The Volvo S60 took a year off, but has come back in 2011 with a sporty new design that far outstrips the old version. It may not be able to pace the BMW 3-series, but reviewers like the balance Volvo has achieved with the S60; a good mix of style, comfort, safety and power. Invoice on the S60 normally settles at $35,438. Gas mileage is 18 city and 26 highway.
When you make up the test drive list, start with the 3-series, which does have undisputed dynamic performance. The base, however, costs $3,000 more. Looking for rear-wheel drive at a better price point? Check out the Infiniti G37, which is actually $4,000 less. Finally, take a look at the Audi A4, which starts at $31,450. There is only one trim for the S60, the T6 AWD with a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission (300 hp and 325 lb. ft. of torque.)
The new exterior is certainly handsome, with a sloping hood and a tucked in trunk completed by a short overhang. Inside, Volvo has pulled away from its trademark minimalism to offer a stylishly curved dash and a center stack canted toward the driver. There's a seven-inch display with or without the optional navigation system, which lends a nice tech feel to the overall cabin appearance.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the 2011 Volvo S60 a Top Safety Pick with the best possible scores for front, side, rear, and roof strength. There are six airbags standard, stability and traction control, and the Volvo City Safe system. City Safe applies the brakes automatically if it senses that the car is going to strike any immobile object. There's an option for a lane departure system, adaptive cruise control, blind spot information, and rear park assist.
Volvo has also developed a technology called Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake that can be added to the S60. When the system senses that a pedestrian has stepped into the path of the car, the brakes are applied automatically. Of course, each upgrade adds to the sticker price, but the available safety systems are cutting edge and impressive.
Volvo has done an excellent job with the S60 redesign and it rates well against other available mid-size cars on the market. Volvo is one of those brands that inspires a terrific amount of consumer loyalty, but even if you've never driven one before, do yourself a favor and take a close look at the S60. For the money, it's an extremely solid buy with high value, superior handling, and exceptional safety.