• Jan 4, 2011
Tall-Riding Swede Blends Sexy and Safe

2011 Volvo XC60 R-Design – Click above for high-res image gallery

Despite the company's storied rally history, Volvo seems to have eschewed building its line of R-Design vehicles into street-legal racers in favor of simply creating design packages that give the company's sedans, crossovers and hatches some much-needed attitude. In the case of the 2011 XC60 R-Design, that means the vehicle evolves from a mild-mannered high-rider into a machine begging to be seen delivering a load of equally well-dressed ladies to an exclusive night spot. It may not be able to reduce its tires to a cloud of carcinogens or successfully execute a Scandinavian flick, but this CUV is a much more attractive offering than its straight-laced siblings.

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Photos copyright ©2010 Zach Bowman / AOL

Allow us to get one thing out of the way before we move forward – there is no additional horsepower here. Volvo has kept performance additions to a bare minimum, stuffing in stiffer suspension goodies here and there and skipping out on a more potent powerplant all together. Even so, there's a good bit to get excited about, starting with the retina-searing red paint. The hue, called Passion Red, is only available on the XC60 R-Design, and immediately distinguishes the trim from the rest of the safety-conscious flock. Those massive 20-inch aluminum wheels stamped with equally expansive XC60 logos are also unique hardware.

Throw in new color-matched cladding along the lower realms of the bodywork and you've more or less got the full story on the styling tweaks outside. Jump indoors and you'll see that Volvo has coated the vehicle's beautiful center stack in a new, darker material and that the excellent seats now boast contrasting leather panels for an added dash of style. Take the time to look close, and you just might notice the R-Design logo embossed in the leather, too.

But out of all the kit that comes along with the R-Design package, the new steering wheel takes the cake. Thanks to heaps of perforated leather and plenty of contours laid out just for the ball of your hand and each finger, the wheel feels like it was sculpted for something low, mean and rear-wheel drive. How it wound up on an all-wheel-drive family cruiser is a tale that Volvo isn't telling.

Our tester came in T6 AWD guise, complete with a 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine churning out 325 pound-feet of torque. Bolted behind that mill, a six-speed automatic transmission pumps power to all four wheels. Despite weighing a hefty 4,225 pounds, the XC60 R-Design has no problem getting out of its own way, especially once the turbo gets down to work. While it isn't as fast as its steering wheel thumb-grips would suggest, we never found ourselves imperiled by traffic or incapable of embarrassing lesser metal at a stoplight – should the fancy strike us.

While acceleration in the XC60 R-Design is nothing to scoff at, the vehicle's ride leaves plenty of room for improvement. The stiffer springs and reworked dampers give this crossover a somewhat jarring ride over broken pavement and pockmarked roads, and while we're all for sacrificing a little comfort for improved handling, the XC60 R-Design still drives much like the top-heavy CUV that it is. Should that red paint and sporty interior begin to make you think you're driving a corner-carver, be prepared to meet some substantial understeer when you start sawing on the wheel. There's just no fighting physics.

But after a full week with the stylized XC60, the ride was the least of our agitations. It felt as if the engineers at Volvo had worked to make the interior as far from intuitive as possible by lodging the controls for the nav system behind the steering wheel where they're impossible for the driver to see and omitting their location from the owner's manual. Even that sin is forgivable given that most owners would, after a week or so of driving around with the nav warning message on the screen, find the appropriate controls and memorize them, or just skip the wheel-mounted switchgear in favor of the remote control. Of course, Volvo itself seems to have abandoned this ill-fated system in the 2011 S60, but the XC60 will probably have to wait for at least a refresh to get the new-and-improved setup. Either way, we simply can't get past the key system for the XC60.

The vehicle is operated by a key fob about the size of a box of matches, though it doesn't rely on the same radio-frequency technology that most luxury manufacturers employ. To start the XC60, the driver must insert the fob, wait for a small electric motor to suck it into the dash, and then press the start button. Do any one of these things out of sequence or in a hurry, and the dash will simply regurgitate the fob and you'll be stuck doing the whole dance again, this time with feeling.

If you can get past the hurdle of starting the XC60 R-Design, you'll find one very beautiful, but pricey crossover. Our tester sat a little north of the XC60 R-Design T6 AWD base MSRP of $41,550 thanks to its optional wheels, putting the Volvo in the same arena as the BMW X3 xDrive35i. While we'd likely take the BMW for its more sorted suspension, there's no denying how right the Volvo design team got the XC60 R-Design inside and out. Give us a little more power, a set of adjusted dampers and a reworked starting sequence and we'd be whistling Du Gamla, Du Fria all the way home.

Photos copyright ©2010 Zach Bowman / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago

      1. For $500 you get a key fob you can leave in your pocket while you start and lock the car. And shouldn't someone reviewing cars be able to insert a key fob and push a button? You're not a teenaged princess, so quit pretending you are one and can't operate a freaking car key. BMW's key also operates similarly.

      2. The ride is not harsh even over rougher roads. Only if one is comparing it to a Lexus would you be able to say that. It blows away the Infiniti G35 sedan (non-sport) ride and noise. It is no harsher than a 3 series with 18" wheels and sport suspension. It is not a 5 series or a more sophisticated suspension. So what? It's relatively quiet and smooth on most surfaces and never harsh. The old X3 was harsh.

      3. Quit comparing crossovers to 3 series sedans (or wagons) for the handling benchmark. Its bigger, heavier, has better visability(both mirrors and out the sides), its wider, can carry more tall bulky stuff, has a more interesting interior look, and you can see over crests and traffic jams better. It's also about the same price when comparably equipped and gets to 60mph just as fast if not a little faster. And good luck actually finding a 3 series wagon on a lot to buy w/o a 2-3 month wait.

      4. The X3 35i with comparable equipment is a good bit more expensive, especially at real world discount prices. You're not going to get an X3 for $500 under invoice plus 0% financing for 36 mo. (yes, the x3 is faster and handles better, but so do many sedans)

      5. I think they have already "fixed" some of the nav/infotainment stuff on recently built '11 model XC60's with their new "sensus" system for the stereo/climate/nav/etc. Some older '11's on lots may not have it yet. But us non-metrosexuals don't really care about all that stuff. My $175 garmin does fine. It's a vehicle, not a toy, for me.

      6. Their more traditional controls for climate/etc are easier and more intuitive than idrive .
      • 3 Years Ago
      With a speedy turbocharged engine and the comfortable interior, the 2011 Volvo XC60 is a reliable and Luxury Compact SUV. It gives a really tough competition to all other Luxury Compact SUVs such as New Audi Q5, Infiniti EX, BMW X3, Mercedes Benz, GLK Acura RDX, Cadillac SRX and Land Rover LR2.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm just happy it doesn't have a roof rack, or rails which nobody will use.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It has slim line roof rails that blend into the roof. You can add matching cross bars if you want. The slim line roof rails are the little silver streaks on the top of the roof.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I gota admit I really like what Volvo has been releasing over the past couple of years. Their designs are really sharp and definitely not one to blend in with the rest (feel free to reference any Japanese car maker here).

      If Volvo was still Volvo [owned], or even under Ford, I'd consider one in a heartbeat.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I sooo, agree! This is a Volvo we are looking at, and it looks aggressive and sexy... And its a tall 4x4. Props for that. And I also think that Volvo is kinda cool, and exclusive nowadays, which makes it much more likable, and preferable considering all the alternatives. Good job all round.
      • 4 Years Ago
      it looks nice. how does this compare to the Audi Q5?
      I figure that the BMW X3 is alot like the small Q.

      I like these luxury CUV's.... but would probably choose
      a sport wagon instead, saw an A4 Avant at the mtn last week
      and was smitten.....
      • 4 Years Ago
      God forbid you guys do any research here.

      The nav system will be overhauled THIS year, at some point during the 2011 model year run for the XC60. In the meantime, a simple solution is to NOT order the nav system.

      As for the key - it isn't really any different than the system used by BMW or Audi or others. If you don't like it, spring for the PCC (keyless) system.

      As for the steering pump -- ALL 2011 XC60s had it moved as they went to an electric pump. A symptom of this is the fact that the 2011 XC60 no longer has fog lights (no room for them, apparently).
      • 4 Years Ago
      Don't like the front. It looks like a fat bulldog.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Shoulda been the MKX!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Could be a problem if you are being chased by Zombies.
      • 4 Years Ago
      When you say it doesn't ride as well as an X3 you've said a lot.

      They offer a 6m in Europe and could offer it here. These days the costs of testing another engine/transmission combination are fairly low and if they chose the BMW approach to transmission repair (exchange only) the costs for supporting this choice would be cheap. Plus they could get the manual version tested, receive accolades from all pundits and stampede customers into showrooms only to order automatics unapologetically. This reflects a reality which may not exist but as a former Volvo employee I make no claim to be objective.
      • 4 Years Ago
      As someone coming from the continent of tiny diesel engines, I will always wonder about people missing power from a 300 PS and torquey turbo petrol engine. The S60 R was an experiment that never took up, and neither does it exceed a current S60 T6 with R design in any aspect, so I really do not understand this craze, why is it so bad if you can put together an R from the list, without being forced to buy all together?

      On the other hand, Volvo has been the most active manufacturer of 2010. It completely renovated its engine line up, came up with very competitive models, and is eliminating one weakness after another, updating models every year. One such weakness is (as Ford heritage, from Fiesta to XF) is the nerdy and out of date on board electronics, that was changed also in the 2011 XC60. Then, powershift, new engines (including the best 2.0 diesel (backbone of EU sales) of the market), together with a state of the art passive security. Ok, Volvo never (lets face it, never ever) managed to provide us a truly sporty model (not like the S60R ever was), but I wonder if that is what we are all after.

      The thing about Volvos, that the concrete offers on mainstream models were always were competitive. A standard XC60 D3 is at the top 3 of its class in every aspects, if you want an over the top spec, this is where the Germans and Japanese outperform Volvo.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If only we could get the V60 here(drool)but Volvo has all but abandoned the traditional wagon market here...just the V50 remains (for now). Also eba321 is correct the XC60 will get Volvo's Sensus entertainment/nav gear as an option as a running change in MY11.
        • 4 Years Ago

        You really like the V60? There are parts of it that I really love like the XC60 interior and the T6 AWD... but the cargo area is tiny, just too small for my liking. Personally, I'm not really digging the new C70, S60, V60 front end... but I do agree, that car would likely sell very well here in the states, especially when you line it up against the A4 Avant with comparable options, the V60 would cost much less and provide arguably comparable performance if not better (I believe the A3 is a better competitor to the V50). I own a new V70, and I love it, but I can see your point in not everyone wanting such a large wagon. And the V50 is way too small, but it is a much better alternative to the Jetta Wagon (for about $5K more), considering you can get leather, AWD, and 221hp (+/-).

        Love Volvo..
        • 4 Years Ago
        I couldn't agree more, I've written several emails to Volvo about this and spoke with my local dealer, they want it to come as well. Hopefully Volvo will realize that there is a market (although not huge) for fun sport wagons. The V70 is too big for most people and the V50 too small and aging, the V60 would be a very compelling replacement to bring people back to the Volvo wagon. It could easily take on the A3 and A4 Avant which have seen rising sales.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ John

        I don't even like VWs but I wouldn't say the V50 is comperable to the Jetta wagon.

        The V50 is small, unreliable, not that luxurious, and OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced. The same thing can be said for the S40. It doesn't even have a reasonably useable back seat for a sedan but they have the nerve to MSRP the thing at $30,000 with a few needed options.

        Go price one yourself, you will be shocked.
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