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2018 Volvo XC60: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Jason Fogelson July 2017

Volvo has been on a product offensive ever since 2010, when the Swedish brand was purchased from Ford by Chinese conglomerate Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. Volvo saw the sale as an opportunity to rethink everything from the ground up. The first segment to get attention was the full-size 90-series: XC90, S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country, all of which ride on the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform. The 2018 Volvo XC60 is the start of the next wave of SPA platform vehicles. It is all-new for 2018, a luxury midsize crossover SUV that takes an important slot in the Volvo family.

Sales Leader

Second only to XC90 in the United States, XC60 is one of Volvo's sales leaders. In Europe, where midsize crossovers rule, XC60 has been the brand's best-seller for years, almost since its debut as a 2008 model. A carryover from the Ford years, the first-generation XC60 shared a version of the Ford's EUCD global midsize car platform, stretched and designated as P3. That put it on the same platform with the Land Rover LR2 and Range Rover Evoque. Shifting to the SPA platform sheds the Ford legacy, and streamlines design and manufacturing while bringing the engineering advancements of the new platform to the XC60 and the soon-to-arrive new 60-series vehicles.

Exterior

Somehow, the designers at Volvo have managed to change everything about the XC60, yet still retain its essence. The brand themes are on display, with Thor's Hammer LED daytime running lights (DRL), the Iron Mark on the grille and the tall wagon shape with distinctive rear lighting. The new XC60 has a shorter front overhang than before, and 2.6 inches added to its wheelbase. The body sides are sculpted and the grille is convex, which give XC60 a more athletic look. It's a youthful, modern makeover with elegant details.

Interior

The first-generation XC60's exterior was still looking pretty good, but if I'm honest, time has passed the interior by, and a makeover was overdue. Volvo took a page out of the XC90's successful interior and created a showplace for Swedish design. A horizontal yoke made from driftwood splays across the lower dash, supporting the structure visually if not in actuality. A 9-in color touchscreen display lands at the top of the center stack, with just a few carefully placed controls below. The instrument panel is shielded by a cowl, and a beefy multi-function tilt-and-telescope steering wheel (manually adjustable) connects driver to car.

Volvo's seats have often been praised for their comfort. The XC60's seats live up to the reputation with a great range of travel, and incorporate some great safety features as well. A sacrificial mount beneath the seat is designed to absorb the impact of a hard landing, as might be experienced in an unintentional departure from the roadway. It's said to reduce the risk of spinal and back injuries. Safety's good.

A panoramic sunroof makes the second row feel even more open and roomy, an appropriate place for kids and adult passengers.

Engine and Transmission

XC60 can be ordered with one of three powertrains: A 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder (T5), a turbocharged and supercharged version of the 2.0-liter (T6), and a plug-in hybrid gasoline-electric with a turbocharged and supercharged engine up front and an electric motor in the rear (T8, available later this year). Each engine choice gets an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive standard.

Suspension and Handling

Changing over to the SPA platform gave the engineers a chance to rethink XC60's suspension. They came up with a double-wishbone front suspension (in place of the first-gen's McPherson struts) and an integral link for the rear, using a single transverse leaf spring -- as opposed to the old design's pair of leaf springs which ran parallel to the direction of travel. An optional air-suspension system adds the capability of automatic leveling, high-speed height adjustment and lowering on shutdown for easier entry and exit.

Technology

The big new technology that XC60 gets with this generation is Sensus Connect, which is interfaced through the 9-in color touchscreen display in the center stack. The latest version of the software is great, featuring swipe, pinch-to-zoom and other gestures that will be familiar to tablet computer and smartphone users. The display is customizable, and rewards a deep dive with even better functionality. A hard home button can quickly get you back to familiar operational territory if your deep dive takes you into uncharted waters. To keep you from getting distracted, critical information gets mirrored on the instrument panel's DIC (driver information center), and you can even order an optional head-up display to help keep your eyes on the road. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard (using a wired connection), as is Bluetooth hands-free and streaming audio. A fantastic Bowers & Wilkens audio system with 14 speakers and 1,110 watts of power is available, and highly recommended.

Safety

Volvo is driving toward its Vision 2020 goal of no people killed or seriously injured in Volvo vehicles by the year 2020. A big part of this initiative is Pilot Assist II, the latest version of its hands-on-the-wheel semi-autonomous driving system. New on the XC60 are Steer Assist, Blind-Spot Information System with Steer Assist and Oncoming Lane Mitigation. Alert drivers may find these systems a little too insistent, so they can be defeated and turned off. But for a long drive, especially one that uses high-speed freeways, Pilot Assist can make the journey much safer and less stressful.

Driving Experience

At Volvo's launch event, the only test vehicles available were T6 models with the optional air-suspension system. Volvo predicts that this will be the popular trim level and equipment selection. XC60 proved to be a very comfortable, fun-to-drive crossover, maybe the best-driving vehicle of the new generation of Volvo vehicles. Though it shares the SPA platform with XC90, the new XC60 is about 300 pounds lighter than its big brother, and slightly smaller in just about every dimension. The concentration makes for a more focused, more agile vehicle, one that's a little easier to drive in traffic and more athletic on the twisty stuff. We drove the XC60 on a variety of roads -- in the city, on the highway, down country roads and through twisty canyons, putting the crossover through its paces. The technology eased the ride, and the solid build quality smoothed the roads. XC60's sporty character makes it a fun-to-drive and willing partner.

Trim Levels and Pricing

T5, T6 and T8 models of XC60 will be offered in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trim levels. T5 Momentum starts at $41,500, T5 R-Design starts at $44,800 and T5 Inscription starts at $45,300. T6 prices start at $44,900 for Momentum, $48,200 for R-Design and $48,700 for Inscription. T8 begins at $52,900 for Momentum, $56,200 for R-Design and $56,700 for Inscription. A $995 destination charge fee is added to all models and trims. A good level of standard equipment comes with Momentum, and you can add additional luxury features with an extensive set of packages and some a la carte feature offerings. The list of standard equipment lengthens with R-Design and Inscription, and can be supplemented to luxury levels with additional packages.

Fuel Economy

T5 models of the 2018 XC60 have been rated by the EPA to achieve 22 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving. T6 models are rated slightly lower, at 21 mpg city/27mpg hwy/23 mpg combined. No numbers have been released for the T8 plug-in hybrid models yet. Premium fuel is required for all XC60 models.

The Competitive Set and Final Thoughts

XC60 competes in a midsize crossover luxury SUVs that includes the Porsche Macan, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, Infiniti QX50, Audi Q5 and others -- some very stiff competition. The all-new 2018 Volvo XC60 brings the best infotainment option, Sensus Connect and the most sophisticated safety and semi-autonomous driving systems to the table, along with the virtues of Swedish design inside and out. For the Volvo faithful, it's an easy recommendation. For the uninitiated, a drive in the new XC60 is worth the effort as you explore the midsize luxury crossover class.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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2018 Volvo XC60: First Drive Review - Autotrader