For decades, Volvo was the go-to brand for people who wanted the comfort and safety of a European car that was also affordable and reliable. Unfortunately, by the late 90s, the public began moving away from the boxy designs that dominated the Volvo lineup. In response, the company began developing more stylish sedans and wagons just as the public was again changing course, this time moving into smaller, more practical SUVs. The solution came in 2010 with the introduction of the compact Volvo XC60. Despite being launched one year after the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, the XC60 caught the public’s eye and quickly became a bestseller. In a nod to clever product placement, Volvo helped introduce the public to the XC60 by placing it in the popular film “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” where it was driven by the lead character Edward Cullen. No word if sales to the undead saw an uptick that year.
Safety and Style in a Small Package
When it debuted in 2010, the Volvo XC60 was an immediate hit. Compared to competitors like the Acura RDX and BMW X3, the XC60 was a standout, with fluidic styling, a raked windshield and a simple, uncluttered interior awash in traditional Swedish elegance. Priced under $40,000, the XC60 was offered in three versions: 3.2, T6 and R-Design. The 3.2 employed a rather underwhelming 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder engine good for 235 horsepower, while the T6 and R-Design used a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder churning out 281 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. The base 3.2 was driven by its front wheels, with an option for all-wheel drive (AWD), the later being standard on the T6 and R-Design. Standard equipment included an 8-way power driver’s seat, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth and an 8-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system with HD Radio, a USB input and satellite radio. On the safety front, Volvo made standard its City Safe autonomous emergency braking system, which at speeds below 19 mph could detect a slowing or stopped vehicle ahead and help avoid a collision by applying the brakes. For 2010, the XC60 aced all of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s crash tests and earned a Top Safety Pick designation, a trend it would repeat over the next 7 years.
In 2011, the R-Design package was made available on the 3.2 trim. The R-Design included color-matching body trim, a sport suspension, a leather interior, a panoramic power moonroof, HID headlamps with Active Light Bending technology, and 20-inch alloy wheels. The 3.2 received 5 additional horsepower, and the turbocharged 3.0-liter gained 18 more hp. Sales rose to nearly 13,000 units. 2012 saw the XC60 lineup expand to a total of 10 possible models, with the 3.2 and T6 offered in Premier, Premier Plus and Platinum trim levels. The 3.2 R-Design was dropped, but the turbocharged R-Design got a big improvement under the hood, where horsepower was bumped to 325. T6 models offered a Dynamic Package that included Volvo’s FOUR-C Active Chassis Control, HID headlights and speed-sensitive power steering. Total sales rose to an impressive 19,139.
For 2013, Volvo improved the XC60’s technical equipment offerings, adding a road sign information feature to the Technology package and making rain-sensing wipers and headlight washers standard on every trim. Also standard that year were keyless entry and start and a sport mode for the T6’s transmission. Volvo reportedly sold an additional 500 units over the previous year’s sales figures.
A New Face on an Old Body
Not wanting to mess with success, 2014 saw Volvo give the XC60 all-new sheet metal from the windshield forward, with a more dynamic grille and headlight design, new wheels and better handling courtesy of a new Corner Traction Control system. Inside, Volvo upgraded the Premium and T6 trims with an adaptive digital display and an enhanced Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). New options included a Sport package that brought 20-in wheels, sport seats and a stiffer suspension. Sales slipped just a bit but remained above 19,000 vehicles.
2015 saw the first application of Volvo’s new Drive-E engine platform. Available only on models with front-wheel drive, the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in the base model produced 240 hp, while a turbocharged and supercharged version of the same engine on the T6 pushed output to 302 hp. Both engines were mated to a new lightweight 8-speed transmission that provided a significant improvement in fuel economy (as much as 31 miles per gallon on the highway for the base engine). Midway through the 2015 model year, the base 3.2 AWD was replaced by the T5 AWD, which came with a new turbocharged 5-cylinder good for 250 hp. Sales for the 2015 XC60 jumped nearly 7,000 units, to a healthy 26,134. The 2016 XC60 carried over largely unchanged, with sales holding at just over 20,000 units. Regrettably, the fuel-efficient Drive-E engines were still not offered with AWD, a fact that probably hurt sales in the long run. 2017 marked the final year in a very successful model run. Trim lines were reduced to four models bearing the company’s new designations, Dynamic and Inscription. The 5- and 6-cylinder engines were dropped, leaving only the Drive-E engine for both FWD and AWD models.
Apparently Lighting Can Strike Twice
For 2018, there’s an all-new XC60 and now it shares some of its basic structure with the larger XC90.
The new XC60 offers effortless acceleration and lots of power at any speed — the cabin remains quiet even on the highway. The XC60 also feels sharper in the corners than other midsize SUVs. The XC60 feels versatile — it’s right at home on open, twisty roads as well as in suburban neighborhoods and more crowded city centers.
The starting price for a 2018 Volvo XC60 T5 Momentum is about $42,000, and a top-of-the-line T6 Inscription is $50,000 — but there are a lot of packages and options in between. The T8 hybrid is more — it tops out at roughly $57,000