Launched as a 2010 model, Volvo XC60 is the smallest of the Volvo crossover family, which includes XC70 and XC90. A compact SUV about the size of a Honda CR-V, Volvo XC60 competes favorably with Acura MDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class. Three versions are available: XC60 3.2, turbocharged XC60 T6 AWD, and an R-Design model that develops even more power.
Volvo XC60 seats four quite comfortably, five with a bit of coziness, while offering more cargo space than nearly all competitors. XC60 looks like a smaller version of XC90, and it doesn’t shout family-mobile.
The standard 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine easily meets the demands of daily driving, offering 240 horsepower and an EPA-estimated 19/25 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is an option. Under the hood of the T6 AWD is a turbocharged 3.0-liter engine, generating 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. The T6 gets an EPA estimate of 17/23 mpg City/Highway.
For those who value quick acceleration, a 325-horsepower version of the turbocharged engine is available, in the R-Design edition. Torque output is boosted by 29 foot-pounds. Like the T6 AWD, the all-wheel-drive R-Design is rated 17/23 mpg. All engines use Regular-grade gasoline.
Volvo has given the XC60 a fresh front-end look for 2014, including a new hood and front fenders, plus a revised grille with a larger Volvo iron mark. Headlights have been reshaped and a new lower front spoiler is bright-trimmed. New vertical LED daytime running lights are mounted, and Pan alloy wheels on the XC60 3.2 hold 18-inch tires. To improve handling, the base car gets new Corner Traction Control by torque vectoring. Inside are a new instrument cluster, three-spoke steering wheel, available wood trim on front door panels, stitching on door panels and armrest, white illumination for buttons (replacing green), and new front door sill plates. An enhanced tire pressure monitoring system tells whether a front or rear tire is low.
The Premier trim level gains an auto-dimming mirror, and an adaptive digital TFT display instrument cluster with three selectable themes. Premier Plus adds a rear park assist camera and quick-fold front passenger seat. Platinum gains auto-dimming, power-retractable mirrors. The optional Climate Package adds a heated windshield and steering wheel, while the Technology Package adds cyclist detection. A new Sport Package includes sport seats and 20-inch Titania alloy wheels. The Blind Spot Information System includes cross traffic alert, lane change merge aid, and front/rear park assist
Paddle shifters are new in the T6 AWD, which adds Advanced Quick Shift for 2014. In Sport mode, or when paddles are used, new software quickens gear-changes by 20-30 percent (50 percent, from First to Second gear). This cuts 0-60 mph acceleration from 6.9 to 6.5 seconds, according to Volvo.
A new Inscription Package includes Sovereign Hide soft leather seating surfaces, leather-covered dashboard, power lumbar support. New 20-inch Ixion alloy wheels go on the T6 R-Design. Premier Plus trim for the R-Design adds a rear park assist camera, while the Platinum trim get auto-dimming, power-retractable outside mirrors.
The XC60 is not the sportiest among the compact SUVs, but it handles well on city streets and highways. We ran it hard on curvy remote roads, and it responded well. It’s easy to park, too, particularly with the optional rearview camera. The XC60 rides comfortably, brakes are superb, and its 6-speed automatic transmission is well tuned.
Volvo’s full-time all-wheel-drive system works smoothly in the daily grind without a huge penalty in fuel economy (18/24 mpg in the base model). AWD is truly welcome when the weather gets foul or on gravel.
With all-wheel drive and 9.1 inches of ground clearance, the Volvo XC60 offers as much off-highway capability as most sport-utility buyers will ever need. It can handle backcountry trails, and the computer-managed Hill Descent Control makes creeping down steep inclines secure. An XC60 can tow 3300 pounds: a trailer full of snowmobiles or a small boat.
The Volvo XC60 is about the same size as compact sport-utilities or crossovers from other European luxury brands, including the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK. Yet the XC60 has substantially more cargo volume than any of those competitors.
At an overall length of 182.8 inches, the XC60 is sized comparably to the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, with similar cargo capacity. With 9.1 inches of ground clearance, and skid plates that actually protect some of its underpinnings, all-wheel-drive versions of the XC60 offer a bit more legitimate off-road capability than other vehicles in this class.
The XC60 has the rugged, adventurous, substantial look buyers might expect in an SUV, but it’s also very clearly a Volvo. The XC60 bears a close resemblance to its elder and larger stalemate, the XC90. The XC60 continues the Volvo design trend away from sharp angles and square corners, and toward softer and more rounded lines. It’s less severe, more relaxed, than Volvos of yore.
Without altering the vehicle’s basic form, Volvo gave XC60 a fresh front-end appearance for 2014. Modifications include a new hood and front fenders. A new version of the trademark eggcrate-mesh, trapezoidal grille features a larger ironmark at its center, again emblazoned with the Volvo logo. Headlights have been reshaped, embedded in swept-back fenders, and the new lower front spoiler is brightwork-trimmed. New vertical LED daytime running lights are installed up front.
The outlines of the front-end openings, all V-like in overall shape, flow into each other, giving the fascia an of-a-piece look. The resulting head-on view is pleasing, while substantial and a little tall. Standard Pan alloy wheels on the XC60 3.2 hold 18-inch tires, while the XC60 T6 AWD gets a different wheel design.
Side perspective presents mild confusion between a sportier, almost coupe-like hood slope and roofline and a wedgy beltline that rises in a straight line from the front wheel well to the rear door handle, leaving a bulbous mass of a rear quarter panel. This somewhat unbalanced look leaves a relatively hunkered down front end attached to a high, bustle-like rear end. Granted, this allows that class-leading cargo capacity of almost 70 cubic feet, but it leaves the XC60 with a stubby, chopped-off posterior.
The rear view shows broad shoulders capped by a tapered glasshouse, with LED taillights climbing up the sides of the glass on the one-piece liftgate. The rear bumper cups the bottom edge of the liftgate, with widely spaced exhaust tips. The body mass also minimizes the visual effect of the XC60’s height, giving the rear perspective a more planted presence than the front.
The XC60 R-Design treatment has a bolder look, starting with 20-inch alloy wheels and color-matched lower body moldings. Bright metal mirrors, window trim and tailpipes have a matte, almost silky finish, and the grille is imbedded with a prominent R logo.
Seating five, the XC60 cabin is Scandinavian in style, and elegantly understated. The interior is as true as the exterior to Volvo’s contemporary styling idioms.
Materials and finish are very good, and functionality rates almost as high, despite some Volvo-specific quirks. It’s easy to master the XC60’s multitude of controls, which are simpler and more efficient than those in most luxury-brand competitors. The seating arrangement is flexible and the cargo compartment is expansive, incorporating tie-downs and other useful accessories. It offers nearly all the features you’d expect in a luxury vehicle.
The cuts and stitching on the XC60’s seats and floor mats, and the brushed aluminum trim on its door panels and center stack, add a smart, cosmopolitan look. R-Design models are more metal-heavy in their finish, with more aluminum trim and inserts. Volvo steering wheels have some of the chubbiest rims in the business. They’re so thick that drivers with small hands might find them a bit too hefty.
Front seats offer all the expected comfort for the everyday driver and passengers, whether around town or on the road. They’re modestly bolstered, but no less comfortable for being so. Interior dimensions in the XC60 rank in the middle of its competitive set. Nevertheless, in perceived roominess, this Volvo fares well, feeling as spacious as most competitors, if not more so.
Visibility from the driver’s seat is good all around. The rear headrests, large in the Volvo fashion for safety, fill a lot of the space in the rearview mirror, but the power-folding option allows the driver to lower those headrests with the touch of a switch when the back seat isn’t occupied. The optional rearview video camera is especially appreciated for its assistance when parking. The video display bends a set of superimposed guidelines to reflect the car’s path, based on the position of the steering wheel.
Controls are concentrated in one of two spots: on easy-to-use stalks flanking the steering wheel, or in the flat-panel center stack rising from the console. Here you’ll find some of those Volvo traits that are just a bit different from the norm.
Airflow controls, for example, are fashioned with a large icon that looks like a seated person. Point to the feet and all air flows through the floor vents; choose the head, and air flows toward the windshield. The audio controls are different, too, with a twisting knob that cycles through menus and a keypad that looks like telephone buttons. They all work quite well, once a user gains some familiarity. Nearly all are large and easy to locate, even at night.
The premium audio system is superb, with crisp highs and booming lows. Auxiliary jacks and USB ports provide access to personal MP3 players and the like.
The optional panorama sunroof is two pieces of glass, with a front section that retracts up and over the back section. This produces a neat skylight effect, which also benefits rear-seat occupants. The sunroof does exact a cost, however, chopping a full inch out of front-seat headroom and nearly a bit more over the rear seat.
Bins molded into front and rear door panels, and pouches sewn into the back sides of the front seatbacks, provide more than adequate occasional storage. The lighted glove box is deep and tall enough to hold quite a bit more than the leather-bound owner’s manual portfolio.
The rear seat is more bench than bucket. That’s proper, as it’s intended to accommodate three average adults; which it does, if somewhat snugly. The XC60 makes an excellent vehicle for families with two children growing into their teens. For families with toddlers, optional built-in child safety seats include optimized belts.
The XC60 is a benchmark for cargo volume. There’s nearly 31 cubic feet of storage with the rear seat in place, and 67.4 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. Rear seatbacks fold easily to a truly flat surface. The middle section, representing the 20 in 40/20/40, works like the pass-through in vehicles with a trunk, allowing longer items like fishing poles to be carried inside. The front passenger seatback also folds forward and flat, creating room for much wider and longer items than fit in the typical small SUV/crossover.
Carpeting covers all surfaces in the rear cargo area, and the removable floor panel extends rearward enough to be secured beneath an overlap from the closed liftgate.
The Volvo XC60 defines the appeal of the so-called crossover vehicle. It’s a fabulous compromise between what people want in a true, truck-based sport-utility and what they need for daily transportation. Beyond its flexible seating/cargo configurations, the XC60 is generally a comfortable, pleasant vehicle to drive. Not only is an XC60 compact and easy to park, it isn’t mundane in a people-mover, family-wagon fashion.
The XC60 is tuned more for cruising comfortably on the highway or through town than for flinging around on back roads, or for travel where no graded roads exist. It provides moderate off-pavement capability, and not just the look that goes with a tall body or ride height elevated an inch or two. Its 3300-pound tow rating is substantial in this class, and the standard Trailer Stability Assist helps maintain stability while pulling a trailer.
The T6’s turbocharged engine delivers refreshingly linear acceleration, not necessarily what you’d expect from a turbo. It also adds a bit of verve that the base, non-turbo engine lacks. Regardless, the base six-cylinder is torquey enough for everyday use, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
We liked the 6-speed automatic transmission best in Sport mode. Its well-executed sport setting re-assigns shift points to maximize the engine’s power curve and extends the transmission’s stay in each gear. Sport mode uses more fuel, but it suppresses unwanted hunting among gears when climbing or descending grades. Additionally, it suppresses the engine’s tendency to surge unexpectedly as it acclimates to each gear change. The sport setting also allows a driver to choose a specific gear when desired. The automatic reasserts its own control to shift up or down at pre-determined engine speeds. In full Auto mode, when driven casually, shifts are smooth, if not invisible.
The full-time all-wheel-drive system operates seamlessly, and the driver will almost never know when it’s working. In normal, good-traction conditions, 95 percent of the engine’s power goes to the front wheels. If the front wheels lose traction, a multi-plate clutch begins routing power to the rear, to a maximum split of 65 percent to the rear wheels.
All-wheel drive on the Volvo is more an advantage for safe, secure forward progress in lousy weather than a true off-road tool. Still, with 9.1 inches of ground clearance, this crossover can traverse terrain that would be impossible in a conventional sedan, or in some other crossovers. Hill Descent Control adds some reassuring braking assist when navigating down a dirt trail.
The Volvo XC60 is lighter (and smaller) than the XC70 and XC90 crossover SUVs, but it has a relatively high center of gravity, combined with minimally bolstered seats and a largish steering wheel. These traits establish the XC60 more as an all-weather, long-distance cruiser than a canyon carver.
The suspension does a decent job taming different types and conditions of tarmac. Ride quality is a bit rough at times, more so with the more stiffly suspended R-Design models. Travel on rough pavement produces some head toss, which is not uncommon in the class. An Infiniti EX35 delivers a quieter ride than the XC60, while the BMW X3 and Acura RDX offer better steering feel.
The R-Design’s stiffer suspension and 20-inch wheels with low-profile tires make the ride considerably rougher. Handling was good when charging corners, but maybe the stiff ride isn’t worth it.
On the other hand, the hotter R-Design acceleration, with wider and bigger torque, is definitely worth it. The 6-speed automatic transmission doesn’t have to do much kicking down, with all the power and torque at hand.
Brakes work very well, resisting fade, consistently and confidently slowing it from high speeds for cornering. Most of its optional lane departure and other proximity warning systems can be suppressed or turned off if the driver decides they’re not needed.
The standard City Safety feature is intended to help avoid rear-ending the car ahead, or at least to minimize the damage. This system works at speeds of 2-18 mph. Up to 9 mph, it can stop the car before it hits a car in front. From that speed up to 18 mph, it can reduce significantly the force of the impact. Tested at just under 9 mph in a parking lot, it worked surprisingly sharply, jolting the driver and front seat passenger smartly into abruptly snugged-up seatbelts. We were glad it worked.
The Volvo XC60 packs a lot of space into a stylish, compact SUV that seats five. It’s maneuverable and pleasant on freeways and city streets. Offering more cargo capability than its competitors, an XC60 has great cargo/seating flexibility and is loaded with Volvo’s trademark safety technology. With good ground clearance, an all-wheel-drive XC60 offers light off-pavement capability. The upgrade turbocharged engine is appealing and more invigorating, but the base 3.2-liter six-cylinder is more than adequate for most drivers and delivers better value. For those who want flexibility in cargo and people hauling without the bulk of a big SUV, the XC60 makes a lot of sense.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard reported from northern California, with J.P. Vettraino reporting from Detroit, and Sam Moses reporting from Arizona.