Volvo adds spice to 2015 S60 T6 sedan

Volvo has always been known for making safe cars. Years back it even had a model that you just couldn’t kill. The company’s lack of interesting design, however, has always been a fault.

There have been a few good things. The hardtop convertible is cool and some of the station wagons have been so as well. Now we have a Volvo sedan that is stylish, tech laden and, dare I say, kinda fun to drive.

2015 Volvo S60
2015 Volvo S60

The 2015 Volvo S60 T6 is that car. Its styling is much sharper as is all of it’s edges. The grille is easily recognizable as a Volvo but with a few aggressive touches. LED headlights finish the look. There are many upgrades to the interior – it’s no longer frumpy. The front seats lean toward the sporty side. Covered in leather, each grips driver and passenger comfortably, but aggressively in case you want to toss the car about. The instrument panel is very modern and ergonomic. The seven-inch touch screen monitor helps bring Volvo into this century. The Volvo “floating” center stack house a variety of controls which includes climate and audio. Audio controls are duplicated on the sporty steering wheel which also has paddle shifters.

The engine is a modest 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes an impressive 302 horsepower through super and turbo charging. Toque is also impressive at 295 pounds-feet available at a low 2100 rpm. Such a lightweight unit allows the car to feel, well, lighter than if it had a six-cylinder. It also allows for good fuel economy (35 highway, 24 city with 28 overall).

The new S60 is quick, light, agile and rock solid. Fling this thing around a curve and it sticks. Blast down your favorite section of unencumbered highway (no PO-PO) and it exhibits straight-line accuracy. Stab the brakes and it stops short and straight. Yes, it could have a few more horses and sure, summer tires would give it better grip, but I quibble.

There are many safety features, some standard, some optional. City Safety can prevent you from rear-ending something. It’s a low-speed collision avoidance system that works with windshield mounted lasers and will automatically apply the brakes at speeds up to 19 miles per hour. There are copious amounts of air bags. Antilock brakes, traction and stability control are in tow as well. Choose the technology package (which I got) and you get adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, lane departure warning and pedestrian and cyclist detection with auto brake.

My test car also featured a platinum package that included navigation and a premium sound system; 19-inch diamond cut wheels, blind spot information package; heated front seats and metallic paint. My car’s base price was $36,150. With every option the as-tested price came to $47,925.

Volvo S60 has neat rear
Volvo S60 has neat rear

There is much wiggle room between base and as-tested, so you can option accordingly. The price is about average for what’s in the price class but I found the S60 to be far above average in it and finish, bang for buck and even fun to drive categories. Volvo has to be happy with the finished product. I am.

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Apple cashes in on latest craze with Beats

Beats Pro wireless

Now that Apple has announced it will buy Beats Audio for $3 billion what’s next? Will every iPod and iPhone come with Beats headphones? Will Beats put the Apple logo on its products? Will Forbes finally say that, yes, Dr. Dre. will be a billionaire? Well, we don’t know. We do know that straw polls, surveys and whatnots have confirmed that young folks think Apple is cool again because it has acquired Beats. How much of a good thing that is, or if at all, for Apple we also don’t know. Most of the people asked did not own Beats but would buy them, depending on which survey you read. For certain, someone is buying these headphones. The company either makes a billion dollars a year selling them or sells a billion dollars worth yearly. That’s way less than what Apple makes a month off its products but a new stream of yearly income of a billion or more never hurt anyone or any company. What I want to know is when did headphones become the cash cow of the almost non existent audio industry? Go into any big box retailer and you will find displays, kiosks, shelves and end caps dedicated to headphones, portable speakers and anything else that will keep you from buying a decent audio system that’s not dedicated to rattling your walls with the latest Blu-ray. Headphones are everywhere – Bose, Beats, Sol Republic, B&O, Bowers&Wilkins – you name the company, it has a dedicated space if not just shelf space. I’m an Apple fan. I’ve used its products since working at a weekly African American newspaper. I like the ease of use, the near bulletproof reliability and the longevity. I’m not so convinced about Beats. Yes, they offer much boom for the bucks, but there’s music out there that’s more subtle and has greater dynamic range than boom. Beats are often accused of being to pricey for what you get. They are not by any stretch of the imagination the most expensive units you can buy. Shure, maker of fine phono cartridges (don’t ask) and microphones, sells a pair of earbuds (SE846) for $999. Yes, a thousand bucks for earbuds. AKG sells over the ear headphones for more than $1,400 a pair. Are any of these items worth the money. Shure and AKG certainly think so. As for Beats, it depends on the model. I hate the Solos, the entry level Beats, which are by far the most popular. There is so much better available in that price range (about $200). I’ve yet to hear the Solo II model. It can only be better than the original and Beats claims such. The wireless Studio headphones are a different story. I recently spent an afternoon at an Apple store listening to a few high end headphones that included the Studios and I was impressed. I started with a pair of Bowers & Wilkins P5s attached to a iPod Touch that was playing Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim.” I don’t do much Country, but this woman’s arresting vocals made me listen. Her voice seemed to float in the middle of band – right where it should have been. I moved on to Bang & Olufsen’s BeoPlay H6 and liked them even better. The sound was a bit sweeter and for a hundred bucks more ($399) as well it should. Next was Parrot’s Zik. These were wonderful. Wireless and buttonless, they were. To turn up the volume, change tracks or turn them on you pushed, swiped or touched the right earphone. The Ziks felt a little heavier but still comfortable than their corded counterparts. Lambert’s voice was clear, crisp and powerful. Me likey. The Beats Studio Pro wireless were as impressive. Like the wired Studio Pro’s, these uses DSP software to achieve it’s robust sound. The model also uses noise canceling technology. As with all Beats, the bass was the most prevalent, but the notes were more round than mushy. I could live with these, but at $379.99, it will be awhile. Apple could have bought anything with all that cash yet it chose Beats. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine come with the package and that’s a good thing. Still, it will be a while before we see if all cash was well spent. Heck, Apple still has about $150 billion to spend so this will hardly make it cash poor. Will Beats make Apple richer? We will see.

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