Volvo is a company that in the last ten years has transformed itself from a purveyor of staid, ultra-safe family cars, into a forward-thinking company offering a wide range of sport- luxury sedans and multi-purpose wagons. And, they’re still ultra-safe! Their newest effort to think outside the traditional Volvo box is this mid-size S60. “A sedan that,” according to Volvo, “is inspired by a sports car and drives like one.” Well, are they right? We should point out right from the start, however, that the 2001 Volvo S60 is actually three sedans. There’s the entry-level S60 2.4, the middle line S60 2.4T, and the full-bore S60 T5. We first tried the most promising T5 at the S60’s press introduction in Stockholm, Sweden. Billed as offering handling and performance unlike any preceding Volvo sedan, the T5’s equipment list reads like the syllabus for Sport-Sedan 101. Starting with the exterior and working inward, the S60 T5 is wrapped in sleek, aerodynamic bodywork. While derived from that of the flagship S80 sedan, it was further tweaked for trendiness by Volvo’s California design center. Which encloses Volvo’s ultra-solid, ultra-crash worthy, P2 platform, also shared with the S80, and the V70 wagon as well. The S60’s 106.9-inch wheelbase is 2 inches longer than the S70 it replaces, and splits the difference between the S80 and the V70. As does the track, at 61.1-inches front, and 60.9-inches rear. All riding on a firm sport suspension which combines the S80’s retuned front struts, and a rear independent multi-link setup. Which kisses the road with standard 16-inch alloys wearing 215/55 series tires, while larger 17-inch wheels wearing 235/45 tires are optional. T5 propulsion comes from Volvo’s familiar 2.3-liter high-pressure TURBOCHARGED 5-cylinder engine. Output is 247 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. O to 60 is estimated at 6.8 seconds. Transmission choices are a trick standard 5-speed manual gearbox, with a vintage gated feel, that the Swedes have dubbed the “Spaceball,” or an optional 5-speed automatic with Geartronic manual shift capability. Put to the test on Swedish roads, the T5 proved to be very capable, but never hard-edged. Push the front-drive T5 into corners, and the front tires tuck under producing noticeable understeer. But the handling smooths out mid-corner, delivering plenty of grip and balance on the exit. There is, however, less feel from the fast, power rack-and-pinion steering than we expect from a sport sedan. Indeed, the ride is more luxury-sedan-supple, with more body roll than Audi, BMW and Mercedes competitors. Yet, the smooth, punchy turbocharged 5-cylinder can indeed hold its own with any 6- cylinder competitor, delivering bags of torque and a strong top end with no noticeable turbo lag. To complement the racy outside, the T5 gets an interior that’s slick and Swedishly efficient, with plenty of upscale features. And plenty of safety features like dual front airbags, side airbags, and full-length inflatable head protection curtains. The angular S80-style dash mimics the modern character of the exterior styling, and places all controls within easy reach. While the supportive bucket seats, with available suede upholstery, hold you securely in place during spirited driving. The S60’s bucket-style rear seats are also quite comfy, though rear leg room, down from the S70, is sport sedan tight. But the trunk’s 13.9 cubic-foot volume is among the largest in its class. While the S60 T5’s base price measures a very competitive $32,375. If you wish to spend a few dollars less, however, you can opt for the S60 volume leader the 2.4T, which we tested back home in Maryland. While well down in power from the T5, 0 to 60 went by in a good clip at 7.1 seconds. And the 1/4 mile passed in 15.6 seconds at 91 miles-per-hour. That, and a slightly softer suspension setup, give the 2.4T a more straight up luxury sedan feel. While a lower base price of $30,375, makes your checkbook feel better as well. Though if you really want to watch your dollars, you can opt for the 168-horsepower, normally aspirated 2.4, which retails for $27,075. Volvo designers set out to build an outside-of-the-box sedan inspired by the driving experience of a pure sports car. The S60 they delivered is a stylish 4-door with all the safety and long distance comfort that goes hand-in-hand with the Volvo name. But this time that heritage is married to a fresh, entertaining sport-sedan character that takes the edge off even the most routine of roads.
Engine: 2.3-Liter High-pressure Turbocharged 5-Cylinder
Torque: 243 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.8 Seconds