HUNTSVILLE, Utah -- Running northeast on Monte Cristo Road that climbs high into Utah's Wasatch Range, we're flexing turbo-charged muscle in a 2013 S60 T5 AWD four-door sedan by Sweden's automaker Volvo.
The route traverses a dense fir forest on wiggly blacktop bereft of shoulders. Tree trunks as thick as thighs spike the rim of the road like sentries protecting a dark forest from intrusion by lax motorists who might miss one of the blind corners and attempt to chart a new course into Wasatch woods.
So a driver must be diligent and careful when steering a car through this maze, although we find on this romp over the Utah mountains that the new S60 T5 AWD with its precise manners and 235/40R18 tires mounted on Sleipner alloy wheels bonding to blacktop at all four posts makes a tricky course cut through trees so much tire-gripping pavement play.
It charges in zig-zag-zig-zag maneuvers with the precision of a laser scalpel while supporting the action with surging muscle drawn from a turbo-charger on the five-in-line engine and no hesitation apparent like the typical turbo's latent manners.
The original S60 debuted as a 2001 model built on the adaptable P2 platform and sandwiched in size between Volvo's mid-size S80 flagship and a S40 compact sedan.
Then the S60 T6 AWD arrived in 2011 to mark a new generation in a complete re-do with stylish and sleek skin outside, a handsomely sculpted passenger compartment, reworked chassis with tight suspension elements, and a powerful turbo-charged and inter-cooled in-line six-cylinder engine on tap with all torque factored through a sophisticated electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system that's always engaged.
For 2012 a second trim -- S60 T5 -- appeared bearing lower price points in front-wheel-drive format with a turbo-charged and inter-cooled in-line five-cylinder engine.
Now for 2013 the S60 T5 scores engine improvements for quicker accelerations plus the option of four-wheel traction with the electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system.
The 2.5-liter five-in-line plant achieves high torque at relatively low engine speed and without a typical turbo's acceleration lag. With aluminum block and dual overhead cams, it produces 250 hp at 5400 rpm and 266 lb-ft of torque between 1800 and 4200 rpm.
To control the engine's output of torque, Volvo adds an electronic automatic transmission with six forward gears and Geartronic sequential shifter.
Shift-it-yourself maneuvers are made by tapping the console-mounted shift lever to the right through a gate, then pushing it forward to bump up a gear or pulling it back to drop down one gear at a time.
The optional active-on-demand AWD system -- by Haldex, a Swedish pioneer in AWD mechanisms -- automatically splits the engine's power between front and rear wheels.
We note that the S60 T5 also stocks significant passive safety measures, beginning with a stiff core superstructure of high-strength steel ringing the passenger compartment and crush zones front and rear to absorb impact forces of a collision and deflect them from the cabin.
Riders are shielded in the cabin by frontal air bags and side-impact air bags in front seats plus side curtain-style air bags. And to damp the whiplash effect during a rear impact, front seatbacks instantly move rearward to pare acceleration forces on the passenger's back and neck.
The T5 also comes with many intelligent electronic safety controls. Among the alphabetical soup of acronyms for standard safety gear is an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with hydraulic brake assist (HBA), optimized hydraulic brakes (OHB), ready alert brakes (RAB) and fading brake support (FBS), plus traction control (TRACS) and the dynamic stability and traction control (DSTC) system which employs an on-board computer and various lateral plus linear motion sensors tied to ABS, TRACS and the engine's throttle.
In addition to DSTC yaw control, Volvo adds the driver support system dubbed City Safety, a laser-based vehicle control system capable of detecting an immovable object in the path of the sedan. If this equipment determines that the driver is not going to stop the vehicle, then it will activate brakes on its own to prevent or at least lessen a low-speed collision.
S60 T5 comes with standard gear like rain sensor windshield wipers, dual polished exhaust pipes, twin-zone electronic climate controls, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, sport bucket front seats and 60/40 split folding rear seat, plus a 150-watt audio kit with eight speakers and AM/FM/CD/HD/AUX/USB/MP3.
The S60 T5 for 2013 skews to four trim grades: T5, T5 Premier, T5 Premier Plus and T5 Platinum.
T5 Premier trim adds a power moonroof, leather seat upholstery, Keyless Drive with Personal Car Communicator (PCC), power controls for the front passenger seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
T5 Premier Plus edition also stocks dual xenon headlamps, front and rear park assist, the Homelink remote garage door opener and a compass in the rearview mirror.
T5 Platinum grade goes further with the Volvo Premium Sound System, a navigation system with voice control and a rear park assist camera.
Then there are optional packages: A Climate Package and the Technology Package, which includes Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, adaptive cruise control, distance alert and lane departure warning.
Volvo's price points for the 2013 S60 T5 begin at $31,750 for FWD and $33,750 for AWD. Top trim S60 T5 Platinum lists for $37,800 in FWD and $39,800 with AWD.