by Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – Volvo has begun to revamp its product line. The Swedish automaker introduced an all new XC90 last year and showed off a brand new S90 at the beginning of this year. But while it debuts the new, it must keep the old up to date and interesting. That is exactly what Volvo has done with one of its best-selling models, the XC60.
In a nutshell, this midsized utility vehicle was comfortable, efficient, stylish, easy to drive and technologically advanced. Volvo has always been a safety leader and that has translated into comfortable seats. Even though XC60 styling is getting a little long in the tooth, it is still distinctive. There’s nothing on the road that looks anything like a Volvo. That’s a good thing in a market that is cluttered with vehicles.
The XC60’s design was freshened but that was two years ago and it was an evolutionary change. The vehicle got a new hood, front fenders and a wider fascia. The headlights were redesigned, the grille was bolder and it was given a larger Volvo Ironmark which is the brand’s logo. The front spoiler was lowered; it got vertical LED DRLs as well as what Volvo called front and rear skid plate “décor.” It was a nice design job.
Inside, in addition some of the best seats in the industry, the XC60 was ergonomically correct. We didn’t have to reach for anything. What’s more, instrumentation was different but simple; maybe that what made it simple.
In front of the driver, was one TFT screen smoothly broken into parts. A circular metallic ring separated the odometer and speedometer in the center. Temperature was on the left; on the right was a power gauge. At the bottom of this layout was some rudimentary information, the XC60 got 22.7 mpg and averaged 32 mph during the test drive.
Sightlines were great. Our only gripe was that the XC60, though it was a two row utility vehicle, was still high enough that a car on the passenger side right at the B pillar could not be seen. You could look right over the hood. Volvo has turned safety into a selling point. It might not be a bad idea to make blind spot monitoring standard on the XC60.
And the XC60 is a utility vehicle. It was a nice touch that when we folded the second row seats which were split 60/40 that the headrest automatically flopped forward too. With the second row folded there was a flat cargo floor. That made it especially easy to slide a 48-inch flat screen TV, in the box, into the cargo area. The power lift gate made that easier too.
There was plenty of headroom in the second row. Legroom was a little close but we opted to test that area’s sitting behind the driver’s seat which we didn’t move forward. The cupholder in the second row armrest was surprisingly sturdy. That’s a place where many automakers scrimp, no doubt thinking that it will get little use.
The XC60 had a premium audio system. It also had Bluetooth, voice controls, satellite radio, a navigation system, retractable side mirrors, adaptive cruise control, heated front seats, a sizable moonroof and a heated steering wheel.
It had adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto braking, pedestrian/cyclist detection with automatic braking and distance alert. In other words, it sounded an alert a couple of times when we were following too close.
All that technology served well in lieu of what wasn’t there. It didn’t have USB plugs and it needed a converter to plug in the most recent models of iPhones. However, there was an auxiliary jack and a 12 volt plug in the center console and one in the rear too.
But under the hood the XC60 was technologically advanced. It had what Volvo is branding as a Drive-E engine. Volvo said Drive-E technology includes friction reduction, advanced boosting and combustion, thermal management and variable valve timing. But there is a lot more to it than that.
On the XC60 T6, the 2.0-liter four cylinder engine is equipped with a supercharger and a turbocharger working in unison. The mechanically linked supercharger works immediately at low revolutions while the turbocharge kicks in when airflow builds, in other words at higher speeds.
The small displacement provides great fuel economy for an engine that makes 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, theXC60 had a fuel economy rating of 19 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined.
None of that addresses how much fun it was to drive the XC60 which is an attribute rarely used when it comes to describing the characteristics of a utility vehicle. Acceleration was authoritative from any speed because of the chargers on the low and high end. Handling was precise. The suspension was firm without being harsh. Driving the XC60 was a pleasurable experience.
And it had an all-wheel-drive system that would transfer power to the wheels with the best grip. Volvo said when a tire loses traction; power is reduced to that wheel and instantly transferred to the sure footed wheels.
At $52,505 as tested, the 2016 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Drive-E was a much better than average sport utility.