It’s no surprise. With its well-known reputation for safety, Volvo has had cars on government safety lists for years. The big surprise is that the high-performance R-Design version of Volvo’s S60 has an exhilarating ride. There’s no yawning going on inside this car.
The turbocharged, six-cylinder R-Design is the sportiest S60 and delivers 354 foot-pounds of torque and 325 horsepower.
In fact, the S60 R-Design is in BMW performance territory. In comparison, the 2012 BMW 535i sedan with twin-turbocharged six-cylinder generates 300 foot-pounds of torque and 300 horsepower.
Unlike BMW, though, the R-Design is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports, which reports the S60 reliability as better than average. Even better, its starting price, including destination charge, is $43,825, about $10,000 less than the BMW.
The S60 R-Design comes with six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with sport mode, all-wheel drive and Volvo’s City Safety system, a world-first pedestrian detection system with full auto brake. It can sense when a pedestrian comes in front of the car and, if the driver does not react, can stop the car.
The S60 R-Design is the most expensive of the three S60 sedans, with a retail price that’s $11,650 more than a base T5 with 250-horsepower, turbocharged five-cylinder. The midmodel T6 starts at $39,325. It has a turbo six-cylinder generating 300 horses and 325 foot-pounds of torque.
The test R-Design four-door could launch away quickly from stoplights, and, with scant turbo lag, it raced forward to merge into traffic.
Peak torque comes at 3,000 rpm to 3,600 rpm, so it was easy to tap this thrust during city driving.
With the all-wheel drive, there was no disconcerting torque steer, in which the car’s steering wheel would tug one way power is put down to the pavement. Instead, the tester moved forward smoothly from the get-go.
Fuel economy was not impressive. The test car averaged 19 mpg in travel that was 70 percent city.
Premium is the recommended fuel for the R-Design, so filling the 17.8-gallon tank can cost $80 at today’s prices.
All S60s feel agile on the road. The S60 R-Design rides with more stiffness than the others. Bushings and springs are stiffer, and the test car’s interior was often filled with road noise from the 18-inch tires.
Passengers felt every manhole cover and most road imperfections. There was no doubt the test S60 R-Design was well-connected to the road, even when it traveled on a straightaway.
The real delight, though, was on twisty mountain roads. The car stuck like glue to the pavement and held its line with composure. There was no body roll, and steering was quick and responsive. The ride height is 0.6 inch less than in other S60s, but passengers don’t feel they’re sitting low to the pavement.
The rear-view camera included in the $2,700 multimedia package was a welcome aid when backing up.
The interior is, like that of many Volvos, a bit quirky. It looks simply laid-out, but the radio commands could use some streamlining.
The leather-trimmed front seats are new, with bolsters that are more prominent and seat cushions providing new padding to keep occupants in place during spirited driving.
With 12 cubic feet of trunk room, the S60 has one of the smallest trunks in the midsize sedan segment. The back seat can feel confining, too, with just 33.4 inches of legroom.
The government reports four safety recalls of the 2012 S60. One involved the electrical wiring harness under the front seats that might disconnect, jeopardizing the deployment of front and side air bags.
Two safety recalls involved potential faulty fuel delivery that could cause the cars to stall in traffic. A fourth recall involved improper labels with tire inflation information for accessory spare tires.