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In Mountain Twisties Volvo S60 is Planted

By KATE McLEOD, August 11th, 2012

Deplaning from a long flight always brings relief -- your legs still hold you up -- and you can breathe again. You're as free as a bird. Those feelings soar when greeted at the terminal with the keys to a full-size luxury sedan.

Manufacturer photo: For the first time, Volvo's All-Wheel Drive with Instant Traction is available on the value-leading S60 T5
Manufacturer photo: For the first time, Volvo's All-Wheel Drive with Instant Traction is available on the value-leading S60 T5

Having landed in Salt Lake we were directed to drive to Park City, Utah in the new 2013 Volvo S80. Volvo's 300-horsepower S80 is packed with technology and appointments informed with a Swedish sensibility. The cabin is understated, elegant and impressively quiet. It's tuned with a confident performance edge that does not sacrifice a comfortable ride.

But the S80 is not the main story for Volvo. Sales of the S80 barely register compared to Volvo's two leading stars -- the S60 and the long-in-the-tooth, but very popular XC90. The 60 series car and the XC60 crossover represent about 60 percent of total Volvo sales in the U.S.

Volvo's midsize 2013 S60 sedan is my main purpose in coming to Utah. One male automotive journalist told me at the end of our day-long trek in the S60 T6 AWD that he would have wished for a little more power. Not me.

I felt that its 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine with 250 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque, benefiting from a 15 percent increase in turbo boost pressure to 15 PSI along with a reduction of internal friction, was ample for me when I needed it. And my requirement for stability, power and braking occurred moment-to-moment as I twisted and turned around sharp corners in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache Mountain Range through some of the most compelling scenery in the U.S.

Manufacturer photo: For the first time, Volvo's All-Wheel Drive with Instant Traction is available on the value-leading S60 T5

The S60 T6 AWD and the S60 T6 AWD R-Design come equipped with a 3.0-liter turbocharged engine that puts out 325 horses and 354 lb.-ft. of torque. The drive of the S60 is enhanced by Volvo's Geartronic transmission with sport mode, as well as its dynamic stability and traction control.

Along with the sport feel of the S60, Volvo continues its focus on safety. The automaker was first to include pedestrian detection with full auto brake on its vehicles. This radar and camera-based system can detect pedestrians in front of the car, warn the driver if anyone walks out into its path and then, brake to a full stop if the driver fails to respond in time.

Pedestrian detection is part of the optional Technology Package that also includes adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, driver alert control, lane departure warning and active high beam, which dims when in view of an oncoming vehicle.

Feeling rich at every touch point, the S60 presents value; many standard features come at a competitive price. Some of the features include rain sensors, headlight washers, power passenger seat, keyless drive, power glass moonroof, and more controls on the steering wheel.

Prices for the Volvo S60 range from $41,345 for the base model T6 AWD to $47,495 for the R-Design Platinum. The S60 T5 starts at $32,645 and runs up to $38,695 for the Platinum model. It compares favorably to other vehicles in the premium midsize segment from Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, BMW and Infiniti.

Manufacturer photo: For the first time, Volvo's All-Wheel Drive with Instant Traction is available on the value-leading S60 T5

As I crossed over the border into Wyoming, my driving companion and I weren't expecting much when we pulled into Evanston's Mini Mart -- part bar, part pool hall, part lunch and fuel stop. But with New Jersey plates on our T6, we found ourselves being chatted up by patrons. The mini mart owner asked about the car.

"I owned a Volvo back in the 60s -- I loved that car," she said wistfully. We persuaded her to leave the cash register and step into the new T6. "That's a Volvo," she said. "I need a new car."

Perhaps the owner of Evanston's will buy a Volvo if she gets the asking price of her "For Sale" business -- $200,000.

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