The 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design

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The Volvo S60 T6 AWD has been revered by countless automotive industry analysts as a phenomenal sports sedan that appears to do it all. In comparison to industry competitors, the Volvo S60 has impressed with its handling prowess, straight line performance, driver comfort, and exceptional value. The S60 offers a value that includes a banquet of safety features that would cost thousands more in options to acquire from another manufacturer. Competing with the likes of the Audi A4, the BMW 335i, and the Mercedes C300, the Volvo has some very pertinacious competition. Each of these cars features their own distinct characteristics and individual advantages, all appealing to a slightly different niche. The Volvo has a beautiful balance of style, practicality, and convivial drivability.

The latest S60, the S60 R-Design takes this fun-loving drivability and pushes it to the max. Deemed Volvo’s “Naughty Sedan”, the R-Design certainly lives up to its new nomen. The virgin S60 T6 AWD makes 300hp and 325 ft-lbs of torque while the R-Design features an ECM tune that increases turbo boost, fuel delivery, and encourages sharper throttle responsiveness yielding a 25hp increase and 29 ft-lbs of additional torque. The extra power shaves about .3 seconds off of the T6’s 5.8 second 0-60 time (The R launches itself to 60mph in 5.5 seconds). The R-Design achieves 18mpg city and 26mpg highway to boot.

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The “R” also features a re-engineered suspension designed to enhance performance. Equipped with 15mm shorter, 15% stiffer springs, firmer bushings, and more travel in the shocks themselves, the S60 produces consistent launches and carves turns with the best of them. Monotube rear shocks replace the twin tubes in the T6 and the “R” receives a beefier front anti-roll bar and a front strut tower brace. The S60 also showcases a transformed steering column that features a superior steering ratio that utilizes a hunkered down MacPherson strut and rear multi-links further heightening driver feedback. To aid in responsiveness the S60 brandishes a torque vectoring system that moves torque to outside wheels to help steer the car inward and combat understeer. Although the R-Design is equipped with an advanced traction control system, it has a very high threshold for race on Sunday, drive on Monday hoonage. The S60 R-Design is a phenomenal blend of practicality and athleticism that is intended to mirror Volvo’s fervent racing heritage in a streetable package. The “R” however, is not intended to compete with the likes of the M3 or S4 as they play on a very different field and can cost upwards of 10-20 thousand more than an R-Design.

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When it comes to the transmission the S60 is solely equipped with an automatic appropriation appointed with a manual “select-shift” style lever. Now before manual shifting purists stop reading, this manual mode is actually pretty slick, with concise rapid upshifts and expeditious downshifts. Why not a compromise with paddle shifters? Volvo says their customer base hasn’t asked for them, not to mention the additional R&D cost for safety certification, changes to the steering column, etc. For now, paddle shifting doesn’t make sense for Volvo, but I hope that it will someday soon. Although the shifts are rapid and explicit, the shift-lever/center console ergonomics are awkward.

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On the outside, the S60 R-Design showcases continuous deliberate bodylines that highlight Volvo’s traditional “broad shoulders” while deviating from the boxy “turbo bricks” of yore. In comparison to the T6, the R-Design features revised front and rear fascias and rides on aluminum 18 inch rims finished in an attractive graphite color. The S60 is a sophisticated sports sedan that dons an aggressively sloping roofline, a sleek nose, and a contemporary interior that appeals to trendy 30 somethings that use words like “panache” and pronounce “niche” like it has four E’s and an SH in it. The R-Design further drives Volvo into a more youthful market and that’s a good thing for Volvo, which has been plagued by middle-aged conservative buyers for some time. The Chief designer of the S60 said Volvo’s aim was to “pump up the volume” and to make it look more like a coupe. To me, it seems they accomplished their mission, and then some. From the trapezoidal intakes in the front fascia to the symmetrically angled LEDs on the front end that resembles a shark nose, the S60 makes an impression. While there aren’t radical fender flares or side pipe exhaust outlets, the S60’s reserved styling hides the S60’s best secret, its imposing powerplant that will only to be exposed to those that taunt it.

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The interior of the S60 features contemporary aluminum trim, a cohesive floating “waterfall” center stack, and a beefy steering wheel dressed in leather and aluminum that looks like it was sculpted from a solid block. The “R” also showcases racy blue gauges that make it feel uniquely special in comparison to its T6 counterpart. The aluminum inlays, instrumentation, leather, pedals, steering wheel and shift lever are unique to the R, and the moonroof and power passenger seat are standard features. The R-Design features nicely bolstered leather seating with R-Design logos embossed throughout. Volvo has long been renowned for their inviting and comfortable seats but the reasoning for this is not common knowledge. Since Volvo builds its “WHIPS” system (Volvo’s whiplash avoidance system) into the frame of each seat, Volvo is forced to produce their own seats unlike most other manufacturers that outsource the production of their seats. Through this, Volvo has become known for their exceptional seat quality. As a young boy (I was a unique young boy who read car magazines rather than children’s books), I can recall reading that a Swedish gentlemen had fitted his movie theatre with Volvo S80 seats as he felt they were the most comfortable seats a person could dream of. This obviously made an impression on me and I think it probably made an impression on the Swedish public too since Volvo has never wavered in the comfort of their seats.

As far as safety goes, Volvo would never let a car hit production without an exemplary safety rating. On average Volvo crashes several hundred cars on one model before it’s even considered for public consumption. The S60 is no exception and features one of the most (if not the most) advanced crash avoidance systems to date. The Volvo S60 and XC60 pioneered Volvo’s accident avoidance system with the ability to stop the car completely below the speed of 22mph. It is proven that most accidents happen within this speed range and has drastically reduced the average amount of accidents that happen in these cars. In comparison, you will find that insurance cost is much lower for the S60 than its competitors. This is due, in part because of its ability to avoid accidents and also because of its lower maintenance cost compared to its competition. The S60 also features front, side, and overhead airbags to cushion any possible incident. Please, tell me more about why your Audi’s LED headlights and inflated price tag make it better than my Volvo.

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Conclusively, the S60 really does a wonderful job of what it sets out to achieve and is impressively appointed for its price. The entry level S60 starts at $31,150 while the R-Design starts at $42,950. The S60 is equipped with Volvo’s “Safe and Secure” warranty plan that includes free scheduled maintenance for the first five years or 50,000 miles and a wear and tear coverage plan in addition to roadside assistance. The S60 features spritely, consistent power output and unparalleled safety. For the money, I can’t think of a better car to take the kids to school in during the week and school some grown men on the track over the weekend.


Base Price: $42,950

0-60 Time: 5.5 seconds

Horsepower: 325hp

Torque: 354 ft-lbs

Assembled In Belgium

Credits: Emmett Vick and


One thought on “The 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design

  1. Pingback: Volvo Polestar S60 | Driven

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