Volvo's S60R is impressive. In stock trim, the all-wheel-drive sport sedan boasts 300 bhp from its turbocharged in-line five. It's also equipped with a number of sport refinements la BMW's M-line. As sporting as it is, premier Volvo tuner Evolve offers a solid tuning package that takes the car's styling and performance to a new level.
Former stunt bike champ Matt Powers is the lucky Evolve customer whose 2004 S60R received the full Evolve treatment, including complementary aero styling, suspension tweaks and the company's latest Advanced Induction System. Coupled with Evolve's exhaust set-up, the upgrade provides over 30 additional horses, resulting in 362 wheel-hp and 381 lb-ft of torque from the 2.5-liter five-potter.
The proprietary software developed to achieve these impressive gains is designed to work in perfect harmony with the factory ECM. All factory sensors are fully functioning. Evolve says the turbo and related components can actually support upwards of 550 bhp, but recommends the slightly more conservative number with stock internals. It's this type of good, reliable power and penchant for detail that makes Evolve one of the most credible Volvo tuners in the business. It's not a stretch to say they are fast becoming the Dinan of Volvo tuners.
Evolve president Don Nicholson invited me to run the car on one of my favorite mountain roads. I found myself behind the wheel of one of the fastest, most competent Volvos I've ever driven. Evolve claims the car posts a sub-five second zero to 60 mph sprint, which brings it well within M and AMG territory.
This rocket-launch acceleration is attributed to more efficient fuel and airflow through an Evolve Advanced Induction System, which includes a new intake assembly, proprietary ball-bearing turbo upgrade, ceramic coated exhaust manifold, external wastegate and blow-off valve, an improved intercooler, and the appropriate engine management parameters including new injectors and new software for the factory ECM. Evolve also included a new ceramic-coated downpipe (complete with catalyst) and the company's Advanced Exhaust System, sporting a three-inch straight-through design and full stainless steel construction. On the road, the considerable extra horsepower translates well, thanks to the standard all-wheel drive modified with Evolve/Haldex AWD software, and the superb six-speed manual transmission. Even under hard acceleration, steering is neutral and perfectly manageable, thanks in large part to the new drive software engineered to send more power to the rear wheels in demanding situations.
Powers requested a suspension package specifically tailored for canyon carving. Evolve delivered with a special one-off set of Evolve coilovers coupled with Evolve anti-roll bars, adjustable at the front and rear. The tightened ride, which provides a more hunkered-down appearance, is a bit stiff for daily commuting, but exactly what the doctor ordered for the twisty bits. The same can be said of the brakes, which feature Evolve six-piston calipers with 14-inch two-piece rotors in the front and four-piston units in the rear. The package also carries braided stainless steel lines and performance pads. Front and rear brake balance is maintained within factory specification for full ABS compatibility.
The car rests on a set of classic mesh Evolve E7 three-piece wheels measuring 8.5x19 and 9.5x19 in the front and rear respectively. Pirelli P Zero Nero tires provide more than ample traction. And, consistent with the rest of the upgrades, the larger wheel and tire combo maintains perfect unison with the factory all-wheel drive system, thanks to an overall difference of only two inches.
Styling-wise, you would be hard pressed to find a more stellar-looking Volvo. The Evolve treatment, which includes full aerodynamics throughout, is aggressive, but not over the top. Special features such as taillight trim, a trunk spoiler and hood grilles (the left side is functional, with an Evolve Advanced Induction System) provide just the right amount of detail.
The car's two-tone silver/titanium grey metallic exterior paintwork further defines a clean and sporty aesthetic. This theme is also carried into the cabin with Evolve's enhanced leather upholstery sporting graphite with silver carbon fiber-style seat and door panel inserts, as well as matching treatments for the steering wheel. Evolve pedals and logoed carpets nicely round out the package. Volvo's sport offerings have come a long way in a very short time, and the R-series cars are prime examples.
It's heartening to see there are places like Evolve who are willing to push the envelope. Cars like this one cast a bright future for Scandinavian tuning. We'll be looking forward to what comes next.