2010 Volvo XC60 T6 AWDPosted on August 10th, 2009
Volvo hits a home run with its new mid-sized crossover vehicle
By Nina Russin
Volvo may not be the biggest player in the sport-utility segment, but as of this year, it’s an important one. The new XC60 is one of the best luxury crossover vehicles on the market, combining innovative safety and ergonomic features in a stylish package.
I realize that saying this sets me up for a collective eye-roll from colleagues who know that my perspective on Swedish cars isn’t completely objective. The fact is: I love all things Swedish. Gravlax, pannkakor, Orrefors glass, clogs, and the midnight sun are among my many favorite Swedish things. On a good, day, I even enjoy a little Abba.
My husband and I have owned three Volvos: our current car is a C30. But I will remain glued to my soapbox, proclaiming to anyone willing to listen that the XC60 is a near-perfect car. It’s beautiful to look at, a dream to drive, and has standard City Safety: a technology that could make rush-hour fender benders a thing of the past.
Available with two engines, with front or all-wheel drive
The XC60 comes in two configurations: a front-wheel drive model equipped with a naturally-aspirated 3.2-liter engine, and an all-wheel drive model with a turbocharged inline six. The test car is the all-wheel drive model, with a standard six-speed automatic transmission that includes manual gear select option.
Base price for the front-wheel drive model is $32,395; the all-wheel drive XC60 starts at $37,200.
All-wheel drive models come with a fully-independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and 18-inch wheels with all-season tires. Hill descent control limits vehicle speed on steep grades to help the driver maintain directional control.
Standard convenience features include leather seating, a tilt-and telescoping steering wheel, keyless start, heated outside mirrors, and Bluetooth interface. The standard audio system is an AM/FM/CD player with satellite radio, USB and auxiliary ports.
An optional panoramic sunroof ($1200) positions glass panels over both rows of passengers. Cloth shades under the sunroof allow ambient light in, while keeping the car’s interior cool. Other options on the test car include a DVD-based navigation system with a rear park assist camera ($2700), and a climate package that includes heated seats, a heated windshield, headlamp cleaners, and an interior air filtration system ($1000).
Test drive in Northern Arizona
Last January, I drove the European-spec XC60 up the coast of Northern California. This week was my first test drive in the American spec car. I decided to take a similar approach: selecting a route with some serious elevation gain, and a lot of cornering. My Volvo-loving husband rode shotgun.
We headed east of Phoenix to the Beeline Highway, that climbs through the mountains to the town of Payson. From there, we hooked up with the 260: a two-lane road that passes through Ponderosa pine forests and a string of small mountain towns, including Pine and Strawberry.
What makes the XC60’s turbocharged engine so impressive is its smooth power delivery. Turbochargers never took off in the States the way they have in Europe, because Americans weren’t willing to put up with turbo-lag. New technology that utilizes computer controls and progressive turbochargers has essentially eliminated this problem, along with oil coking that used to cause maintenance problems.
How much power does the turbocharged six-cylinder engine deliver? Volvo’s internal tests produced a zero-to-sixty speed of 7.1 seconds: pretty good for a 4100-pound vehicle. Top speed is electronically limited to 130 miles-per-hour.
The six-speed automatic transmission shifts so effortlessly that the changes between gears are imperceptible. The only time I experienced any shift shock was during wide-open throttle.
Our test drive of 300 miles included a 4000-foot elevation gain: despite that, we easily maintained the EPA-estimated 22 mile-per-gallon fuel economy. The reason is that turbochargers boost engine efficiency as well as power. By using exhaust-driven blowers to deliver extra air to the engine, the turbos increase the amount of available fuel that the engine burns. This also results in reduced carbon monoxide emissions out the exhaust.
All-wheel drive automatically transfers torque between axles as well as side to side, depending on the wheels that have the best traction. On twisting mountain roads, the wheels are glued to the pavement. It’s almost impossible to chirp the tires.
A fully-independent front and rear suspension system with stabilizer bars utilizes an aluminum subframe to minimize unsprung weight.
Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking provide plenty of stopping power. Volvo’s ready-alert brake technology primes the rotors if a collision is imminent. Volvo’s large, vertical brake lamps are easy for other drivers to see in low light conditions.
Visibility around the car is excellent. Volvo’s standard blind spot information system automatically illuminates a light in the outside mirror when a car in the adjacent lane pulls into the XC60’s blind spots. A standard rear wiper keeps the back glass clear in rain and snow.
City Safety prevents rush-hour fender benders
The XC60 is the first Volvo to come standard with City Safety: a technology that prevents low-speed, rear-end collisions due to driver distraction. On-board sensors monitor the distance between the XC60 and the car in front.
If the sensors determine that a collision is imminent, the system will pre-charge or if necessary, apply the brakes. City Safety is capable of preventing rear-end collisions when the vehicle is travelling less than 19 miles-per-hour.
Other standard safety features on the XC60 include blind spot monitoring, roll stability control, front, side and side curtain airbags, active front headrests, perimeter lighting after dark and integrated front and rear foglamps. The optional navigation system adds a rearview assist camera and real-time traffic information.
Humanistic design approach
Swedish design is always people focused: be it furniture, architecture, or automobiles. The XC60’s exterior follows in this tradition with its large shoulders and planted stance. Large glass areas make the inside of the car bright and cheerful.
Inside, the car seats up to five adults. Up front, the driver and passenger get eight-way power seats with adjustable lumbar, seat heaters, and dual-zone climate control. A tilt and telescoping steering wheel allows smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag, and keep the wheel low enough to have a clear forward view.
A floating center stack houses the navigation screen, audio and climate controls. A handy storage area behind the center stack is large enough for a small purse or packages. A standard 12-volt outlet at the base of the center stack recharges portable electronic devices.
A large bin beneath the center armrest includes a USB and auxiliary port. Cupholders in the center console are large enough for water bottles.
Second-row passengers have ample head, hip and legroom. Though the XC60 has a tall transmission tunnel, the bump is narrow enough for the middle passenger to straddle. Rear vents circulate air through the back of the cabin.
A fold-down armrest in the center seatback includes two, flip-out cupholders. The seats fold flat in a 40/20/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor. The XC60 meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
A storage area beneath the cargo floor keeps smaller items out of sight. The XC60 comes with standard roof rails, making it easy to install a cargo carrier up top.
Volvo builds the XC60 in its Ghent, Belgium assembly plant.
Likes: A versatile, all-wheel drive crossover vehicle with innovative safety features, outstanding ride and handling.
Model: XC60 T6 AWD
Base price: $37,200
As tested: $42,250
Horsepower: 281 @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 295 lbs.-ft. @ 1500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Fuel economy: 16/22 mpg city/highway
Comments: *Towing capacity is 3300 pounds, short of our 3500-pound ALV standard.
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