Test Drive Notes Library
- Styling. There was a time, not too long ago, when you could ask a third grader to “draw a car.” And that three-box shape drawn with a crayon looked exactly like every Volvo on the road. Not any more. Volvos look more like Scandinavian furniture these days. Sleek, minimalist, and damn near futuristic.
- Safety. One thing that hasn’t changed is Volvo’s attention to safety. So you can count on your new Volvo to have the latest and greatest. In addition to an advanced structural safety, the XC60 has automatic emergency breaking with pedestrian, large animal, and bicycle detection. I guess that means if an alien lands in front of your car, Volvo is not sure the car will brake automatically. But it will for everything else if you’re not paying attention. It keeps you in your lane, stops, starts, and follows the car in front of you with the optional Pilot System, and actually steers the car out of the way if an oncoming UPS truck crosses into your lane and is about to hit you. Of course, Volvo probably put all this stuff in the XC60 after they realized how much time people were spending with their eyes on the XC60’s huge, center touch screen, instead of watching the road.
- Seats. Volvo’s still have among the best, if not the best seats in the industry, and the XC60’s 10-way power seats keep the streak going. After work, you may find yourself taking your cocktail out to the XC60 just to sit in your favorite easy chair and relax. Extra plus: It’ll probably be the best stereo system you own, too.
- Utility. The XC60 is a bit smaller and lower than the XC90 SUV, making it more of a pure crossover. It’s not a vehicle you have to climb up into or climb down out of. Yet, it provides a nice, raised view of the road, with notably thin A pillars and large windows. Four doors and a generous cargo area make it a useful, versatile vehicle for a family.
- Interior. Even more than the improvements Volvo made to its exteriors, the interiors are truly transformed. Here’s where the Scandinavian design really shows up. Everything is light, straight, clean, and airy. It feels sparsely luxurious, like a house that’s been well-staged for sale with the family’s junk sent to storage.
- Heads up. The XC60 comes with a very good, color heads up display that helps you keep your eyes on the road by projecting necessary information onto the windshield, so that it appears to be floating at the end of the hood. You can set it to show your speed, the speed limit (the XC60 reads road signs), and turn by turn directions.
- Mileage. With the plug-in hybrid version of the XC60 (it also comes as a T5 with a 250hp four-cylinder gasoline engine and a T6 with a 320hp version of the same engine) we got an very decent 27.5 mpg overall. That required plugging it in every night to get the 13 miles of all electric transport. With the plug in hybrid, you also get a total of 400 hp between the motor and the engine. But, I suspect, over time, 13 miles of all electric power is going to feel like a novelty. The Chevy Volt already gives you 53. And other plug-in hybrids are in the 20s. That said, if you generally stay close to home, you can do a lot of your driving with just electricity.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Price. Volvos are getting up there. Those who have stopped by the dealership to replace their aging (once $40,000) V70XCs have experienced sticker shock when looking at the $65,000 V90XCs (the V60XC is coming… hold on). And while the XC60 starts in the $40s, expect to pay high $40’s to mid $50s for the one you really want. And if you want the T8 plug in hybrid Inscription like the one we drove, write out a check for $71,590.
- Comfort. We suspect the other versions of the XC60 may be more comfortable than our T8 with its 20 inch wheels. While the Volvo was plenty comfortable on smooth roads, it felt stiff on bumps, even with the optional air suspension. The 20-inchers certainly made that worse. Opt for the 18 inch wheels if comfort is a priority.
- Complex screen. The center touch screen is like an iPad SuperMaxi. And you should expect to experience a learning curve. It’s complicated, compared to other car’s systems. We do wish for a few more hard buttons — do we really need to go two steps into a screen to turn on the heated steering wheel (OK, now that we’ve written that sentence, it's clear this is a first world problem). The most commonly used selections are on the home screen, laid out in a vertical stack. Touch one of the choices (Navigation, Entertainment, Climate), and it opens to fill the whole screen with more detailed options. Swipe left for more specific audio and media controls, swipe right if you want to date the Mercedes in front of you. Actually, swipe right for vehicle settings. These things are best done at stop lights, since they require your eyes and your concentration. We found the voice control helped. While it wasn’t perfect, it beats the hell out of entering your navigation info manually, and can be used to adjust the temperature and other stuff that would otherwise send you a couple of menus deep on the touch screen. Try it. All told, the screen forces you to take your eyes off the road a lot more than we’d like… especially from a company that worships safety.
- Slow screen. For a brand new car with the latest and greatest electronics, we were a little disappointed by the speed at which the screen came to life when we started the car. It’s all relative, of course, Remember when you waited 90 seconds for AOL to load a page? Well, now waiting 5 or 8 seconds for your backup screen to appear, so you can leave your parking space, feels like an eternity.
- Persnickety shifter. The trend in luxury cars is to create (reinvent) your own automatic transmission control. Volvo’s is far from the worst, but it is kind of a single-plane joy stick that you pull backwards to put in Drive and push forwards to put in Reverse. There’s a button next to it for Park. It took us a day of revving the car in Neutral to figure out that Volvo wants you to select your direction twice before it will obey. Presumably that’s to prevent you from nudging the shifter by accident. Note to Volvo, that never happened with the old fashioned floor shifter.
- Touchy hybrid brakes. The regenerative brakes on the plug-in hybrid version of the XC60 were grabby. Almost certainly not an issue with the gasoline versions.
- Optional blind spot detection. This is a disappointment to us. As the leader in safety, we’d have thought Volvo would be among the first to make all the great modern safety features standard, especially on a premium priced vehicle. Yet to get Blind Spot Monitoring (which everyone should have now), you have to buy it with a bunch of other stuff in an $1,100 Vision Package.
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