A beautiful car with an identity crisis When Volvo announced the return of the letter “R”, in this case the R-Design line, I could hardly contain my excitement.
Volvos have never really been known to be performance-oriented beasts. The S60R from nearly a decade ago came pretty close, and to this day remains my personal favourite. When Volvo announced the return of the letter “R”, in this case the R-Design line, I could hardly contain my excitement. Fast forward to April 2013; Volvo Canada offered me the opportunity to test-drive the 2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design for just about 10 days, and I had the chance to determine just how much (or how little) this car stacked up against my expectations.
The styling of the S60 R-Design is definitely understated. As always, Volvo went for a conservative yet beautifully elegant design both inside and out. The S60 is less outspoken than a 3-series, C-Class, or even the seemingly modest Audi A4. I personally adored the regular S60 T5 when I drove it a few months ago; not because it did some things better than others, but because it’s an outstanding car that doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t. After driving the R-Design, it saddened me that it goes down a very, very different path.
My S60 R-Design tester came equipped with a turbocharged 3.0L inline-6 putting out a ridiculous 325 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. A huge step up from the turbo five-cylinder, and these numbers put it right in line with the likes of the Audi S4, BMW 335i, and the Cadillac ATS. All of those cars are true sport sedans, and I’m not quite sure that the Volvo is there quite yet. One huge advantage to the Swedish car though is that it can get by just fine on regular-grade fuel, and at 10.5L/100km even while stomping on it, the fuel bill is noticeably less than that of the other cars.
Stepping on the throttle in “sport” mode in the S60 gives you a few things. The most noticeable being a semi-instant burst of acceleration (the “semi” part being a bit of turbocharger lag). The sound of the blow-off valve is absolutely awesome as well. Even though my test car had AWD, it’s heavily front-drive biased and therefore there’s a lot more torque steer than I’d like. The handling is reminiscent of the front-drive mainstreamers such as the Honda Accord Sport and the Mazda6 GT. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when spending over $50,000 for a European sedan bearing an R-Design badge, torque steer isn’t something I’d consider acceptable.
Another huge issue I had with my S60 R-Design was the transmission. The 6-speed “GearTronic” automatic is fine when driving around town or on the highway, but the second any sort of athletics are required, the transmission instantly seems to get ‘stage fright’. It immediately starts hunting for gears and expresses a ton of uncertainty in response to driver inputs. It’s as if you tell it that you want to go, and it responds with “Are you sure? Oh, okay. I’ll downshift. Wait, you let off a little bit, I’m going to upshift again.” If the car had a traditional 6-speed manual like the beloved S60R, I wouldn’t have this problem in the slightest.
Being a Volvo, the S60 came equipped with everything that I’d expect. Mine was loaded to the brim with things like adaptive cruise control, a navigation system, Volvo’s famous Blind Spot Information System, and adaptive HID headlights that are amongst my favourites on the market. The R-Design package gave some very sporty-looking 18” wheels and a gorgeous rear diffuser. Oh! I almost forgot to mention the best part of every Volvo I’ve ever driven; the seats. Whether you’re only in it for a few minutes or on a long haul, Volvo seats are inarguably unbeatable. There’s definitely some magic in them, because they make every drive as comfortable as humanly possible.
See, as a premium sedan, the S60 T6 wins. It has a very competent motor, it’s superbly comfortable, and it has a gazillion safety features. My issue with the R-Design is that even though it gives you some nicer wheels, a little bit more horsepower, and a few other little toys, it’s not a sport sedan. It’s an upscale premium sedan with an identity crisis, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Just please Volvo, take the “R” badge off it; the car from ten years ago is embarrassed.
The 335i and S4 clientele that Volvo seems to be targeting with this car just won’t (or shouldn’t!) be bothered to consider it… now the Lexus ES350 target market would probably benefit from a test drive of this puppy. The 2013 Volvo S60 T6 a beautiful, capable, and overall fantastic sedan, and I’d recommend one wholeheartedly. In fact, I’d even go as far as to advise to save one’s money and opt for the regular T5 with a few option packages; it’s 90% as good as this one is. If you’re expecting a true sports sedan from the R-Design model though, I’d look elsewhere.
2013 Volvo S60 R-Design Gallery