Just a year after the Volvo XC60 arrived on the scene in 2009, it became the Swedish brand’s most popular model in Canada, replacing the XC90 for the top spot. These two have already swapped places through the first six months of 2016 due to an impressive redesign of the larger SUV, but the compact utility being reviewed here remains a strong seller for Volvo nonetheless, and for good reason.
A quick glance shows the XC60 is still stylish, although next to its completely overhauled big brother its gracefully sporty lines certainly look a generation behind. Granted, my tester was at the lower end of the “Editions” quartet, the other three being the R-Design, Ocean Race, and Inscription, but value represents its own kind of beauty and the XC60 has plenty of that in both form and function.
Value is an important part of the equation
First off, you can get into a 2016 Volvo XC60 for only $42,000 plus freight and dealer fees, and it’s just as well built and refined as the Special Edition I just drove.
Highlights shared with the two trims and every other XC60 include a completely soft-touch dash top that wraps all the way down the instrument panel, the same pliable material used for the door uppers, which actually flow all the way around into the lower portion of the doors as well, while stitched and padded leather fills the door inserts before melding into each armrest.
Elegant satin silver trim circles around the switchgear to arrive at the door handles, while that same metal finish highlights the steering wheel, gauge surround, side vents, floating centre stack surround, CD changer slot, and various controls including the otherwise leather-clad gearshift knob. Also, all the roof pillars are finished in fabric. It’s a rich-looking cabin that exudes quality, and while this should be expected in the premium class, the Volvo XC60’s interior is another notch above many rivals.
Impressive content and interior appointments
While I’m tempted to run through the entire menu of XC60 standard features that further testify to its excellent value proposition, I’ll just cover some highlights so that this review doesn’t end up looking like a brochure.
Along with the usual exterior LED lighting elements, powered accessories, heated mirrors and front seats, dual-zone automatic HVAC, faux leather upholstery, and more, the notables include an electromechanical parking brake, auto stop/start system for saving fuel, rain-sensing wipers, a 7” colour touchscreen with Volvo Sensus infotainment, high-performance audio, Volvo On Call telematics, 8-way power adjustable front seats with power lumbar and driver’s memory, B-pillar rear ventilation, versatile 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, a metal cargo threshold protector plate, and locking underfloor storage.
As tested, the XC60 T5 AWD SE Premier receives plenty of other goodies such as HID headlights with adaptive cornering and auto high beams, silver-accent side mouldings, silver roof rails, a silver rear diffuser, a rooftop spoiler, and 19” alloy wheels. Once you access the cabin via the keyless system, you’ll find a driver-configurable TFT gauge cluster, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a heated steering wheel and heated windshield, a garage door opener, a rear-view camera, navigation, satellite and HD radio, genuine leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof with a powered sunshade, heated rear seats, power-folding rear headrests, and a programmable power liftgate.
I have long been a big fan of Volvo's floating centre stack and TV remote-style control interface, the latter made up of numerous quick-access buttons for modulating anything and everything you could want, plus Volvo’s intuitive human body-shaped HVAC fan direction controller below, all of which is surrounded by metallic surfacing and four beautifully finished knobs at each corner featuring buttons for audio, infotainment, and the HVAC system on top.
It’s an eye-catching design that initially might seem intimidating to minimalists, but is easy to figure out and works flawlessly, especially the audio system that provided wonderfully rich, deep bass tones ― ideal for enjoying Macklemore’s One Love and Fifth Harmony’s (with Ty Dolla $ign) Work From Home.
Safety is key
On top of all this is a long list of standard safety gear including the usual 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist, plus Optimized Hydraulic Brakes, Ready Alert Brakes, Fading Brake Support, City Safety autonomous emergency braking, stability control with a sport mode and torque-vectoring traction control, roll stability control, active front headrests, safe approach and home safe lighting, a security system and engine immobilizer.
The upscale XC60 I tested also benefitted from road sign information, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane change merge aid, driver alert control, collision warning with full autonomous braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection with full auto braking, and more.
Add multiple airbags, and you get an extremely safe compact luxury crossover that earned the highest possible IIHS rating (Top Safety Pick+) and five stars from the NHTSA for every model.
Decent performance for the class
As far as upgrades go, they’re wide and varied with five available engines, two transmissions, front- or all-wheel drive, and numerous trim levels and options. At $56,450, my T5 AWD SE Premier tester was just one nicely packaged example of many possibilities.
As you might expect, this particular model receives a lot for the $14,450 price increase. The most noticeable change is a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.5L inline 5-cylinder engine that adds 10 horsepower and 8 lb-ft of torque over the base 2.0L Drive-E powerplant for a total of 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. However, the big difference is the way the engine performs. It provides a more substantive feel, closer to a 6-cylinder, while power delivery is especially smooth and linear.
It’s superbly matched with Volvo’s 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission featuring an Advanced Quick Shift manual mode and upgraded all-wheel drive system, not to mention a good choice to take advantage of the 2016 Volvo XC60’s impressively deft handling and compliant ride. The only negative here is the fuel penalty: The T5 AWD gets a 12.6L/100km city and 9.1L/100km highway rating compared to 9.8 and 7.6 for the T5 Drive-E FWD.
Spacious and versatile for a compact CUV
The front seating area is very roomy for a compact CUV. The 2016 Volvo XC60 is quite wide for its class, allowing excellent shoulder and hip space along with about 4” above my head, and that’s despite the lower roofline due to the aforementioned panoramic sunroof. Of course, I’m not a large person, measuring 5’8”, but taller folks should still fit in with ease. When the driver’s seat was positioned for my size, I also had about 6” ahead of my knees.
The second-row seats are superbly comfortable, too, with excellent lower back support. A wide leather armrest folds down from centre, complete with flip-out dual cup holders and a shallow, lidded tray. As noted earlier, Volvo provides great air circulation in the rear passenger quarters through vents on the B-pillars that include their own flow modulator, while the seat heaters feature three temperature settings.
Power up the rear liftgate, and a nicely finished cargo area glitters with metal tie-down hooks and the metal threshold plate mentioned earlier, while both sidewalls and the seatbacks are carpeted. Volvo included a nifty compartment under the cargo floor and a cargo cover right above that retracts into a strong steel crossbar, which is easy to remove when loading bigger items via the folded seatbacks. Speaking of which, cargo capacity increases from 873 litres to a maximum of 1,907 litres after the move is completed.
Final thoughts on XC60
A totally redesigned Volvo XC60 will arrive in a year or so, and without a doubt will pull eyeballs just as easily as the award-winning XC90. Until then, Volvo’s compact CUV remains a very good choice in a competitive segment, much thanks to its attractive pricing, superb interior, excellent driving dynamics, and class-leading safety.