Ah yes, the Volvo S60. A car that was debuted back in 2001 to showcase the safety, comfort, and unassuming class of nonthreatening European lines and the frumpiness of a substitute anthropology teacher. With the curb weight of a T-72 tank, the reliability of a well-trained Rottweiler, and the sex appeal of Tupperware, this was the car that was supposed break Volvo’s brick-shaped wagon reputation once and for all, and in some ways it succeeded. Looking back at the earlier inceptions may not give any support to this claim, but take a glimpse at what we have here today, and it’s quite apparent that this car come a long way.
Fifteen years after the first S60 bowed, the latest model has a three-inch-longer wheelbase for even more legroom, has ditched the fold-flat front passenger seat, and has been developed with China’s market in mind. While it may certainly not be the hottest looking thing on the market, it certainly isn’t ugly either, and critics over at Edmunds give the 2016 S60 high marks for its responsive handling, comfortable cabin, and endless amounts of luxury. Along with Volvo’s dedication to world-class safety, strong reliability, and energetic engines, you’ve got a car that offers way more than you might expect for its $33,950 starting price.
Stacked-up against entry-level luxury sedans like the Acura TLX, Hyundai Genesis, and Lexus ES 350, the S60 offers fantastic value for your hard-earned pesos, and unlike the competition, it also comes in an extended-wheelbase “Inscription Model” for the taller folks out there. In base T5 trim, you get 17-inch alloys, automatic headlights, LED running lights, headlight washers, heated mirrors, automatic wipers, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power driver seats with memory settings, power-folding rear headrests, and a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
Standard tech includes a low-speed forward collision warning and mitigation system, 7-inch display screen, Volvo’s “Sensus” smartphone app, WiFi capability, Bluetooth phone with audio connectivity, and full voice command recognition. Base models also get an eight-speaker sound system, along with HD and satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack, and a USB audio interface. The energy efficient T5 Drive-E model adds in an engine stop-start system, and Volvo’s “Premier Package” yields a sunroof, leather upholstery, a navigation system with customizable instrument display, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror too.
On the other side of the spectrum, the extended-wheelbase T5 Inscription and AWD models come standard with Premier equipment, while adding 18-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, cushier front seats with added bolstering, a multi-tier interior filtration system, accent lighting, thicker sound-deadening material, manual rear sunshades, and a power rear window sunshade. Upgrade to a Platinum version and you’ll have a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, adaptive xenon headlights, and Volvo’s Convenience and Technology packages.
But we already know that Volvos are nice cars, so what about some performance to go with all that swankiness? If sportiness is your thing then opting for the T6 variant is a great place to start. It gives you the same basic equipment as a T5 with the Premier Package, but with a more powerful engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, adjustable steering response, paddle shifters, sport seats, and keyless ignition and entry. Go with a T6 R-Design in AWD and you’ll get an even more powerful engine, unique aero styling, 19-inch wheels, more aggressive suspension, special interior trim, a performance steering wheel, and a special R-Design sport seat to match.
Spend quite a bit more and you’ll get the special-order T6 seen here, which is called the “Polestar,” and is the Volvo to get if you prefer extreme over serene. With its 20-inch alloy wheels, one-off aero kit, massive brakes, specialized interior trim, unique paint, and insane engine, this made-to-order blaster is the car for anyone wanting to debunk the claim that Volvos are boring. But it’s still a Volvo, and covering all of the available safety systems and comfort features on this car would undoubtedly eat-up the rest of this article, so maybe it is best to just focus on the Polestar from here on out, because we like performance, and recent studies show most Americans prefer power too.
While base models get by on a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that boasts a respectable 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six in the Polestar cranks-out 345 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, sending power to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission that has been specially tuned to the sedan’s unique specs. The Polestar’s Öhlins springs are 80% stiffer than the already aggressive ones found on the R-Design, its T6 engine has been rebuilt with a special twin-scroll turbo, bigger intercooler, a dual-pipe exhaust system, and a completely re-calibrated engine management system that rides high atop the safety of six-piston Brembo calipers.
Edmunds claims that “the S60 is not a true sport sedan,” as it prefers to take a “balanced approach to sport and comfort,” and this is to be expected. But the Polestar, with its all-out adrenaline performance pedigree is purposely designed to put other punters back in line, and with its aggressive, widened fenders, performance aero lines, and sinister sounding high performance exhaust, owners are sure to surprise Camaro owners all day long. Just be sure to get it in a color other than “Rebel Blue” so that you can have a full-blown sleeper car, because who would expect their anthropology teacher could kick that much ass around an apex anyways?