Volvo let its chassis engineers go wild. They uprated the S60 with a sharper steering ratio; beefier shocks, struts and springs; and polyurethane bushings to replace the previous rubber units. The result is hands down the best handling Volvo ever. I learn this while flanking the Colombia River in Oregon, on a road designed by an engineer who was clearly a driving enthusiast. Behind the wheel of a FOUR-C-equipped S60, I engaged in all manner of automotive shenanigans, from mile-long straights to off-camber 90-degree switchbacks to dusty farm trails to don't-hit-the-deer panic stops. While the previous S60 was capable, it didn't really feel like it was enjoying itself. The new S60 is clearly a new animal. It loves being driven hard. Though calibrated with moderate understeer I found I could move the car with throttle modulation, much like an Audi Quattro product. The S60 is augmented with Volvo's Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC) system and incorporates a new driver-selectable sport setting that disables the anti-spin system for more active driving with an increase in oversteer.

The steering is much improved as well, although it still feels a bit "filtered" before reaching the steering wheel. Again, the sensation is very Audi-like.

While the all-new S60's interior has a more extroverted attitude than before, it continues to pay homage to its Scandinavian roots. Yes, it's a bit minimalistic but that's part of the charm.

"We've taken a significant step forward when it comes to the quality and craftsmanship of the interior," says Anders Sachs, who is in charge of colors and materials in the all-new S60. "We aimed to make every visible surface, whether leather, metal, wood or plastic, exclusive both to the hand and the eye."

Both high-tech and classic materials can be found inside from Graphite Aluminum to Urbane Wood. Both the front and rear seats are especially well contoured and can be trimmed in beige leather with black inserts, a seriously cool look we typically see only in custom interiors. The rear seats can also be folded down in a 40/60 split for especially large loads.

The all-new S60 also receives an all-new infotainment system. Information from the audio unit, navigation system and other functions is presented on a 7-inch color monitor positioned in the upper part of the center console. All the functions can be operated from the steering wheel or via controls located below the screen. The optional Multimedia Package ($2,700) adds a Volvo Premium Sound System, featuring Dolby Pro-Logic II Surround Sound, 650-watt amplifier, 12 premium speakers and MultiEQ XT by Audyssey. Apparently, this system kicks ass but I didn't use it. Driving the S60 was involving enough.

The optional Technology Package ($2,100) adds adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full autobrake, lane departure warning and Volvo's exclusive Pedestrian Protection system. The S60 has been trained to "see" the road in front of it, specifically human forms. It will plot their trajectory in relation to the car and intercede if the driver does not. Pedestrian Detection works best at speeds less than 25 mph and can automatically bring the car to a dead stop in fractions of a second. Volvo must have envisioned harried mothers with a car full of kids in the Disneyland parking lot. As she turns around to right little Timmy's juice cup an excited 9-year-old darts out from between cars into the S60 path. Although Mom never saw the kid, the S60 did and engaged the brakes.

Most of us will never activate Pedestrian Detection, preferring to pull the car over and stop before administering kiddie care/discipline. But should Pedestrian Detection help avoid one tragedy, it's worth the millions Volvo put into it. Moreover, it's likely we will be seeing more of this type of technology in future cars, cars that actually see and think.

Clad in 17-inch "Njord" alloys and Vibrant Copper paint, I can't help but think Volvo's new S60 has turned the proverbial corner. The car not only looks fabulous, it also behaves like a real sport sedan. Add Volvo's vaunted build quality and a 5-year/60,000 mile warranty with complimentary maintenance and the S60 becomes a genuine threat to the likes of Audi and BMW.

2011 Volvo S60 T6

Transverse front engine,all-wheel drive

3.0-liter I6, dohc, 24-valve, turbocharged

Six-speed Geartronic with adaptive program

MacPherson struts, antiroll bars (f), multilink independent, antiroll bar (r)

Four-piston calipers, 12.4-inch (f) / 11.9-inch (r) steel rotors

Length/Width/Height (in.): 182.2/73.4/58.4
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Weight: 3,901 lb

MSRP: $37,000

Peak Power: 300 hp @ 6500 rpm
Peak Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 2100 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.8 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph (limited)

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