ONYX, Ark. -- The 47-mile stretch of Highway 27 from Mount Ida to Danville, a squiggly ribbon of asphalt running over granite-crusted rumples of the Ouachita Mountains in western Arkansas, earns a 10 out of 10 score in our catalog of great roads which elicit the exciting spirit of a sporty car.
This route has steep mountain grades, endless hairpin corners and swoopy dips through deep valleys -- with a dearth of traffic or patrols to challenge a swift pace.
It's just the track we seek to flex turbocharged muscle in a 2011 S60 T6 AWD four-door sedan by Sweden's automaker Volvo.
Hang on to your seatbelt, though, because this new rendition of the S60 tears down our traffic-free route 27 with precise manners and the 235/40R18 tires mounted on Sleipner alloy wheels bonding to blacktop at all four posts.
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.
The S60 T6 AWD of 2011 represents a new generation for Volvo's popular sedan.
It's a complete re-do with stylish and sleek skin outside, a handsomely sculpted passenger compartment with standard leather upholstery and aluminum metal trim, a reworked chassis with tight suspension elements, and a powerful new turbocharged and intercooled in-line six-cylinder engine on tap with all torque factored through a sophisticated electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system that's always engaged.
The conformation for S60 grows out of a basic wedge-shaped shell with high tail and low prow capped by Volvo's narrow grille with signature diagonal slash bar.
Creases in the bowed hood taper forward from raked windshield pillars to sides of the grille and thrust it ahead as the leading edge.
Xenon headlamps set behind polycarbon lenses fill recesses flanking the grille, as the body-colored fascia -- studded by trapezoidal air intakes -- wraps around the face to front wheelwells and forms a broad ground-level base which extends below sleek side panels.
A stylish passenger cabin contains rich appointments in an understated cabin with muted tone-on-tone colors.
The conventional layout sets two bolstered buckets beside a multi-purpose console and ahead of a bench with three seat positions.
In our drive down Ark. 27, we find the S60 T6 can be quick and enthusiastic, thanks to the turbocharged in-line-six engine aboard.
The 3.0-liter 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 300 hp at 5600 rpm and 325 lb-ft of torque between 2100 and 4200 rpm.
To control the engine's high output of torque, Volvo adds an electronic automatic transmission with six forward gears and Geartronic sequential shifter.
Shift-it-yourself maneuvers are made by throwing 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 active-on-demand AWD system splits the engine's power between front and rear wheels and encompasses a new device (Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring, or CTCTV), which automatically shifts engine torque to outside wheels during a turn maneuver to claw more traction and nix understeer.
We note that S60 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.
S60 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 the 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 T6 AWD comes with standard gear like twin-zone climate controls, leather-clad seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power controls for the driver's bucket, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, a seven-inch color display in the console, Bluetooth connectivity and an audio system with eight speakers and AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3.
Optional equipment bundles in packages.
The Premium Package applies a power moonroof, power controls to the front passenger seat and the Xenon headlamps. A Climate Package installs heated seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, rain-sensor wipers and headlamp washers. A Multimedia Package delivers a 650-watt Dolby Surround Sound audio kit plus navigation system and a split-lens rearview camera.
The Technology Package brings additional electronic safety systems, such as new Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake which functions like City Safety only to detect a human in the car's path and automatically apply brakes. Other tools in the package include adaptive cruise control, distance alert and lane departure warning.
And S60 offers suspension options -- Touring Chassis for a softer ride, and Four-C active chassis management with settings of Comfort, Sport, Advanced.
Solo options range from metallic paints to run-flat tires, cabin wood trim, and front and rear park assist.
Volvo's price points for the new S60 T6 AWD climb up from $37,700.