Admit it. When you hear the word Volvo you think about safety. With few noted exceptions, Volvo is rarely associated with performance. The Volvo S60R just may change that perception. While the 2005 Volvo S60R does offer the safety, reliability, and comfort we’ve come to expect from Volvo, it also features some downright impressive performance.
To start with, Volvo’s turbocharged and intercooled 2.5 liter DOHC 20-valve inline five cylinder powerplant incorporates CVVT (Continuously Variable Valve Timing) on both intake and exhaust valves, and delivers a peak 300 horsepower at 5,500 rpm for manual transmission models and 6,000 rpm for automatics.
Transmission choices include a close ratio six speed manual or five speed Geartronic automatic with sequential manual shift mode.
Power is transmitted through an electronically controlled all wheel drive system with stability and traction control. Volvo’s Four-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) semi-active chassis offers three chassis settings; comfort, sport, and advanced. Suspension is four wheel independent with electronically controlled Monroe-Ohlins shocks at all four corners.
Stopping power comes from ventilated thirteen inch four wheel disc brakes with four piston Brembo calipers with Electronic Brake Assistance and Electronic Brake Distribution. The R model also features quicker ratio steering compared to the standard S60 and aluminum 17×8 inch Pegasus five spoke wheels wrapped in 235/45ZR17 Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tires.
What else does the S60R get that the standard S60 doesn’t? A revised front fascia with extended spoiler for greater downforce and a larger air duct to feed the intercooler, as well as a rear spoiler designed to reduce rear lift.
Driving the Volvo S60R is an absolute pleasure. The overall fit and finish of the car is everything you’d expect of a fine European sedan, and both interior and exterior styling is elegant and tasteful. The heated leather sport seats offer adequate support and are fully adjustable. Gauges and controls are well placed within easy reach, and in plain sight.
Turn the key and the S60R quietly wakes up, with little indication of the fury building inside those five cylinders. Clutch effort is surprisingly light and the shifter slips smoothly into first gear.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I stalled the car pulling out of the parking space. The S60R does not give the driver gradual clutch feel the way most cars do. At about half engagement the pedal suddenly feels like a see-saw with a fat kid on the other end. If you’re light on the throttle when the see-saw flips over its axis, you’re stalled. A few stop lights up the road is all it took to get a good feel for it, and in no time we were snapping full throttle upshifts. The six speed shifter offers positive feel with a reasonably short throw.
Volvo claims a zero to sixty time of 5.4 seconds and an electronically governed top speed of 155mph. While we did not have a controlled environment to test those numbers in, our ass dyno wouldn’t dispute those claims. The S60R builds power so quickly and quietly it’s hard to believe you’re doing 110 at the end of the on-ramp acceleration lane.
Each of the S60R’s three active chassis settings offer the driver a distinctly different feel. In comfort mode the car absorbs every bump and imperfection I-64 can throw at it, which is a lot, cruising comfortably at 70mph. In sport mode the suspension tightens up, giving the driver good road feel without a punishing ride. In advanced mode the suspension tightens up even more, passing bumps, dips, and other road info up to the driver. Handling in advanced mode is super sharp and responsive.
Even at a healthy pace the S60R exhibits no bad habits. Body roll is virtually non-existent, steering inputs are fast and precise, and traction borders on the miraculous. Just point the S60R into a late apex, stomp the accelerator, and check your rear view for flashing blue lights.
Under normal driving conditions the S60R’s front wheels get 95% of the driving power. However, up to 70% of that power can be electronically diverted to the rear wheels in an instant if the computer determines power is needed there. Under hard first or second gear acceleration the car did show a hint of torque steer, but the computer smooths things out quickly. The AWD also engages so smoothly you can’t tell when it’s working.
When it comes time to slow things down, the big Brembos take care of business with no drama. Volvo claims a 60-0 mph braking distance of 118 feet.
So, what’s the verdict? The Volvo S60R is tremendous fun to drive, and incredibly versatile. This is a car that can comfortably, safely, and reliably get the kids to school, take you to work, and cruise a few hundred miles packed with the family and a week’s worth of luggage – or show up at an autocross or road course for a track day. If you need more cargo space Volvo also offers a V70R sport wagon.
The S60R also has a unique ability among sporting sedans to make a hero out of almost anyone. Three hundred horsepower has never been so user-friendly. This is not a car for the sports car purist who would prefer their car not do their thinking for them, but it’s just the ticket for enthusiasts looking for a versatile commuter that can double as an occasional track car. With an original MSRP of $41,500 the Volvo S60R is now a used car bargain with worn examples available well under ten grand, and nice cars selling for just over that.