2013 Volvo S60 review:

The ultimate driving machine for the IKEA set

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Park Assist is a front and rear proximity sensor that gives audible distance alerts when parking. In addition to the optional rearview camera, for further parking safety you can add a front blind camera that gives the driver a split-screen view of the road to the left and right of the S60's nose, allowing drivers to see around corners when easing out of parking spots or blind alleys.

Blind-spot monitoring keeps you from literally merging with traffic by alerting you to the presence of vehicles and obstructions in the S60's blind spot -- though even without this system, the sedan has excellent 360-degree visibility. We're glad to see this feature since it wasn't available when we tested the 2011 S60 T6.

Lane departure warning and driver-alertness monitoring systems can help you keep the vehicle between the lines on the freeway and keep you awake on long trips, and optional active high-beam headlamps light the way without blinding oncoming drivers. Adaptive cruise control maintains a safe following distance on the highway and the same sensors are used for a radar-based collision warning system.

If you're a stickler for safety tech and don't mind paying for it, you can run wild with the S60's option sheet. And if you're not a fan of electronic nannies, you can skip the options and still end up with a very safe, sporty sedan thanks to the Volvo's excellent crash test ratings and plethora of airbags.

Essential infotainment only
Volvo may be firing shots across the bows of BMW and Audi with the S60's performance, but this Swede's got nothing on the Germans where cabin tech and comfort are concerned. That's not to say that the S60 is bad, just that the 3-Series and A4/S4 are simply better.

Volvo S60 Bluetooth
The S60's cabin tech offerings are minimal, but fortunately all of the essentials are standard features. Josh Miller/CNET

The S60's cabin is well-appointed -- particularly when upholstered in our Premium package's two-tone Beachwood and black leather -- and smartly designed, with a minimalism characteristic of the country that spawned IKEA. The sport seats are supportive, but comfortable; the floating center stack angles all of the physical controls toward the driver ever so slightly; and the optional keyless entry and start system lets you hop in and go without taking the keys out of your pocket. (However, there is a charging port on the dashboard that you'll want to occasionally pop your transponder into to keep it juiced.)

The Volvo doesn't boast iPhone app integration like BMW Connected or an always-on 3G data connection like certain Audi models, but it does make a strong go at providing the basics of infotainment tech, many of which are standard features.

All S60 models feature a 7-inch, nontouch display that is controlled by a bank of buttons located midway down the center stack. From here, the driver has access to the audio sources, a few vehicle settings (City Safety and DSTC toggles), and fuel economy information.

Volvo S60 butons
Users interact with the audio and climate systems with this bank of physical buttons. Josh Miller/CNET

Standard audio sources cover the gamut of what we like to see in a tech car, including a single-slot CD player with MP3 and WMA compatibility, AM/FM terrestrial radio with HD Radio decoding, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, USB with iPhone 5 connectivity, an auxiliary analog input, and Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming.

Volvo offers two navigation options for the S60: an $800 Garmin portable navigation system, which you absolutely do not want, and a proper in-dash, hard-drive-based navigation system that takes advantage of the large 7-inch display and shows traffic data. Our S60 T5 wasn't equipped with this system, but it's safe to assume that not much has changed since we last encountered this system on the 2012 S60 R-Design and that it's still a pretty good system.

The S60 can also be had with a 12-speaker audio system with 650 watts of amplification (five channels by 130W), which I haven't heard, but has got to be better than the "meh" four-speaker standard setup in our tester. There's also an $1,800 dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system. Skip it and just toss a couple of iPads or Google Nexus 10s back there.

In sum
If you're in the market for a BMW 3-Series or an Audi A4 and you're not a massive technophile who needs Google Maps in the dashboard, do yourself a favor and at least test-drive the Volvo S60 with its AWD system. You might be just as surprised as I am by how well the S60 T5 compares to the German models where real-world performance and comfort are concerned.

You'll find the Volvo to be a pretty good value, too. The 2013 S60 T5 starts at $31,750; we added $2,000 for the AWD system, $2,200 for the Premier package's leather seats, keyless entry, and moonroof, and $700 for a Climate package that adds heated seats and windshield-washer nozzles. We also had optional 17-inch alloy wheels ($250) and a trunk spoiler ($375). Add $895 in destination charges to reach our as-tested price of $38,170 -- a few thousand bucks short of a comparably equipped BMW or Audi model.

Going all in on an S60 T5 AWD and speccing the navigation, all of the safety tech options mentioned earlier (with the exception of the rear-seat entertainment), and splurging a bit on eye-catching copper metallic paint still lands the MSRP at just a hair over $46K.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Volvo S60
Trim T5 AWD
Power train 2.5 liter, turbocharged 5-cylinder, 6-speed automatic transmission, AWD
EPA fuel economy 20 city, 29 highway, 23 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy 20.6 mpg
Navigation optional, not equipped
Bluetooth phone support standard
Disc player single-slot CD
MP3 player support standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection
Other digital audio HD Radio tuner, SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Audio system 4-speaker, 160W standard audio
Driver aids City Safety
Base price $31,750
Price as tested $38,170

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