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Not Your Mom's Volvo 

by Clint Burgess

I have vivid memories of my family's white Volvo station wagon from back in the '80s. We took some very long drives in that car. Then, later in my childhood, my father drove a navy blue Volvo sedan. These cars are now obsolete and my memories of them have faded. Fortunately Volvo is still marketing a good product and there are more memories to be made with the revamped 2005 Volvo S60. This sleek sedan from the Swedish auto manufacturer will surprise you and give some competition to the big bad Bavarian motor companies.

Volvo has unexpectedly become a player in the unpredictable market of mid-priced, higher-end sedans. While the S60 doesn't fully reach the category of luxury sedan, it is equipped with a vast amount of features: It looks very good all dressed up for the prom. This model has undergone a pretty intense overhaul and come through on the other side as a more driver-oriented piece of machinery. The car has been designed with the punch of Volvo's upscale S80 but with increased accessibility for the general car-buying public. The base price for the S60 is right around $27,000. This price allows the company to appeal to a number of potential buyers and facilitates a greater appeal to an ever-growing demographic. In other words, Volvos aren't just for your mom anymore.

Proof that the Volvo can break its own stereotype is the stunning design of the S60. When I first encountered it, I thought it was the new BMW or something. But after I realized it was a Volvo and commenced a close study of the aerodynamic body, the shiny silver paint and the black leather interior, I found myself uttering the words, "I would drive this car." (Coming from a stalwart Volkswagen owner, that statement carries a lot of weight.) Besides the look of this Volvo, there are many attributes that make it attractive: A standard transmission as well as a 168-hp, five-cylinder engine make up the drive and power train configuration on the S60, and there is a six-cylinder option for that added boost under the hood. Front wheel drive is another feature that will make this car more appealing to drivers in the Northwest.

The driving experience is usually gauged on how a vehicle handles, how it performs in the passing lane and how tight it is in S-curves. While these factors weigh heavily on the evaluation of any car, it is hard to overlook the elements of a vehicle that just make it feel nice. On the top-of-the-line T5 edition of this Volvo, the options are almost never ending. A 13-speaker Dolby sound system, leather upholstery and a DVD-based navigation system will make this car seem more expensive than it is. If the T5 edition is not for you, the standard S60 comes equipped with power options on nearly everything, adjustable lumbar support for the driver's seat, and dual-zone climate control. Last but not least are the 15-inch alloy rims and the satisfaction of finally driving a car designed for grownups.

There aren't many envelope-pushing features to the S60. But all of what is offered here combines to create a fine automobile. To get the maximum in performance, it's probably best to go with the T5 edition, but anyone can certainly manage with the standard model. As the consumer is faced with more and more options, auto manufacturers are left to conjure up a vehicle that provides performance as well as panache. The Volvo S60 achieves these elements with ease and offers something new and unexpected in the mid-priced sedan category.

Publication date: 06/16/05

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