First Drive: 2004 First S60 R/V70 R
Expanding the performance envelope
A 3500-pound family sedan with 300 horsepower is not to be taken lightly. Yet the fastest, most technically advanced Volvo production car ever offered to the public won't let the driver do anything silly.
More than sporting toys, the all-new S60 R sedan and the V70 R wagon represent a Volvo engineering tour de force--neither has required re-engineering of its production structure. Volvo's safety envelope was already so rigid that chassis development simply commenced at the corners. Beyond the obvious addition of heavy-duty springs, anti-roll bars, and dampers is a new Multiplex system Volvo calls its Four-C Technology (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept). At its heart is a Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) system in which a set of sensors analyzes rotation and vertical movement of each wheel, steering-wheel deflection and velocity, cornering loads, and engine torque to establish correct braking intervention to stabilize the car. This elaborate set of inputs and responses is recalculated 500 times each second. In fact, Four-C can actually "foresee" braking requirements as the pedal is contacted and will provide corrective information a few milliseconds before the pads contact the discs.
Chassis control settings include: "Comfort" for isolation from most road-surface irregularities; "Sport" to increase control, but allow isolation and compliance over uneven surfaces; and "Advanced," recommended only for Porsche club track days. DSTC can make your lap times look better than you are, but it can be switched off for a broader angle of entertainment. Volvo's now familiar, five-cylinder DOHC four-valve engine has been carefully hot rodded to a useful 300 horsepower at 5500 rpm. The turbocharger is 20 percent larger than the unit used in the old T5R, and there remains a tick of hesitation. The engine's peak torque arrives at only 1950 rpm, however, and carries a flat curve to 5250, so the output feels satisfyingly quick.
Despite the performance patina, R cars are still Volvos and surround interior occupants with one of the safest structures extant. If you plan to test your own limits as a driver, you could do a lot worse than finding them in a Volvo R.