|"Volvo. It's boxy but good" |
Ever since the movie "Crazy People" used that phrase in a fictitious advertising campaign, the words just seem to run through my head any time I hear the name, Volvo. Today, "boxy" is hardly an apt. description for Volvo styling as one look at the sleek sedan in the photo above will tell you. Perhaps, they finally moved the styling department out of the back room and substituted their straight edges for French Curves. Whatever their story, Volvo is coming out with some seriously good looking automobiles these days.
Safety is still Volvo's number one focus and the primary quality that they build their reputation on. But are they that much safer than other brands? Sure, they have all the newest safety advances like side and front & rear head air bags, seat belt pretensioners and the like, but other cars in this class have these features as well. If you look at statistics, you may find that Volvos are involved in fewer crashes with fewer injuries or fatalities than other cars, but I attribute that to the simple fact that people buying a Volvo are more safety conscious than the average car buyer and drive accordingly. These drivers choose the car with the best reputation for safety regardless of how it looks. Whether these statistics hold up now that Volvo is so attractive for its style and comfort as well as for safety remains to be seen.
The S60 is a small sedan in the same category as the Mercedes C-Class and the Audi A4. I thoroughly enjoyed driving this small Volvo and found it to be a responsive road car with adequate power, excellent brakes, secure, well-controlled handling and a vault-like body structure.
Inside the car, the driver's seat had a cocoon-like feeling of comfort that stands out from the increasing crowd of excellent sedans in this near-luxury price range. On a long Interstate trip, the substantial feel of this car seemed to melt away the miles and added to the feeling of safety that Volvos are famous for.
My front seat passenger however, was not crazy about the positioning of the stationary, non-adjustable headrest when she reclined the seat to catch some Z's on the long trip. As far as I was concerned, my headrest was just fine. If I had a complaint, it would be the lack of a true center armrest on the console.
There are a total of three cup holders up front, one in the dash and two more in the console under a cover. But depending on how you option this car, you can potentially lose two of these cupholders leaving just one for your morning java. One of the console cup holders is used up with the accessory ashtray, while the optional telephone's keypad replaces the pop-out cup holder in the dash. So, lets see... one cupholder holds the coffee that you are drinking, a second cupholder is for the ashtray that holds the cigarette that you are smoking, and the third deals with the phone that you hold to your ear. That's two vises and an indispensable link to the civilized world, with an ongoing debate by some as to which are vices and which is the link to civilization.
That cell phone option also adds a button on the right spoke of the steering wheel above the auxiliary radio buttons to allow easy answering of the phone without taking your hands off the wheel. The phone package also includes a speaker built into the driver's headrest. There is a handset in the console compartment for private calls when you don't want to use a speakerphone.
The interior feels expensive and has a rich fit and finish throughout. The instruments are clear and easy to read, but the clock at the bottom of the tach dial is not very convenient for anyone but the driver. This is a pet peeve of mine, the clock belongs in the center of the dash where everyone can see it.
The rear passenger compartment is comfortable, if somewhat tight when there are long-legged people occupying the front seats, but it holds its own when compared with other small sedans in this segment. The rear arm rest has a retractable pair of cup holders and a small covered storage compartment
The split rear seat folds down and opens a large pass-through to the trunk. The center arm rest provides a smaller pass-through without sacrificing the rear seats. There is a button on the dash to drop the three rear headrests for better visibility, but unlike some Mercedes models which also have this feature, the headrests drop forward requiring rear seat passengers to lift them up before seating themselves. Perhaps, this can be considered a safety feature, since other cars fold the head rests back onto the package shelf allowing passengers in the rear to ride without the benefit of headrest protection.
The 5 cylinder turbocharged engine sounded a bit coarse compared to the 6 cylinder engines that fill this segment, but the turbocharger gives it an almost musical quality which sounds pleasant overall. The 5 speed automatic is excellent with intuitive shift points that happen exactly when they should. With the shifter in Drive, a simple flick to the left puts you in manual control of when shifts take place. You move the stick forward to up shift, and back to down shift, but unlike most manu-matics that just limit the top gear the transmission will shift up to, this manual mode gives you true control. With this Volvo Automatic, you can start off in either 1st, 2nd or 3rd and hold that gear as long as you wish. The system only intercedes when a gear would be harmful to the engine. This power train has flexible power delivery, especially at highway speeds, but it could use a bit more torque for off-the-line acceleration.
The ride is reasonably good, but can become somewhat choppy on bad roads. Overall, not a bad compromise between ride and aggressive drivability. This small sedan has a nimble quality with a substantial but accurate steering feel. Overall, the handling is quite sporty and un-Volvo like. The Michelin MXV-4 tires are slanted toward a smooth quiet ride, so cornering limits come up early and make themselves known gradually, but safely.
Yes, Volvo is stepping out of the "Box" these days and are producing some (dare-I-say) genuinely beautiful designs with the S60 series no exception.
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How does the S60 fit your driving style?
Conservative drivers This car lives for conservative drivers. Responses to driver inputs are smooth and predictable, and passengers will feel at ease just because they see the Volvo nameplate.
Sporty drivers will like the steering feel and the powerful brakes, but the engine could use more low end grunt.
Fast drivers Seems like blasphemy to driver a Volvo fast. Oh, it can handle most anything that you throw at it, but you have to worry about what people will think. If they see a Volvo being driven fast, they will assume that you must have stolen it because a true Volvo owner would never drive like that.
2002 Volvo S60 AWD 4-Door Sedan