2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD: ‘S’ as in safe, sexy, surefooted


Volvo S60 T5 AWD

2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD (Click on photo to enlarge)

If you have an interest in genealogy Park City, Utah is within 30 minutes of Salt Lake City’s Mormon headquarters, one of the world’s great repositories of individual and family ancestry. Of course, this expansive vault of historical lineage is limited to human ancestry; if researching the history of, say, Volvo in the U.S. you’d best go elsewhere. Our research of Volvo took us to Park City for a look at the Swede’s latest offspring, the 2013 S60 T5 AWD. And while the S60 sheetmetal is relatively new, and the availability of all-wheel drive in its entry-level T5 is brand new, the Volvo ancestry is clearly evident with each turn of the S60 wheel.

The modern Volvo (‘modern’ and ‘Volvo’ no longer constitute an oxymoron) began with the mid-sixties introduction of the 142 and 144 sedans. Those Volvos previously exported to the U.S., the PV444 and PV544, had roots dating back to World War II – and looked it. With a front-mounted four cylinder driving a live rear axle, and upright three-box architecture inspired – presumably – by a three-box phone booth, the 144 4-door didn’t establish any design benchmarks, but the thoroughness (and thoughtfulness) of its design fully established Volvo on this side of the Atlantic. The 140-series inspired the still-conventional 240. The 240 led to the front-wheel drive 850 (retaining traditional upright bodywork), the more organic V70 and (finally) the all-modern S60. Penned by British designer Peter Horbury, the S60 was Volvo’s first 4-door to essentially throw away the box the mechanicals came in.

The S60’s second chapter, launched in 2011, takes all that’s good with the original S60 and improves upon it, with more interior room, an aggressively refreshed stance and – thankfully – a little more connectivity between you and the road. And with the introduction of all-wheel drive on the entry-level T5 for 2013, that connectivity only gets better.

Outwardly, you’ll note little differentiation between front-wheel and all-wheel drive other than the AWD lettering attached to the Volvo’s rear deck. And while our test route – a 200-mile loop beginning and ending in Park City – and July date didn’t include inclement weather or surfaces, the Volvo’s Haldex all-wheel drive provides better balance in all conditions while (obviously) maximizing traction on wet/slick surfaces.

Volvo S60 T5 interior

Volvo S60 T5 interior (Click image to enlarge)

Inside, our test Volvo’s leather seating surfaces proved supportive over the route’s four-hour duration. You won’t, to be sure, spec this interior for its overt lateral support, but then, the S60 is rarely purchased for track days. We found the instrumentation informative, the instrument panel’s centerstack relatively intuitive and the upper dash area regrettably bland. Also, what we assume is a leather-wrapped steering wheel would benefit from someone’s visit to a saddlery; the leather seemed almost synthetic and unnecessarily slick.

Beyond the addition of all-wheel drive (a stand-alone $2,000 option), the 2013 S60 T5 benefits from a host of additional adds or modifications. Its turbocharged 2.5 liter inline five receives an increased compression ratio which, along with reduced internal friction, takes almost a half second from the 0-60 time of a front-wheel drive S60 (6.8 seconds previously, 6.4 for 2013). In addition to the performance improvements are a host of safety, convenience and trim mods, including rain sensor windshield wipers, headlight washers, dual polished exhaust pipes and optional heated rear seats. And, of course, there is for 2013 a new trim level strategy, with ‘Premier’, ‘Premier Plus’ and ‘Platinum’ trims affording you all of the kit you can, well, afford.

Even with the addition of optional all-wheel drive, the T5 remains the most rational – and affordable – of the S60 variants available in the U.S. For 2013 the front-wheel drive S60 T5 can be had for under $33K (with transportation), while the T5 Platinum with available all-wheel drive would top out at just over $40K. Of course, the S60 T6, equipped with a turbocharged inline six, starts at over $40,000, and can flirt with $50K once you’ve added a few (for the market) ‘essentials’.

None of the above price points, of course, would stop a BMW or Audi prospect. Given the S60’s distinctive design and (newly available) traction, neither should it deter Volvo enthusiasts, be they old-school loyalists or financially-fulfilled members of Gen X.