Motoring: Hitting the road in the sporty S60

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The four-door coupe segment is getting more and more popular. Mercedes-Benz started this trend nearly five years ago with the introduction of the CLS, and since then, VW, Audi and even Hyundai have gotten on with this styling trend.

The latest company to follow suit is Volvo with their new S60. "The number 60 is reserved for our sportiest models," said Stephen Odell, President and CEO of Volvo Cars. "Now, with the S60, we're placing ourselves on the true enthusiasts' radar."

To really get the enthusiasts' attention, the new S60 is available with two engines, a 2.5-litre, fivecylinder, turbo-charged motor that produces 250 hp, or the 3.0-litre, straight-six, turbo-charged engine that develops 300 hp. While frontwheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is offered on the T6 models. A six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission will send power to the driving wheels.

Volvo said it's not just in the straight line this new S60 will impress; it will be "the most dynamic (handling) car we've ever presented." Since it sits on an extended version of the European Ford Mondeo platform, it should be quite a handy handling machine. My test car, which was an allwheel drive T6 model, certainly proved that it can handle quite well; however, it is not the sort of car that will encourage you to attack corners, despite this car's ability to have you dial in how much steering effort you want: soft, medium or hard. It's a cool feature, but most people will forget it has this system and never change the settings at all. Volvo might have tried to make the new S60 into a sporty sedan, but it's no Audi S4.

However, when most people think about Volvo, they think not about speed, but safety, and this new S60 is no different. Volvo's newest version of their City Safe feature, now with a Pedestrian Detection System is also be available on the new S60, being the first sedan to offer such technology. The idea is, if the car gets too close to a person crossing the street or the car ahead of you, it suddenly stops. This system will put on full brakes to prevent the collision. It can do this at speeds under 35 km/h with the help of radars and cameras located in its nose. If the system works as well as Volvo says it does, it will be a very useful device for city centres. Personally, I didn't want to try it in the real world, just in case it didn't work and someone ended up on my hood.

I did try the reversing camera, but it failed to work more than half the time. Sometimes when I'd slot it in reverse it would go into camera mode, but most times I'd have to push a button to activate it.

Other than that, the car was fine. I liked spending time in it because the seats are comfortable and the cabin is spacious, and it also looks good. If you do a lot of driving, you will appreciate this interior.

Volvo plans to build 90,000 S60s annually from their facility in Ghent, Belgium (not Sweden as with most of their line-up), although their sales figures for Canada will undoubtedly be only a fraction of that. Prices start at around $38,300 and can go above $60,000. It's not badly priced for a mid-luxury European sedan, but it will cost you to run it; my week's average was just 13 litres/100 km, which is not bad, but not great either.

If you want to save some money, inquire about their European delivery option. If you are a cash customer, they will buy you and your partner a ticket to Europe to pick up the car, complete with insurance and temporary driving plates so you can go driving around in your new car. Once done, you fly back and they will ship the car to your local Canadian dealer. So you get a vacation out of it and you'll also be able to save some money. Ask your local Volvo dealer to give you more information about this program.

So the final verdict is, if you're looking for a good all-round European sedan, this new S60 is much better than it used to be and can seriously compete with the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Would I buy one? No, but I would recommend others to check it out in detail — it might click with them better than it did with me.