In recent years, Volvo has effectively shed its old image as a producer of boring, box-shaped kid-haulers. Nowadays, the Swedish automaker makes everything from sport sedans to sport-utes, all continuing to excel in safety and engineering. But a new sporting machine has just rolled out of the Volvo stable. It’s this S60 R. It’s the most technologically advanced car that Volvo has ever produced. But is it the most fun to drive as well?
Well, from the spec sheet, the 2004 Volvo S60 R’s powerful engine, all-wheel-drive, active suspension, sticky tires, and big brakes should add up to great driving fun. So, let’s go hands on. Like earlier R-models, the S60 R uses a turbocharged 5-cylinder. This 2.5-liter unit comes from the XC90. But with 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, a total rework was needed to make it the most powerful R-engine yet, a larger turbo with 15 pounds of boost, two intercoolers, not to mention new cams and variable valve timing going in and coming out.
Transmission choices are a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic, and with the 6-speed manual, hits 60 in only 5.8 seconds! The 1/4-mile is over in 14.4 seconds, at 100 miles-per-hour. The 6-speed shifter has short throws and is easily the best Volvo manual yet. The ‘‘joy stick’’ shifter felt a little vague, but we never missed a shift. The clutch is light and delivers good feedback.
The Haldex all-wheel-drive system uses an electronically-controlled hydraulic coupling. It seamlessly distributes torque for optimized acceleration and handling. Under steady state, 90% of the power goes to the front wheels. Under acceleration, or when entering a corner, more power moves to the rear wheels, up to a maximum of 70%. Torque is more evenly split at mid-corner, and then flows to the front wheels to balance the car on exit. The all-wheel drive system is linked to Volvo’s Four-C active suspension, traction control front and rear, as well as Dynamic Stability Control. The driver can choose Comfort, Sport, or the almost-race-ready Advanced mode, with just the touch of a button. You can also all or partially reduce the stability control safety net if you want the S60 R’s pure handling experience.
But with all of the technology working, the S60 R delivers exceptional handling. In Advanced mode, it absolutely rips through corners. It’s incredibly tight, precise, and well balanced, though not as flat as expected. Our R had tons of grip, thanks to super-sticky Pirelli P-Zero ZR-rated rubber. Low-profile 3-season tires are mounted on either standard 17-inch, or these optional 18-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels, which allow a clear view of huge Brembo disc brakes with 4-piston aluminum calipers. They stopped the R from 60 in an average distance of 125 feet. Pedal feel is rather soft at first touch, but braking power is huge for first rate stability.
The S60 R’s superb performance equipment is matched by a stylish, if understated, interior, with wraparound leather sport seats, jewel-finish analog gauges, and a wide center stack with multi-disc CD changer, and dual-zone automatic climate controls that are all sensible and efficient.
The rear bench seat is standard S60, roomy enough for average adults, and it splits and folds for more cargo room, while the trunk is a healthy 15 cubic-feet.
But the S60 R isn’t about practicality, it’s about performance. Performance that starts at $37,510. But, for the ultimate in both performance and practicality, try the same hardware inside the V70 R wagon for $39,010. Both are impressive buys for such sophisticated, sporty driving.
The 2004 Volvo S60 R is not just the most technologically advanced car that Volvo has ever produced. It is also the quickest, most powerful, and without a doubt, most fun to drive Volvo ever. It has a character that goes well beyond where previous Volvo R-cars feared to tread, one that could leave Volvo’s kid-hauling image behind forever!
Engine: Turbocharged 2.5-Liter 5-Cylinder
Torque: 295 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.8 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.4 Seconds @ 100 MPH
60-0 MPH: 125 Feet