Safety features galore
Okay, so Volvo has staked a claim offering the best safety features, and for the most part the XC60 lives up the hype. Actually, the S60 – which we will be testing in a few weeks – has a few extra features including the ability to detect pedestrians passing in front of the car and braking appropriately. The XC60 introduced a new feature called City Safety, and we were keen to test it out in various conditions.
The basic idea is that, while many vehicles offer adaptive cruise control at highway speeds, automatically slowing and speeding up according to the vehicle in front of you, the XC60 does this around town. You can adjust the distance between you and the car in front – either just a few car lengths or up to about a block away. In our tests, we found the XC60 mostly performed as desired. The adaptive cruise does not work at very low speeds and will warn you that it is not engaged by flashing a red light above the steering wheel on the dash. That’s actually a different safety feature for crash avoidance: if you fail to apply the brakes and the XC60 senses an imminent crash, the car will apply the brakes for you. For the City Safety feature, the XC60 detected cars accurately, slowed to a safe speed accordingly, and sped up again.
Yet, we ended up wanting this feature to work even to a full stop. That’s the dream of autonomous driving: you click the cruise button and the car manages the speed for you. There were times when we felt we were playing chicken with the City Safety feature and would apply the brakes early to avoid any potential dangers. We wondered if some drivers might actually pay less attention to the road and rely on City Safety too much, although we found it was more helpful when cars suddenly slowed down. This “urban adaptive cruise” is a step in the right direction.
The XC60 also has a lane departure warning system which worked flawlessly, even on snowy roads. There is no prevention system that gets you back into your lane by braking (like on the Infiniti M37x) or turning the steering wheel for you (like on the Mercedes-Benz E-350). The XC60 also does not have blind-spot detection for passing cars. There is a rear-view camera that looked almost high-def.
The real reason why we think the XC60 is one of the safest cars on the road is not because of the high-tech features. The massive weight and reinforced metal materials just make the XC60 more trustworthy. The added collision avoidance system and City Safety features make it even safer.
One slight complaint with the XC60 is that this vehicle uses a more antiquated navigation system. To control the nav, you have to use a jog dial that is behind the steering wheel. Adding a destination and controlling the nav features is surprisingly complicated, with too many superfluous features we’d never use. For example, you can scroll and zoom around the screen any way you want, but most drivers just need to find an address and get there quickly. The voice guidance is also a little too snotty for our tastes. Ford does a much better job with its nav system.
Another oddity is that the XC60 also uses an antiquated keyfob. To start the car, you have to push the keyfob into a slot and then push a button. This defeats the purpose of having a keyless start in the first place. We found we would walk up to the XC60, take out the keyfob, unlock the car, put the key back in a pocket thinking we would have to push a button to start it, then realize we had to get the key out again.
Okay, so those are minor gripes. Did we mention the smooth-as-butter transmission? The heft and size of this incredibly safe vehicle? The turbo-charged engine that accelerated to 60 in about 7 seconds? That’s amazing for a car that is intended for long road trips and not Sunday afternoon races. There is no questioning the overall driving experience or safety features on the XC60 – we came away with a few complaints here and there, but the XC60 reminded us all over again what superior engineering can mean for livening up a daily commute.