Our first encounter with the new S60 AWD took place in Maine, using a cadre of pre-production models. While all were fitted with Volvo's basic TRACS traction control, none had the optional DTSC stability system, which joins the S60 AWD's option roster in January 2002. Adding DTSC capability to the AWD system also involved fitting the aforementioned new iteration of ABS controller unit to the mix, and the operating algorithm for that Teves-supplied component was still being finalized even as we slipped behind the wheel for this early evaluation. On a related note, Volvo has also given the standard-issue TRACS a functional boost for the new season, increasing its maximum operational speed from 44 to 75 mph.

As luck would have it, all of our hands-on time with the S60 AWD was spent on dry pavement-save for a smattering of closed-course dirt work thrown in for good measure. Under those relatively low-stress conditions, the system lived up to its billing as being virtually transparent in operation and extremely predictable. While AWD modestly boosted the S60's already quite formidable basic corner-carving prowess, Volvo tech types were quick to note that its real advantages will be most apparent on rain-slicked or snow-covered road surfaces.

Final EPA figures were still pending, but AWD is expected to slice about a 6 to 7 percent off of the S60's existing 21/28-mpg city/highway numbers. Adding 140 lb to the curb weight of a normal S60, the system also exacts a slight penalty in terms of absolute acceleration. However, the 2.4T's stout bottom-end torque-210 lb-ft at just 1800 rpm-always provided sufficient twist to keep it stepping out smartly from a dead stop. An equally solid mid-range output ensured that freeway-overtaking maneuvers were also stress-free. Despite the S60 AWD's slightly stiffer shocks, higher-rate rear springs and a stouter rear anti-roll bar, we found little tangible impact on either control or compliance compared to a front-drive model.

Volvo anticipates selling about 1,500 S60 AWDs in North America during the 2001 calendar year, 90 percent of those here in the U.S. We're also slated to get between 5,000 to 6,000 more during CY 2002, although there's reason to believe those figures could climb a bit should demand warrant. Taking a page from the Audi playbook, the firm is tagging this option at a very nominal $1,750. Given the S60 2.4T's base price of $29,850, Volvo expects most AWD variants will roll out the door somewhere in the mid-$30K range when fitted with the usual array of popular options. That should put the S60 AWD in a seriously competitive position against similarly configured Euro sedan offerings from key rivals Audi and BMW.

Blue Lightning Meets Blue Thunder
Last year at the Paris auto salon, Volvo took the wraps off of its S60-based Performance Concept Car. The follow-up came last September at the Frankfurt motor show, where the firm showed the next logical variation on this take-no-prisoners theme, an equally well-fortified V70-based wagon called the Performance Concept Car II. Rounding out that particular show-and-tell session was the news that Volvo enthusiasts had been waiting for: Both of these stunning stormers are headed for the showroom, starting in 2003.

Although a final production brief has yet to be filed, much of the trick technology present on each of these one-offs is expected to make it into their volume-build counterparts. The story starts underhood, with a high-pressure turbocharged 2.3-liter five-cylinder engine that cranks out 300 horses and 295 lb-ft of torque. Although both of the show vehicles were fitted with a Volvo-designed, compact six-speed manual gearbox, there's a good chance we'll see autoshifted versions as well. In addition to the new AWD system, the PCC I and II are fitted with Volvo's electronically variable, tri-mode Four-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) underpinnings, bolstered by TRACS and DTSC systems plus massive Brembo ABS discs for superior stopping power. Visually, both vehicles boast more aggressive front/rear fascia treatments and wrap 245/35ZR19 Michelin performance tires around BBS magnesium wheels. Inside, grippy sport buckets, aluminum pedals and unique color-coordinated instrumentation complete the package.

Volvo has yet to confirm nomenclature or pricing for either of these bold new offerings. However, we're told there's a strong likelihood they'll arrive in dealerships carrying "S60 R AWD" and "V70 R AWD" badges on their respective rear quarters.

By Bob Nagy
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