2012 Volvo S60 R-Design review: More than expected

2012 Volvo S60 R-Design

2012 Volvo S60 R-Design

It wasn’t what we expected from the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design. We didn’t expect, for example, that the R-Design would be anything but at most a trim package, with special wheels and special seats, a fillip here and a flourish there. But mechanically unchanged. We were wrong.

The Volvo S60 R-Design is new for 2012, a new model level for the Volvo S60 that’s more than just trim. Not that the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design doesn’t have evident changes outside. The R-Design gets a unique front fascia and grille, decklid spoiler and rear diffuser and 18-inch wheels. Inside there’s a sport steering wheel and heavily bolstered front seats, and the instruments have been given a blue tint.

2012 Volvo S60 R-Design interior

Thje 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design has special sport front seats and steering wheel.

Normally, that’s where a trim level or trim package with “Design” in its name would stop. Not so the Volvo S60 R-Design. Volvo lowered the ride height by 0.6 inches and firmed up springing by 15 percent. Suspension bushing are stiffer and Volvo added a front strut-tower brace to handle all of the stiffening up going on all around. The firmer suspension, however, means that the Four-C adjustable chassis system goes by the bye though all-wheel drive remains.

All that’s not a surprise, perhaps. What’s unlikely, however, is the engine tune the S60 R-Design gets. Volvo’s cross-mounted turbocharged inline six gets more boost, with max pressure bumped up from 13.1 to 14.5 psi, and spark time concurrently advanced. The innards were sufficiently stout as to be left unchanged, but the increase in boost means horsepower goes from the 300 horses of the regular turbo six up to 325. What, more power? Yes, and torque rises as well, from 325 to 354 lb-ft. And for once, we get the good stuff and the rest of the world doesn’t. The engine mods are limited to U.S. and Canadian market cars.

It’s not free, of course. Premium fuel is required, unlike the regular Volvo T60 that just needs, well, regular. Fuel economy is unchanged, however, still at 18/26 mpg city/highway. During our weeklong test we recorded 18.5 mpg, though our test venue includes hills and a driver who indulges the passions of his right foot.

2012 Volvo S60 R-design engine

An extra 25 horsepower was gained by increasing the turbo boost in the 3.0-liter inline six of the 2012 Volvo S60 R-design.

Those passions weren’t unrequited. The engine responds with considerable urge and turbo lag is, well, there’s isn’t any. The in-line six is in-line six smooth, one of the rewards for Volvo having stuffed the engine crosswise under the hood. We can’t tell you how much faster the R-Design is compared to the standard T-6, but the extra horses and torque have to make a difference. The S60 R-Design lacks not for merging ability, though, nor for, um, sporting behavior.

The engine is quieter than we would like, however. Something as sexy as the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design should make sexy noises as well.

A six-speed automatic transmission is standard and it’s manually shiftable, but only with the shift lever on the console. Shift paddles it doesn’t have. Shifting is quick enough, however, that we didn’t list it as a complaint. Steering was sharp enough in daily and even sport driving.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.

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