The Volvo XC60 T6 AWD is one of the best-driving, most comfortable, safest, and best-engineered vehicles on the road today. The only slight mark against this powerful SUV is that the Volvo S60 outshines it for safety and acceleration — a few antiquated features that Volvo needs to resolve in the next model year.
It’s not every day that you come away from a week-long test and realize you have driven one of the best cars on the road. And we have driven some really good ones lately: the Audi A8, the Ford Explorer, and the Nissan Juke were all leaders in their class. The Volvo XC60 has that extra “something” that sets it apart.
First, a word about price: We drove the highest-end version of the 2010 XC60, the T6 AWD R-Design, with a 300-horespower engine and $38,400 price tag. There is a non-R-Design version that also has a 300-hp engine, but our XC60 T6 has a turbo-charged engine that puts out 325-lb-ft of torque at 6200 rpm, the R-Design that is not a T6 AWD has 236-lb-ft of torque. So we had the best of both worlds: the T6 turbo and the R-Design styling. Scandinavian luxury comes at a premium, of course: The entry-level Ford Explorer is $26,190. A more apt comparison is the BMW X6 crossover that starts at about $52,000.
The R-Design emblem adds some styling accents to the vehicle and a few extra color options. The striking red of our test car was actually a little too much for our tastes – we like the rugged styling of the XC60, which now has more of a full SUV design and matches up with crossovers like the Ford Edge and Chevy Equinox. We think this more rugged design looks better in a darker color, like blue or black.
One thing is clear about the styling: Volvo is going for a distinctive look. The front profile has that muscular Volvo look, but the side profile is sporty and angular. It’s really one of the most striking vehicles on the road. Inside, we found the R-Design styling provided some cool additions: a chunky leather steering wheel that felt like they borrowed it from a Corvette Z06 and leather seats with a two-color design. The R-Design also has 20-inch aluminum wheels and dual-exhaust.
Best driving experience?
There are no options for enabling true 4×4, which makes the XC60 more like a crossover than a traditional off-roader. Strangely, the XC60 drives nothing like a crossover. The Edge and Equinox both have a boxy feel that makes you wonder if you could tip on a tight corner, and both drive more like sedans than sports cars. The XC60 drives like a “cross” between a rugged SUV and a sports car with engine torque to get you where you need to go. What’s rather amazing about the Geartronic transmission is that it is so butter-smooth. From a standing position accelerating up to 60mph, the XC60 just doesn’t seem to shift at all. You can use the manual shifter to downshift and the XC60 barely notices that either. Comparing the transmission in the XC60 to the Edge and Equinox, there is a startling difference: the XC60 is much much smoother. This is one of the few vehicles we’d drive with the manual shifter for sheer enjoyment.
That said, the ride is not perfect for every passenger. One thing we noticed is that the rear middle seat is almost unforgiveable – it seems made for a child safety seat. You feel every bump in the road and the hard plastic is unbearable. The other four seats are much more comfortable. Another slight ding on the XC60 is that you do end up sacrificing a bit of comfort for the meaty size. This vehicle weighs an astounding 4200 pounds, so it is heavier than the Cadillac Escalade. Some drivers love that tank feel – especially on slippery roads. Others find that driving a heavy European car feels a bit too much like you are rolling around on conveyor belts.
Still, our driving experience was ideal – the XC60 is responsive and barely noticed curves in the road. The powerful engine and torque helps in situations where you need to quickly pass another car or when you want to take a quick, winding detour. The A8 was a bit more comfortable on tight corners at high-speed, though.