- What’s Best: High-tech safety features, doctor-prescribed seats, not another Bimmer
- What’s Worst: Cumbersome info display, sunroof woes, oil consumption
- Typical used prices: 2010 - $14,000; 2017- $46,000
Don’t let harm come to your customers and they’re more likely to come back and buy again.
It’s a philosophy that’s been seemingly embraced by Volvo Cars, a brand that’s long been synonymous with safety bordering on obsessive. Consider that company engineer Nils Bohlin introduced three-point seatbelts in the Volvo PV544 way back in 1959.
Contrast that with the prevailing attitude in Detroit at the time, when dealers argued that advertising seatbelts and laminated windshields would unsettle the buying public and keep them away from showrooms.
It is estimated that Bohlin’s innovation has saved more than one million lives to date. That’s because Volvo waived its patent rights and made the integrated lap and shoulder belt design available to all automakers.
Consider it a crash course in corporate responsibility.
The all-new Volvo XC60, introduced in early 2009 as a 2010 model, ushered in some advanced safety tech of its own. Knowing that 75 per cent of all collisions occur below 30 km/h, with many drivers never stepping on the brakes or turning the steering wheel, engineers cobbled together the City Safety System.
A laser mounted at the top of the windshield monitors the gap between the XC60 and the vehicle ahead of it; when the computer detects an imminent collision with no remedial action taken by the driver, the car brakes autonomously. At low “city” speeds, it may prevent contact altogether, but in most conditions it mitigates the damage that the two (or more) vehicles would otherwise sustain – not to mention injuries.
While other automakers have since introduced similar active safety systems, Volvo’s feature was headline news nine years ago. And that’s on top of everything else engineers added to keep occupants secure: whiplash protection, blind spot detection, dynamic stability and traction control, inflatable curtain airbags, collision warning and more.
Based on the EUCD front-drive platform that was concocted by Ford of Europe back when Volvo was part of the FoMoCo family, the XC60 is 21 centimetres shorter than the XC70, riding on a slightly shorter wheelbase, but it provides 23 cm of ground clearance – more than any other player in the premium compact-crossover segment.
As the forerunner to the S60 sedan and V60 wagon, the XC60 wears its high beltline and flared bodywork for dramatic effect, capped off by massive LED taillights that illuminate the rear pillars. Inside, the five-passenger seating is largely accommodating, though not everyone was enamoured with the snug rear bench.
“The rear seat barely accommodates our child seat,” griped one XC60 owner, who may or may not have traded in a minivan. The front buckets are form-fitting, yet they seem to accommodate all sizes comfortably. Genuine leather is standard fare.
Volvo interiors are more adventurous than most and exude a Bauhaus influence. Shapes are artfully managed, complementary textures judiciously applied, and neat little features are done differently here – which can sometimes annoy new buyers, who complain the buttons are in the “wrong” places. It’s a matter of perspective.
The car’s infotainment display appears at the top of the centre stack – a reasonable, safe location – but users expressed some frustration using the commands: “The GPS is so bad I don’t use it. Any GPS which uses a remote control was not meant for a vehicle,” one owner posted.
POWERING THE XC60
Motivating the base 2010 XC60 is a 3.2-L inline six cylinder that generates 235 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A 3.0-L inline six turbocharged engine that makes 281 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque powers the T6. The inherently smooth inline six, mounted sideways, is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission in all models.
The Haldex all-wheel-drive system favours the front tires, but will apportion power to the rear pair when slippage is detected, like virtually every AWD crossover today. Not surprisingly, the XC60 earned the top five-star rating in U.S. government testing for overall, frontal and side collision protection.
For 2011 the XC60 got 5 hp more out of the 3.2-L non-turbo six, and 19 hp more from the turbocharged T6 (for 300 total). There was also a new trim level, the 3.2 R-Design. The optional navigation system was updated to a more user-friendly design.
In 2012 the high performance R-Design got its own power bump: 325 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, thanks to engine tweaks by Polestar, Volvo’s racing affiliate, which upped the turbo boost, remapped the throttle response, and recalibrated spark timing, fuel mixture and other parameters.
The XC60 got a mid-cycle refresh for 2014, including a restyled front fascia, an updated interior and improved all-wheel drive for better handling. Volvo also upgraded its low-speed collision safety system and revised some option packages.
New, fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines marked the changes for 2015, as Volvo’s Drive-E 240-hp 2.0-L turbocharged four, and novel turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-L four making 302 hp, trickled down to the XC60 range.
There was also a newly available 2.5-L inline five-cylinder turbo that produces 250 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. The fours came paired with a new eight-speed automatic, while the older engines stuck with the six-speed autobox.
DRIVING THE XC60
The XC60 is not your uncle Olaf’s 740 wagon. Rarely has Volvo been so keen to offer so many different engines under the hood.
The 235-hp base model took an underwhelming 8.6 seconds to accelerate from zero to 97 km/h, while the T6 with 281 hp underhood sprinted to 97 km/h in a not-too-shabby 6.5 seconds. The R-Design model with 325 horses could do the deed in 5.7 seconds, just a blink more than the class-leading BMW X3 xDrive 35i.
The new-generation Drive-E four-cylinder turbo engines were able to acquit themselves nicely, with the 302-hp iteration scrambling to highway velocity in 6.4 seconds. The problem is the XC60 is porky, weighing just north of 4200 pounds (1905 kg)
This sport ute drives smaller than it looks. The XC60 engages drivers with its responsive handling that feels tight and controlled. Unfortunately, its electrically assisted steering has been characterized as numb.
It soaks up potholes expertly and provides a comfortable ride quality – as long as buyers avoid the low-profile tires on 20-inch alloys. It’s not the sportiest entry in the category, but it offers more driving entertainment than expected from a family conveyance bearing the Volvo badge.
If there’s one unanimous negative opinion about the XC60, owners seem to agree that it’s a thirsty beast, especially when equipped with a six-cylinder engine: “Not too bad on the highways, (but) absolutely poor in the city – never more than 15 mpg (16 litres/100 km).”
OWNERS TALK RELIABILITY
Volvos have long enjoyed a loyal following among university profs and iconoclasts. Serial buyers cite their robust construction and safety features, great seats, Scandinavian design ethic and hip European-but-not-German appeal. Volvos might even be cool again.
Just don’t confuse Volvo’s reputed longevity with sterling reliability. With pricey parts sourced direct from Europe, maintaining a XC60 requires deep pockets and unshakable faith.
There are reports of engines consuming oil, especially by some six cylinders. There’s a technical service bulletin for this issue and faulty piston rings may be the underlying cause. Rings are being replaced under warranty.
A common lament has to do with leaky windshields and sunroofs that allow rainwater to infiltrate the cabin and wreak havoc with electronics and carpeting.
Battery replacements are both early and frequent, perhaps due to a parasitic draw by the satellite radio, some speculate. A few air conditioners have given up the ghost, while others emit an unpleasant stink. There have been some differential failures on AWD models at high mileage – not a welcome invoice to behold.
“At 105,000 kilometres the rear differential and active on-demand coupler went bad. Cost over $6,500!” posted one impoverished XC60 owner online.
Other maladies include faulty power-steering units, corroded and broken tire-pressure sensors, fast-wearing tires, faulty BLIS and other onboard safety sensors, as well as sundry electronic glitches.
The bottom line? The XC60 is a safe ride, but there’s a fussy maintenance and repair regime post-warranty that may drive some owners around the bend. It’s not for the squeamish.
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