The five-cylinder 250-horsepower 2013 Volvo T5 sedan I tested was very good. But I soon found the hotter S60 T6 AWD R-Design sedan almost felt like a different car.
In fact, the S60 T6 AWD R-Design model is arguably the best high-performance Volvo ever.
Both the Volvo T5 and T6 models have slick, virtually identical styling. But the S60 T6 AWD R-Design has a more potent six-cylinder engine. It also has a sport chassis, larger brakes and standard all-wheel drive, besides sportier interior and exterior features.
A turbocharged 3-liter 300-horsepower six-cylinder is available for the 2013 S60, which has a standard turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. But the hot rod R-Design does it one better by having a 3-liter turbocharged and intercooled 325-horsepower “six,” which also has more torque than other Volvo engines.
Power shoots through a responsive six-speed automatic transmission with an easily used manual-shift feature. There is no manual gearbox because all Volvo S60 models are mid-size family cars. However, a manual transmission would be nice.
Estimated fuel economy of the S60 T6 AWD R-Design is 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on highways.
There’s more to the R-Design than an extra-potent engine, which suffers from slight turbo lag. It has features of the higher-line S60 T5 versions, but offers more performance and flair. It also has more of a refined nature, partly because the six-cylinder isn’t working as hard as the smaller five-cylinder.
Prices for the R-Design are $43,900 for the standard R-Design and $46,600 for the upscale Platinum version. It adds a navigation system, rear-park assist camera and premium sound system.
Targeting car buffs, the T6 R-Design has a sport chassis with a front strut brace, lower ride high and monotube rear dampers to provide superior handling.
This hot rod Volvo also has unique exterior and interior R-Design touches. For instance, there are extra-wide 40-series tires on 18-inch alloy wheels, lower front spoiler, rear spoiler and a diffuser below the rear bumper.
The polished twin tailpipes are about the diameter of Audrey Hepburns’s throat.
Specific R-Design interior touches include an easily gripped perforated leather sport steering wheel and gearshift knob, aluminum inlays on the dashboard and console and aluminum sport pedals. Both driver and front passenger get supportive power leather-covered seats with accent inserts.
This is a Volvo, so it’s naturally packed with safety features, including a unibody high strength steel passenger safety cage, lots of air bags and a whiplash protection system.
While the standard S60 five-cylinder engine delivers good performance, the T6 R-Design is quite a bit faster during high-speed merging and passing maneuvers.
The speed-sensitive steering is sharp, while the sport suspension and all-wheel-drive system keep the R-Design glued to the road. The car also has advanced stability control and corner traction control. Stops are short and true, thanks to beefy anti-lock brakes, which have an electronic brake distribution and assistance system.
The S60 R-Design can be driven safely and hard, although some car buffs may find that it’s not quite as athletic as competing Audis and BMWs.
Doors open wide to expose a nicely executed interior, which uses high-grade materials. Radio control buttons are too small for the high-performance audio system, but there’s a power glass moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel.
While generally roomy, the T6 AWD R-Design provides tight space for a long-legged passenger behind the driver. No such problem behind the front passenger, though.
I suspect many folks will buy the standard five-cylinder S60, which starts at $31,750. The 300-horsepower T6 starts at $40,450 and has standard all-wheel drive.
The S60 T6 AWD R-Design is in a fiercely competitive market with automakers that have established high-performance reputations. But this very competitive Volvo should not be overlooked.
Pros: Hot turbo six-cylinder. Sport chasis. All-wheel drive. Racier look.
Cons: Slight turbo lag. Tight behind driver. Small radio buttons.
Bottom Line: Significantly different than five-cylinder Volvo S60 T5.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.