After highlighting Volvo’s Polestar Concept as one of our best of show recipients at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, we knew that it was time to revisit the Swedish carmaker as they begin their transformation into a much more competitive force with the style and sporting substance to back it up. The S60 midsize sedan has been around for a number of years, but the most recent iteration and addition of the R-Design sports trim is a jab at Audi’s S4 and S5 as well as the BMW 335i.
Stepping into the Ferrari-red 2013 T6 AWD R-Design Platinum edition, it’s immediately apparent this is not your father’s, grandfather’s or even eccentric uncle’s sports sedan; this is a technologically advanced, 300-plus horsepower packing beast that is ready to turn heads as it makes a beeline past them on the freeway. Utilizing the normal S60’s T6 3.0-liter six cylinder, performance partner Polestar boosts the R-Design from 300 to 325 hp at 5,400 rpm with an equally impressive 354 pound-feet of torque to work with.
Kicking the Geartronic six-speed transmission up a few notches, it’s easy to see from the effortless acceleration that this vehicle is not going to be spending much time in the slow lane with a top speed of 134 mph and a zero to 60 of 5.5 seconds. We imagine the option manual stick shift would have an even greater effect on the experience, but we’re just going to have to sit back and wait for that one.
The R-Design is something of a sculpture on the exterior, taking the hallmark Volvo front fascia and sending it on a steroid trip with a much more aggressive build-out that sees the skirt extend forward, reminiscent of a stock car, but so tastefully that it’s barely noticeable. We were a big fan of the dark, offset star wheel design (check the gallery above), which reminds us of what Benz tried on their Concept Style Coupe that eventually became the CLA Class. Over the stocky but flowing body, you get a sense of presence with this vehicle that has been lacking from the flat and low Volvo sedans of the past, especially when it comes to the tail drop-off with a slight spoiler that gives it that extra edge. We really enjoyed this feature in the Audi S7, but it’s so understated here, it would almost look weird without it.
Below the surface, the engineers have really outdone themselves, especially when it comes to the S60’s safety and anticollision systems. We certainly didn’t attempt to ruin that gorgeous face for this review, but say you are still accelerating and the car 20 feet ahead of you starts dramatically slowing down; the S60 will cut your radio, beep incessantly and flash lights up onto the windshield until you rectify your apparently reckless driving. Not to worry, this feature won’t annoy you persistently (and yes, you can turn it off), but it does come in handy when some jackass tries jumping into your lane without signaling. We’re sure many a repair shop regular would benefit from this beauty.
With the exception of the fist-sized little person diagram you can push on the dashboard to direct the airflow, the S60 is quite possibly one of the best designed vehicles on the market today that balances style, performance and safety without costing you an arm and a leg. At a starting price for the R-Design of $45,000 (higher in Canada) and options such as premium audio, navigation and luxury finishes up into the mid-50s, this is one unexpected contender you ought to give a second thought to.
Check out more at volvocars.com