2010 Volvo XC60Posted on February 8th, 2009
Premium crossover features collision avoidance technology
By Nina Russin
The Volvo XC60 that goes on sale this March may be the Swedish automaker’s most significant vehicle launch to date. The five-passenger crossover vehicle is the first production car to feature city safety, a low-speed collision avoidance system, as standard equipment.
There is one available drivetrain: a six-cylinder, 281-horsepower turbocharged engine, and six speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity is 3300 pounds: just shy of our ALV minimum standards. Antilock brakes, trailer stability assist, dynamic stability and roll control are standard equipment.
Base price is $37,200, not including an $825 destination fee. The terra bronze pearl paint on our test car is one of several optional paint upgrades ($525). Optional wood inlays on the interior add $295.
All cars come with complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles.
The first car that can stop itself
Statistics from Volvo’s accident research team indicate that seventy-five percent of all collisions occur at low speeds, caused by distracted drivers.
City safety uses a laser sensor at the base of the windshield to monitor the distance between the driver and the car in front. If the sensor determines that a collision is likely, actuators precharge the car’s disc brakes so the driver can stop faster.
Should the driver fail to respond, city safety automatically applies the brakes. It can prevent collisions at speeds under nine miles-per-hour, and severely reduce their impact up to nineteen miles-per-hour.
Loves to play hard and get dirty
With design roots at Volvo’s concept center in Camarillo, California, the XC60 appeals to drivers who like to venture off the beaten path and take their toys with them.
All-wheel drive is standard, giving the XC60 better wet weather, snow and off-road performance. Nine inches of ground clearance is plenty to clear obstacles on unimproved roads. Standard hill descent control maintains a preset speed on steep grades to help the driver maintain directional control.
Front and rear skid plates protect chassis components under the car on uneven trails. Optional headlamp washers ensure that the path in front stays lit, even if the car is traveling in snow or deep mud.
A new panoramic moonroof, available as a no-cost option, opens up the top of the car above both rows of passengers. The front glass panel opens up to let fresh air in as well.
The rear seats fold flat without removing the seat cushions or headrests, making it easy to slip a couple of bikes in back. A standard first aid kit comes in handy for people who love the trails and have a few war wounds to prove it.
Cruising up the California coast
I had a chance to get behind the wheel of the new Volvo at a media event in Marin country this month. Since the North American rollout is two months away, we drove European spec cars which had different side mirrors, tires and speedometers than the American production cars will.
Before heading north on route 1, we had a chance to test city safety on a mock up scenario near the hotel. The Volvo engineers set up a series of car-shaped balloons at a remote parking lot. We were instructed to approach the barriers at nine miles-per-hour and keep our feet off the brakes.
Just short of the barriers, the brakes kicked in and stopped the car. The brakes apply at fifty percent of full power: not enough to throw passengers out of their seats, but not a pleasant experience either.
There’s no warning before the system kicks in: research showed that driver alerts were more confusing than helpful: the driver isn’t able to react fast enough to stop the car.
The hard braking is also intentional: Volvo doesn’t want to encourage drivers to let the car do its own braking, except in an emergency.
Blue sea, blue skies, and Barak on the radio
After the safety demonstration, we headed out of Marin county towards wine country, so we could experience the XC60’s turbocharged six-cylinder engine on some winding canyon roads.
The drive happened to take place on the day of the presidential inauguration. Not wanting to miss history in the making, we tuned in to the local news station.
The morning’s events in Washington made for a poignant backdrop to some of the most beautiful scenery this country has to offer. The lush vineyards gave new meaning to Aretha Franklin’s rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
The section of route 1 between San Francisco and Bodega Bay is a narrow two-lane road, loaded with blind corners and sharp turns. It can be misery in a big lunky vehicle. Conversely, the right car can make the drive more fun than any amusement park ride.
Despite its ample passenger and cargo capabilities, the XC60 is small and nimble enough to give the driver good control on challenging roads. The inline-six engine is a variation of the block Volvo uses in its S80 luxury sedan. Displacement is slightly smaller, but the standard turbocharger makes up what the modified block lacks in cubic inches.
Zero-to-sixty acceleration is just over seven seconds: plenty to get the driver away from the toll booth ahead of traffic. The six-speed automatic transmission is manually shiftable, allowing the driver to push the performance envelope. Sixth gear is a large overdrive gear to enhance fuel economy: eighteen miles per-gallon for city and highway driving.
The fully independent suspension has front and rear stabilizer bars to keep the XC60 flat in the corners. Engineers focused on torsional rigidity throughout the unibody structure, to give the car good steering response. As a result, the XC60 doesn’t suffer from excessive body roll and poor on-center feel that can come with a high center of gravity.
The European spec cars come with Pirelli PZero tires, versus all-season tires on the American cars. The Pirelli tires are harder: designed for more aggressive driving. Braking is firm and linear without being grabby.
The passenger cabin is quiet enough for first and second rows to converse comfortably. There’s a conspicuous absence of road and wind noise, even at highway speeds.
Available integrated booster seats
Parents with young children will appreciate available integrated booster seats: an option in the two outboard rear seats. The stand-alone option costs $495.
The power liftgate on our test car is part of a convenience package ($1000) that also adds audible front and rear park assist warnings, a grocery bag holder, and a twelve-volt power point in the cargo area.
Safety-conscious buyers will want to consider the collision avoidance package. It includes adaptive cruise control that maintains a preset following distance in traffic, drowsy driver alert, and the lane departure warning system ($1695). Volvo’s blind spot information system is a stand-alone option ($695).
Volvo’s personal car communicator senses heartbeats inside the car: it can determine if a would-be attacker is within the vehicle. The personal car communicator and keyless start cost $550. Bi-xenon headlamps produce a brighter, longer beam than halogen lamps: the stand-alone option costs $800.
Volvo builds the XC60 at its Ghent, Belgium assembly plant.
2010 Volvo XC60
Likes: Volvo’s newest crossover vehicle may be the safest car on the market, with standard city safety that can prevent low-speed collisions. The standard six-cylinder turbocharged engine yields sporty performance and good fuel economy. Active types will appreciate the versatile cargo area and standard roof rails.
Dislikes: The XC60 comes with an undersized spare to save weight and space. Buyers who plan to venture off-road should plan on buying a full-sized spare, and finding a place to mount it.
Base price: $37,200
Horsepower: 281 Hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 295 lbs.-ft. @ 1500 rpm
0-60mph: 7.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 16/22 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $825 destination charge.
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