Volvo S60 D3 presents a complete packageBy Botchi Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
We’ve got safe cars. We’ve got fast cars. And we’ve got sexy cars. Thanks to advanced engineering, pedigree and the designer’s pen, all three can usually be found together. But how about adding efficient cars into the mix as well? Now that’s a tough one, especially in our traffic-ridden streets, the quest for efficiency is a difficult one indeed.
But then we have Volvo’s S60 D3 to prop itself up as the answer to all four holy grails, battling for the hearts, minds and pockets for the well-heeled, sophisticated but environmentally conscious enthusiast.
Let’s look at the shape: a slinky, sexy silhouette that looks more coupe than sedan, a sloping A-pillar, with a low roofline, gradually descending out back and with a short rump, again much like a coupe.
Then there’s the safety bit and since it’s a Volvo, you know it does this best: the S60, much like any Volvo, has a 5-star crash rating at the Euro NCAP so you know the body is tight as well as it is sexy. It got ABS-EBD brakes with electronic advanced stability control to detect and preempt skids or slides early on, and cornering traction control to improve lateral acceleration and avoid accidents. This is a vectoring system that brakes its inside wheels slightly to help the D3 rotate better around the bend, thereby eliminating understeer. Should you do decide to test your Volvo’s crash-worthiness, it’s got 6-airbags as standard: dual front airbags, dual side impact airbags and a dual curtain airbags that span the length of the A-, B- and C-pillar. And of course, Volvo’s City Safety system standard. This can detect pedestrians and slow-moving or completely stopped cars, thereby allowing the S60 to stop itself should you be too busy texting or fiddling with the excellent audio system.
But the fast AND efficient requirement? Interestingly, they are together in one package: Volvo’s D3 engine, a four-cylinder CRDi diesel displacing 2.0 liters and a single VGT turbocharger that produces 163ps and 400 Newton-Meters of torque through the front wheels. Interestingly enough, the D3 only loses 5 percent of torque from its big brother S60 D5, and only 10 percent less than the fire-breathing T6 gasoline variant.
The 6-speed Geartronic transmission with manual mode is surprisingly refined yet responsive, much better than previous Geartronic transmissions in older Volvos, and a perfect match to the D3’s power delivery. The low-end torque is more than ample for city driving, particularly cut and thrust traffic situations, but out on the highway, the Volvo seems a bit beyond its depth, preferring to cruise serenely at a steady 120-140 kph at best. It’s not the engine that loses its breath, but the suspension that loses its composure as the less than perfect surface, with its dips and wallows, tends to catch the S60 off-guard and your driving serenity disturbed. But all is fair, it’s not a street racer as much as it is a sexy urban cruiser.
But everything inside is quite divine. It has that classy, simple interior reminiscent of IKEA furniture to this day, but so much more classy, like a modern lounge atop a skyscraper where friends can unwind after a long day of work. It feels familiar, and the center console, with its mobile-phone like alphanumeric keypad and the almost invisible storage bin behind it still looks cool as ever. All the controls seem out of place, but soak in the cabin experience and their placement and ease of reach slowly start to make perfect sense as well. Effortless is perhaps its best description. Volvo’s SENSUS display system is stacked high up on the dash and allows drivers to view it briefly without straying too far from the line of sight, displaying audio and a/c settings clearly and legibly.
Everything is covered in grey leather, and the dashboard has high-quality soft-touch grey plastic, but with silver accents to liven it up. It feels sparse in a classy and elegant way rather than bare. A handsome 3-spoke steering wheel adjusts for both reach and rake, and with the seat set low, you feel like you’re inside a touring car hammering it past, err, parked buses on EDSA and avoiding potholes like you’re slipstreaming behind slower cars. It’s the driving position that gets you in the mood, and the low-down grunt makes you feel invincible. If you can’t beat the urban rat race on the streets, you’ll win it with less pit stops because the D3 is fueled at a miserly 9 km/liter with moderately hard driving, and will probably slip to an even better 10-11 km/liter with more careful, non-qualifying pace style driving. If the D3 had the T6’s suspension and the bigger 18-inch wheels, it would be even better.
But it has its faults. The steering feels too light and over-assisted. At speeds, and when you apply lock, it weighs in better, but still lacking in a BMW’s organic feel. The brake pedal is quite light too and not as easy to modulate especially when you’re driving fast. At speed (once again, and you’ll get there thanks to the D3’s power) the brakes are somewhat difficult to modulate and guesstimate as the soft suspension pitches and dives forward far more under heavy braking, relieving the rear end more of braking effort, and transferring stress further to the front end. Fast drivers should leave a little more room ahead of you when braking. But in hindsight, the typical Volvo driver profile isn’t a speed demon or a canyon carver or a track-meister, but an urban cruiser that is safe, sexy, surprisingly fast and very efficient.
In a sea of Audis, BMW’s, Mercs and now newcomer Lexus, Volvo once again makes its mark by being very different, and this time, despite some niggles, a surprisingly complete package.
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