The city is where all of the XC60 makes the most sense. Volvo has made its entry-level, premium SUV quiet and effortless to drive, with good sightlines and agile reflexes. It's given it numerous custom options as well: The driver can dial in everything from steering heft, to following distance for the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) to an assortment of beeps for the Parking Assist (PA) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems. Most of these controls are thoughtfully arranged but given the wide assortment of safety features, accessing them all can sometimes be difficult.

As inventors of such landmark automotive safety technologies as the three-point seatbelt and curtain airbag, it is impossible to mention a new Volvo without commenting on its new safety features. The XC60 does not disappoint, as it features several familiar technologies as well as some surprising new ones.

Volvo's current safety offerings are an absolute alphabet soup of acronyms. In addition to ACC, PA, and LDW, here are few more standard and optional safety features: DAC (Driver Alert Control), DA (Distance Alert), BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), DTSC (Dynamic Traction Stability Control), RSC (Roll Stability Control), CWAB (Collision Warning with Auto Brake), WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System), and TSA (Towing Stability Assist).

Most impressive is the new crash-avoidance system called City Safety that makes its debut on the XC60. Designed to prevent or lessen the damage from rear-end collisions, the system uses a laser sensor mounted behind the rearview mirror, which scans the road ahead for slowing or stopped vehicles. Once one is identified and a collision is deemed imminent, City Safety fires the brakes at full force to either prevent or at least lessen impact. City Safety operates only at speeds under 19 mph and when the system detects no or insufficient input from the driver. It is most efficient at closing speeds of 9 mph or less. At these speeds, Volvo claims the system can avoid most rear-end collisions entirely.

We had an opportunity to try this system on a specially designed course and came away impressed. Even when impact seemed a foregone conclusion, City Safety intervened with a forceful pulse of the brakes and stopped the vehicle with inches to spare. Those who fear Big Brother may grumble, but anyone who has ever been involved in a rear-end accident will rejoice. Volvo has apparently been able to negotiate lower premiums with auto insurance companies for the XC60 based on the performance of City Safety. In fact, with addition of City Safety as standard equipment to the host of other standard and optional safety systems, Volvo claims the XC60 is the safest vehicle it's ever made.