10Best Surprise: The S60 is a Red-Meat Volvo

We spent last week driving 60-plus new cars in order to decide our 2011 10Best list. When that many cars are gathered in one place, many of which we haven’t driven before, there are bound to be some unexpected discoveries. Be sure to check out more 10Best surprises, and look for our annual 10Best issue to hit newsstands on December 7.

The name Volvo brings a lot of things to mind: safety, Scandinavian design, and perhaps flat-pack furniture. But words like “excitement” or “performance” are probably filed somewhere behind “Hey, why does the logo look like Austin Powers’s necklace?”

Hot-rod Volvos of the recent past received power and suspension upgrades that looked good on paper, but the resulting cars were slower than the competition and delivered a stiffer ride that did little to enhance real-world sportiness. The new S60, however, is a different kind of Volvo. On a pre-10Best outing to our test track, the S60 T6 AWD (the only version coming to the U.S.) went from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and cracked the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 102 mph. That’s almost a second quicker to 60 mph than the last-generation S60R. And those numbers are right in line with other luxury cars in the $40,000 realm (the S60’s base price is $38,550).

The S60 is still a Volvo; you can’t completely turn off stability control, and the nanny-esque safety functions like lane-departure warning make themselves known with annoyingly shrill chimes. But the fact that the newest Volvo has some cojones is not only a surprise, but another reason why 10Best time is the best week of the year at Car and Driver.

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