Home - Volvo - S60 - 2003 S60
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contents of this article
Page 1 | 2 | Specs | Pictures

1. Model Lineup 4. Driving Impressions
2. Walkaround 5. Final Word
3. Interior Features  

Getting into the back seat requires a duck of the head. Once back there, the S60 offers more rear headroom than a 3-Series sedan. An average-sized maleClick for a larger 2003 Volvo S60 picture will be short of legroom, however. It offers less legroom than 3 Series.

To get the S60's swoopy shape, Volvo had to make design concessions that constrict the trunk opening. The trunk itself is roomy and deep, so many smaller bags will fit, but big hard-sided trunks might not go in sideways. Rear seats are split 60/40 and fold down to carry long items. Fold down the right rear seat and front passenger seat, and you can carry something quite long.

Volvo S60 rides well and is stable at high speeds, but it doesn't offer the razor-edge handling of a 3-Series. From inside, the S60 doesn't feel physicallyClick for a larger 2003 Volvo S60 picture big, but when you get it going, it feels larger. The fact that its shape doesn't allow you to see the four fender corners enhances the illusion. Driven hard around turns, it almost seems like a '90s version of a '60s muscle car. The relatively long throw of the five-speed gearbox adds to the retro feel.
The S60 suspension is tuned more for a comfortable ride than for quick maneuvers. Push the T5 model through bumpy, high-speed corners and the steering feels slow. The body leans noticeably, and you notice it especially in right-hand turns, because there's no good place to brace your right knee.

Like many front-wheel-drive cars, the S60 suffers from torque steer. Heavy application of power can be a little tricky on some surfaces as the steering wheel tugs to one side. Back off the throttle or slow to a stop and it tugs or gets heavy. The upside to the softness of the suspension is that the ride is excellent, even over nasty bumps, even with the optional 17-inch wheels fitted with Pirelli P6 all-season 235/45HR17 radials. The fact that you pay for your comfort in the corners is merely an indication that Volvo has emphasized ride quality over handling. One thing you can say for the S60 is that it definitely engages the driver, because youClick for a larger 2003 Volvo S60 picture have to work to stay with it, and pay attention to the steering. But in a straight line at speed, even high speeds, the S60 is extremely steady as long as the road is smooth.
The T5 produces prodigious thrust from its high-pressure turbocharger, but the boost doesn't really come on until 4000 rpm. Mash your foot to the floor in any gear at 3000 rpm, and the T5 won't impress you until the revs climb to 4000 rpm, at which time it might even get you in trouble because the power comes on so strong. But if you're ready for it, it's way fun. You need to keep the revs up to keep the engine responsive. At 50 mph in fourth gear the engine is turning 2500 rpm, so you'll almost always have to downshift to third gear to pass on a two-lane. One of the great features of Volvo's turbocharged engines is that, when driving sensibly, there's little penalty in terms of fuel economy. When equipped with the manual transmission, the T5 gets 21/27 mpg, which is only one point down on the highway rating from an automatic 2.4T.

The manual transmission shifter has a longish throw and is not particularly smooth, sometimes even a bit clunky. The brakes feel soft, which makes it hard to coordinate heel-and-toe downshifts. We were impressed with the smoothness of the ABS, however. We didn't feel thrown forward in the seat under hard braking, as we have with other sports sedans, including the 3-Series. An S60 AWD stopped in a shorter distance than a BMW 330i in a Car and Driver test, however.

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The steering feels heavier in the S60 AWD version, which Volvo says is a result of the increased weight of the all-wheel-drive system. (Volvo prefers to say it has a more "on-center feel," which is fair enough.) The ride feels firmer on the all-wheel-drive version as well, because the shocks have been stiffened to handle the additional weight. We didn't have a chance to test the AWD model in high-speed bumpy turns, but we can say that although the ride wasn't as absorbent asClick for a larger 2003 Volvo S60 picture in the T5, we much prefer the AWD's capability to take more challenging terrain in stride.
During Volvo's introduction of the S60 AWD on the Maine coast, a slalom course was set up on dirt for the gathered journalists, and the directional stability of the car on this loose surface was indeed excellent. Power in the S60 AWD is distributed between the front and rear wheels using a wet multi-plate clutch controlled by electronics, and the distribution varies according to conditions. With a steady throttle on dry pavement, about 95 percent of the drive is transmitted to the front wheels; but up to 70 percent can go to the rear wheels when required. The balance changes instantaneously. Of course other automakers say that, too; but the difference in Volvo's AOD (Active-On-Demand) system is the degree of "instantaneous." When one wheel slips 15 degrees, far less than any human can detect, the balance of power shifts away from that wheel, thus replacing the slip with grip.

S60 AWD comes only with the five-speed Geartronic automatic, which offers a mode for manual operation.

Click for a larger 2003 Volvo S60 pictureVolvo S60 rides well and handles well. It feels stable at high speeds. The all-wheel-drive model provides excellent driver control on slippery surfaces. The turbocharged models, designated by a T in the model name, offer strong acceleration performance. Volvo is renowned for safety engineering and the S60 is fully equipped with active and passive safety features including a rigid safety cage.


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comparable cars

BMW 3-Series
Infiniti G35
Lexus IS 300
Mercedes-Benz C-Class



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