2011 Volvo XC60 Expert Review:Autoblog
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.
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
New Car Test Drive
Compact SUV offers safety, utility and comfort.
The Volvo XC60 adds up to attractive all-purpose transportation. It's a smaller addition to Volvo's existing stable of XC70 and XC90 crossover sport-utilities. Volvo XC60 seats five and competes well with compact SUVs such as the Acura MDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK.
The 2011 Volvo XC60 gets some significant updates. Power increases slightly for all 2011 XC60 models. The 2011 Volvo XC60 line-up expands to four choices, including two racier R-Design variants with firmer suspension settings. The XC60 was completely redesigned for 2010.
For growing families, or active singles who want flexibility without bulk, the XC60 makes a lot of sense. The XC60 looks like a smaller version of the XC90, and it doesn't shout family-mobile. The XC60 seats four quite comfortably, five with a bit of coziness, and it offers more cargo space than nearly all its competitors.
The Volvo XC60 is not the sportiest vehicle among compact SUVs, but we found it handles well on city streets and highways. It's easy to park, particularly with the optional rearview camera. The XC60 rides comfortably, and its brakes are superb.
The standard 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine, now delivering 240 horsepower, is up to all the demands of daily driving, and it delivers the best value, in our view. The upgrade 300-hp turbocharged engine adds a bit of excitement for those who put a premium on quick acceleration. Both engines come with a well-tuned 6-speed automatic transmission.
Volvo's fulltime all-wheel-drive system works smoothly in the daily grind without a huge penalty in fuel economy, and it's truly welcome when the weather gets foul or on gravel or even in bumpy corners. Yet buyers who don't really need all-wheel-drive capability can choose an XC60 with front-wheel drive.
With all-wheel drive and 9.1 inches of ground clearance, the Volvo XC60 offers as much off-highway capability as most sport-utility buyers will ever need. It can handle some backcountry trails, and the computer-managed Hill Descent Control makes creeping down steep inclines more securely. With either engine, the XC60 can tow 3300 pounds, a snowmobile or personal watercraft.
Inside, the Volvo XC60 is attractively finished and pleasingly understated. Its knobs and buttons are easier to use than those in most of its competitors. The seating arrangement is flexible, and the cargo compartment has tie-downs and other useful accessories. It offers nearly all the features you'd expect in a luxury vehicle, including heated rear seats, rear-seat video and superb surround audio.
Volvo devotes significant resources to research aimed at improving occupant protection, and its reputation for safety engineering is largely deserved. The XC60 offers the full array of active and passive safety features, including standard City Safety. This braking package is programmed to stop the car independent of the driver when it senses an impending encounter with a car in front at speeds up to 18 miles per hour, mitigating crash impact or avoiding a rear-ender altogether. The XC60 is available with a full array of blind-spot, lane-departure and driver alertness warning systems.
Shoppers who put a premium on comfort, safety and value will find it worth a test drive.
The 2011 Volvo XC60 comes in four trim levels, with a choice between two six-cylinder engines. The XC60 3.2 is powered by a 3.2-liter inline-6 generating 240 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The XC60 T6 uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6, bumping engine output to 300 hp and 325 lb-ft. All come with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Volvo XC60 3.2 ($32,900) comes with cloth upholstery, aluminum interior trim, driver-seat memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, a full complement of power features and 17-inch alloy wheels. The standard stereo delivers 165 watts through eight speakers with single CD/DVD player, HD and Sirrius satellite radio, Bluetooth connection and USB input. The XC60 3.2 comes standard with front-wheel drive. The XC60 AWD ($34,900) adds full-time all-wheel drive.
The XC60 Premium Package ($2,500) upgrades to leather seating, a power front-passenger seat, a panoramic glass roof with power shade, dark-tint rear glass and silver exterior trim and roof rails.
Volvo XC60 3.2 R-Design ($38,600) and AWD ($40,600) feature 20-inch wheels with low-profile tires, racy exterior and interior styling tweaks, dual-xenon headlights with Active Bending Light and firmer sports suspension. All R-Design models include the contents of the Premium package, including the leather seating.
Volvo XC60 T6 AWD ($38,950) features match the base model with Premium Package, including the leather seating. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.) The T6 R-Design AWD ($42,150) adds the R-Design treatment with 20-inch wheels. All T6 models include all-wheel drive.
The Climate Package ($1,000) includes heated front and rear seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, rain-sensing wipers, headlight washers and Volvo's Interior Air Quality System, which automatically shifts between outside airflow and re-circulation depending on outside air quality. The Mulitmedia Package ($2,700) adds navigation with remote control and rearview video camera, as well as 650-watt, 12-speaker, Dolby Pro-Logic Surround Sound audio. The Convenience Package ($1,000) adds a grocery bag holder, a cargo area power outlet, front and rear park assist, power tailgate and Homelink programmable garage door and light operation. Stand-alone options include the xenon active headlights ($800), Volvo's Personal Car Communicator with proximity key ($550), Nordic Light Oak interior trim ($300) and a dual-screen rear seat video system ($1,800).
Safety features standard on all models start with dual-stage front-impact airbags, front passenger side-protection airbags, curtain-type head protection airbags with rollover deployment for outside seats and whiplash-mitigating front headrests. The XC60 gets the highest possible scores in various government and insurance industry (IIHS) crash tests. All XC60s come standard with a collision prevention/mitigation system called City Safety, which can automatically apply the brakes in a pending low-speed collision. Other active safety features include advanced anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control. Safety-related options include the park assist and rearview camera, the Blind Spot Information System ($700), and a pair of two-stage child booster seats with adaptive seatbelts for the outboard rear seats ($495).
The Technology Package ($2,100) is essentially a collection of safety features. It includes radar-guided Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Driver Alert Control, which suggests the driver take a break when it detects prolonged inattentiveness to lane markings, Pedestrian Detection with full automatic braking and Collision Warning with Brake Support. This system warns an inattentive driver with a flashing red light and buzzer and pre-loads the brakes for an expedited response when the driver hits the pedal.
The XC60's standard warranty includes scheduled maintenance for thee years or 36,000 miles.
The Volvo XC60 is about the same size as compact sport-utilities or crossovers from other European luxury brands, including the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK. Yet the XC60 has at least 17 percent more cargo volume than any of those competitors.
At an overall length of 182.2 inches, the XC60 is sized comparably to the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, with similar cargo capacity. With 9.1 inches of ground clearance, and skid plates that actually protect some of its underpinnings, all-wheel-drive versions of the XC60 offer a bit more legitimate off-road capability than other vehicles in this class.
This compact has the rugged, adventurous, substantial look buyers might expect in an SUV, but it's also very clearly a Volvo, even without the badges. The XC60 bears a close resemblance to its elder and larger stalemate, the XC90. The XC60 continues the Volvo design trend away from sharp angles and square corners and toward softer and more rounded lines. It's less severe, more relaxed, than the Volvos of yore.
The front end wears a softened version of the trademark trapezoidal grille, with egg crate mesh behind an angular slash emblazoned with the Volvo logo, braced by swoopy headlight housings embedded in swept-back fenders. A secondary air intake fills the lower center portion of the bumper, with fog lights tucked into the corners. The outlines of the openings, all V-like in overall shape, flow into each other, giving the fascia an of-a-piece look. The resulting head-on view is pleasing, while substantial and a little tall.
Side perspective presents mild confusion between a sportier, almost coupe-like hood slope and roofline and a wedgy beltline that rises in a straight line from the front wheel well to the rear door handle, leaving a bulbous mass of a rear quarter panel. This unbalanced look leaves a relatively hunkered down front end attached to a high, bustle-like rear end. Granted, this allows that class-leading cargo capacity of almost 70 cubic feet, but it leaves the XC60 with a stubby, chopped-off posterior.
The rear view shows broad shoulders capped by a tapered glasshouse, with LED taillights climbing up the sides of the glass on the one-piece liftgate. The rear bumper cups the bottom edge of the liftgate, with widely spaced exhaust tips peeking out just inboard of each rear tire. The body mass also minimizes the visual effect of the XC60's height, giving the rear perspective a more planted presence than the front.
XC60s with the R-Design treatment have a slightly bolder look. It starts with 20-inch alloy wheels and color-matched lower body moldings. The bright metal mirrors, window trim and tailpipes have a matte, almost silky finish, and the grille is imbedded with a prominent R logo, so everyone knows what the operator is driving.
Inside, the Volvo XC60 is very Scandinavian, and elegantly understated. The interior is as true as the exterior to Volvo's contemporary styling idioms. The materials and finish are very good, and functionality rates almost as high, despite some Volvo-specific quirks. It's easy to master the XC60's multitude of controls, which are simpler and more efficient than those in its luxury brand competitors. The seating arrangement is flexible and the cargo compartment is expansive. The XC60 seats five.
The cuts and stitching on the XC60's seats and floor mats and the brushed aluminum trim on its door panels and center stack add a smart, cosmopolitan look. The optional Nordic Light Oak veneer on the center stack is real wood, and it emphasizes the Scandinavian-furniture feel. R-Design models are more metal-heavy in their finish, with more aluminum trim and inserts. Volvo steering wheels have some of the chubbiest rims in the business, and they're so thick that drivers with small hands might find them a bit too hefty.
The front seats offer all the expected comfort for the everyday driver and passengers on the everyday drive, be it around town or between towns. They're modestly bolstered but no less comfortable for being so. Interior dimensions in the XC60 rank in the middle of its competitive set. Nevertheless, in perceived roominess, this Volvo fares well, feeling as or more spacious than most competitors.
Visibility from the driver's seat is good all around. The rear headrests, large in the Volvo fashion for safety, fill a lot of the space in the rearview mirror, but the power-folding option allows the driver to lower those headrests with the touch of a switch when in the back seat isn't occupied.
The optional rearview video camera is especially appreciated for its assistance when parking. The video display bends a set of superimposed guidelines to reflect the car's path based on the position of the steering wheel.
2011 XC60s have slightly different dashboard configurations. Those built after the first few months of the model year have the full-size, navigation-style video screen standard, even if they're not equipped with the nav system. All vehicle, climate or audio information is displayed on this screen, eliminating a second, small screen placed under a visor in the center of the top of the dash. The bigger screen is canted slightly toward the driver, and very easy to read.
Controls are concentrated in one of two spots: on easy-to-use stalks flanking the steering wheel, or in the flat-panel center stack rising from the console. Here you'll find some of those Volvo traits that are just a bit different than the convention in most cars.
The climate controls for airflow, for example, are fashioned with a large icon that looks like a seated person. Point to the feet and all air flows through the floor vents; choose the head, and air flows toward the windshield. The audio controls are different, too, with a twisting knob that cycles through menus and a keypad that looks like telephone buttons. They all work quite well, once a user gains some familiarity, and nearly all are large and easy to locate, even at night.
The premium audio system is superb, with crisp highs and booming lows. Auxiliary jacks and USB ports provide access to personal MP3 players and the like to keep passengers entertained.
The optional panorama sunroof is essentially the roof, in two pieces of glass, with a front section that retracts up and over the back section. This produces a neat skylight effect, which also benefits rear-seat occupants. The sunroof does, however, exact a cost, chopping a full inch out of front-seat headroom and nigh onto an inch and a half over the rear seat.
Bins molded into front and rear door panels and pouches sewn into the back sides of the front seat backs provide more than adequate occasional storage. The lighted glove box is deep and tall enough to hold quite a bit more than the leather-bound owner's manual portfolio.
The rear seat is more bench than bucket, but properly so, as it's intended to accommodate three average adults, which it does, if somewhat snugly. The XC60 makes an excellent vehicle for families with two children growing into their teens. And for families with toddler, there are optional built-in child safety seats with optimized belts.
The XC60 is a benchmark for cargo volume. There's nearly 31 cubic feet of storage with the rear seat in place, and 67.4 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. That's seven cubic feet more than the Acura RDX, 10 more than the Audi Q5, 11 more than the BMW X3 and 13 more than the Mercedes GLK. Moreover, the XC60 is configured to maximize flexibility.
The rear seatbacks fold easily to a truly flat surface. The middle section, representing the 20 in 40/20/40, works like the pass-through in vehicles with a trunk, allowing longer items like fishing poles to be carried inside the XC60 with full space for two rear passengers. The front passenger seatback also folds forward and flat, creating room for much wider and longer items than fit in the typical small SUV/crossover.
Carpet covers all surfaces in the rear cargo area, and the removable floor panel extends rearward enough to be secured beneath an overlap from the closed liftgate. The cargo cover works great, too, but owners will have to spring for the Convenience Package to get it. The package also adds a power liftgate, grocery bag holder and cargo-area power point, which come standard on some competitors.
The Volvo XC60 defines the appeal of the so-called crossover vehicle. It's a fabulous compromise between what people want in a true, truck-based sport-utility and what they need for daily transportation. Beyond its flexible seating/cargo configurations, the XC60 is generally a comfortable, pleasant vehicle to drive. It's compact and easy to park, and it isn't mundane in a people-mover, family wagon fashion.
The XC60 is tuned more for cruising comfortably on the highway or through town than for flinging around on back roads, or for travel where no graded roads exist. That said, it won't scare its driver, land-barge style, when he or she is trying to keep with the flow on a curving canyon or river road. It provides moderate off-pavement capability, and not just the look that goes with a tall body or ride height raised an inch or two. Its 3300-pound tow rating is substantial in this class, and the standard Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) electronics help maintain stability while pulling a trailer.
The upgrade turbocharged engine delivers refreshingly linear acceleration, not necessarily what you'd expect with a turbocharged engine. It also adds a bit of verve the base, non-turbo engine lacks. Regardless, the base six-cylinder is torquey enough for everyday use in traffic-heavy cities, and we wouldn't hesitate recommending it. Its slight mileage advantage, though, is more a function of its fitment in front-drive XC60s, rather than inherently better fuel efficiency than the turbo, which is only offered with all-wheel-drive.
We liked the 6-speed automatic transmission best in Sport mode. Its well-executed sport setting re-assigns shift points to maximize the engine's power curve and extends the transmission's stay in each gear. Sport mode uses more fuel, but it suppresses unwanted hunting among gears when climbing or descending grades. Additionally, it suppresses the engine's tendency to surge unexpectedly as it acclimates to each gear change. The sport setting also allows a driver to choose a specific gear when desired, overriding the electronic brain's preferred selection, although the system will not hold a gear either to redline or to an engine-lugging rpm. The automatic reasserts its own control to shift up or down a gear at pre-determined engine speeds. In full Auto mode, when the XC60 is driven casually, shifts are smooth, if not invisible.
The all-wheel-drive system operates seamlessly, and the driver will almost never know when it's working. The all-wheel drive works full time; the driver does not need to switch it on. In normal, good-traction conditions, 95 percent of the engine's power goes to the front wheels, just 5 percent to the rear. If the front wheels lose traction, a multi-plate clutch begins routing power to the rear, to a maximum split of 65 percent to the rear wheels. This front-drive bias leaves the XC60 with a default understeer handling characteristic, like most cars. When driven past the grip limit of the tires, this push is much easier to handle than a skittish rear end, because a driver's natural instinct is to slow down, and that basically solves the problem.
All-wheel drive on the Volvo is more an advantage for safe, secure forward progress in lousy weather than a true off-road tool. Still, with 9.1 inches of ground clearance, this crossover can traverse terrain that would be impossible in a conventional sedan, or in some other crossovers. Hill Descent Control adds some reassuring braking assist when navigating the way back down that dirt track that an hour earlier looked so benign.
The Volvo XC60 is lighter (and smaller) than the XC70 and XC90 crossover SUVs, but it has relatively high center of gravity combined with minimally bolstered seats and a largish steering wheel, both seemingly designed more for comfort than speed. These traits establish the XC60 more as an all-weather, long-distance cruiser than a canyon carver.
The suspension does a decent job taming different types and conditions of tarmac. The ride shows a bit of roughness around the edges at times, more so with the more stiffly suspended R-Design models, but the unsprung weight of the all-wheel-drive system's mechanicals bears more of the responsibility for this than any design or structural deficiency. Travel on rough pavement produces some head toss, which is not uncommon in the class. Nonetheless, the Infiniti EX35 delivers a quieter ride than the XC60, and the BMW X3 and Acura RDX offer better steering feel.
The brakes on the XC60 work very well, resisting fade, consistently and confidently slowing it from high double-digit speeds for slow corners. Most of its optional lane departure and other proximity warning systems can be suppressed or turned off, squelching the associated irritating and distracting beeps and buzzes when the driver decides they're not needed.
The standard City Safety feature is intended to help avoid rear-ending the car ahead, or at least to minimize the damage. This system works at speeds 2-18 mph. Up to 9 mph, it can stop the car before it hits a car in front. From that speed up to 18 mph, it can reduce significantly the force of the impact. Tested at just under 9 mph in a parking lot, it worked, surprisingly sharply, jolting driver and front seat passenger smartly into abruptly snugged-up seatbelts. We were glad it worked.
The Volvo XC60 packs a lot of space into a stylish, compact SUV that seats five. It's maneuverable and pleasant on freeways and city streets. It offers more cargo capability than its competitors, with great cargo/seating flexibility, and it's loaded with Volvo's trademark safety technology. With good ground clearance and optional all-wheel drive, the XC60 offers light off-pavement capability. The upgrade turbocharged engine is appealing and more invigorating, but the base 3.2-liter six-cylinder is more than adequate for most drivers and it delivers better value.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard reported from northern California, with J.P. Vettraino reporting from Detroit.
Volvo XC60 3.2 ($32,900), AWD ($34,900); 3.2 R-Design ($38,600), AWD ($40,600); T6 AWD ($38,950); T6 R-Design AWD ($42,150).
Options As Tested
Multimedia Package ($2,700) includes 650-watt premium Dolby Pro Logic Surround Sound with 12 speakers, navigation system with Real Time Traffic and remote control and rearview camera; Climate Package ($1,000) includes heated front and rear seats, headlight washers, heated windshield washer nozzles, rain sensing wipers and Interior Air Quality System and dual integrated child safety seats; Nordic Light Oak interior trim ($300); metallic paint ($550).
Volvo XC60 T6 ($38,950).
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