Third Look: Turning The Corner With The Volvo S60

By John Beltz Snyder

May 03, 2011

Frankly, we like the 2011 Volvo S60. It’s easily powerful, with its 300 horsepower and 325 pound feet of torque supplying ample amount of remarkably smooth thrust. We like the design, and the car’s interior is a particularly comfortable and aesthetically pleasing space for the driver and passengers. We appreciate all Volvo’s technology that keeps us, our loved ones, and nearby strangers safe. From a driver’s standpoint, this is a rewarding car. But from that same standpoint, one part of the driving dynamics of the S60 stands out as an area that could stand some improvement: turning. And with our most recent loan of the stylish Swede, we took the time to sort out the ways in which the act of steering falls short of perfect.
The turning radius of the S60 leaves a bit to be desired. Navigating a crowded parking lot is difficult, and it takes a couple tries to get lined up with a parking space. Even on some wider streets, where a U-turn could be easily managed in a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the S60 requires a Y-turn to get facing the other direction. Traversing narrow one-way streets and alleys can be a bit stressful. The S60 doesn’t feel like a huge car under normal driving, but its curb-to-curb turning circle of 39 feet does little to make it feel agile. For comparison, the Nissan Maxima and Volkswagen CC can do the same turn in 37.4 feet, the Dodge Charger in 37.7, the and that Grand Cherokee we mentioned earlier does it in 37.1 feet.
Another obstacle to properly changing directions in the Volvo S60 occurs at higher speeds in the form of understeer. We didn’t have to carry much speed into a corner to challenge the lateral grip of the front tires. The nose-heavy nature in a curve causes the front end to plow a bit before the electronics take over to help mitigate the problem. Of course, we’d prefer more neutral handling to be able to better navigate curves at high speed, but at least the turbocharged inline-six (which is probably partly the culprit) is on hand to make up the speed we have to shed to stay on track. It’s an interesting tradeoff for easy straight-line speed, but we’d simply like more turning stability.
Our third complaint is one that seems to be a common trouble for the Volvo brand, and not just the S60. Though some may argue that the steering feel is slightly improved in this iteration of the S60, communication through the helm is still a lot lower than we’d like it to be. It is properly quick and well weighted, and steering the car through big sweepers is effortlessly euphoric, but we need a better sense of what is happening between our hands, steering wheel, tires, and pavement under hard cornering. Those drivers seeking a comfortable steering wheel and premium feel won’t be disappointed, though.
To conclude, if you’re a driver who finds yourself seeking out the tight twisties to get your motive jollies, the 2011 Volvo S60 probably won’t be your cup of tea. If you want something that feels downright quick, smooth, and elegant, that can tackle a fast canyon road, this car, as you probably already know, has got your number.