PARK CITY, Utah—It was an offer that was too good to refuse. Come to Utah and drive the refreshed 2013Volvo S60T5 (five cylinders) sedan.
If you’ve never been to Utah, the vistas are beyond description. The landscape is so different from New England that it seems to be another country.To that end, Mrs. G says, “When you head for home, you feel like you should be going through customs. Utah is that different.’’
Volvo’s home base was several thousand feet above the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics Park. I’d never experienced altitude sickness until we settled in at 8,100 feet, somewhere between the base altitude of 6,900 feet and the 10,000- foot summit.
Suffice it to say that the cars fared better at altitude than I did.
The constant among all these experiences was the S60,a wonderful companion on a 210-mile test drive loop through valleys, canyons, mountain passes, and parklands.
Volvo, bought by Chinese automaker Geely, continues to be built in Europe and to maintain its safety standards as the only European luxury car with top NHTSA ratings in the US.
Our first reaction whenVolvo started talking about the S60 was, “What’s new?’’The answer, it turns out, is a lot:
1. The 2013 S60 adds all-wheeldrive at all model levels as a $2,000 stand-alone option. It’s a feature S60 brand manager FrankVacca feels will lead to a 20 percent increase in sales.The AWD system also is a fifth-generation unit, lighter and updated. It provides torque to all four wheels at takeoff but then turns to a front-wheel-drive (95 percent) for better highway economy. However, when needed, 50 percent of the drive torque can be transferred to rear wheels.
2. While the S60 has the same overall length and footprint, moving the wheels closer to the bumpers results in another 2.1 inches of rear legroom.
3. Technological advances include standard City Safety and available Pedestrian Detection.Torque vectoring (corner traction control) also is standard. The City Safety system can apply the brakes at speeds between 2 and 19 miles per hour if traffic up ahead does the same.
4. The T5 engine, a turbocharged unit that produces 250 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, has a newmanagement system and outstanding performance, especially in Sport Mode, plus increased fuel economy. The AWD version, which we drove, is rated as 20 city, 29 highway, and 23 combined.
The AWD version starts at $34,645 (including $895 destination charge).The front-wheel-drive version starts at $32,645 (including destination). Our test vehicle had standard features including rain-sensing windshield wipers, headlight washers, steering-wheel controls,“tunnel detection’’ added to the headlights, and heated seats. Additional options included a $700 climate package (heated seats, interior air quality system, and heated windshield washer nozzles), a $2,000 premier package (moonroof, leather seating surfaces, keyless drive, power passenger seat, and auto-dimming mirror), a $375 trunk spoiler, and $250 for 17-inch alloy wheels.
The available Technology Package adds adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full automatic braking, pedestrian detection with full automatic braking, distance alert, driver alert control, lane departure warning, road sign information, and active high beam control.
Driving in Utah means you always seem to be heading either uphill or downhill. Sport Mode was ideal under these conditions.
Utah, like New England, does lots of road maintenance during the summer months. Coming down from a mountain pass, we hit a lengthy stretch where tanker trucks were spreading tar and dump trucks were then spreading crushed stone into the drying tar to repave the roads.
Speed limits were 45 miles per hour in those road work zones.We were trying hard to stay at that limit going downhill. However, climbing steeply in the other direction were a pair of 18-wheeled tanker trucks, the second a tandem setup.
As they passed, they left a cloud of stone dust and flying stones in their wake. One stone hit our windshield dead center, taking a chunk out of the glass and starting a crack.
Suddenly Utah’s roads seemed a lot like being home and getting peppered by salt chunks during a Massachusetts winter.