2010 Volvo XC60 Expert Review:Autoblog
Volvo has seen better days. Just a few short years ago, the Swedish automaker was the lone bright spot in Ford's European luxury operation, boasting impressive sales and actual profits. Fast-forward to 2009, and the situation couldn't be more different. Sales are downright depressing, revenues are worse, and the automaker has a "For Sale" sign on the front lawn, yet nobody has bothered to show up for the open house. For Volvo to have a legitimate chance of survival, all future products have to be home runs, beginning with the XC60 crossover.
The XC60 slots below the XC70 wagon and the XC90 crossover, finally giving Volvo a player in the lucrative entry-level luxury crossover realm. The stalwarts of the segment – the Lexus RX and Acura MDX – play to consumer's needs and desires, offering superior reliability, inoffensive looks, maxed out interiors, and top-notch tech options. Looking at the XC60 from afar, the newest Volvo passes the appearance and interior test, but does it have enough to get customers back into Volvo showrooms? Make the jump to find out.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Chris Paukert / Weblogs, Inc.
Our XC60 tester was an all-wheel drive T6 model with a price tag of $42,250, which includes Volvo's $2,700 multimedia package with a high-end Dolby Surround Sound system, navigation, and a backup camera, as well as a $1,000 climate package bringing with it heated seats and washer fluid, rain sensing wipers and an air quality system. The panoramic moonroof on our tester normally carries a price tag of $1,200, but it is currently being added to all XC60s free of charge.
From the outside, the XC60 is all Volvo, with an XC90-like nose and clean, uncluttered lines accentuated by broad shoulders. Though the XC60 shares plenty of design cues with its larger sibling, the smaller crossover pulls off the corporate Volvo look more gracefully and easily competes with its segment-mates where inoffensiveness tends to trump dynamic styling.
With a six-speed automatic transmission handling shifting duties and delivering the 3.0-liter inline-six's 281 horsepower and 295 lb-ft to all four wheels, the XC60 feels a bit heavy off the line, but there's plenty of pop available once you get all 4,174 pounds moving forward. Although topping the two-ton mark hardly makes the XC60 a bantamweight, it's the lightest crossover among its competitors, and when you slip the transmission into manual mode, the XC60 delivers even more punch from a standstill, though we'd still recommend shying away from stoplight drags. On the fuel economy front, we averaged 18.2 mpg in mixed driving, which puts the XC60 in the middle-of-the-pack for AWD crossovers of this size.
The platform underpinning XC60 is shared with several vehicles, including the Land Rover LR2 and the Ford Mondeo. While notably more edgy than the larger XC90, this smaller Volvo still errs more on the side of cruiser than corner cutter. However, Volvo didn't engineer a wallowing pig. The XC60's AWD system and sturdy suspension still manage to keep the CUV's motions in check, with confidence-inspiring grip and minimal roll. More importantly, the XC60 can be driven long distances in comfort, though its overall ride quality is stiffer than some of its competitors – a compromise we're willing to take if it means we're not scraping the side mirrors through the bends.
And since the XC60 carries the Volvo name, it comes equipped with just about every safety feature available on a production vehicle. Our tester came without adaptive cruise control or a heads-up warning display, but the standard equipment alone was plenty impressive, with the XC60 arriving with an armada of airbags, seatbelt pretensioners front and rear, and so on.
Whether you're a young family or an empty-nester, if you're shopping luxury crossovers and reading Autoblog, chances are you're looking for a rewarding driving experience and plenty of cargo space to fit your things and friends. The XC60 is five inches shorter than the Lexus RX, yet its wheelbase is over an inch longer and its track is an inch wider. Practically speaking, interior space is nearly as good, with total passenger volume within two cubic feet of the RX – the only major difference in metrics being in terms of cargo space.
Volvo took pains to ensure that its newest offering was fitted with high quality, soft touch materials that reward the road warrior behind the wheel. We applaud the use of king's thrones that double as front seats, as the leather-wrapped chairs are among the best in the business. The massive Vista moonroof, with its vast amount of glass and large opening area is a delight, and when you consider its included in the MSRP, it makes the deal that much sweeter. Buttons, knobs, and HVAC controls are also pleasantly intuitive and well within the grasp of even the shortest of arms, making the the XC60's cockpit easily one of the best in its class. But as much as we liked the execution of the XC60's interior, Volvo's navigation system is easily some of the worst mapping tech we've experienced in years.
Unlike most modern sat-nav units, the Volvo's unit isn't a touchscreen, nor doesn't benefit from a knob near the shifter or pack any buttons in the immediate area surrounding the display. Instead, nestled away in the center console, you'll find... a remote control. When that's lost forever (and it will be), you'll have to rely on an even more ill-advised joystick array mounted on the back of a steering wheel spoke. No matter the input method, neither interface is particularly intuitive and the software behind it is dreadfully antiquated. If Ford's nav system is a PhD, General Motors' an associate's degree, and BMW's iDrive a high school equivalency diploma, Volvo's system lands somewhere south of an incomplete on an elementary school geography quiz. It's that bad, and even worse considering Ford set the new standard for ease-of-use with its Sync setup.
But sat-nav issues aside, the XC60 is solid entry into the midsize luxury crossover segment. It looks good, drives well, has a warm, inviting interior and comes with Volvo's reputation for cutting-edge safety. If a good navigation system is on your must-have list, look elsewhere, but if you're ready to upsize your aging wagon or downsize from a hulking SUV, the XC60 is a clear contender – and even then, it's a Garmin or TomTom away from a strong podium finish.
Second Look: Volvo XC60 T6 AWD
Shunk couldn't be more right – the XC60's nav system is an utter disaster. As we understand it, the company was aiming for the safest possible system by setting the smallish display deep into the dashboard (ostensibly to avoid striking it during an accident), but a long reach meant that it couldn't employ touchscreen technology, and Volvo evidently declined to go with an all-in-one controller. As a result, the Swedes went with a frankly infuriating steering wheel joystick/button setup, something you'll want to ditch immediately for the generic-looking wireless remote control. If the idea was to be as safe as possible and keep the driver's hands on the wheel, Volvo has failed. And besides, since their programmers have locked out most of the more user-intensive higher functions while moving (address entry, etc.), what's the harm in giving a more intuitive solution? Perhaps they were trying to discourage GPS use altogether. If that's the case, they have succeeded handsomely.
Moving beyond mapping, this author loved the rest of the XC60's simple controls, ample size and striking two-tone leather. Admittedly, there are an abundance of textures at work inside, and although this many finishes could have looked overwhelming and/or mismatched, Volvo has pulled things off nicely. This is a rich interior that's every bit the measure of its fellow European and Japanese competitors... minus the nav and perhaps the somewhat grainy eight-bit looking stereo readout atop the instrument panel.
Performance-wise, the XC60 makes a good case for itself, as it's among the very quickest studies in its class, though nobody will call the turbocharged six-cylinder's soundtrack 'sonorous.' Better still, it corners with surprising alacrity – a performance attribute that Volvo isn't readily known for. We'd venture to say that this is one of the best handling crossovers in its segment, right up there with the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 (the latter of which endures a stiff-legged ride and a dated interior).
All-in, the XC60 offers good value for the money. It's a very clever package even without Volvo's proprietary active safety bits – lane departure warning, City Safety auto-stop, etc. – all of which featured on this author's tester (the car shown in the photos). If Volvo is trying to craft quicker, more precise-handling automobiles that are better able to avoid potential accidents in the first place, well, we're all in favor of this new "active safety" campaign.
- Chris Paukert
Photos Copyright ©2009 Chris Paukert / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
New compact SUV offers big safety.
The 2010 Volvo XC60 is a new crossover sport-utility that seats five passengers. The new XC60 represents a slightly smaller addition to the existing stable of XC70 and XC90 crossover SUVs. They're called crossovers because they straddle the line between car and SUV.
The XC60 looks like a small XC90 and comes in one model called the T6. The XC60 is powered by a turbocharged and intercooled 281-horsepower six cylinder through a six-speed automatic transmission called Geartronic. All-wheel drive is standard.
Ride and handling characteristics of the XC60 are characteristic of Volvo's crossover sport utilities, that is, comfortable but tending more toward utility than sport. To that end, the XC60's ground clearance tops the competition. Power is decent, and brakes are superb.
A new safety feature helps avoid or mitigate damages from low-speed rear-end in congested freeway traffic. It's a braking package programmed to stop the car independent of the driver when it senses an impending encounter with a car in front at speeds up to 18 miles per hour.
The 2010 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD ($37,200) comes with leather-trimmed seats, steering wheel and shift knob; automatic, dual-zone climate control; flat-folding 40/20/40 rear seat and forward-folding front-passenger seatback; 160-watt, eight-speaker sound system with CD/MP3 player, HD radio and auxiliary and USB inputs; Bluetooth interface; Sirius satellite radio with six-month subscription; power windows, locks and mirrors; eight-way power driver and front passenger seats.
Options include a Climate Package ($1000) with heated front and rear seats, outside mirrors and windshield washer nozzles, rain-sensing wipers, headlamp washers, Interior Air Quality System (automatically shifts between outside and inside air depending on outside air quality) and humidity sensor. The Technology Package ($2700) upgrades the sound system to a 650-watt, 12-speaker, Dolby Pro-Logic Surround Sound Dynaudio setup with rear seat headphone jacks and audio controls plus a navigation system with real-time traffic and rear park assist video camera. The Convenience Package ($1000) adds a grocery bag holder, a cargo area power outlet, front and rear park assist, power tailgate and programmable garage door and security gate opener.
Options include dual xenon, active-bending headlights ($800); Personal Car Communicator with keyless engine start and stop ($550); power tilt-and-slide, two-piece, panorama moonroof.
Safety features that come standard include front and side impact airbags, front seat whiplash protection systems, rear seat child safety seat anchors and tethers and a frontal collision prevention/mitigation system called City Safety. ABS, Electronic stability control and anti-rollover control come standard. Collision Warning with Brake Support warns an inattentive driver first with a flashing red light and then with a buzzer while pre-arming the brakes for an expedited response when the driver hits the brake pedal. A pair of two-stage child booster seats with adaptive seatbelts can be ordered for the outboard rear seats ($495).
Optional safety features include the Blind Spot Information System, or BLIS ($695). The Collision Avoidance Package ($1695) includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with Brake, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control (which suggests the driver take a break when it detects prolonged inattentiveness to lane markings), and Lane Departure Warning. Trailer Stability Assist activates one or the other of the rear brakes and reduces engine torque as necessary to arrest trailer sway.
The Volvo XC60 bears a striking resemblance to its elder and slightly larger stablemates, the XC70 and the XC90. The XC60 continues the Volvo design trend away from sharp angles and square corners and toward softer and more rounded lines. Nothing sporty, of course, but less severe, more relaxed.
The front end wears a softened version of the trademark trapezoidal grille, with egg crate mesh behind an angular slash emblazoned with the Volvo logo and braced by swoopy headlight housings embedded in swept-back fenders. A secondary air intake fills the lower center portion of the bumper, with fog lights tucked into the corners. The outlines of the 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.
Side perspective offers a low-grade confusion between a sportier, almost coupe-like hood slope and roofline and a wedgy beltline that rises in a straight line from just aft of the front wheel well to where it ends above the rear door handle, leaving a bulbous mass of a rear quarter panel. This unbalanced look leaves a relatively hunkered down front end attached to a high, bustle-like rear end. Granted, this makes for a relatively expansive cargo capacity of almost 70 cubic feet, roomier than all of the competition save the BMW X3, but it leaves the XC60 with a stubby, chopped-off posterior.
Tires and wheels nicely fill the wheelwells. Door handles bridge oval recesses, promising sure grip even with gloved hands. The rocker panels, which, with their metal cap, remind of a running board, split a matte-black panel that also encircles the car, downplaying the gap between car and road.
The rear view shows broad shoulders capped by a tapered glasshouse with LED taillights climbing up the sides of the glass portion of the one-piece liftgate. The rear bumper cups the bottom edge of the liftgate, with widely spaced chrome exhaust tips peeking out below just inboard of each rear tire. 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 interior is as true as the exterior to Volvo's contemporary styling idioms. Even to the odd, slab-like center panel that drops down from the dash to the center console and holds the audio and climate control panels and, when ordered, the new navigation system screen.
The seats, front and rear, offer all the expected comfort for the everyday driver and passengers on the everyday drive, be it around town or between towns. And for families with toddler, there's the optional rear seat with built-in child safety seats. The front seats are modestly bolstered but no less comfortable for being so. The rear seat is more bench than bucket, but properly, as it's intended to accommodate three average adults, which it does, if somewhat snugly. The optional Nordic Light Oak veneer on the center stack is real wood.
Front-seat legroom bests only the X3, although there by an inch. Rear-seat legroom generally splits the difference, save for putting to shame the EX35's 28.5 inches. Nevertheless, in perceived roominess, the XC60 fares well, feeling marginally more spacious than the RDX and about even with the EX35 and X3.
Visibility from the driver's seat is good all around. The back-up video camera is especially appreciated for its assistance when parking; the video display bends the outer guidelines to reflect the car's path based on the position of the steering wheel. A nice-to-have would be the delay first introduced by GM, which leaves the camera on for a few seconds after the transmission is shifted out of reverse; this accommodates the commonplace back-and-fill maneuver so familiar to many drivers by giving them time to shift out of and then back into reverse without interrupting the safety of that rearward visibility.
The cuts and stitching on the seats and floormats and the brushed aluminum trim on door panels and center stack add a smart, cosmopolitan look. Bins molded into front and rear door panels and pouches sewn into the back sides of the front seat backs provide more than adequate occasional storage. The lighted glove box actually is deep and tall enough to hold more than the leather-bound owner's manual portfolio.
The navigation system has been redesigned, and the system display is fully integrated with the sound system control panel.
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 to keep passengers entertained.
A panorama moonroof is two-piece, with a front section that retracts up and over the back section. This produces a pretty cool skylight effect, which also benefits rear-seat occupants. The moonroof does, however, exact a cost, chopping a full inch out of front-seat headroom and nigh onto an inch and a half over the rear seat. Which pushes the XC60 even farther beneath the competition in that measurement, where it already trails by between about a half-inch to an inch or more.
Carpet covers all five surfaces in the rear cargo area; a thoughtful touch is how the removable floor panel extends rearward enough to be secured beneath an overlap from the closed liftgate.
The XC60 is tuned more for cruising on the highway than flinging around on back roads. The XC60 is lighter than the XC70 and XC90, but its relatively high center of gravity combined with minimally bolstered seats and largish steering wheel, both seemingly designed more for comfort than control, establish the XC60 as a better fit for the all-weather, long-distance cruiser class.
The suspension does a decent job of taming different types and conditions of tarmac. The ride shows a bit of roughness around the edges at times, more so on its stiffest setting, of course, but the unsprung weight of the all-wheel-drive system's mechanicals bears more of the responsibility for this than any design or structural deficiency. The Infiniti EX35 delivers a quieter ride, the BMW X3 and the Acura RDX better steering feel. Traversing less-than-glass-smooth pavement produces some head toss, which is not uncommon in the class; however, the BMW X3 and the Acura RDX tame it better.
Its turbocharged engine delivers refreshingly linear acceleration performance, not what you'd expect of a turbocharged engine.
The transmission's well-executed Sport setting re-assigns shift points to beefier points in the engine's plentiful power curve and extends the transmission's stay in each gear. This suppresses unwanted hunting among gears when climbing or descending grades. Additionally, this suppresses the engine's tendency to surge unexpectedly as it acclimates to each gear change. The sport setting also allows a driver to select a specific gear when desired, overriding the system's preferred selection, although the system will not hold a gear either to redline or to an engine-lugging rpm, reasserting control to shift up or down a gear at pre-determined engine speeds. In full Auto mode, when the car is driven casually, shifts are smooth, if not invisible.
Three levels of steering effort and suspension firmness can be selected to allow some personalization for each of a family's drivers, although without measurably altering the XC60's handling dynamics. Most of the lane departure and other proximity warning systems can be suppressed or turned off, squelching the associated irritating and distracting beeps and buzzes.
The brakes shine, resisting fade, consistently and confidently slowing the XC60 from high double-digit speeds for first-gear corners.
City Safety is a feature intended to help avoid rear-ending the car ahead or at least to minimize the damage. This system works at speeds between 2 mph and 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 outside Sausalito, it worked, albeit surprisingly sharply, jolting driver and front seat passenger smartly into abruptly snugged-up seatbelts.
Hill descent control adds some reassuring braking assist when navigating the way back down that dirt track that an hour earlier looked so benign.
The Volvo XC60 is an attractive package, and comfortable.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from California's northern coast.
Volvo XC60 T6 ($37,200).
Options As Tested
Climate package ($1000); Technology package ($2700); Collision Avoidance package ($1695); Convenience package ($1000); Xenon headlights ($800); BLIS ($695); keyless drive ($550); Terra Bronze Pearl paint ($525); Nordic Light Oak inlays ($295).
Volvo XC60 T6 ($37,200).
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