First Drive: 2018 Volvo XC60
What does a once down, but fast recovering, global automaker do to replace its top-selling vehicle when its size-larger, three-row luxury CUV has scored multiple awards and strong sales since its 2016 debut? Especially when that vehicle is a segment leader in Europe, but still a fairly minor player in burgeoning North American premium midsize crossover sales?
We would say, “Make it pretty much like that respected big brother—but smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient, and of course, cooler looking.” Which is exactly what Volvo has done.
Built on the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) as the XC90, it also shares its trio of Volvo Drive-E 2.0L direct-injected, turbocharged, four-cylinder engines. The base T5 engine (so called because they offer similar performance to Volvo's old, now-discontinued, five-cylinder engines) is good for 250 horses and 258 lb-ft of torque. Next up and likely to be most popular is the 316hp, 295–lb-ft turbocharged and supercharged T6 version. Top choice is the T8 (for V-8-like performance) plug-in hybrid than spins out 400 total ponies and 295 lb-ft of twist.
Each engine delivers that torque through Volvo’s Drive-E eight-speed automatic transmission, and all come with standard all-wheel drive. T5 and T6 models launch from rest with full AWD traction, then send nearly all their torque to the front wheels, but can instantly redistribute up to half to the rears when needed. The T8 hybrid’s front wheels are driven by the twin-charged engine and its rears by an 87hp electric motor. We couldn't test zero-to-60 acceleration, but Volvo says the XC60 T5 can do it in a respectable 6.4 seconds, the T6 in 5.6, and the T8 in 4.9.
T5 and T6 offer five drive modes selectable via a roller drum on the console. Default is Comfort. Dynamic gives quicker engine, transmission, steering, and brake responses with higher-rpm upshifts and the engine stop/start function is disabled. Eco gives gentler response, recalibrates everything to maximize efficiency, and lets the vehicle coast (without engine braking) when you back off above 40 mph. Individual can tailor each element to your preference. Off Road, usable below 25 mph, optimizes slick-surface traction with locked differentials and hill descent control. Three levels of power-steering assistance are also available. The T8 plug-in defaults to Hybrid and offers Individual, Off Road, and three more modes specific to its gas/electric powertrain.
Beyond pleasing design, dynamics, performance, efficiency, and cabin craftsmanship, Volvo continues to enhance its reputation for safety. “Nobody should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020,” is one key company vision. So each new Volvo typically offers more safety features and options than any before it, and this new XC60 debuts available Steer Assist and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Steer Assist and Oncoming Lane Mitigation in addition to its long list of standard safety features. The first uses self-steering and selective braking to help you avoid a vehicle, cyclist, pedestrian, or large animal in your path—in case you are not already sufficiently steering around it. Adding Steer Assist to BLIS provides counter-steering to prevent merging into a vehicle in an adjacent lane. Oncoming Lane Mitigation automatically steers (in case you don't) to avoid a head-on encounter.
The XC60's iPad-like 9.3-inch touch/pinch/sweep Sensus Connect Touchscreen's infrared technology works even when wearing gloves. And it does many wondrous things, including providing 4G LTE connectivity with Wi-Fi, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, Bluetooth audio streaming, and voice control. Better than the XC90's Gen I system, its homepage has been revised and color-coded with stacked tiles that keep navigation, phone, media, and applications easily accessible, and the driver can execute many functions from the steering wheel’s redundant controls. Furthermore, the system features a physical volume knob.
Driving a top-trim XC60 T6 in and around Barcelona, Spain, we had little opportunity to stretch its twin-charged Drive-E legs or its twisty road dynamics, but we came away with very positive feelings on both, based on brief bursts where traffic permitted. The SPA’s double-wishbone front and integral-link (with Corvette-like composite transverse leaf spring) rear suspensions keep its wheels planted, its steering is crisp, its brakes strong and sure, and it feels (as expected) smaller, lighter, and more nimble than the XC90—because it is.
The ’18 XC60 T5 starts at $41,500, the T6 at $44,900, and the T8 at $52,900 (plus $995 destination), with each engine available in base Momentum, sporty R-Design, and top-level Inscription trim levels.
2018 Volvo XC60Vehicle type: Crossover Utility Vehicle
Base price: $41,500
Price as tested: $48,700
Engine: 2.0L turbocharged and supercharged 4-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 316 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 2,200-5,400 rpm
Curb weight: 4,045 pounds
Towing capacity: 4,409 pounds
EPA mileage rating: TBD