First drive: Volvo S60 2011 at Dubai Autodrome
It is rather amazing how some car manufacturers are actually going backwards in design and creating dullards like the “all-new” VW Passat, the Audi A6 and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. And then there are some manufacturers whose newest models pretty much look as if they belong at an auto show as a concept car. Like the Infiniti M, the Hyundai Sonata, the Kia Optima, and now the 2011 Volvo S60.
The Volvo S60 debuted quite a while ago elsewhere, and it turns out all the “big” local media already drove the car during a free trip to Europe. That means the remaining few of us losers showed up for the UAE launch at the Dubai Autodrome. However, we got a closer look at the car thanks to that.
The S60 is one of those quirky cars that fall between the compact and the midsize categories, being 4 inches longer than the BMW 3-Series and 8 inches shorter than the Nissan Maxima. It seemingly also competes between the price ranges of those two cars, with features to match.
Space up front is great, while space in the back is just about adequate for most people, although freakishly tall people may complain due to the swoopy roofline. We appreciate that Volvo does not call the car a “four-door coupe” though.
The interior is pretty in a ‘European’ sort of way, certainly better than the staid nonsense that the Germans are chucking into their smaller cars nowadays. Materials are excellent, with soft-touch all over the doors and upper dash, with some hard plastics relegated to lower parts of the dash. The “floating” centre console returns, and that piece can be specified in graphite, possibly-fake wood and charcoal colours. Even the cabin can be had in either black or a choice of amazing orange-brown and creamy-white upholstery. And all cars get an LCD screen, although its purpose varies depending on trim.
The S60 2.0T sits on a front-wheel-drive platform with a base 200 hp 2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder engine, while the S60 T6 tacks on an all-wheel-drive system with its 300 hp 3.0-litre turbo 6-cylinder engine. Both inline engines are very competent in terms of power, as we found out on the track.
The track session was a bit of a bust. The usual convoy-following-the-instructor rules were applied, which are generally fun because the instructor usually pushes the limits. But the instructor will only go as fast as the slowest car in the convoy. And the first car after the instructor’s happened to be piloted by some Gulf News journalist who seemingly never drove a car above 100 kph before, let alone take turns quickly. Out of five laps, we got maybe half-a-lap that was actually speedy, and I was behind the wheel of the S60 2.0T. The car handled very well, even if it understeered at the limit, and had enough power to be entertaining. Automatic gear-shifts were smooth, the steering was direct and the brakes were competent. Hot laps in an S60 T6 driven by an instructor revealed an even faster car that handled similarly.
There was also a ride-along “City Safety” demonstration. The car can hit the brakes at the last minute up to 30 kph if a pedestrian or car is in front and a distracted driver doesn’t touch the brakes. Also, the higher models get optional adaptive cruise control that can even crawl along in traffic, coming to a complete stop as needed and taking off again. All one needs to do is steer. Volvo remains the safest car you can buy at its price.
The S60 2.0T can be had for between Dhs 139,900 and 169,000, depending on which of the three trim levels are chosen, the top trim dubbed as “Prestige.” The S60 T6 AWD can only be had in the top “Prestige” trim level, at Dhs 199,900. The “Prestige” model gets larger wheels, leather, navigation, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, adaptive HID headlights, sunroof and more. For a limited time, Volvo is offering a mild silver body kit worth Dhs 6,500 for free. Not a bad way to spend that much dough, considering how much the competition costs.
Photos by Faisal Khatib.