The Volvo S60 sat out the 2010 model year in preparation for the all-new 2011 model, but Volvo isn't taking any more time off in regards to its entry-level sedan which is evident by the new R-Design package introduced for 2012. After spending years making a name for itself with safe, family vehicles, the addition of the 2012 S60 R-Design is a better way for Volvo to diversify itself in a market where all cars are getting safer every year. Volvo recently dropped off its souped-up S60 for this weeklong road test and review, and the aggressive styling, sportier stance and improved performance showed that Volvo is more than capable of taking on luxury automakers from Japan and Germany. In addition to the 2012 S60, Volvo is also applying the R-Design treatment to the C30, XC60 and the XC90.
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Road Test and Review
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
Assembled in Ghent, Belgium, the 2012 Volvo S60 is offered in three trim levels (T5, T6 AWD and R-Design) with prices starting at $31,150. Moving up the performance ladder, the S60 R-Design carries a higher price tag of $42,500, and our test car got even pricier with a handful of options and a $46,875 as-tested price (including the $875 destination charge). Even at this price, the S60 R-Design offers plenty of value over the competition as it includes options such as navigation and a premium audio system as well as innovative safety features.
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Review: Competition
In its base form, the S60 competes in a relatively well-stocked market, but with its added performance and all-wheel drive, the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design is gunning for cars like the BMW 335i xDrive, Infiniti G37x and the Audi A4 with quattro. The addition of new models like the R-Design and the base T5 is not only helping make the S60 more competitive in its class, it has also helped make this new car the best-selling Volvo in the U.S. for 2011 with 17,545 units sold through October. While these figures pale in comparison to some other luxury automakers, it would appear the new S60 is only the starting point for Volvo as it gains more independence under its new parent company, Geely Automobile.
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Review: Exterior
The 2012 Volvo S60 is already one of the best-looking cars in its class, but the R-Design package kicks things up a notch. The unique C-pillar design and almost-nonexistent decklid give all S60 models a sporty, coupe-like appearance, but the R-Design package adds a lower ride height, a unique body kit and exclusive wheels. Up front, the S60 R-Design comes standard with bi-Xenon headlights and a new front fascia design with more aggressive air inlets, while the rear fascia is trimmed with a matte-finish diffuser and rounded dual exhaust outlets. Body-colored rocker panels, silver mirror caps and 18-inch, five-spoke wheels finish off the new look. Our test car was painted in Passion Red which is a color specific to S60 R-Design, but the car is also offered in four additional colors.
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Review: Interior
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Review: Interior Packages and Options
Despite its more expensive starting price, the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design does not offer any additional options or packages meaning that aside from the R-Design styling and performance upgrades, you aren’t getting any added technology for your extra $11,350. Our test car added the $2,700 Multimedia Package as well as the $800 Climate Package. The Multimedia Package adds navigation, rear park assist and a premium audio system with Dolby surround sound, while the Climate Package adds the interior air quality system (IAWS), heated front seats, heated washer nozzles, heated headlight washers and rain-sensing wipers, Other available options include the $2,100 Technology Package and a $1,800 Rear Seat Entertainment System.
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
Powering the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design is a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six that has been tuned to produced 325 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. This increase of 25 horsepower and 19 lb-ft over the regular S60 T6 model is a result of the upgraded engine control module which has been remapped by Polestar - a Swedish company that focuses on racing and performance products. The new ECM gives the engine better air/fuel mixtures and advances the timing, but more importantly, all of these gains are made without compromising fuel economy. Like the T6 AWD model, the S60 R-Design has the same EPA fuel economy estimates of 18 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg in combined driving. Sadly, there is no manual gearbox offered in the S60 meaning that the R-Design's sole transmission is the same six-speed "Geartronic" automatic used in the lower trim levels. While it's a smooth-shifting transmission, it does not offer paddle shifters or full manual capabilities that would match the S60 R-Design's purpose.
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Review: Driving Impressions
Along with the more powerful engine, the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design received some exclusive suspension tuning to improve the handling characteristic of the car. The biggest changes were to the rear suspension setup which replaces the S60’s twin-tube dampers with a more responsive monotube damper; up front, an under-hood strut brace provides further body rigidity for improved handling. Having only had the opportunity to drive a base 2011 S60 in short parking lot jaunts for safety demonstrations, it is hard to say how much stiffer the R-Design's suspension really is, but this car is very well-mannered in everyday driving while also being able to tackled sharp turns without a problem. Despite upgrades to almost all aspects of the car in terms of performance in one way or another, one glaring omission is the lack of an upgraded brake system. No, Volvo isn't selling the S60 R-Design as a track car and in the city driving we did, the brakes felt just fine, but throwing on bigger brakes or even a grippier Brembo brake system could have made the R-Design that much better.
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Review: Safety
The 2012 Volvo S60 has yet to be crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave it full "Good" ratings and named it a Top Safety Pick. All 2012 S60 models include six airbags, active front head restraints, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system with brake assist, Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Cotnrol (DTSC), and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Like all S60 models, Volvo's City Safety is standard equipment adding a low speed crash deterrent in the case where drivers are either distracted or just don’t react fast enough.
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Review: Final Thoughts
Safety will, without a doubt, always be a key sales point to Volvo cars and crossovers, but it is good to see the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design bring a little excitement into the mix. Volvo hit a homerun right out of the box with the redesigned S60 last year, but by adding a few extra horses under the hood and retuning the suspension, Volvo managed to give the 2012 S60 R-Design performance abilities that match the car's athletic looks. Considering the fact that Volvo touts the S60 R-Design as its most powerful production vehicle ever, this car is still a surprisingly safe and practical family car that can be driven every day.
2012 Volvo S60 R-Design Review: Pros and Cons
- sleek exterior styling
- priced competitively among sporty all-wheel drive sedans
- improved performance and handling without sacrificing fuel economy
- luxurious interior
- smaller cabin than most rivals
- sport seats lack support and compromise comfort
- transmission does not offer paddle shifters or full manual capabilities
Volvo provided the vehicle for this review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross