Pros: Excellent crash-test scores; strong optional turbocharged engine; accommodating back seat; easy on the eyes, plenty of cargo space

Cons: Mediocre base engine; subpar fuel economy with the turbo

Lots of vehicles these days promise to be all things to all people, but the 2012 Volvo XC60 is the rare ride that actually delivers. Just look at what this luxury crossover brings to the table. Safety? Hey, it's a Volvo-the crash test results are just about perfect. Comfort? Four adults can lounge all day in the XC60's roomy cabin. Performance? The optional turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 has you covered with its healthy 300-horsepower output. Styling? Thanks to a sleek exterior and Volvo's distinctive interior design, the XC60 is one of the coolest crossovers around.

What more could you want? Well, maybe something a little more inspiring than the base 3.2-liter inline-6, which sorely lacks a sense of urgency. Better fuel economy would be welcome, too. And?and?we're struggling here. Put it this way: if you're looking for a well-rounded luxury crossover, you'll be hard pressed to do better than a 2012 Volvo XC60.

Comfort & Utility

The 2012 Volvo XC60 is offered in an array of models and trim levels. There are three XC60 models-3.2, T6, and R-Design-which come in base, Premier (3.2 only), Premier Plus or Platinum trim. The confusing part is that standard equipment varies between both models and trim levels; for example, the panoramic sunroof is unavailable on the base 3.2 but standard on the T6 and R-Design base models, while xenon headlamps are optional on the 3.2 and T6 base models but standard on the R-Design. You'll want to work closely with your Volvo dealer to figure out which XC60 is right for you.

As a general guide, the XC60 offers most of the features that luxury buyers are looking for, including iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity (standard on all XC60s), wheel sizes ranging from 17 to 20 inches, synthetic or leather upholstery, Dolby Pro Logic II surround-sound audio, a navigation system, a rear-seat entertainment system with viewing screens in the front headrests and-on the T6 only-an electronically adjustable suspension (the R-Design's suspension is "sport tuned" but non-adjustable). The R-Design is largely a sport-themed appearance package, featuring numerous aesthetic upgrades but not much in the way of functionality or performance.

The XC60's front seats aren't quite as stellar as those in the S60 sedan, but they're close. Volvo's trademark combination of simplicity and long-distance support is certainly present in these chairs. The R-Design seats get sportier contours, but we think the XC60's thrones are brilliant no matter which model you buy. From the driver's perspective, the dashboard is brilliant, too, featuring premium materials with distinctive graining, crisp gauges that employ Volvo's unique font, and the "floating" slim-line center panel, which looks like something out of an avant-garde design magazine. Ergonomics are satisfactory, with extra points awarded for Volvo's neat airflow controls-if you haven't seen them, they're in the shape of a reclining human figure, and you simply press the part of the body toward which you want the air to flow.  

The XC60's back seat is more adult-friendly than many in this class, helped by its relatively high positioning, which improves thigh support for taller passengers, and more than adequate headroom. The integrated two-stage child booster seats are a notable option, although they can't be ordered with the optional heated rear seats, so you'll have to choose. Fold the XC60's versatile 40/20/40 split rear seatback down, and you'll enjoy 67.4 cubic feet of cargo space, a robust figure for a vehicle of this type. Even with the seatback fully in place, there's still 30.8 cubic feet of room behind it.

Technology

Mounted atop that floating center panel, the XC60's standard seven-inch information and entertainment display-which isn't a touchscreen, by the way-may not have the visual impact of larger screens from BMW or Cadillac, but it gets the job done. It's also worlds better than the retrograde display interface that the XC60 offered when it made its debut a few years back (there were buttons behind the steering wheel that you couldn't see; trust us, you're glad you don't have to deal with it). The optional navigation system is, again, nothing fancy, but it works well. Additionally, we applaud Volvo for providing iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity in every XC60 for 2012.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The XC60 3.2 model is powered by-surprise!-a 3.2-liter inline-6 rated at 240 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Considering that a humble Toyota RAV4 V6 makes considerably more power, we think Volvo could have done more with this nondescript engine. It sounds especially strained with the optional all-wheel-drive system's extra poundage (front-wheel drive is standard). The all-wheel-drive T6 fixes all of this with its smooth turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6, which is good for 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. The R-Design shares the T6's fundamentals but turns up the boost to 325 hp and 354 lb-ft. We didn't really notice a difference, but the R-Design is one quick crossover, no doubt about it.

Every XC60 comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, which may not be the best device for promoting fuel economy. The 3.2 gets a so-so 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway (18/24 mpg with AWD), but the turbocharged XC60s drop to 17/23 mpg, which is behind the curve for a modest-size crossover.

Safety

The 2012 XC60 features standard stability control, six airbags and a smorgasbord of optional accident avoidance technology, including a collision alert system that can stop the car on its own if the computers deem an impact is imminent.

Six airbags may not seem like many, but remember, it's the crash tests that count-and the XC60 aced them. In government crash testing, the XC60 scored a perfect five stars in all areas except rollover resistance, where it received four stars-a function of its high center of gravity. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the XC60 its top rating of Good in every category.

Driving Impressions

The XC60 has the quiet, smooth ride that luxury shoppers expect, and the view from the driver's seat is appropriately commanding. What's unexpected is the XC60's handling prowess, which blows up the stereotype of the stodgy, conservative Volvo family vehicle. There's real athleticism in the way the XC60 moves, although it never compromises the car's primary mission as a practical people hauler. Discerning drivers might still prefer a BMW X3, but the XC60 is right up there among the most satisfying crossovers to drive.

Other Cars to Consider

Audi Q5 - Smaller inside than the XC60, the Q5 nonetheless matches the Volvo's styling panache, and it's fun to drive, too.

BMW X3 - The recently designed X3 boasts excellent power in turbocharged xDrive35i form, yet it still gets incrementally better fuel economy (19/26 mpg) than the sluggish XC60 3.2.

Cadillac SRX - Rejuvenated for 2012 with a standard 308-hp V6, the SRX is a distinctive luxury crossover that finally has some real substance to go with its style.

AutoTrader Recommends

Get the T6 and avoid the 3.2-liter engine. You don't need the R-Design unless you're sold on its sporty style, since the T6 can be loaded with features to your heart's content, including that exclusive adjustable suspension, if you want it.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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