Sometimes the hardest reviews to write are those for vehicles I’ve really enjoyed, the ones that stand out among the 50+ vehicles I test in a year.
This week’s tester, the Volvo XC60 with the Inscription package shouldn’t be hard to ladle syrupy praise on. It’s just that great, comfortable and sporty just don’t seem thick enough.
I’ve driven plenty of Volvos through the years and many were fine, just often overpriced and not as comfortable or fun to drive as other makes. Well, the XC60 is fun, luxurious, nimble, exceedingly quiet and comfortable, and as stylish as any SUV or crossover today.
Price, well, that still is an issue to me, but more on that in a bit.
This Swedish-made crossover starts with a powerplant that boggles the mind, an engine, if you will, that seems outlandish in its design. First, it’s a 2.0-liter I4 much like you’d find in many small to mid-size utes and crossovers. Yes, it’s turbocharged to give it more power and keep its gas consumption at reasonable levels too.
Ah, but here’s the funky part, Volvo also supercharges its tiny 2.0-liter. What? Yes, it turbocharges and supercharges the four-banger to give this more kick than most crossovers, even the pricey luxury ones. The engine packs 316 horsepower and 295 ft.-lbs. of torque. If you consider this, because it has all-wheel-drive, a sport-utility vehicle, then by golly it delivers on the sport side.
Galloping up to highway speeds is downright fun, and, of course, fast. A couple co-workers were slightly giddy after I upped the ante rocketing onto I-94. This crate will move and its 8-speed automatic uses the power well while also keeping shifts luxuriously smooth.
In fact, this reveals the XC’s secret weapon, it feels like a high-level luxury crossover with an ultra-quiet interior and a ride you’d expect in something with a much longer wheelbase and an even higher price tag. Credit the vehicle’s integral link rear suspension and an $1,800 air suspension, for leveling our bumpy roads and creating an other-worldly feel of comfort where usually there’s bump, bounce, and jiggle.
Plus handling is sweet and fairly precise, and all this is in the Volvo’s Normal drive mode. Click it onto Dynamic mode and the steering firms to a performance level and the already kicky super/turbo engine becomes incredibly lively. Yes, there’s an Eco button too, but I’d only use that if it looked like making the next gas station was going to be a stretch.
Granted gas mileage suffers due to all this performance. I got just 20.4 mpg in a mix of driving. The EPA rates the XC60 at 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, which is likely if you aren’t having as much driving fun as I was.
Outwardly the XC60 stands out with a long hood and tall, bent, vertical taillights to give it a more interesting shape than many utes and crossovers. People noticed it and were curious as to what model and make it was. That tells me Volvo has finally escaped its safety-box reputation that could have put insomniacs to sleep.
Certainly Volvo interiors have been improving for years and this is another one that garnered high marks from all passengers, starting with its quietness and extending to the look.
The test vehicle had a black dash top over a gray bottom 2/3rds, including a gray wood-look trim across the dash that blended into the doors, edged with a satin chrome. This looks elegant and simple in a style that reflects Volvo’s Scandinavian roots.
Seats are highly adjustable with several memory settings. But these included a power lower cushion extension for both front seats and side bolster adjustments too. This is all part of a luxury seat package that upgrades the seats to Nappa leather and adds heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. Additionally, the seats have a massage function that feels a bit much at times, but would likely help keep a driver awake on a long drive. The package adds $3,000 to the cost, but may just be worth it for the comfort it provides.
Nothing comes cheap here, but that’s to be expected as Volvo continues its climb to be among the top luxury brands since being sold to a Chinese automaker several years ago. I mean a base XC60 in T5 Momentum trim starts at $42,495 including delivery, and there are 9 trim levels, including a hybrid that begins at $57,695. The test car, a T6 AWD Inscription, lists at $45,895 with delivery fee, but that Inscription package tacks on another $3,800.
Physically the Inscription adds some bright chrome trim to set it off from the crowd, plus boosts the video display screen from 9 inches to 12.3, a boon to older drivers’ eyes. But the package also includes 4-zone climate control, power front seat extensions, driftwood dash inlays, a beautiful tailored dash, Sensus navigation system, LED fog and cornering lights, illuminated door handles and hands-free tailgate release, among a few other goodies.
If that were it, the XC60 would still fall in the low- to mid-$50 grand range. But this one added everything but a full orchestra, to hit $63,290. That’s way up there for a small to mid-size crossover.
Here’s what more you get for that price.
One, a monster 1,100-watt Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system for $3,200. For that price I expect a live band in the back seat. But I admit this system sounds incredibly nice.
Add to that a convenience package for $2,000 that includes adaptive cruise control and a semi-autonomous driving system that works to keep you in your lane like other vehicle’s lane departure systems. This one, however, I could not find a way to turn off. It also adds heated wiper blades, a HomeLink system, power folding second row seats (controlled just inside the spacious cargo area), power folding headrests, 12-volt power outlet and compass in the rear-view mirror.
A $1,100 vision package adds blind-spot warning system that also turns the wheel away from a possible collision, a cross-traffic alert, front and rear park assist, retractable outside rearview mirrors and auto-dimming mirrors.
By now you’re thinking that’s gotta be it, right? No, an advanced package adds a cool 360-degree camera, head-up display, LED headlights with high-pressure cleaner and Active Bending. The bending allows the lights to see around a corner as you turn, and really is impressive. This final package adds $1,900. So it’s all these add-ons that push the tester to nearly $65 grand.
Standard items include a panoramic sunroof with laminated panels to close it off and insulate the vehicle from noise, a power tailgate, City Safety low-speed accident avoidance system, a lane-keeping system that also reads road signs, and a WiFi hotspot.
There were just a couple drawbacks, one being that on the test car I could not disengage the stop-start feature to keep the car running at stoplights. There was a button, but no matter if it was on or off the stop-start kept doing its business. The sun visors also did not slide, which is unforgiveable at this price. Really!
Still, that’s not much to quibble about in a fast, sporty crossover that treats its occupants like royalty as far as comfort and convenience features. The Volvo XC60 is one of my top drives of 2017, a surprisingly entertaining crossover.
FAST STATS: 2018 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription
Hits: Nice looking, great ride, handling and power. Big sunroof, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, Drive Mode, highly adjustable comfy massaging seats, giant touchscreen.
Misses: Stop-start system could not be disabled, visors do not slide.
Made in: Gothenburg, Sweden
Engine: 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged I4, 316 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,074 lbs.
Wheelbase: 112.8 in.
Length: 184.6 in.
Cargo: 63.3 cu. ft.
MPG: 21/27 (EPA)
MPG: 20.4 (tested)
Base Price: $45,895 (includes delivery)
Invoice: $46,773 (includes delivery and Inscription package)
Inscription package (bright chrome bars front grille, chrome side trim, integrated tailpipes, 12.3-in. display screen, Sensus Navigation Pro, 4-zone climate control, mechanical front seat extensions, driftwood inlays, tailored dash, keyless entry, hands-free tailgate opening, high-level interior lighting, LED fog lights/cornering lights, Drive Mode settings, storage net, cooled glovebox, illuminated door handles), $3,800
Convenience package (adaptive cruise control, semi-autonomous drive system HomeLink, heated wiper blades, power folding second row seats, power child locks, electric folding rear headrests, 12-volt power outlet, compass in rearview mirror), $2,000
Vision package (blind-spot info w/steer assist, cross-traffic alert, front/rear park assist, park assist pilot, retractable rearview mirrors, auto-dimming inner/exterior mirrors), $1,100
Luxury seat package (Nappa leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, massaging front seats, power cushion extensions and side supports in front seats, heated rear seats), $3,000
Advanced package (360 camera, head-up display, LED headlights w/Active Bending, headlight high-pressure cleaner), $1,900
Metallic paint, $595
Bowers & Wilkins premium stereo, $3,200
4-corner air suspension, $1,800
Test vehicle: $63,290
Sources: Volvo, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage