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Weidel on Wheels: Volvo’s S60 makes a welcomed return

By: Jeffrey Weidel
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Contrary to its reputation that can be summed up in one word — stodgy — Volvo has actually produced a vehicle with some real personality, attractive looks, and sporty characteristics. The 2011 Volvo S60 is a mid-size luxury sport sedan. It debuted 10 years ago with a stylish appeal that made it standout in Volvo’s conservative lineup of vehicles. However, over the years it became so “yesterday” that Volvo decided not to produce the S60 in 2010 and concentrated on this year’s model. The makeover is a good one, once again providing Volvo with a bit of glamour in a mostly dull overall lineup of boxy vehicles. A low roof line and flowing lines make the S60 sleek and appealing to the eye. Based on the S80 platform, the S60 still remains on the small size despite the 2011 model being 2 inches wider, 1 inch longer, and 2.3 inches longer in the wheelbase. Even though the S60 is a star in the Volvo lineup, it faces some tough competition. There are some highly regarded sedans that will give car shoppers plenty of options. Among the S60’s rivals are the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37, Audi A4, Cadillac CTS, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Style points have never been a calling card for this Swedish automaker. Volvo has always been about safety and that characteristic certainly remains. The S60 has the typical abundance of Volvo safety features. And if car buyers are willing to pay extra for a feature not on the standard list, the Pedestrian Detection system could be tempting. This innovative system can detect pedestrians who are 31 inches or taller, and apply full braking power so a collision is avoided even when the driver fails to properly react. At speeds of 21 mph or less, the S60 will come to a full stop. At higher speeds, the vehicle slows down significantly to avoid a big impact. The driver also has the capability to steer clear of the trouble. Make no mistake, this Volvo can reach high speeds in a hurry. The all-wheel drive S60 has a turbocharged 3.0-liter, inline 6-cylinder engine (hence the T6 label) with 300 horsepower. When pushed, the S60 can get you there in a hurry, going 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. There are other luxury sport sedans with better driving capability, but don’t shortchange the S60. It handles corners with great ease and the precise steering will leave any driver feeling confident and in control. The braking is very responsive and the ride is smooth and quiet. The interior is on the upscale side, featuring high-quality materials, rich brown leather seats, wood accents and good driver visibility. What’s not so hot are the numerous small buttons that can be confusing at times. While the front seat offers excellent room and comfort, the backseat is tight for adults. The trunk space is below average as well. __________ 2011 Volvo S60 Price: $37,700 Power: 3.0-liter, turbo-charged inline 6-cylinder engine with 300 horsepower Mileage estimate: 18 mpg city; 26 mpg highway Standard features include: All-wheel drive; sport-tuned suspension; eight-way power driver seat with memory settings; leather upholstery; tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; dual-zone automatic climate control; auto-dimming rearview mirror; eight-speaker audio system with single-CD player, satellite radio, HD radio, iPod/USB interface, auxiliary audio jack and Bluetooth; stability and traction control; whiplash-reducing front head restraints