I've owned a Volvo before (see sidebar), so to a certain extent, I've drunk the Kool Aid. This is a premium brand with exceptional design, ultimate safety, and engaging performance. And while parts of me hate to admit it, I like the idea of driving a premium brand and parking it in my driveway.
Upon entering the showroom, I spotted the exact color combo I would go for: Saville grey metallic with beechwood (think baseball glove) leather. No other brand in our search can match the beautiful aesthetic offerings of this brand. I love the design of this car, inside and out. It looks like it's moving when it's not, and the inside feels... furnished. It had the best fit and finish inside, clearly employing superior materials. The floating center panel of the dash flows into the console in one graceful movement. The placement of controls is intuitive, the graphic interface is simple and elegant, and the seats feel orthopedic in comfort.
Our salesman pulled up in a silver sample, and I was first to take the helm. Upon startup, the asynchronous purr of the turbo 5-cylinder is unmistakeably Volvo. While some might prefer not to hear or feel the engine at idle, there's something I really like about it. Even when laden with three grown men, the S60's 250 horsepower pulls the car with power to spare. The meaty steering wheel was well weighted and the car performed with commendable agility. In addition to traction and stability control, Volvo uses corner torque control - which gives greater power bias to the outside wheel when cornering to push the car in the desired direction, as opposed to both wheels fighting for the same pull under differing motion dynamics. The net result of this and the Volvo's twelve-dozen other safety features and systems is confidence. I felt like I could drive this car like an idiot and it would always take care of me — like a big hug from Dad.
I feel like I'm gushing. And I am.
There were a few shortcomings. The Volvo is small. I think our little family of tall people could get comfortable on a long road trip, but not nearly as comfortable as we'd get in the VW or Dodge. The next size up is the S80, which is a bit dowdy in design and I'm told is more sluggish on the road. We will probably drive one just to compare. Ticking options on the Volvo makes the price climb fast — though the base model is still very well equipped. And then there's maintenance. It's covered under the Volvo lease, but I still have nightmarish memories of the cost to maintain my old 850.
I want my family to be safe. I want classic design that endures. I want to have fun while I'm driving. For all of these reasons, we need to seriously consider the S60.
We are ready for eliminations in this search. I'm confident we will agree on the cars that won't make the first cut. But I'm concerned for our marital bliss when it comes to evaluating the finalists. To help us along, we will be returning to the dealerships for a deeper dive into the ones we like. I doubt I'll be able to keep myself from sniffing out an additional contender or two — but that's the fun of this. At least it is for me.
I have history with Volvo. I have a rare 1995 850 T-5r Estate — the first-ever R-series Volvo — that has been relegated to a project car (a car that sits in the driveway waiting for me to afford to restore it). If anything, our old T-5r is a testament to the renowned durability of this brand. She has 210,000+ on the odometer. And in all her hearse-like charm, she is fast as all get out.