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First Drive: 2013 S60 T5 AWD

Chris Stewart

Aug 15, 2012 - 12:00:00 AM

Home to the 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, UT is surrounded by majestic mountains and winding roads pleasing for auto enthusiasts and challenging for seasoned bicyclists. It was appropriate that Volvo chose Park City, UT as the location to unveil the 2013 S60 T5 AWD. While the high elevation roads during July challenged the fifth generation Haldex AWD system, the coming winter months will offer Volvo owners a new level of control.

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Our expected 45-minute trip from the Salt Lake City airport became a nearly three-hour adventure with us finding North America’s Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point, and large soft serve ice cream for only $1. After a brief stint on Highway 15 toward Las Vegas we decided it was best to use Google Maps to get us headed in the correct direction. On the road the S60 solidly managed the off-camber, decreasing radius, canyon roads of Route 190 between Salt Lake and Park City. The various safety and stability control systems kept us in control when the paved roads ended. The S60 handled the rocky roads with grace and poise. We would like to send our appreciation to the suspension engineers at Volvo without whom our journey may have been more tenuous and uncomfortable. If you have an opportunity to take Route 190 between Salt Lake and Park City, the scenic mountain views are amazing. This unplanned detour proved two things, the T5 AWD is terrifically responsive and we are navigationally challenged.

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We spent the past year in a 2011 S60 and on the road we noticed the 2013 improvements immediately. The cockpit presented a few subtle changes to include a smoother grain of the leather, a slick, illuminated gear shift knob that pulls more conveniently toward the driver, unlike the previous push away from the driver motion. The fifth-generation Haldex AWD system is smaller and lighter, with Instant Traction, torque vectoring (corner traction control to minimize understeer), and a variable torque distribution range from 95% front, 5% rear for improved fuel efficiency to a 50%/50% split when more traction is needed. Volvo continues to improve the six-speed Geartronic for 2013 by increasing shift speeds .2 seconds in Sport mode.

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The 2013 model year offers several enhancements to further driving dynamics. The 2.5L 5-cyl turbo has been reworked with a new crankshaft and new pistons reducing internal friction while raising the compression ratio from 9.0:1 to 9.5:1. The maximum engine torque range is now 1,800 to 4,200 rpm and with an overboost function increasing the standard 266 lb-ft to 295 ft-lb for ten seconds at full-throttle. The end result equates to a 6.4 sprint to 60mph for the FWD T5 closely followed by the T5 AWD at 6.6 seconds. An overall improvement of .4 seconds for the FWD T5 is impressive. Fuel economy for the T5 AWD is 20mpg city, 29mpg highway, 23mpg combined. By the numbers, the 2013 S60 is very competitive. Volvo expects to increase S60 sales by 20% and if the current sales trend continues, Volvo will surpass the Audi A4. Starting at $33,750, the T5 AWD is priced below the A4 quattro at $34,600.

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Our press launch T5 AWD was coated with Volvo’s attractive Ice White contrasted by the handsome Beechwood brown leather interior. The S60 was packaged with the Premier level trim with the Climate package ($700), an attractive optional trunk spoiler ($375) and optional 17” Njord alloy wheels ($250). The $2200 Premier package includes a power glass moonroof, leather seating surfaces, auto dimming rearview mirror, accessory prep cable, power passenger seat and Keyless Drive with Personal Car Communicator. As tested, our T5 AWD totaled $38,170. For 2013 Volvo offers a new trim level strategy with Premier, Premier Plus and Platinum. The Technology Package gains Road Sign Information (RSI) and Active High Beam. Multimedia, Premium and Dynamic packages are deleted. Volvo has opportunities to improve the trim levels and we hope to see the rear park assist camera as a standard safety feature in the future. Currently, the rear camera is part of the Platinum trim level. We were pleased to read Ember Black has returned for 2013.

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Out of the box the T5 AWD is extremely fun to drive, especially in Sport mode. The T5 AWD is quick enough to satisfy most drivers and with nearly 30mpg, a compelling choice for a safe and efficient commuter vehicle. Volvo’s Safe+Secure program offers warranty coverage for the next five years or 50,000 miles, including brakes and wiper blades, complimentary factory scheduled maintenance and unlimited mileage roadside assistance. The notable 2013 standard options include rain sensing windshield wipers, tunnel detection headlights and Sensus gains increased steering-wheel scroll control functionality. Synchronizing the iPhone 4S with Volvo’s standard Bluetooth worked on the first attempt. In totality, the 2013 T5 AWD offer is extremely persuasive and should place the S60 on the short list for those in the market for an AWD sedan.

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The S60 delivered an energetic performance dashing north to Woodruff, Utah and across the rolling hills to Evanston, Wyoming. After our Olympic experience and trek through Utah, the enthusiast in us wonders if Volvo purposely underrated the 2013’s true horsepower. With the various engine improvements, is the engine still rated at 250? The T5 AWD accelerates with an authority that is noticeably quick. At this time, Polestar will not offer a tune for the T5. Volvo’s T6 is the halo motor at 325hp and we suspect that offering a Polestar tune for the T5 would put the power numbers closer than Volvo would prefer. The 2013 model year will not offer paddle shifters in the S60 but this and the exclusion of a R-Design package for the T5 AWD are hopefully short-term planning delays.

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We left Utah excited to spend more time in the T5 AWD. This particular S60 would be an ideal enthusiast commuter vehicle for North American warm and cold climates. Over the next year, we will be writing about life with the latest S60. We hope to test the AWD system during the winter months, determine if our theory is correct about the horsepower rating and explore a few accessories. At the top of our list is Volvo’s portable navigation system to make sure we arrive at our planned destination on time. Although, wandering off course can often reveal some of life’s most memorable moments. The T5 AWD gives us the confidence to get there, we are just not sure when we will arrive.

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