Road Test Reviews, Vehicles, Volvo

2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD – Road Test, Iain Shankland

I’ve always liked Volvo vehicles, but let’s be honest you’d never call one sexy would you?

Check out the all-new S60 T6 … I think that’s getting pretty close to being sexy – even if it is in Boring Silver – wouldn’t you agree? As I was driving the all-new S60, a 2010 model passed me and immediately I realized how dated it looked compared to this one.

First Impressions
When I first laid eyes on the test vehicle I was relieved that it was charcoal/grey and not the worst colour on the planet – silver. However, once I got it outside I was saddened to see that it was actually the dreaded silver – it has to be the worst colour – it just kills the lines and look of any car it touches. To be fair though, when it was parked beside a regular-coloured silver vehicle, the “Electric Silver” S60 was obviously a different and superior shade of silver.

At the dealership there were a couple of other S60’s in much nicer colours – and boy, it really does make a difference., Iain Shankland, Iain Shankland

Slipping behind the perfectly-sized fat steering wheel, the instrument cluster and centre console is quite a bit different from other Volvo’s that I’ve driven over the past couple of years. The thin centre console is considerably closer to the driver and adds a somewhat claustrophobic feel to the cabin. Unlike stark and efficient Volvo consoles of the past, the new generation interior is akin to a shotgun blast of buttons sprayed liberally around the fake wood that looks… fake – as in really bad fake wood. There are 5 dials, and I counted a whopping 41 buttons! Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t necessarily want to go down the same route as BMW with their iDrive, but that many buttons really makes it difficult to do something quickly and easily while keeping your eyes on the road ahead. This is so unlike Volvo that it really stood out to both my wife and I.

The all-new S60 is a typical Volvo – completely stuffed with safety features – many of which cannot found on any other car. I’ll get to some of the safety features later, but for now we’ll just look at the ergonomics and driving enjoyment. Entering the S60 is easier than ever now that Volvo have joined everyone else in offering the keyless entry/start button fraternity. You just put your hand behind the door handle to unlock, and touch a little area on the door handle to lock. It works with any of the doors, so that takes a lot of hassles away when you don’t need/want to go into the car via the driver’s door. One thing I don’t particularly like about these systems is if you try to check if you’ve locked the car by pulling on the handle – you always end up unlocking it when you touch the handle – so was it locked or not? … you never really know! One way to tell if you’ve locked and armed the S60 is that the outside mirrors fold in to protect them – a very nice feature – I wish all cars had it. Other than that though, there’s no flashing lights or horn or beep to confirm that you’ve locked/unlocked the car. Perhaps there’s a way to program it into the car, but something like that should be on all the time., Iain Shankland

On one occasion my wife unlocked and opened the passenger door, then pressed the unlock button to let me into the car. She still had the fob in her purse – obviously a bonus to having this type of system.  However, I got behind the wheel, started the car and drove off only to notice that the side mirrors were still folded. I stopped the car and put it into Park, pressed the mirror buttons and nothing happened. I pressed the fob unlock button – nothing. I had to switch the car off, lock and unlock it using the fob and only then did the mirrors move and we were able to drive away. Think of the safety aspects of that… idiot driver gets into the car – we’ve all seen them with parking tickets, snow, ice, coffee mugs etc on the car – and drives off. It could be several minutes before they realize they can’t use the mirror – assuming they ever check them. Panic sets in..accident happens as driver hits another vehicle. Not too clever if you ask me. Those mirrors should have returned to the proper position as soon as I started the car.

The seats are very sporty and contoured to hold you in place while you blast into corners and motorway on-ramps – trust me you’ll do it all the time in this car. I was a little surprised to find that the lumbar adjustment is manual instead of power-operated, but the front passenger gets one too, something many manufacturers don’t often include. Rear passengers praised the comfort back there, but commented that getting out was a bit difficult because of the thigh bolsters in the seats. I jumped back there to see what they were talking about and yes the bolster makes it a little harder than expected, but the seats were bordering on being more comfortable than the front ones! I think Volvo made the right choice, because any other type of seat and the passengers would be tossed around like crash test dummies., Iain Shankland

The chassis and suspension of the T6 is fantastic. It has three settings for the driver to choose. Volvo calls it “FOUR-C Active Chassis” (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept), with driver-selectable settings for Comfort, Sport and Advance. I left it on the stiffest setting – Advance for the entire week and it’s akin to a sports car. I was told it would probably be too stiff because you feel every bump and pebble on the road, but I found it just fine – I wouldn’t dream of changing it unless I was maybe driving in Buffalo or Niagara Falls N.Y., Iain Shankland

The test vehicle had over $5,800 worth of options added to it – Metallic Paint ($750) and Sleipner 18″ Alloy Wheels with 235/40/R18 summer tires ($600),  Driver’s Support Package ($4,500) – Included in the optional Driver’s Support Package is: Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Distance Alert (DA), Driver Alert Control (DAC), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), BLIS (Blind Spot Information system), Park Assist.

Also standard in the T6 is a 3.0 litre V-6 engine with a six-speed Geartronic transmission, Dual-zone Electronic Climate Control, Heated front seats, Power-adjustable driver seat (8-way with 3-position memory), Power passenger seat, Watch dial instrumentation, Power glass moonroof, Dual Xenon gas discharge headlights with Active Bending Light (ABL), Heated windshield washer nozzles, Headlight washers, Navigation system with real-time traffic updates, Rear park assist camera, Tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and at the time of the test – the only car with Speed-sensitive steering with driver-selectable settings. The driver gets to choose how heavy or light they want the steering to feel. Naturally, I chose the heavy setting and it was perfect – nice and light around slow parking lot maneuvers, but nice and heavy on the road when speeds increased.

The all-new Volvo S60 comes standard with City Safety, an auto-braking system not offered on any of its competition. City Safety automatically stops the S60 if the car in front unexpectedly stops. The system is active from 3-29 km/h and is designed for heavily congested urban environments. Another safety feature that comes standard in all S60 models is the Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto-brake – if you don’t see the pedestrian, the car will and it won’t let you hit them. It’s a great safety feature because we all know how busy an intersection is and how much information a driver has to pay attention to. We certainly can’t rely on the pedestrians’ to use their brain and self-preservation mode to actually look out for themselves can we? Volvo’s radar and camera-based system can detect pedestrians in front of the car, warn the driver if anyone walks out into its path – and then automatically activate the S60’s full braking power if the driver fails to respond in time.

There’s a backup camera included with the Sat Nav system, but the Park assist works great when reversing out of a  parking spot and people just HAVE to get past you, and risk getting hit instead of just waiting for you to get out. I had mixed results with the BLIS (Blind Spot Information system). I had phantom vehicles to my left even though I was alone on a two-lane highway. I turned it off and on several times to see if it would re-set itself and it helped until the next time I got behind the wheel when it started doing it all over again. I ended up just switching it off because it was a pest continually blinking. This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced problems with the BLIS system in a car, so it isn’t contained to this particular vehicle. (When I mentioned my concerns as I dropped the car off, I was told it may either need re-calibrated or perhaps the cameras that detect the cars needed cleaned.  Any way you slice or dice it though – all these fancy new safety features are simply encouraging drivers to be less attentive — I can’t say my wife or I agree or like these features — but that rant is for another day)., Iain Shankland

The Driver Alert Control works great as long as you’re not like me (and 90% of Montreal), and change lanes without signaling. Every time you change lanes it beeps to remind you that you’ve strayed very close to the line – you don’t even have to cross it before you get a reminder. It’s rather annoying when you’re cutting in front of moving speed-bumps and don’t want to give them the courtesy of a signal (light). If you do it numerous times, the car will tell you that maybe you need to stop and have a coffee break because a little diagram comes up on the dashboard with a cup of coffee – how sweet!

The Adaptive Cruise Control is nothing short of spectacular – seriously. Volvo insisted – I test it out. What you do is set the distance you want to remain behind the car in front – from a couple of car lengths to enough space to land a 747 aircraft, and the S60 will match its speed – kilometre for kilometre. Here’s the cool part – if the car comes to a complete stop – a regular occurrence in the Toronto area – the S60 will come to a complete stop! As long as the car in front moves within 3 seconds of a full-stop, the Volvo will continue following without any input from you. I tested it out on a country road. I set the cruise at 101 km/h and we drove along until we came up behind a slower-moving car. The Volvo slowed to 60 km/h when a car in front turned, but picked up speed as soon as the car immediately in front of me sped up. The scary part was when we came to a stop sign. The car in front came to a complete stop and we slowed down to 20 km/h – that’s when I chickened out and hit the brakes. I just couldn’t help myself. It’s something you really have to put a lot of faith in the car to do what it’s supposed to do and I’m not sure I could ever get comfortable with, but just imagine how awesome it is for party tricks.

Don’t tell Charlie Sheen about this! All he would have to do is get over 60 km/h, hit the cruise control and combined with the Driver Alert Control, he’d be able to stay between the lines and drive at a safe distance behind the car he’s following! Volvo takes drinking and driving to a whole new level… Party On!

The standard audio system in the T6 is a Volvo Premium Sound System, featuring a CD/DVD-video player, HD Radio, AUX and USB inputs, MP3 capability, Dolby Pro-Logic II® Surround Sound, 650-watt amplifier, 12 premium speakers, MultiEQ XT by Audyssey, along with a Volvo Navigation System with DVD map data, Real Time Traffic and voice control, Bluetooth hands-free phone with audio streaming and Sirius™ Satellite Radio. It’s a terrific sounding system that needs to be cranked up to truly appreciate its quality. I expected it to sound superb considering my Denon home theatre receiver uses the amazing Audyssey set up for perfect surround sound, and I wasn’t disappointed., Iain Shankland

Volvo is synonymous with safety and here is a small list of all the features that come standard in the S60: ABS with Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA), Optimized Hydraulic Brakes (OHB), Ready Alert Brakes (RAB) and Fading Brake Support (FBS), Inflatable Side Curtain Airbag, Whiplash Protection Seating System (WHIPS), Side Impact Protection System (SIPS), Side Impact Airbags (SIPSBAGS II™), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Advanced Stability Control, Dual Xenon Gas Discharge Headlights with Active Bending Light, Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) with sport mode, Engine immobilizer theft-deterrent system, Automatic headlight washers. Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake comes standard in the T6 and available in the S60 T5.

The Conclusion
I thoroughly enjoyed driving the S60 T6 – it’s fast and comfortable, as well as being just the right size of car and although I didn’t love it, I did like it a lot. The safety content is remarkable, but personally, I’d skip the Driver’s Support Package and spend the money elsewhere. There were just too many niggly and annoying things with it and I ended up disabling most of them after a couple of days. Yes, it’s perfect for someone like Charlie Sheen on a bender, but I fear that if we take away the basics of driving from the actual driver, we’re going to turn lazy inattentive morons into brain-dead zombies… what’s next – letting blind people drive? Aside from the safety nanny package, I’d highly recommended the car and if I was in the market for one, I’d be looking into getting a free trip over to Sweden and saving somewhere in the range of $5-10,000 by purchasing it using Volvo’s European Delivery Programme – that’s a no-brainer.

Amazing power and tons of torque – instantly
Terrific chassis and suspension
Takes safety to a whole new level

Other Volvo’s have better seats
Disappointing stereo system unless it’s cranked up
Getting too complicated
Fake wood spread liberally around the interior is hideous

Immediate Competition:
Acura TL SH-AWD, BMW 335 xDrive, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus SHO, Hyundai Genesis, Lexus IS250/350, Mercedes-Benz C350

By The Numbers…
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Powertrain:       3.0 L DOHC 24-valve Turbo-charged V-6 Engine with CVVT ; 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission; AWD
Horsepower:       300 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque lb-ft:     325 @ 2,100 rpm
0-100 kph:        5.7 seconds
Cargo Capacity:   339 L (12 cu.ft)
Curb Weight:      1,729 – 2,200 kg (3,804 – 4,840 lbs)
Towing capacity:  1,800 kg (3,300 lbs)

Fuel Consumption:  (Premium Unleaded – 91 Octane)
City:  11.3L/100 kms  //  Highway: 7.7  L/100 kms  //  Combined: 9.7 L/100 kms
I averaged 12.5 L/100 kms during city/town/highway driving with a heavy right foot.

Pricing for the 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD ($ Cdn)
Base Price: $45,450
As Tested:  $51,340 [Driver’s Support Pkg: $4,500, Metallic Paint: $750, Sleipner 18″ Alloy Wheels: $600]
Destination: $1,715

The 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD is covered by a 4-year or 80,000 km comprehensive vehicle warranty. A 4-year/unlimited km roadside assistance program is also included. (USA gets 5 years/60,000 miles – including Wear + Tear coverage…Hmmm), Iain Shankland

Copyright © 2012 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland

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