2013 Volvo S60 AWD, going places that it’s never been: Motoramic Drives
The "spouse trip" used to be a common perk in the car-hack game, but in these austere times it's a rare sight, a mountain gorilla or a patch of open road on the 405. So when Volvo announced it was inviting writers to bring along a guest for "A Midsommar Drive" of the 2013 Volvo S60's new all-wheel-drive system, writers jockeyed for the slots like parents trying to get their five-year-old into a charter school. Well, honey, we'd be able to say, you may not have gotten to go to Barcelona, Lisbon, Hawaii, France, or Maine with me, but we'll always have Park City.
My wife Regina and I love driving together. We drove the Smoky Mountains on our honeymoon, and all over the United States and Canada for my first book tour, singing "On The Road Again," imagining ourselves as some nerd-couple version of Willie Nelson And Family. All of our best vacations have been driving ones. Now this trip would join the roster.
The S60 AWD, a brand-new $38,000 car with a 2.5-liter, 250-hp five-cylinder engine and a rich-smelling brown leather interior, was waiting elegantly just outside baggage claim in Salt Lake City. Clad in a Swedish "Ice White" exterior, it was ready for us to drive it up to the five-diamond mountain lodge that would be our home for the next 72 hours.
"Classy," Regina said.
"Only the finest for you, babe," I said.
"Don't be obnoxious," she said.
The spouse trip was on.
The S60 has been around in one guise or another since 2001, but this was my first time in one, a sin of omission. Immediately the car compared favorably with other luxury couches on wheels. I'd hesitate to recommend the S60 over the BMW 3-series, but it's certainly in the same league as the Mercedes C-Class, the Audi A4, or the Lexus E350.
The interior was comfortable, spacious, and unfussy, like a Pacific Palisades doctor's waiting room. It was nice to sit in, but what was it like to drive? As soon as we got it onto a clear patch of I-80, I jacked the S60 into sport mode and started fiddling with the manual shift. The car revved healthily, and bolted forward. I was having lots of fun.
"That's too many RPMs!" Regina said.
"It's only dangerous if it goes into the red," I said.
"You don't know what you're doing," she said.
"Partially true," I said, jamming it down to first.
"Stop driving in Sport mode. You don't know how to use it."
"Sure I do."
"Stay left in 5.1 miles. Assuming you don't get us killed before then."
It was nice to have her along.
When Ford cut Volvo loose during the "troubles" of 2009, it freed the iconic Swedish brand, which no longer had to be Ford's in-house safety patrol. But it also left Volvo with a nine-month gap with nothing new. The S60, which now sells 30,000-plus units annually, was the vehicle that returned Volvo to the spotlight in 2010 -- and it's been incremental improvements since then.