Pedro Arrais review: 2019 Volvo S60 is a Swede place to be

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If you are like Goldilocks, never warmed up to luxury German cars and found Asian vehicles just don’t tickle your fancy, perhaps you haven’t tried to cosy up to a 2019 Volvo S60.

The Swedish brand is experiencing somewhat of a resurgence in popularity since Ford divested it in 2010. In the ensuing nine years, it has gone from strength to strength, with bold (for the Swedes at least) designs while creating a signature Scandinavian design ethos.

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The S60 is the company’s least expensive sedan, with a starting price of $42,400. This is the third generation of the compact sedan and the first to come off the line of the company’s new South Carolina manufacturing plant (yes, a Volvo built in the U.S.).

Trivia: Old-timers might still remember when Volvo operated an assembly plant in Halifax — the first plant outside of Sweden. It operated from 1963 to 1998.

The S60 is available in three trim levels, the Momentum, R-Design and Inscription. I drove a R-Design, which starts at $52,400 with a few options.

The R-Design is Volvo’s answer to the power-hungry. Although the base model and the R-Design share a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, the latter slips in a supercharger under the hood as well.

This one-two combo (the supercharger operating almost instantaneously, with the turbo cutting in later) gives the R-Design 316 horses and 295 pound-feet of torque.

This undoubtedly affords the Volvo respect among drivers of BMW 330s and Mercedes-Benz C300s, who can only claim 255 horses under their hoods.

The R-Design model also comes with standard all-wheel drive, compared with the base model’s front-wheel-drive drivetrain.

(Volvo will eventually offer a gasoline-electric hybrid and a high-performance model as well.)

While the S60 R-Design is one of those cars that gets you up to speed quickly and smoothly, there is no overt drama. One moment you are at a standstill, five-and-a-half seconds later, you are at 100 kilometres an hour.

The Volvo shows its refinement on the open road, with controlled body movements and a supple suspension that soaks up any road imperfections.

Take a turn onto a country road and you will be rewarded with a steering wheel that communicates the lay of the land to your fingertips.

A low centre of gravity and all-wheel drive infuses a sense of grippiness — and confidence — as you explore the limits of the car on twisty roads.

This is the definition of a European luxury sports sedan.

The interior is a mirror of the refined powertrain. If you have never warmed up to the cold, almost utilitarian interior design of German cars, you are in for a treat.

While the Swedes are almost minimalistic in their interiors, what is left is both warm and comforting.

The materials might be the same — leather, brushed aluminum, metal, plant and petroleum-based materials — the design is both functional and intuitive.

The cabin’s fit and finish is what you would expect to find on a piece of Scandinavian fine furniture, with clean, clear and crisp lines.

Even the audio system is exemplary. My car was fitted with an optional Bowers and Wilkins sound system, with a 10-channel amplifier, 1,100 watts of power and 15 speakers.

Music lovers can simulate different audio environments digitally — my favourite is sitting in the front seat of a Gothenburg Concert Hall reproduction.

It’s not for all music, but with the right orchestra or artist, you won’t want to exit your car after you arrive at your destination, lest you miss the last notes.

You should pay attention to the road ahead while you drive, of course, but the dash in front of you is no less worthy of attention. Gone are any physical gauges. In its place is an 12.3-inch screen that can be configured to supply you with all the information you desire. The navigation map can be configured to appear in between the speedometer and tachometer in front of you.

The centre infotainment screen operates like a tablet, with sub-menus accessed by swiping left-right or up-down. While easy to use, the necessity of endlessly scrolling to find often-used functions can tax even the most eager fan of technology.

The R-Type seats had adjustable front seat cushions for those with long femurs. The seats were heated but, surprisingly, not ventilated.

Volvo was an early innovator of safety equipment and the S60 does not disappoint, with front collision-mitigation support and lane-keeping aid.

The $1,800 Vision Package gave me a 360-degree surround camera array, blind-spot information and rear cross-traffic alert. An optional Convenience Package adds adaptive cruise control.

How Swede it is to have a car like the S60 R-Design, a four-wheel homage to the best of Scandinavian design and engineering. The fact that it can put many German cars in the rearview mirror is just a satisfying bonus.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Luxury compact sports sedan, front engine, all-wheel-drive

Engine: Turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 316 hp at 5,700 rpm, 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,200 rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,760; width, 2,040; height, 1,438; wheelbase, 2,873

Curb weight (kg): 1,772

Price (base/as tested): $52,400/ $64,865 (includes $2,015 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Metallic paint, $900, climate package $1,250, vision package $1,800, convenience package $1,500, heads-up display $1,150 and Bowers and Wilkins sound system $3,750

Tires: 235/45 R18 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Premium

Fuel economy (L/100km): 11.1 city/ 7.3 highway

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car and roadside assistance

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