Hey, this newfound idea of putting some sport into small sport-utility vehicles, or crossovers, is getting to be a trend.
Now Volvo joins the sportster market with its 2017 XC60, a compact ute crossover that handles like a sports sedan and kicks some booty with 302 horsepower. And get this, that boost of power hits quickly, no long lag as so many turbo I4s exhibit, even when they’re trying to be sporty.
First, the XC60 is crisply styled so it looks elegant, with tall Volvo taillights to distinguish its looks. But the combo supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 gets your attention in a hurry. Linked up with an 8-speed automatic, it gives the Volvo instant power when you want it. I admit it was a happy surprise.
But equally surprising was how well the XC60 handled. I know this has 20-inch tires, but I fully expected some squish in the steering wheel feel and typical lazy crossover handling.
No siree! The Volvo delivers good feedback via the power-assisted rack and pinion steering and with a precise feel and handling. Put the XC60 into a turn at speed and there’s no ute-like lean. Cornering is like a sport sedan and feels much the same on winding roads.
Ride is well controlled and evens out most of the cracks and crumbles that pass for Milwaukee and Waukesha County streets. There’s no chop over uneven railroad crossings either.
Braking is excellent and the tested metallic gray Inscription model, like other XC60s, has stability control, roll stability control and ABS. Volvo also includes its City Safety system that helps the vehicle avoid low-speed city collisions, such as if your car is creeping in slow traffic and someone stomps on their brakes suddenly in front of you.
Volvo built its reputation on safety and City Safety is one of its latest features, but goes along with items many car firms offer now, such as blind-spot warning and lane departure systems along with cross-traffic alerts and emergency braking systems.
The test vehicle also included adaptive cruise control, collision warning and pedestrian/cyclist detection with automatic braking. All that is part of a $2,500 Advanced Package that include lane departure warning, active high beam lights, a road sign information system and a fancy Harmon Kardon sound system.
Inside the test XC60 was luxury car quiet and loaded with a sporty leather two-tone interior with cream leather seats and door inserts coupled with a black dash and doors. There are walnut inlays on the doors’ armrest and center stack’s face and trim is a mildly brushed aluminum look – extremely sharp looking.
Nearly all the amenities are here too, from heated seats and steering wheel to a power hatch and panoramic sunroof overhead. Oddly the front seats are not cooled, and to be honest, the soft leather seats are snug. The backs are fine and of course powered, but the butt pocket is tight in the hips. There are three memory settings for the driver’s seat.
There’s plenty of room for a family of four though with good headroom and legroom front and rear. Volvo creates a spacious cargo area too, one that includes more than a little storage under its floor. Rear seats split and fold flat to create more cargo space than the recently tested Lexus RX 450.
Volvo’s dash is attractive and easy to see, but controls are not as intuitive as on many vehicles and the navigation/radio screen is downright small, but there is a CD player here. The main gauges are easy to see and use, but labeling on steering wheel buttons can be confusing for the first few days of a drive – mainly the cruise control.
Buttons for the radio and navigation are well arranged on the center stack, but so tiny you’ll be hard pressed to hit just one in winter when you’re wearing gloves. Radio buttons are arranged as on a telephone face, so closely bunched.
I found the steering wheel, which is swathed in leather, to be overly thick too, something I’ve been accused of being on occasion. But the truth is that those of us with smaller hands will find gripping this wheel tiring on a long drive.
A couple other points to note: as with most Volvos now, there is space behind the center stack. While the design looks good, reaching anything you store behind the stack’s face is difficult unless you’ve stopped the car and can dig around behind the stack, or have a passenger who will help find what you’ve stored there.
The XC60 also comes with start-stop technology, meaning the engine turns itself off when the car is stopped and restarts it as soon as the driver lets off the brake pedal. It takes a few days to get comfortable with it and there is a noticeable drop-off in air conditioning coolness when the engine stops.
Pricing, as with most luxury crossovers, spreads from low-end luxury to pretty pricey luxury. A base XC60 T5 Dynamic starts at $41,945 and the top-level T6 R-Design lists at $51,995.
I mentioned the Advanced Package previously, but this one added a $1,550 Climate Package with child booster seats. That includes the heated front seats and dual outboard two-stage child booster seats, plus heated windshield washer nozzles, the heated wheel and heated windshield, plus power child locks on the rear doors.
A Preferred Package includes active Xenon headlights with washers, HomeLink, electrically released folding rear headrests, front park assist and a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area. The package costs $1,350.
Gas mileage was so-so, although the trip computer was sure I was getting decent mileage at 24 mpg. In reality it was 21.1 mpg in about 60% city driving. The EPA rates this at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a small ute or crossover with better handling and power, but be sure the interior’s functionality meets your needs.
FAST STATS: 2017 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription
Hits: Super handling and acceleration with nice ride plus AWD. Power hatch, heated seats and steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, roomy interior for four adults and good storage space under hatch. Quiet and stylish interior.
Misses: Seats aren’t cooled and front seats feature tight butt pocket. Steering wheel is overly thick and dash buttons are tiny, especially those on the center stack. Plus the nav/radio screen is small.
Made in: Ghent, Belgium
Engine: 2.0-liter supercharged/turbocharged I4, 302 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,175 lbs.
Length: 182.8 in.
Wheelbase: 109.2 in.
MPG: 20/27 (EPA)
MPG: 21.1 (tested)
Cargo: 67.4 cu.ft. (rear seats down)
Base Price: $46,350
Invoice: $44,564(includes delivery)
Preferred package (active dual Xenon headlights w/headlight washers, HomeLink, electric folding rear headrests, front park assist, 12V power outlet in cargo area), $1,350
Climate package & child booster seats (heated front seats, power child locks in rear doors, dual outboard two-stage child booster seats, interior air quality system, heated windshield washer nozzles, heated steering wheel, heated windshield), $1,550
Advanced package (adaptive cruise control, collision warn w/auto brake, pedestrian/cyclist detection w/auto brake, distance alert, driver alert control, lane departure warning, active high beam, road sign information, Harman Kardon premium sound), $2,500
Metallic paint, $560
20-inch Avior wheels, $250
Test vehicle: $53,555
Sources: Volvo, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage