There must be something in the water supply at Volvo these days, because they are turning out a new breed of vehicle. Enter the 2011 Volvo S60 T6 AWD sedan. Don’t be confused by this sleek four door sedan, while certainly capable of serving as terrific family transportation, it is in actuality more like a rocket ship than what the public typically perceives Volvo sedans to be.

Being the 60 series, means the S60 falls into Volvo’s mid-sized category. The T6 designation signifies that it is powered by a 3 liter, 6-cylinder turbocharged engine, a package that pumps out an impressive 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. The six-cylinder turbo is mated to a flawless six-speed transmission. Did I mention that the S60 is also an ULEV-11 vehicle, which means it emits extremely low levels of air pollutants compared to other vehicles? So not only is it a kick in the pants to drive, it is also eco friendly.

The S60 also delivers acceptable fuel economy numbers for a performance oriented sedan. The EPA rates it at 18 city and 26 highway. Our actual numbers were 22 combined, and 27 on a 300 mile highway run.

The S60 also holds it own in the concept of affordable luxury with an interior highlighted by Shimmer Graphite aluminum inlays and perhaps the most comfortable leather seats in the industry. We really appreciated not just the large grain, supple leather, but their inherent supportive design as well. The seats are constructed with Volvo’s signature Whiplash Protection Seating System (WHIPS)

Creature comforts include dual zone electronic climate control, watch dial instrumentation, Driver Control Interface with integrated 7-inch color display, a high performance sound system with CD/DVD player, HD Radio, AUX and USB inputs, MP3 capability, 160-watt amplifier and 8 speakers, Bluetooth hands-free phone interface with audio streaming and Sirius satellite radio (subscription required).

Of course it wouldn’t be a Volvo if safety configurations weren’t front and center. In addition to all-wheel drive with Instant Traction, the S60 carries corner traction control by torque vectoring, advanced stability control, dynamic stability and traction control (DSTC) with sport mode, inflatable side curtain airbags, Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) and City Safety. City Safety is a unique safety feature that can help the driver avoid or reduce the damage of low-speed impacts that are common in city traffic and bumper-to-bumper traffic. If the car is about to strike the vehicle in front and the driver does not react, the car automatically applies the brakes.

Do you really want something that applies the brakes for you?

Before you say no, remember that all safety devices are there not only to help a driver putting forth their best effort, but mind that they are also designed to help the driver avoid or prevent accidents. They are not substitutes for good driver awareness, nor should they be relied upon to prevent accidents, but drivers are often distracted– searching for a good radio station, talking on their cell phones, eating or drinking behind the wheel. The City Safety systems steps in to help you avoid those fender-benders often caused by such distractions.

We would be remiss if we didn’t address the S60 fetching exterior. Brightly moving into the 21st century, the S60 is outfitted with LED front positioning lights, front side marker lights, turn signal indicators in outside mirrors, taillights as well as its center high-mount stoplight. Eighteen-inch “Sleipner” alloy wheels illuminate the cars stance and lend a hint to its performance capabilities.

The sleek body with low front hood line sweeps upward to the top of the windshield at a rake that NASCAR racecars would envy. The high rear deck lid allow for an exceptionally large trunk for a midsized sedan.

Bottom line, how does the S60 drive? Some AWD drive sedans can feel a bit bogged down by that capability, but not the S60. A hardy press of the accelerator up a long grade raised our eyebrows, “Wow, this car really is OK!” Combine that with dynamic tuned handling and we found on backcountry mountain roads the S60 sung lithely through the hills and valleys and around the esse curves and switchbacks with all the sweetness of the first robins of spring. Both our thumbs came up. We think it would be more than fair to say that compared to some more expensive heavy hitters in the performance sedan segment, the S60 could more than hold its own in performance and handling. When you couple that with a price tag that would be thousands less than such vehicles, it would be hard to not consider the S60 if you are in the market for a performance sedan.

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  • Horsepower: 300 hp – 325 lb-ft of Torque
  • Mileage: 18 city / 26 highway (check our actual mileage in the review)
  • Seating capacity: Five
  • Suggested list price: $37,700
  • Price as Tested: $43,450.00
  • Add Ons: Premium package: Power Glass Moonroof/Power Passenger Seat, dual Xenon Gas Discharge Headlights wth Active Beam bending – $1500.00
  • Technology Package
  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist
  • Collision Warning With Full Auto Brake
  • Distance Alert/Driver Alert Control
  • Lane Departure Warning $2100.00
  • Metallic Paint $ 550.00
  • FOUR C-Chassis * $ 750.00
  • Destination Charge $ 850.00