- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

Volvo owners no longer need be apologists for square edges and stodgy performance. Gone is the tradeoff of style and performance for safety.

Somewhere along the line the decision-makers at Volvo realized safe and aerodynamic don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The new breed of Volvos feature streamlined exteriors and robust powerplants while maintaining a high level of passenger safety.

The S60 T5 is as good an example of this approach as anything Volvo builds. The flagship of Volvo’s best-selling S60 series, the T5 is an ultra-sporty take on the five-passenger sedan. Everyone should have this much fun driving to the grocery store or heading out for a night on the town.

As with all models in the S60 series, the T5 derives its get-up-and-go from an inline five-cylinder engine. A normally aspirated 2.4-liter and three turbocharged engines power the different S60 versions. The T5 gets the most aggressive turbo of the bunch. It’s a 2.3-liter DOHC engine that pumps out 247 horsepower and 243 foot-pounds of peak torque. This still puts the T5 at a performance disadvantage to a few competitors such as Infiniti’s G35, but it betters or equals the performance stats of most of its peers.

With the exception of the all-wheel-drive 2.5T, all models in the S60 series are front-wheel drive. Delivering engine output to the T5’s front wheels falls to either a five-speed manual or a five-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission.

Volvo’s manual transmissions tend to be a bit clunky, so opting for the automatic is probably the way to go. Performance doesn’t suffer — 0-60 takes about 7 seconds in either case — and the automatic offers a more satisfying driving experience. Fuel economy is quite acceptable for this class sedan too, earning an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the open highway.

Where other members of the S60 family provide a somewhat softer, gentler ride, the T5 is engineered more for sporty action. However, that taut ride quality also translates into less sway in the corners. This doesn’t overcome the fact that the S60 is front-wheel drive, but only in severe twisties at speed is the driver reminded the T5 is being pulled around rather than pushed. Standard in the T5 are antilock brakes with an anti-skid system.

The S60 cabin is roomy and quite comfortable. The door openings are wide and inviting. The seat bottoms are both wide and long enough to accommodate a large adult. The backs offer plenty of support. A 60/40 split fold-down rear seat is standard. Rear leg room is at a premium, but this is common within the segment. Instrumentation is clear and easy to locate at a glance.

Certain amenities are expected in the near-luxury segment where the T5 lives and it doesn’t disappoint. While leather seating and a power moonroof are part of the $1,995 Premium Package, other features such as eight-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power locks with remote keyless entry, power windows, trip computer and auto-dimming rearview mirror are all standard, as are the side-impact and side-curtain airbags.

The base price for the S60 T5 is $32,825. The destination charge adds another $660 to the bottom line.

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