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.
That won't matter to most XC60 owners, of course, who'll use it to do battle in the daily commute and for frequent two-couple Saturday nights from the suburban jungle to that hot new restaurant downtown. Looking like it was designed to be the illustration for the dictionary definition of "small premium crossover," the XC60 and others of its ilk seem perfectly suited to replace the compact European sport sedan as the segment of choice for well-heeled couples young enough to consider an SUV's ride height business as usual. The rear seat is comfortable enough for those restaurant outings, but here, this Volvo doesn't sacrifice style for substance.
"Back seat is awfully tight in kneeroom and is much too narrow," Reynolds complains. "My elbow is jammed against my sides. Get me outta here."
Rear hiproom is 53.8 inches, and rear legroom is 36.4 inches. Cargo space is 30.8 cubic feet with the rear seat up, 67.4 with it down.
We find the interior as stark and dark as an Ingmar Bergman film, though. The Volvo XC60 is more about exterior appearance and fairly rewarding on-road driving dynamics. That's a new, unusual thing for a Volvo, performance that matches the promise of its handsome post-boxy styling. With the XC60, Volvo may have found its calling, building right-sized crossovers packaged with modern Swedish design, and performance and handling that's more impressive here than in its sedans.
| 2010 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD |
| Base price range || $38,050 |
| Price as tested || $42,250 |
| Vehicle layout || Front engine, AWD 5-passenger 4-door SUV |
| Engine || 3.0L/281-hp/295-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve turbocharged I-6 |
| Transmission || 6-speed automatic |
| Curb weight (dist f/r) || 4344 lbs (58/42%) |
| Wheelbase || 109.2 in |
| Length x width x height || 182.2 x 74.4 x 65.8 in |
| 0-60 mph || 6.8 sec |
| Quarter mile || 15.3 @ 93.1 mph |
| Braking, 60-0 mph || 125 ft |
| Lateral acceleration || 0.81 g (avg) |
| MT figure eight || 27.7 sec @ 0.62 g (avg) |
| EPA city/hwy econ || 16-18/22-27 mpg |
| MT observed fuel econ || 15.3 mpg |
| CO2 emissions || 0.92 - 1.06 lb/mile |