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By Shari Prymak

Drive-E. Sounds like one of those new fancy electric vehicle experiments doesn’t it? Sorry, but that’s not quite the case when it comes to Volvo. Drive-E is what Volvo is calling their all-new line of efficient, yet power-packed, drivetrains. Eventually, every Volvo, from the S60 sedan to the XC90 sport utility, will be powered by engines that make use of turbocharging, twin-charging, or hybrid power, and all with no more than four cylinders. It all starts with the otherwise unchanged S60 midsized sedan, which is the first model to receive the Drive-E upgrades.

Unlike many Volvo’s of the past, the S60 has quite a few things going for it that don’t necessarily have to do with it being a top safety pick. For one thing, it’s quite stylish for a sedan. Despite getting on a bit in age, the S60’s design remains as handsome as ever, yet unmistakably Volvo.

The interior, on the other hand, is more of a mixed blessing. You get excellent build quality, sleek gauges, and some of the most comfortable seats in existence. It’s clean and inoffensive, but compared to some of its newly redesigned competitors, the S60’s timeworn interior is a little lacking in terms of overall look and intuitiveness. The controls for the sound system, in particular, are especially fiddly.

There are no doubts, however, when it comes to the driving experience. The S60 is quite accomplished at coddling its occupants in a serene, kilometre-melting environment. It’s quiet and refined, yet quite competent when it comes to taking corners with enthusiasm.

Volvo promises that their new line of boosted 4-cylinder Drive-E engines strike an ideal balance between performance and fuel efficiency. In the T6 trim, the S60 delivers a potent 302hp and 295lb-ft of torque, with an official combined city/highway fuel rating of 8.9L/100km. I averaged around 10.0L/100km during my week-long test without trying too hard, which is quite impressive given the performance on offer.

The S60 T5 Drive-E FWD has a starting MSRP of $38,000, with pricing that goes as high as 52 grand for an optioned out T6 model like my test car. That’s comparable to a similarly equipped BMW 3-Series or Lexus IS, though a tad pricier than an Infiniti Q50 or Acura TLX.

In addition the usual luxury touches, the S60 offers a number of unique, and rather effective, options. Among many things, the Technology Package includes collision warning and pedestrian/cyclist detection, both with auto brake assist, that won’t let you have a low-speed crash. And then there’s the Lane Keep Aid, which will keep you pointed straight ahead, thanks to its ability to give the steering wheel a slight nudge in either direction. One must have is the Climate Package, which nets you a rapid defrosting heated windshield, heated rear seats and steering wheel.

Given the variety of excellent premium sedans on the market, it can be challenging to narrow the selection down to one choice. For someone looking for a little zest and sportiness, it’s difficult to top the BMW 3-Series. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a master of luxury and refinement. And any one of the Japanese trio, the Acura TLX, Infiniti Q50, and Lexus IS, is a fine compromise with the added peace of mind of no-nonsense reliability.

Whether the S60 has enough going for it to overcome its accomplished competitors is questionable. It certainly shines in enough areas, however, to make it a worthy entrant on your premium sedan shopping list.

 




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