Some may still think the 2013 Volvo S60 T5 sedan is among the first sporty Volvos sold in the United States because of the automaker’s long-lingering stodgy image.

Volvo actually has built several sporty cars since it offered its conservatively styled 1956-58 PV444 family model here, complete with a strong dual-carburetor engine and a stick shift with a floor shifter. It was a practical auto, but could beat sports cars on race tracks.

However, most sporty Volvos have flown under the general public’s radar. It generally was known as a conservative model with a heavy emphasis on safety features. The station wagon version was especially popular.

The redesigned 2011 S60 Volvo four-door sedan went a long way to help break that boring old image with its sporty coupe-like styling and lively performance. The 2011 S60 model initially just had a 300-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine.While the “six” is still offered, a five-cylinder turbocharged 3-liter engine with 250 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque has been added since the 2011 was introduced.

Horsepower and torque of the four-cylinder version remain the same for 2013, although the five-cylinder has a higher compression ratio (from 9.0:1 to 9.5:1) and internal friction has been reduced.

Also, faster gear changes have quickened 0-60 mph times. When the 6-speed automatic transmission is in Sport mode, the from 6.8 seconds for the 2012 five-cylinder model is reduced to 6.4 seconds with the new car’s standard front-wheel drive— or to 6.6 seconds with its optional all-wheel drive.

Merging and passing abilities thus are solid, although the engine occasionally sounds a bit gruff. It works with an efficient six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature and a Sport mode.

Estimated fuel economy is a little better, at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on highways. Only regular-grade gasoline is needed.I tested the five-cylinder version with all-wheel drive, which adds $2,000 to the list price of the entry front-drive $31,750 S60 T5. My test car’s complete name was “S60 T5 AWD.” That makes sense since it had a turbocharged five-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive.

The S60 T5 AWD feels solid and is nicely sized. It’s 183.3-inches long and weighs 3,538 pounds.

This car is fairly well-equipped, with items including a power driver’s seat, automatic air conditioning, high performance audio system and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel.
The S60 T5 has plenty of safety features because, after all, it’s a Volvo.

Options include a sunroof, leather-covered seats, power passenger seat, heated rear seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Volvo’s Technology Package, which my test car didn’t have, can activate the brakes if a collision is imminent and a pedestrian-detection system that can stop the car with no driver involvement at lower speeds. I tired the system during a Volvo media preview of the 2011 S60 and it worked remarkably well.

While Volvo still emphasizes the safety of its vehicles, it knows many rivals have caught up to it in most safety areas, so safety has pretty much become just another selling feature for it–although a strong one.

My test Volvo’s steering was quick, but it also was firm and sometimes felt a little dead. Handling with the standard “Touring” chassis didn’t match that of an all-out sports sedan, but the all-independent suspension provided a firm, but supple, ride.

Helping keep the S60 stable are a stability traction control system and anti-lock brakes with an electronic brake distribution and assistance system. The brake pedal is especially easy to modulate for sure stops in all sorts of traffic.

The solid-feeling S60 T5 AWD’s quiet interior is nicely designed and upscale in a subdued manner. Large door openings make it easy to slide in and out. Seats are supportive, and large outside mirrors help provide good driver rear visibility.

Most controls are easy to use, although radio buttons are small. Climate controls are large. A dashboard screen that displays such things as sound system information can be easily worked with just a little practice.

It’s easy to partially stop the power front windows when they’re moving down or up—an impossible task on many cars.

This Volvo is roomy up front, but a rear passenger with long legs behind a driver will have a hard time shoving his feet beneath the bottom of the driver’s seat. A tall rear occupant behind the front passenger won’t have that problem.

Conveniently placed front console cupholders have a cover to keep things looking neat, and there’s also a deep covered console bin. A large fold-down rear armrest contains cupholders. But door pockets don’t hold much.

The fairly large trunk has an interior lining and wide opening, although some may have a problem finding the virtually hidden trunk releases for the rear seatbacks, which fold forward and sit flat to increase cargo capacity.

The hood also has an interior lining and easily flips up on twin hydraulic struts, revealing the sideways mounted engine and easily reached fluid-filler areas.

My test Volvo T5 S60 AWD felt like the sort of car an owner would want to hold onto for a long time.

Pros: Sporty. Quicker. Fairly roomy. Solid. Newly optional all-wheel drive.

Cons: Farily heavy steering. Small radio buttons. Tight of foot room behind driver.

Bottom line: For those who don’t want a high-selling, sporty mid-size sports sedan.

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.

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