Saturday Road Test 2015.5 Volvo XC60 T6

Volvo PV544Volvo 144141816_Volvo_XC60

 

Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

Safety First

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – Volvo has a rock solid reputation in this country with many fans starting out in the 544 that sort of looked like an old Ford and the 144 that was a hit in the U.S. market from 1966-74.

Moving forward, Volvo was sold by Ford in 2010 to the Beijing based automaker Geely, officially Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China. Volvo is still based in Gothenburg, Sweden and continues to produce a line of safety based cars with a company goal that one day no one will die in an auto accident if they are in Volvo.

This weekend’s test car is the midsized XC60 T6 model with all-wheel drive and a spritely 3.0-liter six under the hood. To more than meet the performance expectations of Volvo fans, it features a twin scroll turbo all good for 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque matched to an excellent six speed automatic with paddle shifts.

Quiet and refined, the six packed more than enough clout for interstate merging and rural road passing and a zero to 60 run in the six second range.

Gas mileage is EPA rated at 17-24 for a combined 20 mpg. Models that are front wheel drive can be had with a juiced up four that will deliver improved mileage figures and most followers expect those engines to make their way into the AWD models as well.

During the test week, the Volvo got a taste of its homeland weather, as least that of northern Sweden, when our temperature fell into the single digits overnight and wind chill readings were well below zero, all rather unusual for this part of the world. The VC60 fired right up every morning, but on an automatic setting, the heater was slow to warm the interior. Give the fan motor its head and the interior was toasty warm in short order.

141808_Volvo_XC60

Handling was better than one might expect but the tradeoff was a suspension system that was on the stiff side with some bumps reverberating through the interior.

The VC60 received a Top Safety Pick+ rating, the top of the line from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Of course there was a long list of safety features in the vehicle such as blind sport detection, cross traffic alert, lane change warnings, front and rear park assist, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full automatic brake, distance alert, and pedestrian/cycle detection with automatic brake, a pretty darn good idea for these parts at least, where few people look before crossing the road and there are too many nutty bike riders in summer.

The active dual Xenon headlamps with washers were some of the best I have seen in any car, illuminating the surroundings perfectly at night with a sharp cut off to keep from blinding on coming drivers. On high beam, it gave you a more than better chance of avoiding animals that might be crossing the road.

2015-volvo-XC60 interior

On the other side of the lights, the two-shade “Sport” front seats were quite comfortable and easily adjustable on long day drives with one exception. The lumbar adjustment was not powered, but rather consisted of a rickety wheel located inconveniently on the side of the driver’s seat back. This did not make for easy adjustment while driving and one should expect a car in this price range to have power lumbar adjustments.

Key gauges are an easy read, generally white on black on a TFT (Thin-Film Transistor) display. Much of the interior has a rather austere look with some less-than-luxury-car touches when it came to the sun visors and interior roof covering. To the rear, knee and leg room were on the short side.

As for storage space, with the second row seats up you get 30 cubic feet of space and 67 with them down, more than enough to meet the needs of the typical owner.

The test car had an optional $800 dog cage that ate up half of the available storage space when the rear seats were up. That left space for about seven plastic grocery bags without raising the cage lid. The metal bars also hampered rear visibility and to the right rear. Look through the rear view mirror and you get an idea of what it might be like to drive a paddy wagon. On the plus side was a 12 volt power outlet in the cargo area.

The XC was quiet on the highway but there was some wind noise at interstate speeds.

If early on you go looking for the owner’s manual, it’s not in the glove box, but rather housed in the 7.5 inch color screen. Instead of quickly indexing get acquainted bits of information in a printed manual, one must weed through menus and guess where that information might be hidden. You get the hang of it eventually, but really, the printed word is quicker and easier.

I loved the power liftgate, beefy heated steering wheel, and in the summer am sure the large panoramic sunroof with power sunshade would be a winner. The Harmon Kardon premium sound system that comes with the Platinum package was an absolute winner, one of the best auto sound systems I have heard.

Volvo is big on “Sensus Connect” a system that is now standard with the mid-year update. It is basically a connected car and infotainment platform with access to the Internet and apps including Pandora, Yelp and Glympse. The On Call app brings vehicle status, remote lock, unlock and start, and car locator, but it won’t yet tie your shoes.

There is also 24/7 call center support with in car roadside assistance and service scheduling. You can try out the system at a dealer and that might be a good idea given the complexity of setting it all up. That requires the acquisition of an ID and PIN number with operation via center console mounted numbered buttons and a control knob to the right.

With a $4,400 Premium Package that brings with it a lot of the safety equipment mentioned above, plus a $1,550 Climate package with child booster seats, $500 for the sport seats, $1,000 for the alloy wheels, and some miscellaneous other options the bottom line came to $52,225 including $925 for delivery.

With stiff competition from Audi, BMW and Lexus the challenge for now Chinese owned Volvo is to find a lucrative niche in the very competitive U.S. market.

An inroad for them might be the completely redesigned and recently introduced XC90, the next rung up the ladder from the test car. It is high on luxury, power and safety and is the first all new Volvo since its acquisition by Geely.

 

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