Friday, October 8, 2010

2011 Volvo S60 Test Drive

Portland, Ore.—Fresh in the hands of new ownership (China-based Geely automotive), Volvo is poised and ready for a comeback. And though safety is arguably the most distinct identifier for the brand, the new-for-2011 S60 reveals what happens when Volvo decides to flex its performance muscle, and target shoe moving away from more mundane Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys. Does this Volvo have the breadth of character to handle both road and track with competence? We spent a day behind the wheel finding out. 
Under the hood is a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine that's been upgraded from its XC60 application. Boasting the most powerful six-cylinder ever produced by Volvo, this mill makes 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, which peaks at 2100 rpm—a spike that comes on earlier than Volvo's 4.4-liter V8. Also up-rated is Volvo's six-speed automatic transmission, which sports faster cog swaps thanks to new valves and reduced friction. Purists take note: A manual transmission will not be offered on the new S60, but the model does feature a front torque vectoring system, which brakes the inside wheel diverting more power to the outside, with the intention of eliminating understeering from the standard Haldex all-wheel-drive system. The S60 also incorporates an advanced traction-control system with the first-ever use of a body-roll-angle sensor. Though the XC90 takes body roll into account as a safety feature in order to avoid rollovers, the S60's setup is designed to perceive the loss of traction before it occurs and make early and slight corrections for better handling.

Ride dynamics have been tightened with a 47 percent increase in chassis stiffness, firmed-up springs, struts and bushings, and 10 percent faster steering. Three chassis are available: the standard Dynamic version, which is equipped with 18-inch wheels; a no-cost Touring setup, which uses softer damping settings and drops to higher-profile 17-inch alloys; and a $750 FOUR-C option. The latter incorporates automatically adjustable adaptive dampers, which can be set to Comfort, Sport, or Advanced modes. The different settings also alter throttle response, and steering effort can be selected from three levels.


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