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Drive Life : February 11th 2011
1HERSA1 F012 DriveLIFE road test 12 Friday, February 11, 2011 The Sydney Morning Herald Expect more bloody Volvo drivers on the road as the Swedish maker takes on the Germans, writes Toby Hagon. VOLVO S60 T6 Think luxury sedans and all manner of German badges spring to mind but Volvo hopes a new Swede could tempt buyers beyond the Teutonic establishment. Volvo is best known for its wagons and SUVs -- or four-wheel- drives -- but the brand is keen to establish itself as a broader luxury player. For the S60, the spiel begins with a coupe-like silhouette and improved driving dynamics. As you'd expect from a Volvo, safety also rates more than a passing mention, with groundbreaking pedestrian avoidance technology adding to an armoury of acronyms that cover everything from lane departure warning systems to rollover protection. But it's the price of the all- wheel-drive S60 that stands out in a segment where the badge on the bonnet counts for so much. As with Lexus's recently released IS350, Volvo is pressuring its competitors with a long list of standard paraphernalia. WHAT DO YOU GET? The S60 range kicks off with the five-cylinder T5 that sells from $51,950 (plus on-road costs) and winds up with the six-cylinder T6 tested here at $64,950. Sandwiched between them is the diesel D5, at $57,950. Volvo has thrown plenty of equipment at the S60. Standard fare includes leather trim, power driver's seat, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, dual-zone airconditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth and a USB connection to allow an iPod to feed through the above-average sound system. Step up to the T6 and the wheels grow to 18 inches in diameter, while there's also a powered front passenger seat, front parking sensors and other aesthetic bits and bobs. Naturally, safety is a high priority and Volvo makes a big deal of the additional tests and measures it goes to beyond regulatory and NCAP crash-test requirements. The S60 surrounds occupants in airbags (front, front- side and curtain) and includes a stability control system. There's also Volvo's impressive City Safety system, which can avoid an impact with another car at low speeds by automatically applying the brakes. However, the headline safety act for the S60 is the Pedestrian Detection system that can identify pedestrians and automatically apply the brake if an impact is imminent. It's brilliant technology that's being mimicked by other brands. But unfortunately it isn't standard, instead being offered as part of a $4175 pack that includes other safety features; it can also be had as part of the $4500 Teknik Pack, which introduces active headlights and radar cruise control. Disappointingly, too, the S60 misses out on a spare tyre, instead coming with a repair kit that is useless for substantial tyre damage. WHAT'S INSIDE? Getting into the S60 is not as easy as it could be thanks to the narrow- ish door opening and awkwardly forward position of the middle side (B) pillar. It's not an issue once inside but could prove annoying for taller drivers on entry and exit. Other than that minor blot, the S60's interior is a fashionable lesson in functionality. There's a cluster of buttons neatly arranged and surrounded by four knobs to control the ventilation and audio systems. It's logically laid out and easy to use, teaming with the buttons on the steering wheel for major functions. The seats are comfortable enough, although they could do with more support for cornering to counter the inevitable sliding across the leather. Space in the back isn't bad for the type of vehicle, although legroom isn't brilliant if there's a tall driver; it isn't helped by a lack of under-seat space for feet. There's not the flexibility of Volvo off-roaders (such as the thoughtful XC60) with no folding rear seats or the built-in booster seats. UNDER THE BONNET Volvo's six-cylinder is one of a handful of cars worldwide that still use the once-popular inline six configuration (BMW is the most prominent, while Ford's Falcon is another). Combined with a turbocharger for additional performance, the 3.0-litre unit is loaded with urge. Maximum torque (or pulling power) of 440Nm kicks in from just 2100rpm, so acceleration is brisk, with abundant power remaining on tap throughout the rev range. It's more than willing when climbing hills or overtaking. In some ways the torque masks the less impressive six-speed transmission, which is often too eager to change into higher gears and doesn't adapt to winding roads or undulations as well as it should. Another downside is the fuel consumption. Claimed at 10.2 litres per 100 kilometres, we found it used closer to 13L/100km in everyday driving, meaning some of the savings in the car itself will go to your local servo. ON THE ROAD Driver-focused dynamics are not something Volvo is renowned for but the past few years have seen some big leaps in how the cars drive. The S60 is at the pinnacle of that, teaming agile yet informative steering with a planted on-road demeanour that endows the compact sedan with athleticism close to par with some of the better vehicles in the category. Around town the firm ride can be testing, bouncing and jiggling over poor surfaces but the trade-off is a more surefooted feel at speed. The turning circle -- the six- cylinder mounted across the engine bay doesn't help -- is tending towards wide, which isn't great for parking or U-turns. VERDICT An all-new Volvo doesn't come along too often, so when it does, the Swedish brand likes to make some noise. With the S60, the noise is worth listening to. While it may have the occasional foible -- a firm ride being the most notable -- the excellent value and stylish package make it a worthy luxury contender. THE COMPETITORS AUDI A4 3.2 FSI QUATTRO Price $91,000 Engine 3.2-litre V6, 195kW/330Nm, 6-sp auto, AWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 9.3L/100km, 220g/km Safety Eight airbags, stability control. Pros Quality interior; attractive price. Cons V6 doesn't match rivals. Our score Not yet tested. BMW 335i M SPORT Price $110,900 Engine 3.0-litre turbo 6-cyl, 225kW/ 400Nm, 6-sp auto, RWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 8.7L/100km, 202g/km Safety Six airbags, stability control. Pros Brilliant turbo engine and six-speed auto. Cons Firm ride; tight rear seat. Our score Not yet tested. MERCEDES-BENZ C300 AVANTGARDE Price $90,850 Engine 3.0-litre V6, 170kW/300Nm, 7-sp auto, RWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 9.5L/100km, 226g/km Safety Nine airbags, pre-safe system. Pros Spacious; comfortable. Cons Thirsty; not as well equipped. Our score Not yet tested. THE DETAILS ? Price $64,950 Country of origin Sweden Engine 3.0-litre inline 6-cyl Power 224kW at 5600rpm Torque 440Nm at 2100-4400rpm Consumption and CO2 emissions 10.2L/100km, 243g/km Transmission 6-speed auto Weight 1888kg 0-100km/h 6.1 seconds (claimed) Safety Six airbags, stability control, City Safety low-speed collision avoidance system, optional full auto braking and pedestrian detection Pros Good to drive; stylish and functional; loaded with equipment. Cons Thirsty engine; ride too firm. IN THE REAL WORLD Pedestrians The S60 is the first car to have pedestrian avoidance technology, which can detect and brake for pedestrians. Excellent but costs $4175. Fashion Volvo calls the S60 ''bold, confident and alluring'', which may be overstating it but the sleek profile and pinched tail meld elegantly. Trivia Volvo is synonymous with wagons. In 2010, 73 per cent of Volvo sales here were wagons or four-wheel-drives.
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