2012 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

Volvo’s not walking away from safety as their major brand differentiator. Indeed, this column recently featured the 2012 Volvo S60 T5, giving much attention to Adaptive Cruise Control, the latest in point-and-shoot safety technology. (It’s a safety innovation that saves us from those type-As who still text and drive from nailing the rest of us from behind.) However, Volvo is demanding respect in the performance sedan category with the S60 T6 R-Design. It was the car of choice for that undead heartthrob Edward Cullen, but his might not be the endorsement you’re seeking. Besides, I’m not sure what the werewolves and zombies drive. So we’ll just talk about the S60 T6 R-Design on its own merits.

A Big Swede Heart
No one’s complaining about the T5’s 5-cylinder DOHC, which puts out 250 ponies @ 5,550 rpm and 266 pounds of torque @1,800 – 4,000 rpm. Still, it’s serendipitous that my T6 test drive came later.

The R-Design contains a mighty 3-litre, 6-cylinder, turbo-charged DOHC with CVVT. The output from that engine? A hair-parting 325 HP @ 5,400 rpm and 354 lb. of torque @ 3,000 – 3,600 rpm. That’s 25 more hp and 29 more pounds of torque than the T6 R-Design’s other sister, the T6 AWD. Interesting to note that the increase in power is delivered not through mechanical tweaking but a software upgrade!

What do all these power numbers mean? Simply: If you choose to, you go straight ahead like stink, almost instantly. But what about turns and hills, and wet, snowy and gravelly bits? Beyond heart, that’s the real test of an athlete.

Sporty Design and Performance
The T6’s arching lines are reminiscent of a panther ready to leap. With a 136 mm ground clearance, it scurries low, if not uniquely so (consider: 130 mm in the Mercedes C-class and 135 in the Kia Optima). Still it’s near enough to the ground to encourage plenty of adventure in the bends. Ease off the accelerator coming into the apex, then apply the slightest pressure for a very rewarding thrill.

Though not part of the name, all-wheel drive (AWD) comes standard with the Volvo S60 T6 R-Design. Proceed in any conditions. Enjoy a tightly tuned ride with its standard sport chassis, MacPherson front suspension with spring-strut, lower link and anti-roll bar — and a multi-link rear suspension with coil springs and anti-roll bar.

Put them all together and you get a high-tech Swedish slingshot. Think of Daniel Alfreddson on a 4-stride breakaway, faking to the left but flying right: power, speed and agility.

Like pretty much every other car dork, and pretty much nobody else, I bemoan the unavailability of a manual transmission — at least, for this model. Volvo seems to be targeting genuine driving enthusiasts with the R-Design. The Geartronic shift delivers a satisfying whine and that extra thrust when you want it in traffic; still, it’s not the same as really shifting.

Bling Blong, This Switch is Red
In the cabin, plenty of buttons to push — but note that Volvo’s designers are kings of function. Despite each button’s uniqueness of purpose, none of them require figuring beyond their simple icons. Take the Driver Alert Control: The button’s graphic depicts a car pointing out of its lane. If activated, it plays a series of loud electronic beeps, annoying enough to remind and keep you drawing within the lines. Simple.

Other reviewers have complained about the interface of Volvo’s electronics panel, but it’s among my favourites. Like the taxonomy of a basic website, you can always go deeper into another submenu, or ascend from whatever phylum you’re in into a larger kingdom of information. Classification was invented by Carl Linneaus — a Swede, of course. That was the 18th century, too, so you can hardly accuse this interface of being out there.

Following up on the aforementioned near zero, another number I bemoan is how women make upwards of 80% of household purchasing decisions — including cars. Here are some great features, in case you need to lobby your case: USB and iPod function, heated seats, high-performance audio with Bluetooth, a comprehensive 48-month / 80,000 km warranty, Volvo On Call for unlimited km, and colours she can get behind like Caspian Blue, Seashell, Ice White — all part of Volvo keeping it safe for you to have fun.

If that’s not enough, tell her about Edward and Bella.

Volvo S60 T6 R-Design
MSRP: $50,325 (plus Freight $1,095 & PDI $620)
Driver Support Package: $4,500
BLIS: $750
Navigation System: $2,625
Volvo Premium Sound System: $1,200
As Driven: $61,115

Image courtesy of Automotive Rhythms.

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