But given that the all-wheel-drive system is the same as found on the standard S60, which also can be had with an adaptive suspension system, the S60 R-Design does not make a great case for itself.
Standard City Safety
Volvo safety does not disappear with the R-Design label. Like the standard S60, the R-Design model comes standard with City Safety, an innovative feature that uses a camera to look for stopped traffic and pedestrians in front of the car, automatically slamming on the brakes if the vehicle speed is under 20 mph. Other features such as blind-spot detection and adaptive cruise control are available.
Rather than use a specially designed interface controller for the S60 R-Design's full cabin tech suite, Volvo makes do with two knobs and a keypad. Keeping the controls familiar, the left knob handles volume while the right does everything from radio tuning to navigation address entry to selecting music from an iPod. Volvo was quite clever in making this knob versatile.
The only strikes against it are that entering alphanumeric characters from an onscreen keyboard is tedious with the rotary dial, and it is easy to mix it up with the passenger-side temperature knob, as both are about the same size. The system seemed a little sluggish, too, not always responding rapidly to control inputs.
But voice command is a good substitute for the first problem, ably recognizing street and city names. It also works with the phone system, letting you place calls by contact name.
The maps on the non-touch LCD are well-defined, bright, and colorful. And we found route guidance was very aggressive about avoiding traffic problems, offering a detour when it detected trouble ahead. More impressive was its ability to give lane guidance even on city streets, recommending, for instance, a left lane when there was a left turn coming up.
Volvo's Premium Sound option brought in 12 speakers and a 650-watt amp. The sound comes through as very clean and well-balanced, although Volvo offers a high degree of tuning capability. Along with the usual bass and treble controls, there is a five-band equalizer buried in the cabin tech interface that lets you tweak sound production very precisely.
The drawback to this system is that you can use its digital signal processing to focus audio on the driver, front passengers, or rear passengers, but there is no setting to focus on all seats.
Although a bit more powerful than the standard S60, the 2012 Volvo S60 R-Design offers few other sporting capabilities to justify the $4,500 premium over its humbler sibling. And the lack of the adaptive suspension option, which is available on the standard S60, potentially makes it worse in overall performance.
Despite not offering a real performance gain, the S60 R-Design embodies most of what makes the standard S60 an excellent car, such as an efficient and powerful engine and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. The comfortable cabin houses solid and well-integrated electronics, with a very simple and clever interface.
|Model||2012 Volvo S60|
|Power train||Turbocharged 3-liter inline 6-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||18 mpg city/26 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||23.8 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional DVD-based navigation with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard with phonebook support|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Bluetooth streaming audio, USB drive, satellite radio, HD Radio|
|Audio system||650-watt, 12-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, collision warning, low-speed collision prevention, lane-departure warning, drowsy driving warning, backup camera|
|Price as tested||$46,875|