Volvo, that Swedish car company whose memorable commercials included stacking car on top of car, etc., is expanding its crossover utility line with a smaller version of its venerable XC90.
The new cute ute, dubbed XC60, offers up everything big brother 90 does while allowing the automaker an appearance into the quickly expanding small premium utility segment that features standouts such as the BMW X3, Acura RDX and Mercury Mariner.
Volvo has long touted itself as producing the safest cars in the world and this new model is certainly no exception, led primarily by a new technology aimed at reducing low-speed “oopsies” in city driving.
While resembling the XC90, designers gave the new XC60 model what I would call “style forward,” meaning they have not only utilized current Volvo design DNA but taken it to a new level somewhere in the near future, especially for an automaker so dependent on tradition.
The XC60 is set to captivate a new generation of Volvo buyers as well as attracting loyalists to the brand.
Once I got past the “Ikea-like” interior, I was overwhelmed at just how amazing this new cute ute is. Exterior styling features clean lines and athletic curves, and thanks to our tester’s spirited T6 turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine there was little left for want when the light turns green.
Front-wheel-drive is standard equipment with XC60 models equipped with a naturally-aspirated 3.2-liter six. T6 models, however, are delivered with an engine that distributes 281hp and 295 lb. ft. of torque to all four wheels via the AWD running gear outfitted with Volvo’s Instant Traction and Hill Descent Control technology.
All XC60 models feature the six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with adaptive shift logic.
Large 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels along with 9.1 inches of ground clearance enable the XC60 to traverse terrain that would be impossible in a conventional passenger car. (The 18s were standard on our XC60 T6 AWD tester.) Enhanced Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) is standard along with a new feature called Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) that helps provide more stable driving when towing. Unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to test either of these technologies during my week with the vehicle, but given the level of performance we have seen with the DSTC in the XC90 I have no concerns whatsoever with how the 60 will perform.
Thanks to very capable front and rear independent suspension design and implementation of antiroll and antidive technology the XC60 offers a very well controlled onroad experience, one that will leave drivers wondering if they are truly in a utility vehicle and not one of the automakers refined sedans.
As I alluded to earlier, I was not such a big fan of some of the interior design execution Ð specifically the medium-toned wood trim with its satin finish. Many may prefer this element but it wasn’t for me. I would have preferred something in a brushed aluminum or obsidian-like compound.
Volvo offers all of its latest technology inside the new XC60 Ð including HD radio as standard equipment Ð but I would have been more in tune with a touch screen navigation display instead of having to use either the game controller-like interface (which I finally located on the front of one of the steering wheel spokes) or the remote-control device about the size of a garage door opener.
These little quibbles quickly dissipated once I turned on the satellite radio sending some 650 watts through 12 Dynaudio speakers in Dolby Pro-Logic II surround sound. The experience is one of the finest of any of the factory systems I have tested. Ever.
While there is a host of other technology and literally ALL of the latest safety equipment packed into the XC60 as well, I want to get on to the newest safety technology created by Volvo engineers that debuts on the 2010 XC60.
I present you City Safety, a driver support system aimed at preventing or mitigating collisions occurring at speeds of 19 mph or less. It utilizes a closing velocity sensor to help determine whether a collision is likely. Depending on the closing speed, City Safety will either pre-charge the brakes or automatically brake the XC60 to help avoid a rear-end collision or, at the very least, lessen its impact.
This is some of the coolest new technology to come on the market Ð and perhaps the most fun to test. Volvo included a set of plastic traffic cones in the cargo area of the XC60 for the media to use to test the new City Safety. It’s that or the dumpster at work (which my co-workers were opting for me to use) so I set up the cones and took my turn at driving head-on into them.
The new technology works like a champ Ð a heavyweight champ at that. Under speeds of 19 mph the brakes are applied so vigorously one had best not test this with unsecured items (or occupants) in the vehicle. I did raise my speeds for one pass and we stopped right on top of the cones Ð sure we ran them over, and had they been actual pedestrians we would have caused them severe “inconvenience,” but we did come to a full stop.
The down side that I can see to this new technology is that now drivers will be allowed to become even lazier and less attentive behind the wheel. “Hey, I don’t need to pay attention, the car will stop itself” or something along those lines.
Pricing for the 2010 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD begins at $37,200 with our tester coming in at more than 44 grand thanks to a host of upgrade options. Fuel economy for the turbocharged T6 engine comes in at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.
The new Volvo XC60 is a game changer for the segment as well as the industry and will cause others to step up their game as well Ð and that is a good thing not only for consumers but also the public.