Wednesday, August 26, 2009

XC60: Excellent Crossover from Volvo

Volvo has long been known for its commitment to safety in its vehicles.
If you wanted to drive something that could survive a crash, you couldn't do much better than a Volvo.
That's important, but the problem has been that for many of us, we don't drive something just so that we can be safe in it.
There are other factors, such as style and enjoyment of driving, to be appreciated.
And Volvo was, well, a little lacking in those areas, according to some of us. 
Not anymore.
Volvo is now adding some style to its safety credentials, and has also upped its fun-to-drive quotient.
Latest case in point is the 2010 XC60 crossover.

Not only does the new XC60 look good, it has the moves to back it up. Powered by Volvo’s T6 engine – a 3.0 liter turbocharged 6-cylinder engine that produces 281 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque – this midsize crossover picks up speed without missing a step. Power is transferred to the ground by a 6-speed “Geartronic” automatic transmission and Volvo’s All-Wheel-Drive with Instant Traction™ (aka Haldex 4 AWD). Shift points for the transmission were programmed perfectly. Under a large variety of driving conditions, never once did we feel the transmission “hunt” for the right gear or bog down when we stomped on the “go” pedal.

In a week of city and highway driving, we posted fuel economy of about 18 mpg. 

That's passable for a vehicle of this size.

 Road handling characteristics were very good and the XC60 handled transitions from corner to corner like a running back cutting through the secondary. Body roll was surprisingly minimal for a mid-size SUV weighing close to 4,200 pounds.

Goldilocks would have found the steering response just right — not too sensitive and not anywhere near mushy. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is ready for action and feels great when gripped firmly with both hands.

 Volvo’s signature slim-design center stack has been redesigned to accommodate a navigation system. Gone is the ugly afterthought with the Volvo/Garmin sitting atop the dash board. The navigation system screen is on the small side, making some readouts difficult to decipher at a glance. Its controls are inconveniently located behind one of the steering wheel’s spokes, rather than on the center dashboard stack or having a touch-screen interface. This makes using the navigation system more difficult than it needs to be.

The textured dash surface and optional wood trim frame the electronic controls handsomely. Gauges are large and clear, as are the audio and climate functions.

The panorama sunroof looks spectacular and it’s large enough to give rear seat passengers a good view of the sky. Sure, large dual-panel sunroofs are becoming more common in cars such as the Audi A5 and Saturn Astra, but Volvo goes one step further while maintaining its safety theme by using laminated glass that won’t shatter into a gazillion pieces and cut up the passengers - even in the event of a vehicle turnover. The laminated glass also helps insulate the cabin to maintain a quiet ride.

 The two-tone color scheme for the seats is ... different. One observer likened it to a backpack. The color combination in our tester, brown and beige, was nice, but something just looked a little strange about the pattern. At least the seating is comfortable and the 8-way power adjustable seats and steering column with tilt/telescoping made it easy to find a good driving position. 

A leading dynamic is the XC60’s usable combination of horsepower and torque. If pulling a trailer is going to be part of the XC60’s work day, go for the optional Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) which offers unsurpassed control when towing a trailer. The XC60 is strong enough to tow a pair jet skis to the lake for a weekend with its 3,300 pound towing capacity. Maximum torque is available from just 1,500 rpm and remains on tap throughout the rev range. The twin-scroll turbocharger provides very fast throttle response, which translates to snappy acceleration and smooth driving when you are not towing an extra load.

The Volvo XC60 shows some new design cues that will be applied to all future Volvos. This includes pumping up the visual volume with more expressive shapes and details, according to Volvo’s designers. The XC60 grille, and on all future Volvos, becomes more prominent with angled parking lights, and with headlamps that sweep up into the front fenders.

For the XC60, the lower body is wide and the stance strong, while the upper section of the car has a sporty, dashing design. The tail section is particularly impressive with tail lamps that cascade down from the corners of the roof and with a clever glass tailgate that can be opened any of three ways: full open, top section open or lower section open.

The big news is Volvo’s new “City Safety” is standard equipment with the XC60. City Safety is a unique feature to prevent low-speed impacts that are common in stop-and-go commuting. If the car is about to drive into the vehicle in front and the driver does not react, the car brakes itself.

Volvo is the first manufacturer in the world to offer this type of feature as standard, the company said. Volvo also says that City Safety clearly advertises that the new XC60 is the safest car Volvo has ever produced. The car is packed with accumulated safety know-how and technology, both when it comes to preventing accidents and protecting all the occupants in a collision.

In addition to City Safety as a standard feature, Volvo included many other safety features as standard equipment with the XC60. Whiplash Protection Seating System (WHIPS), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), side impact protection and airbags (SIPS, SIPSBAGS II), and Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC), Hill Descent Control (HDC) are all on the list of standard equipment with many others not listed.

The U.S. market only gets one engine, but the XC60 leads horsepower and torque in its class. With 281 hp and 295 pounds-feet of torque, the XC60 knocks over its class competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz GLK350, BMW X3, and the Lexus RX 350. Only the Infiniti EX35, with its 297 hp V6, has more power, but less torque (253).

 List price for the Infiniti EX35 with AWD starts at $33,300 compared to the XC60’s MSRP of $37,200. While the EX35 may be thousands cheaper on paper, you get less amenities, less safety equipment, and half the cargo area.

The new crossover from Volvo offers every safety feature—some standard, some optional—you can think of, plus one you probably wouldn’t. However, it’s also good to look at, readily identifiable as a Volvo, handsome within, reasonably agile, and capable of holding its own in the 0-to-60 department.

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