I have a confession to make: The Subaru XV wasn't really my first choice for the very first Top Gear Philippines' Car of the Year award in 2012. As a matter of fact, my choice wasn't even on the list of nominees from which we had to pick our choice for the award. If the nominees weren't strictly limited to new models that had been introduced to the local market in the past year, and if we could nominate new variants, my vote would have been the Volvo S60 D3. That's right: My choice would be an oil-burning luxury sedan. Let me tell you why.
The current-generation S60's styling is a huge improvement over its predecessor's conservative and rather bland exterior. While the old model had the classic three-box body to go with its conservative look, the current S60 boasts a coupe-like profile, thanks to the dramatically sloping roofline at the rear. Further enhancing theS60's sporting nature is its wedge-like profile. When seen from the rear, its uniquely designed taillights make it stand out on the highway, most especially at night, and further emphasize the car's broad shoulders. Its dual muffler setup only enhances the car's athletic stance even further.
The S60's cabin is an exercise in both restraint and functionality. You aren't overwhelmed by buttons, knobs and switches. Instead, each one is so intuitively laid out that, before the day ends, you'll be adeptly navigating your fingertips around the dashboard and center console with nary a glance downward. Helping to minimize the clutter is the multi-function 7-inch touchscreen that does everything--from accessing your phone via Bluetooth connection to playing DVDs.
There are, however, a few minor things missing in a vehicle that carries such a hefty price tag like the S60 D3. Aluminum pedals would have been welcome along with push-button lumbar-support controls.
If I had to pick one stellar feature of the diesel S60, it would be its drivetrain. Power from the get-go is very linear, without a hint of turbo lag from the 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel mill or shift shock from the six-speed automatic transmission. The D3 also manages to cut down the quintessential diesel-engine clatter, keeping the cabin quiet.
Sure, the S60 D3's competitors can do all that, so what else can it offer that the others can't? The only proof I can give you that the S60 D3's diesel engine is "all that and more" is this: After taking it on a spirited drive up and down the "Tanayburgring" a few times and driving it at triple-digit speeds on late-night highway runs, the fuel-consumption computer at the end of my weekend test drive indicated an average of 8.1km/L. That kind of fuel economy in a car that goes stinking fast and pulls like a freight train, is a winner in my book.
RIDE AND HANDLING
While the S60 D3 has been conceived as a midsize luxury sedan, the way it handles the tarmac proves it's simply more than that. While the ride is a tad firm, it handles various road undulations with aplomb, with only the largest potholes slightly unsettling the S60's on-road performance.
Helping to keep the car's prodigious amount of torque in check are the dynamic stability and traction control systems, preventing the car from spinning or kicking out its tail. Torque vectoring through the traction control also helps the car to take corners more aggressively by braking the inner wheel and transferring the torque to the outside wheel.
Typically Volvo, this particular model offers a lot of safety features. Tackling a twisty mountain road at night is no problem, thanks to its active bending lights since they allow you to see around a curve just as you enter it.
The S60 D3's main selling point, though, is its City Safety system. In a nutshell, City Safety makes sure you don't hit anything, be it a pedestrian or a vehicle in front of you. This does it by scanning the road ahead and, depending on the distance, either warns you of an impending collision or automatically employs the car's brakes, either partially to help you apply the brakes or fully to stop the vehicle completely, making low-speed collisions a thing of the past.
There's always the argument that--if you're a responsible driver--you don't really need such features. You might even say it's intrusive, particularly in the streets of Metro Manila where cars, people, motorcycles and whatnot constantly cross your path so often that the system automatically slows your vehicle down the moment you release the throttle. Fortunately, you can completely turn off the City Safety, letting you drive the S60 D3 the old-fashioned way, which means you're in full control of the car.
Still, the feature is a welcome add-on for a family car, which means your wife or teenaged kids can drive it themselves, giving you the peace of mind that they're safe behind the wheel.
If I had P3.1 million in the bank right now and I had to buy a car this instant, the Volvo S60 D3 would be on the top of my list--it's that good. However, while the list of features and on-road capabilities justifies that price, that's also its biggest failing; only the moneyed folks can afford it without balking at the hefty price tag.
That said, hardly any cars in its class can match it specs- and price-wise. Sure, there are other diesel-fed luxury sedans out there, but none of them offer as much tech and safety features while still being loads of fun behind the wheel as the S60 D3.
SPECS: VOLVO S60 D3
Engine: 2.0-liter in-line-five DOHC turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Power: 163hp @ 3,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,500rpm
Drive layout: FWD