Volvo S60 All pumped up without the paddles

COLLINGWOOD?Candanavia, the imaginary land at the centre of Volvo?s new Canadian marketing campaign, is a place where Scandinavian design meets the Canadian thirst for adventure.

I put the concept to the test by taking Volvo?s new S60 R Design for a late-spring jaunt from Toronto to the still-snow-covered roads of Collingwood.

My bright blue (Rebel Blue, actually) Platinum model was loaded to the gills with the Swedish automaker?s latest technology, combined with pumped-up performance.

The extra performance is thanks to Polestar Tuning, standard issue for 2013. Polestar is a racing outfit formed in 1996 to campaign various Volvo factory motorsport programs around the world. Similar to AMG?s exclusive relationship with Mercedes-Benz, Polestar works only with Volvo.

Polestar?s tweaks create more horsepower and torque by forcing more air and fuel into the combustion chamber, increasing turbo boost pressure, advancing spark timing and recalibrating throttle mapping.

The end result is the S60?s 3.0-litre turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine cranks out 325 horsepower and 354 lb.-ft. of torque, and will scoot to 100 km/h in just 5.5 seconds.

These numbers better a garden-variety S60 by 25 hp and 29 lb.-ft. As a result, power delivery in the R Design is linear and the torque curve is relatively flat, with peak twist arriving at just 3,000 rpm.

Power is put to the ground via a standard six-speed automatic transmission, with a sport manual mode, mated to a Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system.

The automatic is the only transmission on offer, which I find a little disappointing given the R Design?s intended competition. But what really caught me off guard is the lack of paddle shifters, which are pretty much standard issue for cars with this type of transmission.

In manual mode, the car feels more aggressive, and winding up the rpm prior to upshifting turned the car into a pretty potent machine. It?s still not as satisfying as being able to row through the gears in true manual fashion, but not a bad alternative.

On the inside, the R Design is well-appointed and nicely finished, albeit in conservative Swedish fashion. For a car loaded with so much technology, it thankfully doesn?t confront you with an overabundance of buttons and knobs.

The car?s exterior has remained more or less unchanged since the S60 was redesigned for 2011. Eschewing the design trend to crease and square off every edge, Volvo has left some attractive curves in place, particularly in the grille/headlamp area. Equipped with larger 18-inch alloy wheels and low-profile Continental summer tires, the R Design has a taught, athletic appearance.

A note on tires: you should invest in a good set of winters. Despite having all-wheel drive and traction control, summer tires are of little use on snow and slush-covered roads like the ones I encountered in Collingwood. Traction proved to be very limited on all but the barest of pavement.

Volvo?s devotion to safety is in full evidence with the R Design, which comes chock full of active and passive safety features, from front and side airbags and whiplash protection to lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.

Among the more noteworthy is pedestrian detection, first introduced on the 2011 S60, which uses grille-mounted radar and a camera placed high on the windshield to scan for pedestrians and other vehicles.

When the system detects a pending collision, it will fire off visual and audible warnings. If the driver doesn?t take corrective action, the brakes will automatically be applied to stop the car. Initially, it only worked up to 35 km/h, but it now works up to 50 km/h.

Overall, the S60 R Design is a well-engineered and packaged car that has ample amounts of luxury, performance, style and safety.

It doesn?t come cheap, however. My Platinum model, with the $2,100 optional technology package, costs more than $56,000.

Is that a little too rich? That depends, but in that price range, there are other intriguing options, a reality that should be of some concern to Volvo.

2013 Volvo S60 R Design

PRICE: $54,650

ENGINE: 3.0 L turbocharged 6-cylinder

POWER/TORQUE: 325 hp/354 lb.-ft.

FUEL CONSUMPTION, L/100 km: 11.7 city, 8.0 highway

COMPETITION: Lexus IS 350 AWD, BMW 335i xDrive, Audi S4

WHAT?S BEST: Handsome styling, solid performance, impressive safety technology.

WHAT?S WORST: A little pricey, no manual transmission option.

WHAT?S INTERESTING: No paddle shifters.

  • Volvo S60 All pumped up without the paddles
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