New Car Review: 2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

Front 3/4 view of blue 2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

The phrase “Mid-size Volvo sedan” no doubt causes some eyes to glaze over, especially for those who think they know what Volvo’s all about. But the key is to ask “Which mid-size Volvo sedan?”

Yes, they’re all called the S60, but that car comes in three different turbocharged flavors these days: The T5, a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder with 250 horsepower; the T6 AWD, which adds half a liter, one cylinder, two more driving wheels and 50 additional ponies; and the T6 AWD R-Design, which pulls 325 horsepower out of the same 3-liter six. And that’s the one we’re talking about here.

Rear 3/4 view of blue 2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

First, the color: While you have a choice of three, including Ice White and Passion Red, the majority of the R-Designs in Volvo press materials and press fleets this year seem to be Rebel Blue. Frankly, we harbor a strong suspicion that on the way out the door after purchasing Volvo from former owner Ford, Volvo’s new masters found the Dearborn paint vault and snagged as many leftover gallons of 1970 Boss 429 Grabber Blue as they could carry. Whether it’s the right color for a four-door sedan, even a performance-oriented one, is an open question.

As for the working bits, they do. The potential of the extra power is maximized by a higher redline in the R-Design (6500 RPM instead of 5600 for the standard T6). There’s another 20 pounds per foot of torque, which peaks in a narrow sweet spot between 3000 and 3600 RPM. That cuts 0-60 runs down to 5.5 seconds (according to Volvo), with an electronically limited top speed of 134. And specifying the R-Design means a special sport chassis that adds a front strut brace, rear monotube dampers, stiffer springs and bushings.

Despite being 55 pounds heavier than the T6 AWD and having another 25 horsepower, EPA fuel economy estimates are identical: 18 city/25 highway. They may also be optimistic. In a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving, we couldn’t break 20 MPG. You’re also going to pay more at the pump, anyway. The R-Design specifies premium fuel, instead of the regular 87 octane the standard T6 AWD can use.

Interior view of 2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

For $43,900, Volvo focuses the standard equipment list on performance and safety, leaving a lot of gee-whiz electronics (adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, collision warning) as extra-cost options.  Still, you get a 7-inch color monitor for the audio and systems monitoring, a power glass moonroof, dual climate control, Bluetooth, an upgraded audio system and a lot of other creature comforts.

Downsides? We found three. Despite what feels like impressive power off the line, there’s considerable turbo lag. Floor it at 45 and you’ll finish “twomississippi” before the engine room gets the message. Steering feedback is a bit vague, which doesn’t inspire confidence despite the fact that the car actually handles very well. And Volvo has reverted to old-fashioned indirect lighting for the gauge cluster. The numerals and needles on the speedo and tach don’t light up, but are bathed in light from above. Dial down the brightness on a dark road and watch your information disappear.  If Volvo can fix those three issues (or if you can overlook them), the S60 T6 AWD R-Design has a lot to offer.