Yountville, Calif., -- I just finished a 250 mile drive through the twisting winding roads of Napa Valley with Volvo's S60 T6 R-Design and I really feel good.
I drove the last half of that distance and normally I would be sore or stiff or something. But not only did I not need to go somewhere and take a rest, I found very little to quibble about when it comes to the 2012 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design.
For the record, this midsize sedan is the performance version of Volvo's S60 sedan. More boost to the turbocharger and tweaked sparkplug timing has increased horsepower to 325 and torque to 354 pound-feet.
The S60 R-Design will now get from a standstill to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. Power was put to the wheels through a six speed automatic transmission with a sport mode that would shift manually or automatically.
In automatic mode, the sport setting held gears longer, giving us more ground hugging control through the winding hills here, and on straight-aways the car built up RPMs by holding gears longer, thus, speed was increased shifting into the next gear.
Volvo used some tried and true methods to increase chassis strength. A brace between the suspension strut towers improved steering response and it stiffened the body structure. Monotube dampers have replaced twin-tube dampers in the rear; they supplied compression and return damping through the same valve. The Swedish automaker said this gives shorter, faster, fluid flow, which really means the dampers responded more quickly.
On the swerving curving undulating two-lane highways here the S60 R-Design's compression and damping were so responsive that there wasn't any bounce or side to side swaying through some pretty aggressive driving. In a phrase, the chassis and suspension were very stable.
What's more, the springs have been shortened fore and aft and stiffened. Visually this lowered the car bit. Combined with stiffer bushings this counteracted wheel bounce and rear end rumble that I expected on one patch of pretty ruddy road.
You've really got to know your Volvos to distinguish between the S60 and the S60 R-Design. On the R, the grille was painted piano black, there was some small badging, the rear twin exhaust baffle was different, there were unique five spoke 18-inch wheels, a trunk spoiler and standard dual Xenon headlights that set the S60 R-Design apart from the regular S60.
What's more, although the S60 R-Design comes in four colors, a fifth, Passion Red, is exclusive to the model.
Inside, I found the mixture of three, well actually four different materials nicely done. There was a textured aluminum template covering the center stack. It was framed with silver satin and the vents were framed with chrome.
This sounds like a lot of shine but it really wasn't. The metal was dulled down to match the matted back leather interior. The sports seats were very comfortable and I always appreciate any car that doesn't have a mouse of some sort but still has all the stuff you'd expect to find in a as tested $46,875 sedan.
Oh, and handling was great. The Volvo S60 R-Design had all-wheel-drive but it favored front wheel drive. Translated, that means torque would only be shifted to the rear wheels if the front wheels began to slip. Still, through some really aggressive turns and acceleration there wasn't any perceptible torque steer.
There was only one thing to really quibble about. The dead pedal could have featured some metal inlay to drive home the point that the Volvo S60 R-Design was a performance sedan, and it could have been wider, too. But if I'm quibbling about the dead pedal rather than the car itself, then Volvo engineers achieved their goal.
The 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design is a very capable sport sedan. Prices start at $42,500.