2018 Volvo XC60 T8 first drive review

'Hybrid' is no insult for Volvo's efficient yet luxurious XC60 T8

The 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 is a luxury performance SUV priced thousands of dollars less than its rivals.
The 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 is a luxury performance SUV priced thousands of dollars less than its rivals.
The 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 is a luxury performance SUV priced thousands of dollars less than its rivals.

Highs

  • 400 horsepower, 472 pound-feet of torque
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Midsize utility and space
  • Large tablet touchscreen interface
  • Larger battery for better economy

Lows

  • Regenerative braking still feels strange
  • Heated seats should be standard

The XC60 midsize crossover SUV is Volvo’s best-selling model in America, moving 20,452 units in 2016. That’s enough to give Volvo 5 percent of the market in that category, and it’s on track to sell just as many in 2017. With Volvo’s new fuel-efficient Drive-E engines available in 250- and 316-horsepower variants, the Swedish automaker has a compelling performance story on top of its reputation for safety and comfort. And as we found out in our 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 review, the efficiency story goes even further.

Volvo has not been content to rest on its achievements (like winning our luxury car awards). The company has committed that every new vehicle launched in 2019 and beyond will have some kind of electrification; either hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or EV. Further, Volvo has set a goal that by 2020, no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo.

To fulfill those promises, Volvo’s been working on several fronts, and we’re seeing steps toward their goals every year. This year’s steps involve extending Volvo’s twin-engine plug-in hybrid technology to the XC60 and the S90 sedan, and refinements of the advanced safety features offered across the entire Volvo product line. The company is also working hard on increased autonomous capability, but that’s still mostly behind the gates in Gothenburg.

What’s new

The XC60 has been in production since 2008, and this year’s update is the first major refresh since 2013. Starting with the 2018 model year, the XC60 is built on Volvo’s Scalable Product Architeƒcture platform, shared with the 90-series of full-size vehicles. New for the 2018 model year, the T8 twin-engine plug-in hybrid drivetrain is available with the XC60, in addition to the two gasoline engine options.

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Other new features for the 2018 XC60 include Volvo’s 9.3-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen infotainment and control interface. This large-format screen uses tablet gestures and offers an intuitive interface. The XC60 also receives access to Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving system, and several other related safety technologies.

Trim levels and features

The new XC60 is available in three trim levels, and all trims may be ordered with the T8 plug-in hybrid drivetrain.

The base trim is called Momentum, and it’s a generously well-equipped package. Momentum buyers receive LED headlights and taillights, panoramic moonroof, 18-inch wheels, leather, 9.3-inch touchscreen interface with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 8-inch driver information display, 10-speaker audio system, rear park assist camera, power tailgate, and a standard safety package that equals most manufacturer’s optional safety packages. The Momentum trim XC60 starts at $48,893 after all rebates and fees are applied.

New for the 2018 model year, the T8 twin-engine plug-in hybrid drivetrain is available with the XC60.

The sport trim is called R-Design, and it adds a list of performance-related features including 19-inch wheels, sport seats, paddle shifters, keyless entry, LED fog lights, a 12.3-inch driver information display, and GPS navigation. R-Design is a $3,300 premium over Momentum trim at $52,193.

Luxury trim is called Inscription, and it also includes 19-inch wheels, real wood trim, keyless entry, LED fog lights, the 12.3 inch driver information display, navigation, and an air conditioning outlet in the glove compartment. Inscription is a $3,800 premium over Momentum trim at $52,693.

The thing to notice about Volvo’s trim walk is that there’s less than $4,000 difference between the base Momentum trim and the top Inscription package, with the R-Design falling just below Inscription. With only a 10 percent difference between base and top trims, there’s very little reason not to plus up your XC60.

Looking at the new XC60, its styling is a continuation of the previous generation, which was always a good-looking vehicle. If you like crossover SUVs at all, you’ll find the XC60 among the more handsome offerings on the market.

Technology overview

The big tech news is the 9.3-inch Sensus Connect screen in the dashboard center stack. This is a major upgrade from the previous generation’s inset screen. This interface offers tablet swipe-and-pinch gestures, and provides enough real estate that Volvo is able to divide the screen into four independent sections to provide quick and easy access to any controls you need.

You can even place your Apple CarPlay or Android Auto interface into one of the four sections, so you don’t have to give your entire screen over to the phone to use its features. The Sensus Connect system provides 4G/LTE connectivity and will generate a wi-fi hotspot in the car for your passengers to use. Sensus Connect also offers its own suite of apps including Pandora, Spotify, Glympse, Local Search, Yelp, Weather, and Wiki Locations.

The main Sensus screen also interacts with the 8-inch or 12.3-inch driver information displays, and the optional head-up display on the windshield. Navigation, infotainment, and basic information can all be mirrored for the driver.

Optionally, XC60 buyers can order the Bowers & Wilkins sound system, which uses 15 speakers including a body-integrated subwoofer and an 1,100-watt amplifier. It sounds good and costs $3,200 at any trim level.

Interior fit and finish

As mentioned, you get a good package even in the base Momentum trim level. That means leather upholstery and a good dashboard covering. Adding heated front seats and heated steering wheel will cost you $750 in any trim level. That really should be standard in a luxury brand vehicle, but it’s well worth the money in any case.

Whether you get the standard seats or the R-Design sport seats, your back will thank you for choosing a Volvo.

Volvo is well-regarded for its comfortable seats and cabin, and the XC60 is exemplary in this regard. Whether you get the standard seats or the R-Design sport seats, your back will thank you for choosing a Volvo. Every trim level includes power adjustments and power lumbar support, and the R-Design and Inscription trims include mechanical extensions for perfect leg support all the way to your knees.

Generally speaking, Volvo’s interiors are always best-in-class, with clean Scandinavian designs and excellent build quality. That’s what you’ll find in the new XC60. As a must-succeed vehicle, Volvo has given special attention to this update.

With the second row of seats folded down, the XC60 offers 29.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The rear hatch opens to a broad space, so you can make full use of that cargo capacity. The hatch is also powered, which is fast becoming a baseline feature for all luxury brands.

As a midsize SUV, you can reasonably take five adults, though the three in the back seat will be close together. Rear seat legroom is good at 38 inches.

Driving performance and MPG

Without a doubt, the driving experience is the largest and most significant change to the 2018 Volvo XC60 T8. First, the vehicle gained a new double wishbone suspension in front, and an integral link design in the rear. Optionally, you can choose the air suspension that allows you to raise the ride height by up to 40mm (2 inches) in off-road mode, or drop the suspension by 10mm (0.4-inch) for dynamic mode driving.

But the real bonus for the XC60 is addition of the T8 driveline. This is Volvo’s innovative twin-engine plug-in hybrid design, with a 313-horsepower turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in front, mated to a standard hybrid electric motor. In the rear, Volvo adds an 87-horsepower electric motor to drive the rear wheels. The XC60 will use the electric motors and the gasoline engine individually or in parallel for best performance and fuel economy.

The 2018 version of the T8 drivetrain has enhanced the battery pack from 9.2 Kilowatt Hours up to 10.4 kWh for more EV-only range and more available power in hybrid mode. This will improve both performance and MPGe when rated by the EPA.

At this time the EPA has not released its fuel economy figures for the 2018 XC60 T8. However, the 2017 XC90 with the T8 drivetrain is rated at 54 MPGe and 25 MPG in combined city/highway driving. With the larger battery and smaller vehicle size, the XC60 should surpass those numbers.

The XC60 does 0 to 60 in just 4.9 seconds. That’s almost a full second faster than a Maserati Levante, just for the record.

The T8 drivetrain comes with several driver-selectable engine modes, including Pure EV, Power Mode, AWD Mode, and a customizable Individual Mode. There’s also an Off Road Mode, available up to 12 MPH, for really rough terrain. This locks the torque between front and rear wheels at 50:50 and engages hill descent control.

Finally, there’s an option to save your battery power for later use, if you know you’re likely to need EV mode later in your drive, and a function to use the gas engine to charge your battery pack for later use.

Overall, the XC60 T8 provides 400 system horsepower and 472 pound-feet of max system torque. That’s enough to send this SUV from 0 to 60 in just 4.9 seconds. That’s almost a full second faster than a Maserati Levante, just for the record.

The only fault we can lay on the XC60, along with every other hybrid, is that the regenerative braking system still feels strange at times. Because the brake pedal is engaging a generator, it can feel less responsive than a standard brake system. But it’s only because the XC60 handles so well that it’s even noticeable.

Safety

Safety is the other big deal on the 2018 Volvo XC60 T8. The advanced safety and convenience gear introduced last year in the 90-series vehicles is now available on the XC60. This includes features like Steer Assist, which will help the driver steer around an obstacle if a collision is likely. The Steer Assist feature is also linked with the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and the Oncoming Lane Mitigation feature. In each case, the Volvo will steer itself out of danger or help you to steer it out of danger.

You can also get the related Pilot Assist system as part of the optional Convenience package. This will allow the XC60 to mostly steer itself and use the adaptive cruise control to match speeds on the highway. Let’s be clear, this is not autonomous driving yet. This is what’s called a Level 2 partial automation system, which assists the driver with some tasks, but still relies on the driver as the primary monitor of the driving environment.

But take note, each new feature points the way towards the autonomous future, and Volvo is taking determined steps to get there. They have a field test planned in Sweden to test a Level 4 autonomous car on public roads.

Conclusion

The 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 is a major step forward for Volvo. The company’s commitment to electrification does not mean the end of the internal combustion engine, it means that the engine will be optimized and assisted by electric motors for best effect. You only have to look at the performance numbers to see what’s possible down this line of development

SUV buyers should like the XC60’s midsize footprint, which makes it convenient in an urban environment and versatile enough to carry cargo. The luxury and performance aspects of the vehicle make it fun. Starting at $48,893 for the Momentum trim, and topping out at $52,693 for the Inscription trim, you’ve got plenty of room to add some options and still find yourself in an affordable high-performance SUV for thousands (or tens of thousands) less than comparable European luxury SUVs.

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