The compact luxury crossover segment is heating up. Several brands have recently released new models, such as the BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque, while others, including the Lexus NX and Lincoln MKC, are still on the way. Given that the Volvo XC60 was one of the first compact luxury crossovers on the market when it debuted for the 2010 model year, does the 2015 model still have what it takes to compete? We spent a week behind the wheel of a well-equipped 2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E to find out.
Upon climbing into the XC60, nearly everyone had the same reaction: This crossover costs how much? The cabin hardly looks like it belongs in a vehicle that costs $50,000, which was the sticker price of our well-optioned test car.
One of our biggest gripes relates to the XC60's infotainment screen. In today's automotive world, it's common to have a large, highly visible touchscreen, which is a feature that the XC60 is sorely lacking. Not only is the Volvo's center screen not especially large, it's not a touchscreen; it merely provides information, while you still use traditional dials and knobs to select functions and change settings.
To us, that's unacceptable, especially when you consider that entry-level compact cars such as the Dodge Dart and Ford Focus boast large touchscreens and cutting-edge infotainment technology that's leagues ahead of the XC60's system. More importantly, they do it for a fraction of the XC60's price.
But it wasn't just the infotainment system that had us riled up. We had several other issues with the XC60's cabin, including a vibrating rear speaker, some loose-fitting panels and a general interior design that doesn't strike us as modern like it did when Volvo started using it several years ago. On the plus side, the XC60's materials are generally high-end, and the front seats struck us as especially comfortable.
If there's one area where our XC60 especially excelled, it's under the hood. For the 2015 model year, Volvo has made several changes to the XC60's engine lineup in the name of efficiency. In our T6 test car, that meant ditching last year's turbocharged 6-cylinder for a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 302 horsepower. Environmental Protection Agency-rated fuel economy comes in at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, though we couldn't match those numbers in mostly city driving.
Beyond gas mileage, we were all impressed with the ample power Volvo was able to extract from a 2.0-liter engine using the unconventional turbocharged and supercharged setup. To most of us, this engine felt like a 6-cylinder, and that's no small feat, given the engine's small size. Power was excellent, power delivery was linear and more than one tester remarked that, for an SUV, the XC60 really moves.
Perhaps our only gripe with the XC60's powertrain relates to its start/stop feature. This is a standard item that turns off the engine when the crossover is idling (at a stop light, for example). While the purpose is to save fuel, we found its operation so clunky and slow-witted that we would happily trade one or two mpg to have it removed. You can turn it off, but you have to do that each time you start the car, an annoyance we wouldn't want to endure in a $50,000 vehicle.
Another of the XC60's major benefits is its styling. Whether or not we think it's the best compact luxury crossover, we certainly think it's the best-looking, and our opinion has only strengthened with its facelift for 2015. We think it's well-proportioned and handsome, and we think its simple look is an asset compared to highly stylized and sometimes polarizing rivals such as the Mercedes GLK.
Unfortunately, the XC60 isn't as beautiful to drive as it is to look at. Sure, the powertrain is excellent, but more than one tester complained about a harsh ride, which is surprising given its status as a luxury vehicle. Additionally, rear-seat room is very tight, and the XC60 garnered several complaints about its soft brake pedal and vague brake feel.
There is, however, one major bright spot when it comes to comfort and equipment: the XC60's stereo. It's excellent, which is a big surprise, especially given the crossover's age and the look and feel of its infotainment system.
We loved the Volvo XC60 when it debuted for the 2010 model year. Back then, it was the best crossover in its segment, especially considering its modern look and a litany of safety equipment.
Unfortunately, we no longer feel the same way today. While the XC60 has been facelifted for 2015, what it really needs is a redesign. The modern look, while handsome, isn't so modern anymore, and that's a reality that goes double for the interior. Meanwhile, the XC60's safety technology is no longer cutting-edge, as many rivals now incorporate its once-exclusive low-speed automatic braking feature.
We certainly don't dislike the 2015 Volvo XC60, as we still think it offers many positive attributes. A $50,000 price tag, however, is pricey for this segment. As a result, we think newer rivals such as the Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and BMW X3 deliver a better, more enjoyable and more modern experience for the same money or less.