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2012 Volvo S60 Road Test : Road & Travel Magazine's 2012 Luxury Car Buyer's Guide

2012 Volvo S60 Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 Luxury Car Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Picks

Audi A6

Infiniti M

BMW 5 Series

Jaguar XF

Chrysler 300

Hyundai Equus

Smooth operator. That's the thought that came to mind as we first put pedal to the metal in Volvo's updated 2012 S60 luxury sedan. Hmmm. Did it purr? Yes. Did it pounce when we accelerated? Definitely yes. Did it seem like a perfect balance of performance and poise? Well, we'll let you know.

The 2012 Volvo S60 R that appeared in our drive for a week's worth of road challenges wore a fiery red coat -- an attention getter all on its own. What better hue for a classic luxury car known for its track credentials from way back. This baby wants to burn, we thought. And it didn't disappoint.

The first tap on the aluminum sport pedal gave just a hint of the power underneath from its 3.0-liter, 325-horsepower inline six. Yup. We could envision flashing red and blue lights in our rear view mirror if we'd given into the temptation on the spot. We've had the thrill before of tucking an S60 tightly around a race track curve at speed -- its natural born heritage. We could wait for track time now to let it all out.

And when RTM tester Bob Plunkett took his turn in the S60  in Western Arkansas - on a "10 out of 10" rated twisty, winding road ideal for test drives with steep grades, tight hairpin curves, and swoopy dips in the pavement -- it was "hang onto your seat belt" time, he reported. The upmarket S60 didn't disappoint. He cites its "precise manners" and ability to bond to blacktop in the kind of test run that separates the wannabe's from the true thoroughbreds. Score a big one for that.

The 2012 Volvo R is the latest addition to the S60 family that was redesigned for 2011 (when it won Most Dependable category in the International Car of the Year Awards). This new vision for the Swedish auto maker's staple luxury sedan, brought a revised, streamlined style with a "just right" visual sweep from front to rear. Bathed in "passion red," with piano black gloss on the R-version front grille in the redesigned fascia, it's a beauty to behold. For 2012, the new, turbo-charged R adds the thrill of driving lean and mean to an already more than capable set of trim levels -- the base, front-drive T5 entry (2.5-liter inline5) model  and all-wheel-drive T6 (with the same base engine as the turbo-charged R) -- all mated to a six-speed auto. This added oomph to the vehicle some already call "the sportiest Volvo ever," as broadened, 3-1/2 inch exhaust tips declare its authority and 18-inch alloy wheels accentuate its no apologies stance.

Inside the S60 has that clean, uncompromising Scandinavian feel with leather, muted etched aluminum on the center console and two simple, clock-like driver information gauges surrounded by a jewel blue hue. Upmarket amenities (as standard or optional depending on model) include a high definition 7-inch monitor as the heart of the navi system, with remote operated real time traffic, backup camera and DVD mapping. Top line premium sound adds Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound. And IMAX-style sound equalizing eliminates distortion (one of only two cars anywhere to have it, says Volvo). It notes that African Zebrano-look trim, where used, is from wood grown in responsibly managed forests.

Volvos have long held a reputation for being about the safest vehicles anywhere. That's enhanced with the newest S60, with safety systems upon safety systems to the point it's hard to distinguish them apart for their fine-tuned purposes. Some examples: An active chassis that can adjust for the smallest changes in driving conditions. A system to add the controlled gripping power of torque to the outer tires to prevent the "understeer" that could let a car drift off the road in a turn. There's blind spot and front blind view camera for alerts and City Safety to prevent accidents at low speeds. And sensors that will slow or stop (up to 22 miles per hour) when the S60 senses a pedestrian ahead are the only system of its kind anywhere, according to Volvo. Those are among reasons the 2012 S60 won the top safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

S60 pricing ranges from the low $30Ks to low $40Ks. Mileage ratings of 18-city and 26-highway prove its performance mandate. Oh, and do we consider it a perfect balance of enthusiastic driving and appropriate pampering? You bet.

Visit the Volvo website, click here.