New Car Review: 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R SR

Front view of red 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R SR being driven on winding road
The 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R SR.

In the Swinging 60s, "Sweden" and "Sexy" were synonymous. But by 1968, Volvo was adding "Safe" and "Sensible" to the Swedish image.

It's been that way for so long that you have to be of a certain age to remember the "Sexy Swede" thing. Volvo wants to fix that with the S60.

Launched last year as "The Naughty Volvo", this year, the S60 T6 AWD R SR is deadly serious. This is a performance car.

Rear 3/4 view of red 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R SR being driven on two lane road
Rear view of the 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R SR.

Plant your right foot to the floorboard, and you awaken 325 horses inside a 3 liter turbo V6 with 354 pounds per foot of torque mated to a 6-speed autmatic transmission with sport mode flowing through all wheel drive with Instant Traction (caps intended).

Our tester, bright red like the one in the photos above, was plenty fast.  Enough so that the base price of $42,500 really didn't seem all that out of line. In fact, while the base price is a bit higher, overall, the price you'll end up at as equipped is about the same as the Ford Taurus SHO...a car that's a bit bigger and heavier than the S60 T6 AWD R SR, but is probably its closest competitor.

The name? Well S60 is the model, T6 is for turbo six-cylinder, AWD is all wheel drive and then there's the "R". That's for R-Design, which contributes the performance tuning of the engine, 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, R-Design sport chassis, R-Design lower front spoiler and intake, R-Design rear diffuser with polished end pipes, R-Design Sport Seats with embossed logo, R-Design aluminum inlay and aluminum sport pedals, blue watch dial instrument cluster and rear spoiler, as well as a perforated leather sport steering wheel and gearshift knob.

The 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R SR interior.

And the standard equipment...well, $42,500 starts looking like a big-time bargain when you factor in stability control, speed sensitive steering (driver selectible, yet), corner traction control, fully independent front and rear suspension, 4-wheel power ventilated disc brakes with ABS, EBD, EBA and RAB (that's Anti-Lock Brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution, Electronic Brake Assistance and Ready Alert Brakes).

It also has Volvo's City Safety, dynamic stability control, a Volvo-esque array of airbags, whiplash protection and other safety features, a power glass moonroof, dual Xenon headlights, 8-way power driver and passenger seats, dual-zone climate control, a 7-inch color LCD monitor with Volvo Sensus,  a  high performance audio system with CD, HD Radio, USB and auxilary inputs and illuminated steering wheel controls.

Again, that's all standard. Ours added the Multimedia Package (premium sound, rear park assist camera, navigation system) for $2,700; the Climate Package (heated front seats, headlight washers, heated windshield washer nozzles, rain sensor, and interior air quality system) for $800 and the obligatory $875 destination charge.

Bottom line: $46,875. For a car that's loaded, gets an EPA estimated 18 city/26 highway, qualifies as a ULEV II Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle, and goes like the wind.

Except when it doesn't go at all.

On our first night with the car, I ducked into a fast-food place to buy my son a burger. We were inside for 10 minutes. Came back outside and the car was a two-ton paperweight. Dead. Zero juice to everything from the power locking system to the dome lights to the starter.

AAA came out within minutes thanks to Volvo's associates at Page One, which prepares and delivers their vehicles to automotive journalists in our area, and diagnosed the trouble as corrosion on a battery post (at 6,500 miles? A bit early...) and cured it with a jump. It was fine the rest of the week. But in the March issue of Car and Driver (which I read two days after the Volvo left TireKicker World Headquarters), it appears their long-term S60 had the same thing happen. More than once. And there's apparently a service bulletin for it. (UPDATE for clarity: It's not corrosion on battery posts, but a more complex electrical gremlin). C/D's car had to be sent back to Volvo's offices in New Jersey for seven weeks before they got it back.

Yes, I love the car. Yes, I think Volvo's doing something wonderful here and yes, I'd love to have one. But you need the full story on every car we review. Having relatively new cars (press fleet vehicles generally have anywhere from 300 to 10,000 miles on them...usually it's 5,000 or less) for only a week at a time, I don't see trouble with the cars, even driving 104 a year, very often. But when it happens, we'll tell you about it.

Meantime, take it for a test drive, ask the Service Manager about the service bulletin and check out the Volvo owner forums. They will get this sorted out. And when they do, the S60 T6 AWD R SR is a very desirable automobile.