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A Real Swedie Pie: The 2012 Volvo S60

The 2012 Volvo S60

Well, this certainly isn’t your old psychology professor’s Volvo. You remember him: pipe, corduroy jacket, and his car—a very square-shaped forest green Volvo 244 with seats the color of a basketball. The bad news is that the new 2012 Volvo S60 doesn’t come in green; the good news is that you can still get that great old basketball-colored upholstery, which is officially called “Beechwood Brown.”

There’s not much, really, that’s the same as those old square Volvos. Except for the fact that the manufacturer is still very much dedicated to safety. Listeners to NPR’s Car Talk show are familiar with Volvo’s reputation for safety. Caller after caller will say, “We’re looking for a used car to send our son/daughter off to college in. What should we buy?” And time and time again the answer is a Volvo. They’ve enjoyed a reputation as tanks over the years. A quick scan of the newspaper classified ads will inevitably show a few Volvos from the 1980s (and maybe even the 1970s) with mileage in the six-figure range going for way more money than most people would expect. But they’ll sell, because they have a tank-like reputation, and it’s well earned.

So what about the all-new S60? Size-wise, it fits in the middle of the Swedish manufacturer’s sedan lineup, between the compact S40 and the larger S80. Although Volvo’s model naming system is rather dull, it’s sensible. The S-class are sedans; V-class is for wagons; XCs are crossovers; and Cs are either coupes or convertibles. The S60 seats five; although three-across in the backseat might be a bit tight for grownups, four will be very comfortable. I had plenty of legroom, and the shape of the roof, while it looks low from the outside, still allows for my six-foot frame not to hit the ceiling. One feature I liked, and one which will probably really be appreciated by shorter drivers, is a button on the dash which lowers the rear-seat headrests to provide an unobstructed view out the back window when no one is sitting back there. Naturally there’s a slew of safety features on the S60 besides the disappearing headrests. There’s a whiplash protection system built into the sport seats; a city safety system which monitors traffic in front of you at low speeds and keeps track of how much braking you’ll need before you run into them, and automatically brakes if it senses an imminent collision; ABS; stability control; and of course the usual air bags and side curtains. Other safety features are optional: pedestrian detection with full auto brake; collision warning with full auto brake, which works at any speed; blind spot information system; and adaptive cruise control, which maintains the space between you and the car in front of you.

Driving the front-wheel-drive S60 was a pleasant surprise. Truthfully, I hadn’t been in a Volvo in 20 years or so, and Greg Schmidt at Northtown Volvo in Williamsville showed me that this one was much more fun. The standard 2.5-liter, 250-horsepower, five-cylinder turbocharged engine, coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, is very responsive. (All-wheel-drive models come with a 300-horsepower, six-cylinder engine.) The seats are very comfortable, and with the eight-way power adjustments anyone should be able to find a good driving position. The steering and suspension combine for a sporty drive without being harsh. EPA estimates for the 2.5-liter are 20/30 city/highway.

Other standard equipment on the S60 includes: 60/40 split-folding rear seat; flat-folding front passenger seat; USB and iPod connectors for the HD radio/audio/DVD player; electronic climate control; steering wheel-mounted audio controls; 17-inch alloy wheels; heated outside mirrors; halogen headlamps; LED taillamps; and my favorite—a puddle light, which is just what it sounds like.

Pricing for the S60 which I drove was $31,850. If you’re reading this online, the link to the test car is here:

Like they say in their brochure: “Sexy. Volvo. Same sentence.” Who’d’ve thought?

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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