We tried three times. Set up bounce boards and aimed Volvo's stylish new crossover straight for them, expecting City Safety to hit the brakes and avoid a collision. It didn't work.
"Perhaps we were too slow? Reflection of bounce boards too bright?" Ed Loh posits. We didn't even debate the philosophy of technology that uses a camera to "read" solid objects approaching at high closing speeds and slows or stops the crossover, allowing the driver to keep on texting. Yes, City Safety assumes too much driver responsibility. It's also an impressive technology that has worked for us perfectly in other settings.
While leading edge safety too often has been the best thing you could say about a new Volvo, that's not the case for the XC60. Ron Kiino says it's the best-driving Volvo extant, and he finds no argument from other editors. "How often can you say that about a brand's SUV?"
The problem is what his statement says about Volvo's cars. Still, the XC60 handles crisply, and in normal driving on normal roads, the suspension is reasonably compliant. While the steering has poor on-center feel, typical of Volvo, it's otherwise precise and feels good. The 3.0-liter turbo six is a willing performance partner, and the transmission is smoother, with better-calibrated ratios than most the competition.
"Just so fluid and composed out on the handling loop, with turbo thrust when you want it," Art St. Antoine remarks. "Handsome and distinctive interior, with savvy touches like the rolled side panels [the crease adding structural strength]."
Not enough stiffness for Kim Reynolds, though. "On the road it's certainly fun, but I have to say I'd hoped for more structural solidity."
Standard engine is Volvo's 3.2-liter inline DOHC six. The optional 3.0 turbo boosts horsepower by 46 and torque by 59 pound-feet. The 3.2 can be had with front- or all-wheel drive with Instant Traction and Hill Descent Control, while the turbo comes standard with the AWD system. EPA fuel mileage is rated 18/27 mpg for the FWD 3.2. It's 16/22 mpg with AWD for either engine.
Our real-world fuel mileage was 15.3 mpg for the test drive, in which we drove the XC60 turbo much harder than most owners would dare. Falling that far short of 20 mpg, though, points to how this new class of premium compact crossovers will have to adapt smaller engines to make them significantly more efficient than larger counterparts. Volvo's three-row XC90 isn't much thirstier; EPA rated 15/21 mpg for the 3.2-liter model with AWD and 13/19 for the V-8.
The XC60's suspension is nicely compliant in normal driving, but it feels rough on battered roads, and it's clearly not for no roads. "Only one to get loose on the off-road loop," Loh says. "Stability control only went to full freakout once, during a fast right on the gravel."
"Didn't seem in its element here," Kim Reynolds adds, "but let the record say it survived intact."
Not quite. Allyson Harwood uncovered a "strong rattle" coming from the bracket behind the rearview mirror, at the end of the test day, when most others already had driven it.