Way back in the late 70’s, my wife owned a used 1975 Volvo 164, which was the top of the heap for the boxy Swede. Leather seats, a crank open sunroof, power everything and a big, torquey six-cylinder behind the formal grill all made her feel like she was chopping in tall cotton. Volvos occupy that netherworld in the automobile pecking order. They are reputedly built like Mercedes; they aren’t quite, and as safe as a house, which they probably are although I haven’t slammed a 3-bedroom bungalo into a brick wall lately.
But one thing they never were was trendy. For what seem like decades, Volvos have been pretty dull boxes. From the 122 that looked like a ’48 Ford, to the 144 series that looked like the box the car came in, Volvo never seemed to worry about style. But the S60 is fairly swoopy…well…for a Volvo. Rounded corners, huge taillamps, and a modern, low version of the upright Volvo grill, our S60 T6 all-wheel-drive test car looked very clean and neat in its ash gold metallic paint.
Our all-wheel-drive Swedish bullet is aimed directly at the BMW 3-series and Audi A4, and while it may measure up in many ways, the other two, especially the Audi, are just flat prettier. But when you twist the key and the turbocharged 3-liter twin-cam six-cylinder engine throbs to life, and the 6-speed automatic gearbox sends its 300 horses to all four wheels, the S60 responds like the thoroughbred it is. The standard 4-wheel ABS and optional dynamic stability and traction control, turn this Dr. Jekyl family car into Mr. Hyde with 17-inch wheels. The sports suspension straightens out a twisty country road and the car never loses composure no matter how many s-curves and switchbacks you throw at it. Mileage is 18 city – 25 highway.
The S60 has a base price of $43,900. Our navigation system, premium sound, heated and cooled seats ans such added over $4-grand to the tab. It’s a little stout considering this car a little over a year ago was roughly $10,000 cheaper.
But, it’s a truly lovely machine with road manners that will have you daydreaming about a drive through the Alps. But at this price, it is up against some legendary sporting marques, and the Volvo mystique has always been more brains than flash. They have they’re work cut out for them.