The Naughty Volvo Goes on Tour
By Kevin Miller
For a reason I cannot comprehend, Volvo is marketing their new S60 sedan as “The Naughty Volvo”. In an attempt to build enthusiasm for the car among loyal Volvo customers ahead of the on-sale date, Volvo has literally taken their show on the road, with the Naughty Volvo Tour.
Being held at Volvo retailers across the nation, the Naughty Volvo Tour (hereafter, NVT) is a road show featuring two S60 sedans, a bunch of interactive displays which are set up in a showroom with catered hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks. I was recently able to attend the NVT at a Seattle-area retailer, which gave me a chance to check out the new S60 without the throngs of people who were surrounding it at recent international auto shows.
The NVT event started with the new S60 in the showroom hiding under a sheet, surrounded by the electronic interactive displays. Then there is a presentation, with two presenters that dramatically “reveal” the S60 to customers and talk briefly about its technical specifications and features. In the United States, the S60 will launch in only T6 AWD trim, which features a transversely-mounted 300 HP turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine with all-wheel drive and a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. With an EPA rating of 18/26 MPG, Volvo claims the S60 has best-in-class fuel economy- which makes me wonder which cars it is considering to be in its class.
While essentially a successor to the enthusiast-oriented S60R which was sold between 2004 and 2007, the new S60 T6 AWD has equivalent horsepower, though the new car will not be available stateside with a manual transmission. Continuing a trend that they have started in the last two model years, Volvo does not intend to offer the S60 with a manual transmission at all in the US, not even with forthcoming FWD and less-powerful powertrains.
The S60’s all-wheel drive system features Advanced Stability Control with “Corner Traction Through Torque Vectoring”, which is said to reduce understeer during aggressive cornering. Saab has a similar system which debuted on their 2008 TurboX which I found to be very effective at getting the car confidently through corners.
Volvo’s key safety technology launching with the S60 is the optional Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto-Brake, which scans the road ahead for pedestrians in the vehicle’s path, and can automatically apply the brakes and stop the car, even if the driver’s foot is firmly planted on the accelerator. The system is designed to detect and stop for human pedestrians, but should not react to pets or larger animals. Operable at up to 22 MPH, the technology builds on the City Safety with Full Auto Brake system which debuted on the XC60 last year, which itself is operable up to 19 MPH.
While the Naughty Volvo Tour doesn’t provide the opportunity to take the new S60 on a test drive, there is the chance to drive it in the parking lot to test out the Pedestrian Detection system. With Volvo’s representative in the car, I had the chance to drive the car toward a mannequin in the parking lot, and experienced the car braking itself while I kept my foot planted on the go-pedal. As a bonus, I also got to reverse the car through the parking lot to my starting point, experiencing the S60’s high-resolution backup camera which features a zoom, allowing the driver to see exactly how close he is to the bumper of the car behind. I was also shown the view from the S60’s grille-mounted front-view camera, which gives drivers a look beyond the hood as they ease out into traffic from an otherwise blind location. All of these technologies worked well; just as advertised. Fortunately, that’s better than they worked during a Volvo PR event a few weeks ago. See for yourself:
Looking quickly over the production S60 on display at the NVT (I missed it on the auto show circuit this year), I noticed things I didn’t like (large gooseneck trunk hinges, long front overhang, puncture kit instead of spare tire) and also things I did like (7” high-resolution infotainment screen, beautifully bolstered seats front and rear, stylish wheels). Overall the car was nicely assembled, with an athletic stance and tasteful, functional interior.
The NVT is Volvo’s attempt to get loyal owners familiar with Volvo’s newest sedan before it reaches stores. A part of the presentation was discussion of Volvo owner loyalty discounts of $1000 for purchases or $500 for leases that are pre-ordered by September 15th. Unfortunately, such pre-orderers won’t have a chance to test-drive the car first, because dealers aren’t scheduled to receive demo vehicles for test drives until September 15th, and they won’t have their first vehicles for delivery until September 30th. While you could argue that it’s never too early to build product momentum (ask Chevrolet dealers about the Camaro or the Volt), nobody was pre-ordering S60s at the NVT event I attended last week.
With pricing starting at $37,700 and topping out around $47,000, it is decidedly in the same price and size class as all-wheel drive versions of the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series, as well as Mercedes C-class and Cadillac CTS. It will be interesting to actually get behind the wheel of an S60 T6 AWD on the open road and see whether it is as “naughty” as Volvo’s marketing group claims, or whether it’s just another polite and reserved Swede.