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Project S60R: Introduction

by: Kai Huang

Jan 28, 2004 - 10:11:00 AM

For Volvo, the introduction of the S60R in the summer of 2003 was not to simply bring back its “halo car” to the product line; it was a declaration to the world about its seriousness as a player in the performance premium brand arena.

Production of the previous generation R ended in 2000 with the V70R

Volvo introduced a much-improved platform known internally as the P2X platform with the introduction of the all-new S80 in 1999. In 2001 the S60 was launched on a revised P2 platform. Rumors and inside stories about a possible new R model spread across the Internet shortly after the debut of Volvos PCC (Performance Concept Car) at the Geneva Auto show in 2002.

With the wild laser-blue exterior color, aggressive body kit, oversized racing wheels, 300 HP and advanced Haldex AWD system the two concept cars grabbed the attention of Volvo enthusiasts around the world.

In spite of the increasing chatter online, however, I didn’t get too excited over all the hype. I was enjoying my 1998 C70 long-term project which was undergoing a complete engine upgrade at the time.

Nevertheless, I kept an eye on the development of the new R. As I read more articles and examined more photographs of the upcoming S60R, I started to wonder why it was having a hypnotic effect on me. I attended Volvo’s Fire and Ice event and experienced the new Haldex all-wheel-drive system in a S60 2.4T. Having done that, I was convinced that the new P2 platform was superior to the older 70 and 850 series. Having done that, my curiosity propelled me to a local dealer to test-drive a manual S60 T-5.

Before I realized it, I had fallen in love with the car.

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After little research, I found out that the MSRP of the new R was surprisingly competitive compared with other brands. The R had become a very strong candidate for that ultimate daily commuter that my family was looking for. My mind made up, I ordered a Titanium Grey S60R with Nordkap leather, 6-Speed manual, Premium Package, Climate Package, DVD Navigation, and 18” Pegasus alloy wheels.

Even though the S60 R costs only slightly more than the fully equipped C70 coupe I bought back in 98, the new R has so much more to offer at the same price range. The overall build quality in the performance, handling, interior, and creature comforts are top notch.

We figured Kai was very familiar with the performance aspects of late-model Volvos, considering his extensive experience with his fully modified, 400-plus horsepower C70 that had an upgraded engine, an aftermarket T3/T04E turbo, custom intercooler, custom fuel management computer, full suspension upgrade with coilovers, big brake upgrade, high-end audio system, and other countless custom-built accessories. As one of the first few owners to push the 2.3 liter T-5 motor over 400 hp, Kai is very well aware of the capabilities and limitations of the engine. He understands the fact that pushing such power levels with the T-5 engine makes the car impractical for daily driving.

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It had just become very tedious living with such a highly modified car as a daily driver. Not only maintenance and close monitoring is needed, I sometimes just get paranoid and overreact on every little thing for the car.I figure It is time for me to have an all around performance car that I can enjoy for everyday use, and won’t have to worry over the reliability. This time around, I am not going to be the pioneer to try out extreme custom modifications yet I still want to have a little bit more that can set my R apart from the crowd.

With that in mind, we decided to turn to IPD, North Americas oldest and largest Volvo tuner for help with the aftermarket performance needs for our new R project. This is not the first time that I had worked with IPD. In fact, IPD was the first Volvo performance specialist that I dealt with when I first purchased my C70, not long before I decided to seek my own custom modifications.

I have always been impressed with IPD’s customer service. I’ve also valued the advice that Scott Hart and his staff at ipd have given me during the C70’s developmentï even if though I sometimes ended up purchasing from someone else. For all the service that I have received from IPD in the past combined with ipd’s partnership with TME SWEDEN ( link to www.tme.se ) to develop and market many of the most reliable products in the US market, I know that the R will be in good hands.

Regardless what some may have to say about IPD being conservative with their products, I have first-hand experiences that some other vendor’s outrageous claims do not share the same quality and performance that ipd offers. I have always been intrigued by IPD’s philosophy behind their product designs. With all the new electronically-controlled sensors and computers on the S60R, I would rather trust a Volvo specialist company which invests a lot of time in R&D for the most optimum parts than someone who’s just started their line for Volvo.

In a recent conversation with Kai, he shared with us his performance goals for his S60R. That was when Swedespeed, Kai and IPD hatched a plan to include the R in Swedespeed’s ongoing Project Car series, as we see the strong enthusiasm behind the car but haven’t had a chance to add an R to our own long term test fleet.

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Since the initial contacts with IPD and TME in August of 2003, Kai has started beta testing ipd’s new ECU upgrade for the R. Before the release of this article, Kai had logged more than 2500 miles on the odometer with the beta software. Kai tested his car on a chassis dyno in many different types of conditions such as different grades of fuel, changing weather conditions, and various driving behaviors. He has also kept in close contact with TME’s software engineers regarding each test results to provide helpful feedback during the development process.


The TME ECU upgrade has sure made the R livelier than ever. Those with older T5 models who already consider the new R to drive almost like a naturally aspirated car would be surprised how the ECU upgrade, even in beta version, has helped make the turbo lag almost non-existent. And for those who have been complaining about the new R being not up to the spec and underperforming, you would be very satisfied with the now “rev-happy” engine along with added torque and horsepower. The car has more useful power kicking in at an earlier point in the RPM range and the power band doesn’t taper off as early as before. So far the engine has responded to the new software very well and I haven’t experienced any detonation issues running on 93 octane fuel. With this ECU upgrade and the R’s superb handling, this car has given my C70 a run for the money. The stock S60R has already made our daily commute pleasant and enjoyable. With the tuned ECU, it is making us want to take the long way to work.

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We look forward to the evolution of Project S60R and hope you find the process helpful in consideration of modifications for your own R.

More info:
ipdUSA.com
VRRNA.org


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