What is the first thing you notice when you look at Volvo’s latest offering? The large signature LED tail lights? The strong character lines in the side profile? The 18 inch multi-spoked wheels? There are lots of things that definitely catch your eye with this CUV, but would you believe that the first thing I noticed right away when I saw it in person was actually the emblem on the front grille?
It’s huge, at least in comparison to other Volvos. A lot of manufacturers are growing the size of their symbols (most notably Mercedes-Benz). But I had to wonder, this vehicle is stunning to look at, why would Volvo want to distract me with a larger emblem?
One thing I absolutely loathe when I read any new Volvo review is that the author consistantly feels the need to bring up Volvo’s boxy styling past. There’s always something included to the effect of “Huh? What’d they do to the box on wheels?” or “You can now say Volvo and stylish in the same sentance”. This irks me because Volvos have been stylish for more than a decade now, and even before that, models like the 780 Bertone showed that boxy could be sexy. Those earlier cars aside, the first gen S80 started the style revolution at Volvo in 1998. Volvos are stylish now and have been for a long time. Get over it, and stop talking about how they used to be boxy.
It’s kind of like William Shatner constantly reminding us that he used to be Captain Kirk when really all he is is a spokesperson for priceline.com these days. Your life is much different now, Mr. Shatner.
Okay Rant = done.
But actually, it turns out car reviewers aren’t the only ones who continually bring up Volvo’s old styling cues. According to Volvo research, most of the public still associate Volvos as being designed by a guy who only had a ruler. This, I learned, was the main reason for The XC60’s emblem growth and why all 2009+ models now have V-O-L-V-O spelled out obnoxiously accross the back of each vehicle. So now when people see one they’ll use Saturn’s old marketing scheme and say “THAT’S a Volvo?!”
Styling is subjective but I don’t think there are too many people out there that wouldn’t find the XC60 attractive. In fact, I’d venture to say it’s the best looking CUV in the segment; it easily beats the BMW X3, The Mercedes-Benz GLK and the Acura RDX. It’s gorgeous from any angle. Volvo didn’t just make a miniture version of the XC90, either, like how Audi just shrunk the size of its Q7 to come up with the Q5. There are a lot more noticable differences.
Hop inside and the high style continues. Everything is logically laid out and the wood is actually a nice touch (usually I’m not much of a fan). I still can’t get over how comfortable Volvo seats are. Stealing a Jeremy Clarkson line is the best way to describe it : “It’s like sitting on a fat dog”. All the controls are logically laid out and easy to use. The display screen is actually on top of the dash so your eyes don’t need to veer too far off the road in order to read it. And controls on the steering wheel help you change the radio station a lot quicker when ‘Boom Boom Pow’ by the Black Eyed Peas inevitably comes on.
The good news continues in the rear seats as well. While there’s no Maybach-like leg room, there’s still an ample amount -more than I was expecting and definitely more than a BMW X3. The same goes for cargo. There’s a generous amount of room considering the XC60’s size; 30.8 cu. ft to be exact. Folding the rear seats is as easy as making fun of Sarah Palin and cargo room grows to 61 cu. ft. as a result.
The T6 in the XC60’s name designates a turbo six cylinder engine which produces 281 horsepower and 295 pounds feet of torque. There is a less powerful and more “efficient” (I use that term loosely) 3.2 litre engine available as well which produces 235 horses and 236 foot torque. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in the power from the T6 considering the numbers on paper. It’s not slow by any means, but it doesn’t feel 281 horses fast. The good thing is there is no turbo lag whatsoever, and power is readily available when you need it.
Handling is quite decent for a vehicle of this height. In fact, the T6 comes with the same suspension altering system that we first saw on the S60 R. There are three settings: Comfort, Sport, and Advanced. Comfort mode is, well, comfortable. I suspect most buyers would keep their XC60’s in this mode most if not all the time. The suspension easily swallows up Halifax’s pothole ridden roads with ease. Press the ‘Sport’ setting and the suspension gets mildly firmer, with really no noticeable difference in handling. In ‘Advanced’ mode the suspension gets noticably more firm, but I found this did not necessarily translate into better handling. While handling did improve over Comfort mode, I found it just made the XC60 more uncomfortable than anything else. The harsher ride didn’t translate into stellar handling.
Now, along with all Volvo reviews mentioning boxy style, they all mention safety as well. I’m more tolerant of this since Volvo has always been a safety driven company and continues to do so today. The XC60 has all the usual safety stuff, but also has a few unique features. The first is the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). It warns you when someone is in your blind spot. This is a neat idea since the XC60 (along with most Volvo’s I’ve driven) has a terribly large B pillar which impedes your view when you shoulder-check. But in the real world, it’s a tad annoying. There’s a red light in the inside cabin next to the side mirrors which comes on when there’s someone in your blind spot. The problem is, it comes on all the time when someone’s there, not just when you have your turn signal on. So when you are stopped at a red light next to someone the red light is on, and it is distracting. Also, I found that the BLIS system is overcautious. It would come on when clearly there was enough room to switch lanes in front of someone.
But probably the most talked about feature is how the XC60 will actually stop itself if it detects an imanent crash and the driver doesn’t have his/her foot on the brake. Obviously, it would be hard to test this feature, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I put an empty medium sized box on the ground in an empty parking lot and drove towards it. The XC60 did not hesitate to completely demolish the box. I guess the system only detects larger objects. Check out the system in action here: XC60 Safety.
Volvo has desperately been trying for years to come up with credible product to compete against heavy weights like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. They’ve been able to produce lots of interesting models of late that generate buzz, but this new XC60 will be the one that really gives zee Germans a run for their money.
Summary: Not as sporty as Volvo would like you to believe, but who buys a Volvo to be sporty anyways?
Base Price: $47,210
Exterior design: 10/10 I dare you to try to find the XC60’s bad side.
Interior design: 9/10 More space than expected, high quality materials.
Engine: 7/10 No lag, but can feel gutless at times.
Transmission: 7/10 Shifts in manual mode are a bit delayed and jolty.
Audio/Video: 8/10 Easy to use, transforms the cabin into a symphony hall.
Value: 6/10 Options make the price climb faster than Susan Boyle’s popularity.