Whether or not you're a fan of the crossover craze, you still have to be impressed by any model that has achieved what the XC60 has in only a year and a half. In that time, it has become Volvo's best-selling XC, selling more than the 70 and 90. It is also now the second-best-selling vehicle that Volvo sells in the U.S., beaten only by the S60 sedan. But considering the small luxury crossover's good looks inside and out, loads of safety features, and excellent power, there's a lot to appeal to crossover drivers. And for mid-2011, Volvo offers even more in the form of a new option: The XC60 R-Design is now available with the 3.2-liter six for 2011, bringing the number of XC60 R-Design engines to two.
The R-Design is Volvo's high-performance trim level, and in the case of the XC60, that means a stiffer chassis, firmer suspension tuning, retuned steering, and unique styling cues. While the 3.2-liter gained 5 horsepower (now 240), we opted to drive the T6 AWD model. (Given the choice between trying out a five-horsepower increase versus a 30-pound-foot improvement, wouldn't you rather go for the T6?) Both benefit from the same chassis and suspension tweaks, but the turbo six now has an output of 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, increases of 19 and 30, respectively. Both engine changes were midyear updates. With the topline T6 AWD R-Design, we had the chance to feel the difference in on-road handling and the power increase over the T6 AWD Motor Trend tested in the past.
And the differences are impressive. The crossover quickly gets up to speed, and throttle response is quick-the XC60 is fast, yet power delivery was smoother than expected from this turbo engine. The transmission is wonderfully smooth, whether in Drive or Manual mode. On surfaces that aren't well-maintained, you can feel more bumps and road irregularities, but all is forgiven once you get on a twisty mountain road. The 60 feels strong and confident when cornering, and the new chassis tuning makes this the most fun model in the XC line. Even though Volvo estimates the R-Design will hit 60 in 6.9 seconds, at the hands of the MT test team, the non-R, 281-horse 2010 XC60 reached 60 mph in 6.8, so we expect this new model will fare even better at the track. If there is one weakness with this R, it's that it had low-profile 20-inch wheels and 255/45R20 Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires, a combination that wasn't ideal in the hail and snow.
The R-Design's interior is downright beautiful. The cabin combines black and ivory, with black leather seats flanking ivory leather centers, and the doors were ivory with black inserts. The cabin is a terrific example of typical clean Swedish beauty, but it does have some of the traditional confusing buttons on the center stack. When getting into any Volvo, it takes a little time to learn which buttons to push to achieve what you want-displaying different info for the stereo system, etc.-but it probably wouldn't take long for an XC60 owner to figure it all out. The 60 has a notable advantage over its XC kin in the cabin as well: Its navigation system is much easier to use than the one in the XC70 and XC90. It helps that this is a newer model, so it wasn't saddled with the controls hidden on the back of the right side of the steering wheel in the 70 and 90. (You have to know they're there, and even if you do, they're pretty hard to use.) They're integrated into the center stack and are much less likely to provoke any profanity.
This model may have sacrificed a little-just a little-of its all-season capability in the name of on-road performance, but it is a compromise that's worth it. And it'll get even better, too. We hear that when the S60 gets an R-Design model, its turbo six will have 325 horsepower, and the XC60 is expected to benefit as well.
| 2011 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design |
| Base price || $43,025 |
| Price as tested || $45,000 (est) |
| Vehicle layout || Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV |
| Engine || 3.0L/300-hp/325-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve turbo I-6 |
| Transmission || 6-speed automatic |
| Curb weight || 4264 lb (mfr) |
| Wheelbase || 109.2 in |
| Length x width x height || 182.2 x 74.4 x 67.4 in |
| 0-60 mph || 6.7 sec (MT est) |
| EPA city/hwy fuel econ || 17/22 mpg |
| On sale in U.S. || Currently |