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Sitting at the bottom of the pile is usually uncomfortable, always embarrassing, and never productive. For Volvo, the combined sales of the S40 sedan and V50 wagon haven’t done enough in a long time to conquer any of its competitors (except for the now semi-nonexistent Saab 9-3). Ignore their weak sales and go for a test drive: you’ll see that the Volvo S40 and Volvo V50 are really nice cars. Equipped with the naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder and front-wheel drive, the S40 is playful and light on its feet. Toss in the benefits of decent fuel economy and the utility of a wagon (as in the V50) and don’t you have a winner?

Clearly not. BMW’s method for success is based on engines with six cylinders lined up in a row, rear-wheel drive, and less attractive sheetmetal than can be found on the S40 and V50. The 3-Series is far and away the best-selling small luxury car in America, just as strongly the best-selling luxury car of any type. No other car comes close. However, Volvo has another thing comin’. Unlikely to unseat the BMW 3-Series as the best-selling small luxury car or even to challenge the Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Infiniti G37 for sales, the 2011 Volvo S60 is gorgeous, a bit bigger than the S40 and V50, and very powerful even in standard form.