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Back in January we got one very special e-mail. It asked us to spec out a 2011 Volvo S60 of our own, which would then be built and delivered to us for a year-long test period. We’ve done long-term testing of Volvos in the past, but this opportunity differed in that past cars have been handed to us already built with no choices of colors and options. Don’t think we’re complaining about that — we were just more excited about the chance to build our own this time around. We were even more excited when it showed up last Friday afternoon.
As you may tell from the photos, we chose ember black metallic paint, a color we’d fallen in love with on Volvo show stands at a number of recent auto shows. In the right light, it shimmers a dark blend of charcoals and browns. On sunny days and under artificial light, it’s one of the most unique blacks on the market. On cloudy days, as we’ve already learned, it’s just your run-of-the-mill black. We’re looking forward to the challenge of learning how to photograph it just right through the coming months.
Picking an interior color was even easier. Volvo’s beechwood brown interior is an absolute stunner that has already garnered a lot of praise in just a few days. It’s a great match for the brown-flaked black paint, too. Thinking the brown would look better with an earthy trim, we replaced the standard graphite accents on the interior with “Urbane” wood for $300. We think we made the right choice, but we’re not totally happy with how glossy the wood is. We’ve really appreciated some of Volvo’s flatter, more natural-looking trim materials as of late and this isn’t one of them. Still, the wood pattern itself is appealing; we just don’t look forward to keeping fingerprints in check.
Outside of the big design choices, we picked options and packages we were interested in living with for the next year. If Volvo offered the S60’s remarkable premium audio system on its own, we might have avoided the multimedia package that also includes a back-up camera and navigation for a steep $2700. Still, the S60 is the first car to include Volvo’s new generation of navigation, so it’s worth trying it out. The rear camera has already come in handy for tight parallel parking maneuvers as well; the S60’s butt is rather tall. We couldn’t live without heated seats, so we picked the $800 climate package and that also includes rain-sensing wipers, headlight washers, heated windshield washer nozzles, and an interior air quality system. That seems like a good value overall. Finally, we couldn’t resist xenon lights, which come in the $1500 premium package along with a moonroof and a power passenger seat. We’ll probably get criticized for not ordering the technology package with Volvo’s new pedestrian detection system, but that package and its many beeping noises just wasn’t a priority for us.
There are few stand-alone options for the S60 if you ignore the sport bumpers and spoilers and things, all of which we think clutter the S60’s elegant design. Along with the aforementioned $300 wood trim, we checked the boxes for Four-C active suspension ($750) and the Personal Car Communicator with keyless drive ($550.) We’ve been waiting for Volvo to join the club of allowing us to leave the car keys in our pockets, and in just one weekend we can’t live without it. In addition to keyless go, the PCC has sensors in the door handles to allow for keyless unlocking at the touch of a finger. We’ll talk more about Four-C in our next update.
So that’s our ride for the next twelve months; we hope you like our choices. The total price for our 300-hp S60 T6 AWD is a bit steep at $45,725, but we feel like we got a lot of content that would drive a number of competitors over the $50,000 mark. A BMW 335i xDrive, for example, starts just $300 lower than our as-tested Volvo. We really wanted the all-wheel drive, which automatically ruled out the base 250-hp T5 engine that would have saved us fuel cost and a few thousand dollars right at the gate. We’re told that people more patient than us will have a T5 AWD option in a year or so.
Just one weekend in, we can already tell that the S60 is going to be a dear friend of ours until next May. Along with the seats being lined in such a great color, they’re among the most comfortable chairs on the market today. The chassis and turbocharged inline six make a lively pair, but we’ve mentioned in previous reviews, the lazy six-speed automatic will probably prove to be the weak point of the S60’s sporty intentions. Unlike past models, there is at least now a sport shifting mode between the pre-existing normal and manual modes. That’s another thing we hope to play with through the coming weeks and report about in next month’s update.
Our new S60 has already played commuter, fine dining chariot, and junk hauler. It has seen sun and rain, 50 degrees and 90 degrees. Our first hundred miles were a fitting start for the busy year our new Volvo has ahead, but we can confidently say it’ll handle it with ease. Stick with us as we bring you monthly updates and random Facebook page postings about our new ride as we push it harder and get to know it better. Who knows, maybe we’ll even find a few ways to make the “Naughty Volvo” a bit more indecent.