EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 22, 2013

Volvo S60 steps to higher distinction

Motor Mouth
Jeffrey Zygmont

---- — Stylish, well poised and possessing an independent, go-it-alone attitude, the Volvo S60 sedan has been a stand-out among automobiles. Updates Volvo introduced with the 2014 version this fall make the trim and capable runner stand out all the more.

For 2014, Volvo “refreshed” the S60. I put that word in quotation marks because it doesn’t say enough about the new juice Volvo pours into this car.

Typically a car company says it “refreshed” a model when it makes some cosmetic changes meant to keep the vehicle current and interesting until its next, five-year, new-generation re-make, when the entire auto is likely to change. But many refreshed cars arrive with changes so minor that only in-the-know enthusiasts, the people who are really paying attention, will notice. Often it’s something like an altered shape for the big, plastic molding around the bumper, headlights and grille, or a new pattern on the seat upholstery, or the addition of a chrome strip here and there, and maybe a new body color to choose.

The refresh on the 2014 Volvo S60 is more than that. The car remains largely the same in all the mechanical components under its skin. It gets some new features and equipment that keep it in the race to employ ever-advancing technology in areas like safety, entertainment and communication. But the most visible and vital aspect of this year’s update is all-new body panels from the windshield forward. That’s a reshaped hood, front fenders, headlights, grille, and that big plastic nose-piece.

Deeper troughs and ridges strake the hood, giving the S60 an attitude of power and progressive motion. Slimmer, more angular headlamps align with a graceful accent fold on the front fenders that manages to be both subtle and prominent at the same time. The new front end looks more elegantly elongated. It also looks sportier, more head-tossing and sassy, due to changes like a wider grille opening and lower intake that spans wide and wraps toward the wheels. Big, 17-inch alloy wheels add to the sparkle.

The result is to give the 2014 S60 a look of greater urgency and attitude. The re-styling gives more distinction to a model that already stood aloof from look-alike cars.

“They took something that was great looking and made it look even better,” said Gary Jaffarian, president and chief-executive officer of family-owned Jaffarian Volvo Toyota Scion, which has been selling Volvos in Haverhill since 1958. Jaffarian sees drivers drawn by the re-tuning of the auto’s appearance.

“It’s gone over very well. It’s almost like a relaunch of the car,” in which the entire vehicle is re-engineered, he said.

Classified as a compact car, the four-door, five-passenger S60 uses front-wheel drive, with an all-wheel-drive option available for an additional $2,000 on the base model. It is a premium-quality sport sedan. As such, the S60 delivers fast-acting engine performance from a 250-horsepower, turbocharged, in-line five-cylinder motor. It has crisp and agile road manners. Its thoughtful, functional cockpit gives drivers good command of the vehicle. As a premium sport sedan, the Volvo S60 is in the same category as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Lexus IS and Infiniti G.

Volvo sells the S60 in two levels. Above the standard, T5 model, the S60 T6 comes with a larger, 300-horsepower in-line six-cylinder engine, also turbocharged, with all-wheel drive built in as a standard feature.

At the tip-top of the S60 line, the T6 R-Design edition adds performance enhancements to boost the six-cylinder engine to 325 horsepower, tighten the steering for faster, more agile maneuvering, and stiffen the suspension for surer road grip and more athletic action. The R-Design even rides a little lower, imparting a more aggressive attitude, with styling flourishes to match.

Volvo is widely known for making family-friendly vehicles that place an extra emphasis on safety. But the S60 stands out from the Volvo lineup as a personally sized auto with flair and swagger. In the Merrimack Valley, Gary Jaffarian sees the model appealing to young singles and couples without children, to families who want a jaunty, personal-use car to counterbalance their larger hauler, and to empty-nesters who want to express their personality now that they now longer have young children to haul.

Most go with the T5, Jaffarian noted. “The T6 appeals more to the driving enthusiast who really wants the extra performance,” he explained.

Volvo positions all of its models as premium vehicles, in what is sometimes called the entry-luxury class of cars. The classification encompasses autos that are above the everyday, mass-market brands, but that don’t stretch all the way into the stratosphere of super-deluxe strutters that overload on glamor and glitz – and price.

The S60 carries all the equipment and accessories of a premium-class car. It has all the required gloss, neatness, nice design and detail work. It provides the comfort, quietness, safety and sense of sturdy security. But the one place it deviates is in its price, Jaffarian stated.

List prices for the S60 start at a little over $33,000. But, “with incentives and discounts, the transaction price today for a T5 is under $30,000,” he said. “That’s a lot of car for the money.”

What’s more, final, out-the-door prices didn’t increase with the arrival of the upgraded, 2014 version, Jaffarian said.

“The transaction price hasn’t changed, but you’re now getting more for the money,” he stated.

That more includes upgrades beyond the reshaped front of the Volvo S60. The dashboard inside is a stylish and pleasing new design in the 2014 model. Equipment has been upgraded. For example, the car’s blind-spot warning system now uses radar, instead of a camera, to give it greater range and expand its abilities with new functions, like warning you of a crossing car before you back out of a parking space. Also, additional equipment has been added. One prominent new feature, said Jaffarian, is a first-of-its-kind Internet link. Available as an option, Connected Touch works through the dash-mounted touch screen and lets driver and passenger access the Web when the car isn’t moving.

Such refreshments help assure that the Volvo S60 will continue to stand out in a class all its own.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2014 Volvo S60 Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, front- and all-wheel-drive compact sedan Price range: $33,315 to $46,615 (plus options) Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles basic warranty; 4 years/unlimited miles roadside assistance; free scheduled maintenance to 30,000 miles Base engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged I5 Power: 250 horsepower at 5,400 rpm; 266 lb.-ft. torque at 1,800 rpm Transmission: 6-speed automatic Fuel economy: 21 mpg city; 30 mpg highway Wheelbase: 109 inches Length: 183 inches Width: 73 inches Height: 58 inches Weight: 3,528 pounds Fuel capacity: 17.8 gallons Turning circle: 37.1 feet