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Long-term S60 T5 AWD: Winter Update

Chris Stewart

Feb 24, 2013 - 10:33:57 PM

The word is spreading. The second generation Volvo S60 is a tremendous sedan and the January 38% sales increase over 2012 demonstrates the marvelous success the S60 continues to provide for Volvo in the United States. Conquest sales from Audi and BMW are part of the story but we feel there is something else in play. Volvo is known for safety and technology innovations but this time around the engineers injected a new element into the S60’s DNA.

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Unlike its German competitors, the S60 comes standard with two distinct and enduring identities. The traditional Volvo sedan (drive mode) mated with the naughty S60 (sport mode). Similar to the DC Comics character Clark Kent, the S60 affords Volvo owners the mild mannered experience he or she has valued for decades. Additionally, the S60 delivers an alter ego with smile-inducing performance enthusiast buyers appreciate.

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Since taking delivery of our Volvo S60 T5 AWD back in August, we’ve found this to be one of Volvo’s most capable through a variety of warm and cold climates. Our S60’s 1087-mile road trip to the 2013 North American Auto Show delivered hours of pure driving pleasure with no fatigue. We’ve said it before and will say it again; Volvo seats are the best in the industry, period. The round trip fuel economy averaged an notable 27mpg notwithstanding the forty-minutes circling downtown Detroit struggling to find a parking spot, torrential rains in Western Maryland, temperatures in the 20s, and the heavy right foot of two drivers. Driving the posted speed limit will reward T5 AWD owners 33 to 35 mpg, impressive for an luxurious AWD sedan.

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The DC metro commute was recently ranked worst in the U.S. and the S60 does what it can to make this prestigious award tolerable. The sculpted, heated seats warm the back muscles, while SiriusXM satellite radio channel 68, "Spa" broadcasts new age sounds reminiscent of a stress reducing massage. I asked around the office what we could do to the S60 to further enjoy such a commute? The expected response was to enhance the performance of a very solid vehicle.

We built several Volvo project cars over the past thirteen years and when it comes to modifications to the S60, our first call went to our friends at ipd. Their experience in the North American market is legendary. Since 1963, ipd has been selling Volvo parts, accessories and performance products. We applaud ipd’s 50 years of history with the Volvo community. I spoke with Chris@ipd and he recommended we test the front wheel drive T5 rear sway bar for fitment. This was the first T5 AWD ipd had an opportunity to assess. Sure enough, the 25mm bar fit perfectly.

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The S60 T5 AWD has good handling with the stock Touring suspension. The suspension is a good setup for those with rough roads and aging blacktop. The ipd rear anti sway bar kit replaces the stock 21mm bar with a noticeably thicker 25mm unit. The upgraded bar reduces body roll when cornering. The affect is felt most noticeably on sweeping highway off ramps. Sudden lane change maneuvers feel more controlled. The anti sway bar kit offers more balanced handling, and when pushed hard, drivers can receive a hint of oversteer. Installation is very straightforward and easily accomplished on a set of ramps. We use modular Race Ramps because of the longer approach for lower vehicles and the ability to remove the ramp for easier side access. The sway bar quality is top notch with smooth weld beads, a protective and attractive blue paint. We installed ipd’s sway bars on previous Volvo generations with excellent results. We are pleased ipd’s support extends to the most current 2013 S60 FWD and AWD lineup.

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For the second year in a row, we have been unable to give our Pirelli W.drive snow tires a true test in deep snow but what I can say is that these tires perform exceptionally well on dry pavement, heavy rain and one-inch of snow and slush. Slightly increased tire noise aside, drivers would not realize the 18-inch Sleipner accessory wheels were wrapped with snow tires.

Approaching 9000 miles, the S60 continues to perform flawlessly. The performance and economy of the T5 AWD demonstrate why it is an ideal family sedan. Two distinct driving personalities entertain both a conventional image and more enthusiastic, let your hair down spirit inside many Volvo owners. For our next long-term update, we are hoping to install a few more enhancements in preparation for the spring Volvo show in Carlisle, PA.

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