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An elegant luxury sedan or a sleek sport sedan? The 2006 Volvo S60 can fill both of these roles, though not with the grace of some German rivals.
Superb front-seat comfort, wide variety of safety and luxury features, balanced ride and handling characteristics, available all-wheel drive.
Doesn't handle with true sport sedan precision, expensive optional equipment, turbo lag and torque steer in the T5 model, tight rear legroom.
Available S60 Sedan Models
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Available S60 R Models
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For 2006, the base 2.4 model has been dropped, and the convenience package gains a sunglasses holder, rear park assist and laminated side windows. The Four-C chassis and Sport Body packages are available for the T5 only this year. The 2.5T AWD model gets a new all-wheel-drive system for enhanced traction. Both the AWD and T5 models get new alloy wheel designs.
Remember the days when Volvo cars were universally thought of as boxy, boring, and sensible? OK, some of you may still think that, but in the past eight years, the Swedish company has embraced softer design and sharper driving dynamics to expand its audience beyond safety-conscious suburban parents. It started with the introduction of the sleek C70 in 1998 and the curvaceous S80 in 1999, and then continued with the debut of the midsize S60 for the 2001 model year. Without sacrificing any of the usual Volvo trademarks such as safety and upscale features, Volvo has positioned the S60 as a stylish, sporty sedan, a car that would appeal to someone who likes to drive.
Engines are turbocharged and suspension tuning in the S60 is tighter than you might expect, although it's still not firm to the level of most German sport sedans. With ample power and vise-grip brakes, the S60 can hustle through canyons at a brisk pace -- just don't expect to keep up with BMWs forever. Inside, the Volvo S60 is larger in dimensions than most of the compact entry-level luxury sedans it competes with, and it's equipped with incredibly comfortable seats and, of course, all of the latest safety equipment is on board as well. Volvo's somewhat enigmatic climate control system makes for unnecessary fiddling now and then, but for the most part, the S60's interior uses high-quality components and a functional design.
But would you want to buy one? That probably depends on what you are looking for. If you have owned Volvo cars in the past and want one that's sportier, the 2006 Volvo S60 would be an excellent match for you. But if driving excitement is a top priority, the TSX, A4, 3 Series, G35, IS 300 or even Volvo's own in-house performance model, the S60 R, would probably be a better choice. One other thing to keep in mind: Most Volvo S60 models don't come with a great deal of luxury content, and a couple thousand dollars' worth of options are usually necessary to create an upscale ambience -- at which point some of its competitors might begin to seem like a better value.
Four trim levels are available on the Volvo S60 -- base 2.4, midlevel 2.5T, winter-friendly 2.5T AWD and upscale T5. The four vary on the basis of standard equipment and engine type. The 2.4 is equipped with 15-inch alloy wheels, a trip computer, dual-zone climate control, a CD player, power-fold rear headrests, one-touch front windows and a tilt/ telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel. The 2.5T and 2.5T AWD get 16-inch wheels, a power driver seat with memory, automatic climate control and faux wood interior accents. The T5 comes with upgraded trim and a power passenger seat. Options include an excellent 13-speaker Dolby sound system with a four-disc CD changer, a DVD-based navigation system, an adaptive suspension, 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated seats and a sunroof.
The Volvo S60 2.4 comes with a 2.4-liter five-cylinder engine that produces 168 horsepower (165 in California where it's SULEV-certified). The 2.5T, as you might guess, is turbocharged, and it makes a healthy 208 hp. The 2.5T AWD has the same engine, but power is routed through an electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system. The T5 is the most powerful S60 with its 257-hp, 2.3-liter turbocharged engine. Both the 2.4 and T5 can be equipped with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission, while the 2.5T and 2.5T AWD are available only with the automatic. Automanual functionality is available on all models except the 2.4.
Safety features include side airbags for front occupants, side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers, anti-submarine seats and whiplash-reducing head restraints. Stability control is standard on the T5 and optional for all other models. In government crash testing, the Volvo S60 scored four out of five stars for the driver and front passenger in the frontal impact category. Side-impact scores were five stars for both front- and rear-seat occupants. In frontal offset crash testing, the S60 received a "Good" rating overall (the best possible).
The interior of the Volvo S60 is functional but doesn't feel upscale unless you add options like leather upholstery. The controls are nicely weighted; although, the pictograms depicting the various functions can be difficult to understand. There is seating for five, but rear passengers may find legroom tight. The front seats always receive the highest accolades, with a blend of cushioning and support and a myriad of controls that allow variously sized bodies to fit comfortably.
The base S60 2.4 offers adequate power, though most people are apt to prefer the more powerful 2.5T models. The T5 should be your choice if you like to do things quickly but don't mind some turbo lag. Overall, the 2006 Volvo S60 provides a smooth, serene ride that veers more toward comfort than sport. These Volvo cars hold the road well when driven around twists and turns, but when pushed hard, they can't maintain the composure of sportier rivals. What's more, bumps and ruts tend to upset the chassis more so than in other entry-luxury sedans. The steering is relatively quick but lacks road feel, while the brakes provide strong stopping power.
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