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Mainz, Germany Germany is a car culture. Running red in the veins of many Germans is a genuine love for the automobile, automobile racing and a high propensity to personalize ones own car. This focus runs almost unparalleled, with the exception of few other regions such as Japan and the West Coat of the USA. As such, the city of Mainz, located within the beautiful Rhine Valley region of Germany, was the perfect backdrop for the introduction of Volvos driver-oriented 2005 S60 T5.
The svelte S60 first replaced the more conservative S70 in 2001. Quickly the new model rocketed to the top-selling position for Volvo Cars North America, and only lost that position to the uber-successful XC90 this past year.
Volvos mid-range sport sedan sells primarily in markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia based on sales numbers. Examine market share though, and the S60 sales are proven most dominant in North Eastern and cold-weather climates.
For the 2005 model year, Volvo has introduced a mildly restyled and somewhat improved S60 range. These MY2005 cars began production in June and will hit North American dealerships in early September, once the ports have been able to build up dealer stock.
On the outside, the S60 sports subtle changes such as body-color mouldings, body-color rocker panels and mildly restyled front and rear bumpers. Handsome new headlight and taillight assembly designs have also been incorporated. 17-inch wheels are now standard on the T5, as is the Sport suspension.
T5 models mark the most technically changed offerings in the S60 lineup. Steering feel is improved with speed sensitive steering, while the manual transmission switches to the new 6-speed design fitted to R models and S40 T5 models.
The really noticeable technical changes are found with the engine. Power increases from 247 hp to 257 hp, thanks in large part to use of R developed components. The base engine, dual variable camshaft, cylinder head and turbo are all now the same as those found in the R. Differences between the R and the T5 include a new T5 exhaust and smaller intercooler setup.
With these power upgrades, Volvo is claiming a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds, and expects to shave .2-.3 seconds off of that for US 0-60mph figures.
The other engines in the range, including the 2.4, 2.5T and R models carry on unchanged.
Inside the car, the most obvious changes to the cars interior are the handsome new center console design. The roll-top center storage with highly adjustable rear compartment offer quite a bit more usable space, while the lid of the roll top matches the aluminum or wood interior trim found in the car. Notably and appreciably, Volvo has finally switched from plastic with wood finish to real wood.
The other major change revolves around Volvos sound system. Though highly regarded in sound quality, Volvos head units fell short with both the automotive press and J.D. Powers surveys for their lack of station preset buttons. The unique and somewhat quirky rotary presets have been retained, but are augmented by dedicated buttons as well. A 6-disc in-dash CD changer has also been added as optional equipment.
With the freshened 2005 models like this S60, Volvo will also be introducing two significant technologies.
4C, Volvos dash-adjustable suspension system will now be available as an option in all S60 models. Like 4C-equipped S80s that began selling last year, the non-R models that come equipped with this option will use a two-program setup including Comfort and Sport. The third Advanced setting found on the R will be exclusive to that model.
The second significant new technology is Blindspot Information System (BLIS), considered an information system by Volvo, is used as needed. For that reason, the lights are located in the A-pillar and not in the instrument cluster. The thought on placement is that the lights will augment the drivers awareness when naturally looking to the mirror in order to turn or change lanes. In that regard, its a natural place that is less likely to cause alarm to the driver who might see a blinking light in the instrument cluster as annoying or worse… an emergency situation.
Volvo wants you to use your mirrors, and encourages it. This is not a replacement, and thus the placement closer to the mirrors that should always be used when changing lanes.
One would think the best place for such warning lights would be on the mirrors themselves, however this could not be done for legal reasons because it would be viewable by traffic behind the vehicle. Further, placing them on the outside might confuse other drivers, thinking they are a turn signal.
Like the SCC concept car, Infiniti has released a lane-departure warning that looks as if its successful. Volvo is coy in addressing this issue, hinting theyre working on bringing a similar system to market. That said, they decided to focus on BLIS first, as more accidents are a result of lane-change collision than lane departure where a vehicle goes into a culvert or collides with another vehicle due to wandering into another lane.
While driving these early-production BLIS-equipped cars, we found that it is triggered sometimes when driving past parked cars, etc. Volvo says this should be dialed out by launch, as the system is still being fine-tuned.
Other options are also being added for 2005 as well. We hear Park Assist, an audible tone that warns you when getting close to other vehicles while parking, will be added to the roster.
Self-supporting tires, commonly referred to as Run Flats will also be added as optional. With these tires, cars will come with a tire pressure monitoring system. Should the pressure go below a certain point, the driver will be warned and at that time, the driver will have the capability to travel up to 50 miles under full load at a top speed of 50mph. This distance under lesser load can be up to 100 miles should the need arise.
When optioned with Run Flats, S60s will still come with a spare tire. Volvo has not taken the step of going to a repair kit or patching system as of yet, though they are being considered for future models.
Specific to the turbo S60 models is a Sport body kit and 18-inch Nebula wheel offerings similar to packages in Europe. This marks the first time, outside of R models, that 18-inch wheels have been offered on S60s. Optional only on the S60 T5 will also be black mesh interior inlays.
On the road, the changes, while subtle, are effective and welcome. The untrained eye may not notice a difference. However, those familiar with the S60 should be pleased with the changes.
Walking up to the car, the subtle changes to the bumper designs and the new head and tail lamp designs are obvious and tasteful. The new standard 17-inch wheels fill out the wheel wells aggressively and their BBS-mesh style design is reminiscent of the sport package 18-inch Nebula design.
Sliding into the car, the changes are evolutionary. The redesigned center console uses even more trim texturing, which put that much more visual pop behind our cars optional aluminum trim.
The handsome new 3-spoke sport steering wheel is changed ever so slightly, with aluminum finishing on the lower spoke. As subtle a change as it is, its tasteful and unfortunately, we hear, it wont make its way into the R models.
Our car also came with set of new accessory floor mats. Piping on the mats is an almost illuminescent white that really stands out, while the mats also a feature a Volvo tag sewn on one side, reminiscent of tags used in the YCC concept from last years Geneva Auto Salon.
The Space Ball shifter has also been mildly restyled. Gear number markings are now a shiny chrome texture, while the rest of the unique round gate design remains satin silver.
Changes of presets on the stereo are welcome, though were happy to report that the rotary preselect control is still included in the stereo design. Though like few, if any, others in the industry and thus drawing criticism, Volvos rotary select becomes quite a natural action to those familiar with Gothenburgs finest. While the pre-select buttons are nice for average consumers, retaining the rotary is comforting for the Volvophiles.
Fire the engine up, hit the road and its apparent that theres more power under the hood. Launch hard and the T5 claws for footing, pushing Volvos front-wheel drive platform to its edge, the traction control doing its best to keep the front wheels from spinning.
Torque is generous and the curve is wide. The engine pushes hard down low and the grunt continues up to its drop-off just before redline.
Our car had the optional 4C system, with the control located in the lower button cluster and not above by the center vent as it is in R models. Like the S80, our S60 T5 had two settings. Sport is nice, but not that different from Comfort. Our more aggressive tendencies would prefer a more aggressive Sport Mode.
Also fitted to our test car was the new BLIS system. Basically, the system has been dialed in to work only when cars are within certain speeds of the Volvo. An indicator on the A-pillar lights when a car is in the area considered to be the blind spot. Cameras located in the exterior rearview mirror arms are programmed to detect cars that are within a given speed range of the Volvo, in an effort to keep the indicators from lighting for parked cars, or cars being passed or passing that are doing so rapidly enough so as not to be a danger.
As we mentioned, the system isnt perfect. It still lights occasionally when slowly passing parked cars, but it is quite good and Volvo claims theyll have dialed it in even better when the cars go into production.
In the real world, the system is pretty handy. One has to acclimate to it, knowing to look for the light. The light is so subtle that one might miss it… at least during the day. In the end, we think we prefer the more subtle lighting, though those who flat out hate it have the ability to disable the system with a button located on the dash.
Volvo makes no bones about it, the S60 is fully intended to be the Drivers Volvo. Car people seem to be drawn to this model over the rest of the range due to its svelte looks and potent engine/transmission choices. In that regard, the facelifted S60 continues to please as a drivers car. While its not as hard-edged as we would prefer, we guess they cant all be R models. Still, the T5 is a marked improvement over the older model, a bit more practical and affordable than the R, while close enough to the performance Q-ships level to make most drivers more than happy.
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