A naughty Volvo, who knew? The Swedish company has flirted with turbocharging over the years, attaching the R logo to the resulting limited-edition, turbocharged cars. R is to Volvo as M is to BMW and AMG to Mercedes. The S60 T6 R-Design, the most powerful production Volvo, fits right in with those rapid German sedans.
The S60 T6 was the previous showcase of Volvo's performance prowess. The T6 nomenclature announces the presence of a turbocharged six-cylinder engine, in this case Volvo's own inline unit displacing 3.0-litres and producing a healthy 300 horsepower. The R-Design version is new for 2012 and bumps that horsepower total to 325 while putting out 9 per cent more torque.
Polestar, a little Swedish tuning company with close ties to Volvo, made the modifications, mostly through reprogramming the engine control module. As has been the case since the first attempt to get more power out of the internal combustion engine, the process involved getting more air/fuel into the combustion chamber and advancing the spark to the maximum amount possible without creating issues. The result is instant gratification when you exercise your right foot.
Nail the throttle and the S60 T6 R-Design will accelerate from rest to 100 km/h in 5.1 seconds – pretty exclusive territory. Obviously, passing or climbing hills are a breeze. Power delivery is strong throughout each gear with no sign of letup well into triple digits.
But the R-Design is more than an added dash of power. The extra 25 horses and one-half second chopped from the 0-100 time are worth bragging about, but that alone does not cover the effort put into this limited edition car.
The S60's basic design has been left unaltered, but there are subtle touches that tell a Volvo enthusiast – yes there are such people – this one is special, including a new body-coloured front bumper, big 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, an updated rear bumper with stabilizing fins, a small spoiler and a pair of 90-mm exhaust outlets. Look even more closely and you'll see the R-Design sits lower than its T6 sibling, looking more aggressive in the process.
Inside, the differences are just as subtle; the most obvious are badges on the steering wheel and seat backs. The minimalist Swedish design cleverly hides the fact that all the bells and whistles are here – just not in the form of “bling” preferred by some.
Alongside safety, excellent seats are another Volvo characteristic and here again there were no surprises, just excellent support and day-long comfort. The front seats are adjustable in eight directions including adjustable lumbar support. Visibility is excellent in all directions. Space in the rear seat is somewhat cramped but no more so than the competition. That seat back folds flat to augment trunk space, which is also class-competitive.
The thick steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach and contains controls for audio, wireless connectivity and cruise control. One area where the contemporary Swedish design is clearly evident, with emphasis on “clear” are the instruments. A pair of highly legible, watch-like faces are a combination of blue and white with floating indicators. Within each lie readouts for further information.
There is a big (7-inch) LCD screen atop the centre stack, slanted toward the driver, which shows the navigation, HVAC, audio and vehicle information as well as the view from the rear-view camera. Controls for the HVAC and audio systems are large and highly legible.
In addition to the Blind Spot Information System, the T6 R-Design is loaded with other modern electronic aids, including: City Safety pedestrian detection system, Collision Warning, Lane Departure warning, Driver Alert and Active Bending Lights.
Polestar did a fine job tweaking the 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged inline-six for R-Design duty. The added 25 horsepower and 29 lb-ft of torque are appreciated but what is more evident is how the added torque is spread across a wider rev range giving more punch down low. Left to its own devices, the six and six-speed automatic can propel this vehicle from rest to 100 km/h in a shade over five second and through the quarter-mile in 13.5. That is serious power! Yet it is delivered with the silky smoothness inherent in an inline-six.
The electric power steering is very good in terms of feedback and assist but a little light at higher speeds. The R-Design moves the needle on the scale past the 3,900-pound mark with more than 60 per cent of that on the front wheels so it does understeer when pressed in the turns. That is mitigated a great deal by the torque-vectoring ability of the all-wheel-drive system. By applying slight brake pressure to an inside wheel and more power to the outside one, it helps pull/push the T6 around the corner. The brakes are powerful, progressive and capable of coping with the stunning speed this little Volvo can achieve.
What we have here is a competent compact, high-performance luxury sedan for those who wish to be different.
2012 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design
Type: Four-door sports sedan
Price: $59,470 as tested, (including freight)
Engine: 3.0-litre, turbocharged, inline-six-cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 300 hp/354 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.3 city/7.7 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: Audi S4, BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Lexus IS-F, Mercedes C63AMG