It's no secret that we're pretty serious fans of the Volvo XC60. This compact, five-passenger crossover has the charm, style and impressive level of practicality that makes it a solid choice for consideration in any guise. It's also true that we're even more partial to the top-line XC60 T6 AWD, particularly in its sportier R-Design spec. We recently had the chance to check out the best version yet of this sweet Swede: a 2012 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design that now matches its enthusiast-tweaked chassis tuning with even more underhood might be supplied by a new software-based engine upgrade package developed by the automaker's international racing partner, Polestar.

Save for adopting the same base/Premier/Premier Plus/Platinum trim grade nomenclature and simplified extras roster as its XC70 cousin, there are few other changes to either the 2012 Volvo XC60 3.2 with its naturally aspirated 3.2-liter inline-six or the turbocharged T6 AWD side of the family. The most notable is the availability of this new Polestar performance software, which can be fitted to any 2011-2012 T6 AWD model for $1,495 -- either factory-direct or as a dealer-installed accessory. In addition to raising the maximum turbo boost, it recalibrates the throttle map and modifies several engine parameters, including spark timing and fuel mixture. The net result is an extra 25 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque, bumps that bring those output stats to 325 and 354, respectively. While its added Polestar muscle trims the XC60 T6 AWD's 0-60 mph time from 6.9 to 6.6 seconds, that extra quickness does not impact either the vehicle's standard 17 city/23 highway EPA numbers or its Volvo factory warranty. 

Our day with a Polestar-fortified 2012 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design in top-line Platinum trim took us on a grand tour through central Arizona that looped from Phoenix to Sedona and back. Encompassing a mix of freeways and serpentine secondary roads as well as transitioning through several thousand feet of elevation changes in the process, it provided a great opportunity to see just what this even-more-focused R-Design package had to offer.

Dynamically, the tauter springs, shocks and anti-roll bar tuning in the R-Design chassis portfolio upgrade coupled with 20-inch alloy wheels mounting 255/45 low-profile tires perform as before, endowing this classy all-wheel-drive crossover with an extra measure of confident control in the corners -- albeit one that does take a tangible toll on ride comfort over rough or uneven pavement. The XC60 T6 AWD R-Design's newly acquired Polestar poke comes with no such caveat. It merely adds a smooth and totally transparent mini adrenaline rush to the proceedings as the tachometer needle sweeps past the 3,000 rpm mark, allowing for less-stressful on-ramp merging and passing maneuvers. It also promises to make the 2012 XC60 T6 AWD R-Design an even more formidable foe for key rivals like the Audi Q5 3.2 Quattro , BMW X3 xDrive35i, Lexus RX 350 AWD and Mercedes-Benz GLK 350.

Performance aspects aside, the Volvo XC70 T6 AWD R-Design remains a solid people pleaser. While the base T6 AWD version that starts at $40,325 brings an impressive list of luxury and safety standards, the new Platinum-grade version we drove takes things considerably upmarket, with or without the dedicated R-Design trim bits that add $4,250 to the Platinum's $44,575 opening tab. Building on the Premium Plus kit that adds features  like a power tailgate with programmable memory, Keyless Drive with Personal Car Communicator, front/rear park assist, Homelink and power folding rear head restraints to the leather-lined cabin, Platinum  grade brings an enhanced voice-controlled navigation system, 650-watt/12-speaker Volvo Premium sound System and rear park-assist camera.

Our test vehicle also had the optional Total Climate Control and Technology Packages, which added another $3,100 for everything from heated front/rear seats, headlight washers, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer nozzles and an interior air quality system to Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control and Lane Departure Warning systems. That megaload of extras raised its bottom line to a heady $52,675. While admittedly not cheap, it still positions the 2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design comfortably below the members of its prime competitive set.

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