2010 Volvo XC60 3.2 AWD Road Test Review

Bob Cowan - CAP staff
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Given Volvo's reputation for safety, when the company calls its new XC60 the safest Volvo yet and probably the safest vehicle in the world, it's not just hyperbole.  It should be a serious consideration when out shopping.  Impact test data was not available at the time of this review, but if a crash test dummy could 'come to its sensors' it should try to get in line for the XC60 test that day.

Volvo has rolled out the XC60 for 2010 to stake its share in the extremely popular small luxury crossover SUV segment, taking on the BMW X3 and much newer Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK, among many, many others.  Safety being in its DNA, this part of the XC60 story starts with the very steel used to make it and body structure that employs collision management to distribute energy.  The very shape and flush elements of the energy absorbing front-end reduces the severity of impact with pedestrians and cyclists.  Bumpers that match the height of lower car bumpers negate bigger than usual fender bender bills, and the transversely mounted engine will be less likely to penetrate the passenger cabin in a front-end collision.  The XC60, of course, comes with a full complement of multi-stage front and side curtain airbags.  We are talking about the company that invented the side airbag, not to mention the single most important advancement in automotive safety – the three-point seatbelt.  Fifty years later, the XC60 boasts another nifty Volvo first.  It stops itself!

The City Safety system is born out of these statistics. Seventy-five percent of crashes occur at speeds under 30 km/h, and half of those are because of distraction, where the driver did not brake at all!  Behind the rear-view mirror on the XC60 is a laser that scans for objects 6 metres ahead. Based on the distance to any vehicle or object and your speed, the system calculates braking forces needed to avoid collision. If you exceed that threshold by, you guessed it, NOT hitting the brakes or not pressing down on the peddle hard enough, the system takes over.  The City Safety system does not promise to avoid collision, but even if there is contact the severity of the crash will be reduced significantly. There are some limitations, however, like snow and ice covering the laser. In addition, that laser is best at reading reflective objects like a car, so don't plough through your flat beige garage door showing off this cool new feature to your neighbour.

There are some other high tech goodies on the XC60's grocery list of standard features.  Notably,  BLIS, or Blind Spot Information System.  It provides visual warnings via lights integrated into the A-pillars when a vehicle is in your blind spot. The $4000 Tech Package features adaptive cruise control and Distant Alert Control (DAC), a warning light in the windshield that flashes when you come too close to the vehicle ahead, based on a preset distance.  An onboard digital camera integrated into the Driver Alert Control and Lane Departure Warning  (LDW) systems detect erratic driving with an audible alert. This can be disabled, which I ended up doing because I am worse behind the wheel than I initially thought!  Actually, I found that the latter system, which activates at speeds over 40 km/h, was far too sensitive and quickly became irritating.

All-wheel drive with Volvo's Instant Traction is an obvious safety feature, and is one of three variants for the XC60 priced in between the FWD and Turbo AWD models.  The base AWD version features a 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine providing 235 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque mated to a six speed automatic transmission with Geartronic manual mode.  While the performance may not be sexy without the turbo, it is responsive and the handling is crisp.  The suspension can be tweaked for comfort, sport and advanced settings. The four-wheel anti-lock brakes, the most important safety system of all, feature Electronic Brake Distribution.

The XC60's styling is a beautiful transition, morphing the S60 sedan to a crossover SUV. Inside, the quality is immediately apparent.  The leather is top notch, while the waterfall centre stack in brushed aluminum is both ergonomically intuitive and attractive.  While my tester did not come with the Navigation option, a tray at the top of the centre console fits most of the aftermarket GPS units out there. A 'Swedish for Common Sense' IKEA type idea considering the advanced portable units cost about ten percent of the factory versions.  Bluetooth connectivity, power heated seats, a panoramic moon roof, Hill Descent Control (HDC) and 17-inch alloy wheels are among he many standards. 

Despite its 2,774-mm (109.2-inch) wheelbase the XC60 provides a lot of leg and cargo volume at 1,907 litres (67.3 cu ft).  Built-in two-stage booster seats are a very nice feature, too.  XC, of course, stands for cross-country, and the XC60 provides ample ground clearance of 230 mm (9.0 inches) for off-road use. It does not offer lower gearing, however, because at its heart it is a luxury family mover.

The safety considerations do add a weight penalty to the XC60, as its 1,926 kilos (4,247 pounds) negatively affects its fuel economy, with an estimated 9.1L/100km on the highway and 13.5 in the city. I experienced 10.9L/100km in mostly highway driving.

The XC60 starts at $39,995 in front-wheel drive or $44,495 with all-wheel drive, and with the turbo for $49,995. As tested it checked out at $53,445.  As mentioned off the top, you have plenty of choices in this segment, but if safety is a top consideration the XC60's billing as the safest vehicle in the world should help narrow down the list for you.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Volvo, 2010, XC60, $40,000 - $49,999,

Organizations: Volvo

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