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First drive: Volvo hopes for sedan revival with S60

Rise of the robots: Volvo's new S60 has a raft of standard and optional safety technology designed to help avoid accidents, or at least reduce their severity.

Safety-first S60 set to re-establish Volvo in mid-sized luxury car market

30 Nov 2010

VOLVO Australia is looking to dramatically increase its presence in the mid-sized luxury class with its all-new S60 sedan against the well-established Mercedes C-class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

It is aiming to ramp up sales of the model from fewer than 100 a year in the period before the model was dropped from the Australian line-up in 2008, to 1500 year with the new car.

In doing so, it is looking to reduce its dependence on its strong-selling SUVs for the bulk of its sales.

Volvo Australia managing director Alan Desselss said his company was not being overly ambitious with its S60 targets.

“There will be a challenge to attract people from that segment into the Volvo product, but I’m confident given the quality, the level of engineering and an extremely competitive pricing,” he said.

18 center imageAdvanced safety technology, including a system that can actively stop the car when it senses a pedestrian on a collision course, will be a key part of the S60’s armory, along with progressive design, increased interior space and strong engines including an all-new four-cylinder turbo petrol.

S60 range prices kick off with the T5 at $51,950 and moves up to the D5 AWD at $57,950 before topping out at $64,950 for the T6 AWD.

The D5 diesel and T6 petrol are available now, while the petrol T5 will come early next year.

Volvo has changed its naming strategy so the 5 in T5 no longer refers to the number of cylinders. The numbers, from 1 to 5 will now represents the relative power output in the Volvo engine family.

The T5 is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. It is called a GTDI engine which suggests it might be a diesel, but it is actually a petrol unit.

‘DI’ refers to its direct injection technology. This engine generates 177kW at 5500rpm and 320Nm from 1800-500rpm and propels the S60 from 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds.

Australian fuel consumption is yet to be confirmed, but the international figure comes in at 8.3 litres per 100km.

This engine is linked to Volvo’s six-speed Powershift dual-clutch automatic.

The revised D5 is a 2.4-litre five-cylinder common-rail turbo diesel generating 151kW from 1500-3250rpm and 420Nm from 1500-3250rpm. It has an official Australian fuel consumption average of 7.1L/100km and a 0-100km/h acceleration figure of 8.1 seconds.

The T6 is an upgraded 3.0-litre transverse mounted in-line six cylinder turbo. It now produces 14kW more power and a healthy 40Nm more torque. That makes for totals of 224kW at 5600rpm and 440Nm from 2100-4200rpm.

The fuel consumption is 10.2L/100km but it is the acceleration number from 0 to 100km/h of 6.1 seconds that will be of most interest to potential customers.

Both the D5 and T6 run a six-speed automatic torque convertor type transmission linked to a constant all-wheel drive system, while the T5 is front-wheel drive.

The S60 uses a platform similar to that used for the S80, V70, XC60 and XC70 but with significant revisions. It has new suspension, with MacPherson struts at the front and a fresh multi-link rear set-up. Volvo says the damping and spring rates are firmer than before in order to aid sportier handling.

Volvo will also offer the Four C active damper system as an option. There will also be an R-Design sports suspension option.

Electronic stability control is standard on all S60 models and it now has a sport mode which turns off the traction control element to allow for some spirited driving with a safety net in the background.

The system also features torque vectoring which means it can brake an inside wheel during a bend and send more power to the outside wheel for improved drive.

The S60 comes with a full suite of front, side and curtain airbags and also has a rollover sensor (which is rare for a non SUV model) that sets off the curtain airbags – which are tuned to stay inflated for longer than usual – and pretensions the seatbelts in anticipation of impact.

It has advanced electronic active safety features, some standard and some optional.

City Safety, which was introduced on the XC60, is standard. This system uses laser radar to counter low-speed nose-to-tail crashes at 30km/h, and is designed to stop nose to tail accidents usually caused by inattention.

The sensor, fitted behind the rear-view mirror, looks at traffic within a range of six metres in front and makes 50 calculations per second to determine if a vehicle in front is a threat.

If the system calculates that a risk of collision is imminent it will automatically brake the car and wind back the throttle.

Volvo says the system can lead to a 20 per cent reduction in insurance costs compared with rivals.

Next up is the adaptive cruise control, which uses radar to maintain a standard distance between the driver and the car in front. If this system predicts a possible impact with a car in front it will sound an alarm and flash up a red line on the windscreen to warn the driver.

If no action is taken, the car will brake heavily to try to avoid a crash or at least limit its severity.

This system can maintain a distance to the car in front in stop-start traffic with no driver input until the car is stopped for three seconds or longer, in which case the driver is required to either accelerate or press the cruise control’s resume button.

The new pedestrian detection system makes its debut with the new S60 and is a first.

This system uses both radar and a camera to detect pedestrians and, if sensor predict an impact is likely, will hit the brakes.

It uses radar to detect object that may be pedestrians and then the camera to identify if the object is a person.

Volvo says the system can detect pedestrians 80cm and taller, but as it uses camera vision to identify pedestrians it needs light and can’t function at night.

Senior Volvo safety advisor Thomas Broberg, who flew to Australia for this week’s launch, said the system was not going to stop all pedestrian fatalities and injuries, but would help.

“With this technology we could save 24 per cent of people involved in fatal pedestrian accidents,” he said.

Looking at European pedestrian fatality data for Europe in 1998, Volvo says it system would have saved some 400 people had it been fitted to all cars.

Mr Broberg said test vehicles have run up more than 500,000km with the system operating to fine tune the pedestrian detection system and only initiate emergency braking in response to a likely impact.

“It is not hard to make the car brake, the hard part is making sure it just doesn’t brake when it sees anything,” he said.

Other optional safety gear for the S60 includes the blind spot information system which uses a camera to detect vehicles in the blind spot and a lane departure warning system that alerts you if you start to drift out of your lane (without indicators engaged).

Volvo Australia is offering a Driver Support Package that includes the adaptive cruise control with pedestrian detection system, the blind spot detection system and lane departure warning for $4990.

Standard gear on the S60 D5 and T5 includes leather trim, electric driver’s seat with memory function, a sound system with USB (suitable for iPods) and aux connection, Bluetooth connectivity, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, electric park brake, climate control air-conditioning with pollen filter, cruise control, auto dimming rear-view mirror, split-fold rear seats and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The T5 and D5 models have a sound system with a five-inch colour screen and eight speakers.

The T6 adds a seven-inch colour screen, DVD player, Dolby Pro-Logic II sound with five 130-watt amplifiers and 12 speakers, satellite navigation, electric seat adjustment with memory function for both the driver and passenger, front parking sensors and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Teknik packs are available for all models. The T5/D5 Teknik pack includes satellite navigation, active bending lights (which swivel to point in the direction the car is turning), rear parking camera and a seven-inch colour screen for $5500.

The T6 Teknik pack includes the active bending lights, rear parking camera and adaptive cruise control including pedestrian detection for $4500.

2011 Volvo S60pricing:

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