The S60 AWD, which retails from $68,950 at launch (June 2002), is the first Volvo passenger car to employ an AWD system to electronically transfer torque between the wheels. The system, developed in conjunction with Haldex, uses a centrally mounted multi-plate clutch pack to apportion up to 100 percent of the engine torque to either the front or rear axles, or a combination of both.
Volvo claims this system "assures optimal road holding and stability in all conditions... resulting in an engaging, balanced and confidence inspiring driving experience".
The S60 AWD sits in the middle of the Australian S60 range, between the $66,950 front drive S60 2.4T and the high performance, $84,950 S60 T5 model. Specification levels are based on the 2.4T with which it shares the 147kiloWatt turbocharged engine, and includes five-speed automatic transmission, electric windows, mirrors and driver's seat, remote central locking and climate control air-conditioning. Cruise control and front- and side-airbags are included.
The S60 AWD also gets a distinctive interior treatment, including leather/fabric sports seats and brushed aluminium highlights. Outside, the S60 AWD sits 20mm higher than the front-drive models on 17in wheels and tyres. Antilock brakes with brake assist are standard fitment.
The S60 AWD is powered by a torquey 2.4-litre, turbocharged 5-cylinder engine with intercooler. Volvo's low pressure turbocharging approach results in a fatter spread of torque right across the rev range. The S60's peak torque of 285Newton-metres is available from 1800rpm right through to 5000rpm.
All-wheel drive makes good use of this robust torque delivery, propelling the S60 from rest to 100km/h in 8.5 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 210km/h. In gear acceleration is strong, the S60 pulling willingly from low revs right through to the upper limits, which makes overtaking and uphill stretches relatively stress free. It also means the S60 will carry three or four adults and luggage with little impact on overall performance.
The electronic AWD system, which adds 40kg to the S60's kerb weight, was developed by Volvo in conjunction with specialists Haldex. This system, claims Volvo, offers the best of both worlds: AWD traction when you need it, and front drive fuel economy and handling when you don't. Volvo claims a combined fuel economy figure (AS2877) of just 9l/100km.
Under good conditions the S60 AWD is a regular front drive car, with 100 percent of the engine output going to the front wheels. When the going gets tough, or slippery, a centrally mounted, multi-plate clutch is progressively locked up by an onboard computer to deliver torque to the rear wheels. Up to 100 percent of the torque can be apportioned to either the front or rear axle.
The Volvo system also has a second line of defence should conditions deteriorate further. Volvo's integrated 'TRACS' traction control system is able to individually brake each wheel to counter wheelspin and maximise tractive effort. This means the S60 has drive even if only one wheel has grip.
Our test drive of the S60 AWD proved the torque transfer system to be seamless and totally undetectable. There was no sudden jerk or shudder as the clutch plates locked up, and no uncontrolled wheelspin from the front before the system engaged. The torque transfers smoothly and unobtrusively to the rear wheels to maximise grip, and even on dirt roads the S60 AWD remained totally in control.
The S60's five-speed automatic transmission features Volvo's geartronic manual selector, which allows the driver to manually select and hold gears when necessary and is ideal for towing heavy loads at low speed.
The S60 AWD is rated to tow a braked trailer weighing up to 1600kg, though if you really need to explore the upper reaches of this range, the 2.4-litre engine might struggle. Anything under a tonne won't be a problem, and you'll have the added benefit of driving a luxurious, sleek, sporty sedan for every other day of the week.
In summary, the S60 AWD adds another element to an already impressive mid-sized prestige package which, with Volvo's typical adherence to safety and quality, gives one more valuable reason for buyers to seriously consider the stylish S60 sedan at purchase time.