what about the rip-snorting, $54,650, 325-hp T6 R-Design? Yes, it looks hot and goes like stink, but it has a harsh ride, is nose-heavy and understeers. It’s trying to be something it’s not.
Conversely, the T5 is everything it should be. Beautiful to look at inside and out, supremely crafted, some of the best seats in the business, combining classic Volvo safety with all-wheel-drive. It handles well and eats up highway kilometers with rock-solid comportment and quiet serenity.
The T5 is no wuss at the stop lights, either. For 2013, the 2.5-litre turbo five gets some mechanical changes that reduce internal friction and increase the compression ratio from 9.0:1 to 9.5:1. Output continues at 250 hp and 266 lb.-ft., but there is now a 10-second, 295-lb.-ft. overboost function (second to sixth gears) that, in combination with faster gear changes in sport mode, zips the T5 to 100 km/h in 6.6 seconds.
It’s a smooth engine with an underlying five-cylinder growl that gives it some character. Unusual for turbo engines, this one doesn’t require premium fuel — a fact that will certainly offset running costs when looking at the more efficient Audi A4 and BMW 328i xDrive with their premium-drinking direct-injection turbo-fours.
Official figures for the T5 with AWD are 10.2 L/100 km city and 7.0 L/100 km highway. My week of about 75 per cent highway driving used a reasonable 10.2 L/100 km — but far from a 328i tester that gave me 8.3 L/100.
This shows just how fast the game is moving. You know the next generation of Volvos will be playing the direct-injection four-banger turbo game, and their transmissions will sport more than just six gears.
Fuel economy aside, this is a very satisfying drivetrain. Power delivery is immediate and smooth and the fifth-generation Haldex AWD system features torque vectoring that applies braking to both inside wheels when cornering to help reduce understeer.
The steering is nicely linear and well-weighted.
My tester is the third-tier T5 Premium Plus model ($43,150) with AWD added for $2,400. The Premium Plus gets sunroof, leather, powered passenger seat, proximity key, active xenon headlights, front and rear park assist and Homelink. You have to move up to the $46,450 Platinum to get navigation and a back-up camera.
For 2013, all T5s now have standard rain-sensing wipers, headlight washers, increased steering wheel controls and a cool illuminated gearshift knob.
I’ve always liked the S60’s interior. It’s airy, simple and usually enhanced with lighter hues that mercifully stray from the default coal-bin black.
You sense the Nordic esthetic here, although the stylish cluster of buttons on the centre stack are small and fussy — not particularly glove-friendly. The standard audio sounds great, but changing from AM to FM requires three steps that ask you to take your eyes off the road. Also, since first driving the S60 a couple of years ago, I’ve griped about the non-backlit gauge cluster that can be hard to read at a glance.
Volvo, this is basic safety stuff. Look at Nissan, Audi, VW, Infiniti and Honda to see how it’s done.
Of course, the rest of the safety kit reads like a laundry list.
Let’s start with the articulated Xenon headlights that follow the curve of dark, twisty roads. Literally brilliant.
All S60 models come with City Safety 2 low-speed collision avoidance technology and active whiplash mitigating seats. My tester had the $800 Blind Spot detection system but not the comprehensive $2,100 Technology Package, which layers on adaptive cruise, collision and pedestrian protection with auto braking, distance alert, driver alert control, lane departure warning, active high beams and road sign information.
It seems Volvo is getting more aggressive with its package pricing. Last year, blind spot warning and most of the Tech Pack was rolled into the $4,500 Driver Support Package. For 2013, we’re saving $1,600 and getting active high beam and RSI thrown in.
Headroom is not at a premium in the back, and you’ll find more room in the back seat of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. The trunk is nicely finished and, with the 60/40 rear seats down, allows for a decent shop at Ikea.
Bottom line? The Volvo S60 T5 AWD is beautiful, competent, comfortable and fast. It feels as solid as the day is long, and, for those who don’t require the default premium badges, it has just enough left of mainstream.
2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD
PRICE: $43,150 base, $47,150 as tested
ENGINE: 2.5 L inline-five
POWER/TORQUE: 250 hp/266 lb.-ft. (295 lb.-ft. overboost)
FUEL CONSUMPTION L/100 km: 10.2 city, 7.0 hwy.
COMPETITION: BMW 328i xDrive, Audi A4, M-B C 300 4Matic, Infiniti G37x
WHAT’S BEST: solid, safe, swift and stylish.
WHAT’S WORST: fuel economy down on some competitors.
WHAT’S INTERESTING: rumour mill hints at V60 (wagon) availability in 2013.
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