What the hell has gotten into Volvo?

I ask this question while drifting the new S60 through a corner. In truth, I've over cooked the turn, made a dog's breakfast of it. The S60's 325 lb-ft of torque comes in handy here and all four corners start digging for traction. The S60 straightens out and squirts to the next corner where I repeat the experiment (err ... mistake). This car is seriously entertaining, even if I'm doing it wrong. I learn the course after six laps, which means I waited in line three times. Unless it was a purpose-built racer, tracking a Volvo wasn't something I'd want to repeat, and certainly not cue up to do so. Volvos are nice cars and all but there are better tools in the garage. The new S60 aims to change all that.

I could go on to explain how the K-Pax GT1 Volvo S60 won the SPEED World Challenge GT Championship the last two years. How the efforts of Andy Pilgrim and Randy Pobst helped propel the Volvo to victory. But that's a racecar built by the talented crew at K-Pax. Often, the street version is a far cry from its high-powered sibling.

There's a saying in the aircraft industry, something akin to "Looks good, flies good." Even a cursory glance at the S60 reveals a sexy shape. The car is well muscled, its curves and bulges lending to its sense of purpose. While you expect this from European-bred sport sedans, Volvo has always gone its own way regarding design. Its cars are instantly recognizable for their substantial shoulders and cubist leanings. The S60 ain't like that. It's sleek and well weighted and requires a few double takes to realize it is indeed a Volvo. The C-pillar of the all-new S60 stretches all the way to the taillamps-and the roofline is augmented by a new contour on the shoulders of the lower body sides, creating a double wave from the headlamps at the front to the taillamps at the rear. The S60 wears LED lights like war paint, outlining the front headlamps and side marker lights and rear lamps.

I mention how it reminds me of a coupe and Volvo's design team starts glowing like Swedish cherubs. Apparently that was one of the design goals, a sedan with coupe-like attributes, something designer Peter Horbury espoused since the new car's inception.

"There's little point playing the polite Englishman or reserved Swede if you want to make a lasting impression," says Horbury. "Translated into a car market packed with extrovert models from all the leading makers, this means that you have to sharpen your design pencil like never before if you want to be seen. That's why it's so important for the all-new S60 to be more daring than our previous models."

The "daring" part continues with powerplant. The 260-hp 2.5-liter, turbo five-cylinder of the previous S60 has been replaced by a more robust lump of metal. Underneath the hood's revised sheetmetal resides a turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine producing a healthy 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of twist at 2100 rpm, the same engine that is used in the significantly larger XC90. It's enough to propel the 3,900-pound car with Volvo's second-generation six-speed automatic Geartronic transmission to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and on to a 130-mph electronically limited top speed. And while the new car has gained about 450 pounds, the new mill feels more refined and less agitated than its predecessor and certainly capable of greater output. The car's wheelbase has grown nearly two inches and benefits from slightly wider front/rear tracks. The new S60 will be offered in three chassis flavors: Touring, Dynamic and FOUR-C Active Chassis. In the U.S. the S60 comes standard with sportier Dynamic chassis with a slightly softer Touring suspension offered as a no-cost option. The optional FOUR-C Active Chassis system is just that, an active chassis. Various sensors monitor the car's behavior and revise damping rates accordingly. FOUR-C can be calibrated for comfort, sport or advanced performance depending on the driver's mood.

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