Volvo has a yuppie soccer mom brand image so far from exciting you'd think they marketed purely in the Limited catalog. The Volvo S60R? Maybe one of the most underrated modern cars. Here's why I love the Swedish meatball.
Arriving in 2003, the S60R came with a 2.5 liter inline 5 producing 300 hp, two intercoolers, all-wheel drive, Four C chassis control, Brembos, gorgeous blue gauges and an MSRP of $37,500. In 2003, you could buy a base M3 with 333 hp at just above $45,000. Volvo claimed the S60R as a legitimate competitor to the BMW M3. Probably not, but price is always a good qualifier for such arguments, and the S60R was more reasonably priced and within grasp for most of us.
Then there's the design. Because it's a Volvo, no one suspected you to be able to accelerate from 0-60 in under 6 seconds (just 0.3 seconds slower than a C32 AMG). It wasn't the most beautiful piece of sheet metal on wheels, but it's nondescript looks made it a winner by default for those who didn't want to look like the typical spoiled upper-middle class prick. Plus, the obvious Swedish design didn't turn anyone away either.
But in my mind the best part of the S60R was the existence of the V70R. For some reason, Americans love SUVs and wagons are underappreciated. As we Jalops know, wagons have all of the utility of an SUV without the higher center of gravity and high rate of fuel consumption.
The V70R was spectacular because it took the anti-"Oh it's a Volvo" stereotype one-step further. Not only did the V70R have all the performance of the S60R, but because it was in wagon form, it was that much easier and more fun to show up the not-so-upper-middle class asshat or the Asian girl in the blacked-out 325 at the light next to you.
Conclusion? This was as anti-Volvo a Volvo could've been from the era. It wasn't quite at the ranks of the C32, M3 or S4, but it was a fantastic alternative. Also, if you were a teenager and your parents were concerned about your safety, come on. How much safer can you get than a Volvo?
P.S. The spaceball shifter was awesome.