Road Test

Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

Cumbersome name, but an excellent high performance sports sedan

2012 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design- Front
AT A GLANCE
PRICE
$59,470 base. $59,470 as tested.
FUEL CONSUMPTION
NR Canada (L/100 km): 11.0 city. 8.0 highway. 10.0 combined.
POWERTRAIN
Turbocharged, 3.0-litre, in-line six-cylinder engine; 300 horsepower, 354 lb-ft.of torque; six-speed
Pros & CONS
  • Stealth-like presence
  • All-season, all-wheel-drive
  • Contemporary Swedish interior
  • Stealth-like presence
  • All-season, all-wheel-drive
  • Contemporary Swedish interior

It is a bit of a paradox that Volvo has a stellar reputation for two features seemingly 180-degrees out of sync – safety and turbocharging. But then you realize there is a factor that connects them – practicality.

Safety is a given in a country that encourages independent safety experts to sift through crash sites without any legal repercussions. Turbocharging is arguably the least expensive and most efficient way to create additional power.

Throw in a global reputation for clean and contemporary design and some of the most comfortable seats ever installed in the industry and you have a pretty good foundation for a worthy automobile, a safe, powerful, comfortable and attractive vehicle. Now toss in a bit of badness and you’ve got the Volvo S60 T6 AWD R Design, cumbersome name, but an excellent high performance sports sedan.

Analysis of the name

Let’s dissect that name. Volvo S60 – the second generation S60 and its V60 wagon sibling were unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in the spring of 2010, introducing a new design language for Volvo.

Built in Belgium it is available with a variety of gasoline and diesel engines depending on the market. In North America we get five and six-cylinder gasoline engines only. The T6 in the name means it has a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine in place of the 2.5-litre in-line five-cylinder found in the S60 T5.

AWD tells us it has Volvo’s electronically-controlled all-wheel-drive system, R is Volvo’s answer to Audi’s "RS", BMW’s "M’ and AMG at Mercedes. R means this Volvo has some serious performance credentials. R-Design means it has been given a few pieces of bling and tweaked by some folks who know how to tune Volvos.There are more of these than you might realize.

From the outset the S60 was a Volvo with a new performance image. Equipped with a turbocharged five-cylinder engine, it broke 18 British Land Speed records for a production car in its class including an average in excess of 217 km/h over a 24-hour period.

On this side of the pond it was entered in the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge GT class where it won a race at Mosport, Ontario in 2006 and the manufacturer’s title in 2010.

In normal T6 trim the S60 is rated at an impressive 300-horsepower and even more impressive 354 lb-ft of torque. But after some work by

Polestar, a little Swedish tuning company with close ties to Volvo, the R Design puts out 325 horsepower and a whopping 354 lb-ft of torque.

Despite a specific output well north of 100-horsepower per litre, making it the most powerful production Volvo ever, this is a well behaved and fairly frugal engine with no sign of fussiness or misbehavior. It is quiet, smooth and rated at 7.7 litres per 100 km on the open road.

A naughty Volvo; who knew?

But yank its chain and this Volvo on steroids comes to life with a vengeance. The ability to channel all that power through four contact patches instead of only two means that more of it gets turned into acceleration instead of tire smoke.

This car will get to 100 km/h from a dead stop in five seconds flat and through the quarter mile in slightly more than 13 seconds – serious numbers! Passing or climbing hills are obviously effortless endeavors.

The power delivery is strong throughout each gear with no sign of letup well into triple digits. The Aisin six-speed transmission is a silent partner in this performance with the right gear for every purpose and seamless shifts under part or full throttle.

It's a legitimate competitor for the likes of the Audi S4, BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Lexus IS-F, and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Really!

Subtle design cues

Only subtle touches differentiate the R-Design from the regular T6. They include a unique grille and front bumper, satin-metal finish on the mirrors, a unique rear bumper with integrated stabilizing fins and cutouts for a pair of 90-mm exhaust outlets, a small spoiler and unique 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels wrapped in summer-only performance rubber. Look more closely and you’ll notice a lower and more aggressive stance than its T6 sibling.

The differences inside are also fairly subtle. They include a badge on the steering wheel. The minimalist Swedish design cleverly hides the fact that all the bells and whistles are here – absent the "bling" found in some other cars.

Standard equipment includes a full array of bags, electronic aids and other safety features. You also get headlights that turn with the front wheels, heated seats and mirrors, a premium sound system, Blind Spot Information, rear view camera, 18-cm LCD infotainment system, and power windows, locks etc.

The front seats are Volvo-comfortable – the highest compliment I can bestow on them. The rear is fairly crowded for anyone of more than slight in stature but the trunk has a surprising amount of space considering the compact dimensions of the car.

The S60 T6 R-Design suspension has been upgraded to match the capabilities of the powertrain. Despite a distinctly front-heavy weight distribution, it carves corners with more precision and alacrity than expected. Understeer sets in fairly early and the relatively narrow (235-mm,) tires limit ultimate grip. Not surprisingly, given it performance orientation, the ride leans toward the stiff side on less than perfect surfaces.

Think of the S60 T6 R Design as the stealth Volvo. While this one won’t be invisible to radar, it will be less likely to attract unwanted attention.

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