Sizzling sedans break the four-door mould
Find style, performance and fuel economy in these new models
By Paul Byrne, Edmonton Journal November 26, 2010 2:20 AM
The ubiquitous four-door sedan is often the bread-and-butter product for an automotive manufacturer.
For 2011, there are several new and updated entrants that have raised the benchmark and heated up the competition.
Manufacturers seem to be pulling out all the stops to offer over-the-top designs and performance while being mindful of fuel economy.
Examples of sedans with sizzle include the all new Buick Regal and the transformed Volvo S60
To utilize an advertising slogan from the past, this is “not your father’s Buick.” Definitely not. In fact, this is not like any Buick from the past. It is built on the Opel Insignia platform that formed the underpinning for the European Car of the Year in 2009 and is currently the best selling mid-size car in Europe. I have driven the Opel, and this Regal offers very similar handling and ride-quality characteristics.
With the CXL Turbo version, an Interactive Drive Control system allows you to select from three suspension settings — normal, tour and sport. The non-turbo has a taut suspension that gives this front-wheel-drive sedan handling characteristics close to several rear-wheel-drive sports sedans.
With more power, the Regal could give some of them a run for their money through the twisty bits. The suspension has been “track tuned,” as with the Cadillac CTS. Yes, it is capable of turning at speed better than any production Buick to date.
Even with a firm suspension, the Regal offers a smooth ride that is void of the floaty traits and vagabond steering of previous models. Unfortunately, the base engine lacks the power to get the most out of this great suspension.
In spite of direct injection and variable valve timing, the normally aspirated four-cylinder is weak and raspy. The Regal will get more power in the form of a turbocharged version (available with a six-speed manual) that will arrive in Canada by January and a more powerful GS edition later in the year.
Fuel economy ratings — the main reason for the small engine — are impressive, and given that it uses regular gas and has flex-fuel capability, you should find your weekly fill-ups modest.
Although it looks small on the outside, there is ample room. However, moving the front seats back makes the legroom tight in the rear. Gauges and controls are easy to read and use, even if you are someone’s father. Dash layout is good, albeit plain with little to break up the sea of vinyl and plastic. Controls are within easy reach and are intuitive to use.
I found the brake and accelerator pedals to be too close together. Hopefully this will be corrected in future production models.
Trunk space is adequate and the fold-down rear seats with ski pass-thru add to the utility. Warranties include four-year/80,000-km new-vehicle coverage, five-years/160,000-km (the most kilometres) on powertrain components and OnStar.
– -Engine: 2.4 litre DOHC 4-cylinder with flex fuel
– -Power: 182 hp at 6, 700 r.p.m., 172 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,900 r.p.m.
– -Transmission: Six-speed automatic with overdrive
– -Fuel economy (L/100 km): 10.8 city, 6.5 highway
– -Price: $34,900 base, $40,384 as tested (Note: Canadian Dollars)
The 2011 S60 is the best new Volvo I have ever driven. This is due in large measure to something the new S60 does well — handling.
The all-wheel-drive S60 is capable of moving through curvy sections of tarmac at impressive speeds and with great fluidity. Should you overreach your driving ability, active systems kick in to help keep the shiny side upright.
With a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, ride quality is dramatically better. The suspension is a successful blend of firmness and softness.
A turbocharged in-line six-cylinder adds to the S60’s fun-to-drive quotient. Bags full of torque are available at low r.p.m. with minimal turbo lag and are capable of pushing you deep into your seat when you nail the accelerator pedal at low speeds.
Acceleration runs from zero to 100 km/h averaged a couple of ticks over six seconds. Braking from the same speed produced fade-free stops with a metre of the leading Lexus IS 350.
At first glance, the exterior size appears to be more like the current S40, however, it is larger and offers a surprising amount of interior space and is the best of those tested in accommodating four adults in comfort. Interior fit and finish are first rate for a mid-range luxury sedan, and as is the norm with Volvo, the front seats are very comfortable.
Fold-down rear seats add to the flexibility of the smallest trunk of the trio.
Safety features include all the standard fare plus a front video camera and pedestrian detection system that automatically applies the brakes if a pedestrian is detected. The new S60 has yet to be crash tested by either NHSTA or IIHS. A new-car warranty offers coverage for four years or 80,000 km.
– -Engine: 3.6 in-line six-cylinder, turbocharged
– -Power: 300 hp at 6,500 r.p.m., 325 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,100 r.p.m.
– -Transmission: Six-speed automatic with overdrive
– -Fuel economy (L/100 km): 11.3 city, 7.7 highway
– -Price: $45,450 base, $53,655 as tested (Note: Canadian Dollars)
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal