2018 Volvo XC60 First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Volvo XC60 First Drive

Compact Luxury Has Never Looked So Swede

"Thor's Hammer" is the name Volvo has given to the design of its headlights, a captivating element that has become as important to the brand as the actual hood badge. The all-new 2018 XC60 wears a pair of Thor's Hammers that assure no one will mistake this compact luxury SUV for anything but a Volvo.

The new generation of Volvo cars has become somewhat of a hot topic thanks to designs that are powerful, elegant and uniquely Swedish. The compact luxury XC60 SUV is the latest vehicle in Volvo's lineup to be made over, and it wears the design extremely well. From the top of its tapered greenhouse to the lower flanks that look to have been chiseled by the Norse god himself, the XC60's status as Volvo's most popular model is virtually locked in.

2018 Volvo XC60

Smaller, Lighter, Just as Powerful
The new XC60 is built using the same base structure that underpins the larger 90-series models, the XC90 SUV and S90 sedan. Volvo's Scalable Product Architecture design allows it to do this with relative ease, shrinking or stretching certain body sections to create vehicles of various sizes and types.The similarities in structure also permit the smaller XC60 to use all of the same engines that already exist for the 90-series cars.

The XC60 is offered with three engines, all featuring a form of all-wheel drive as standard. The base T5 model gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine rated at 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The midlevel T6, which is the model we test-drove, employs both turbocharging and supercharging to push power levels of the 2.0-liter engine to 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. At the top of the range, there's the T8 plug-in hybrid, which uses the T6's engine to drive the front wheels and an electric motor to provide motivation for the rear axle. The cumulative power output from the engine and electric motor amounts to 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque, which Volvo claims will briskly propel the T8 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. That's sports car territory for those who aren't familiar.

All the engine options mate up to an eight-speed automatic transmission, which can be manually shifted by pushing the drive lever to the left or by using the steering wheel paddles that come exclusively with the R-Design trim. All-wheel drive for the T5 and T6 cars is handled by a compact, electrically actuated coupling that can send up to 50 percent of the power to the rear axle on demand. But when it isn't needed, the XC60 conserves fuel by sending power only to the front wheels.

Pricing for the base T5 Momentum model starts at $42,495, the T6 starts at $45,895, and the T8 at $53,895. The sporty R-Design trim adds $3,300 to any Momentum model, with the most sophisticated Inscription trim available for an additional $500.

2018 Volvo XC60

A Spin in the T6 Model
We spent a day driving on a mix of roads in a XC60 T6 Inscription equipped with the optional air suspension, which has the ability to lift the body for more off-highway ground clearance or lower it for high-speed stability and easy loading. Compared to the previous model, the new XC60 is a hair longer and wider, but it sits a little lower to the ground, indicating an attitude shift toward improved dynamics. The wheelbase grows by just over 3.5 inches, too, affording rear passengers another inch and a half of precious legroom.

Digging into the accelerator at the first crack of open highway, our twin-charged four-cylinder went to work with linear power delivery similar to that of a non-boosted V6 engine. Volvo claims this car should hit 60 mph from a stop in 5.6 seconds, which seems a bit optimistic based on our highly technological, butt-in-the-driver-seat method.

The air suspension comes with Volvo's Four-C electronically adjustable suspension, providing varying levels of compliance, for a soft ride when cruising or for more control in the curves. Thumb the drive mode wheel and nearly every driving interface — engine, transmission, accelerator, steering, brakes, dampers and ride height — adapts to suit one of five available modes; Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Individual (personal preferences) or Off-Road.

Though there were no rutted hills to traverse during our drive, we did have a few twisty country road sections on which to lean the XC60. Large-SUV owners looking to downsize will find the XC60 tidier and more buttoned down than something like Volvo's XC90, which weighs about 500 to 600 pounds more, depending on trim. Within its class, however, the XC60 isn't the dynamic leader. Despite lacking the paddle shifters from the R-Design model, we didn't experience any real sense of encouragement from the XC60 to tackle curves with more purpose. That said, it maintains composure well enough when challenged, and it's more than sufficiently comfortable for hours in the saddle.

2018 Volvo XC60

A Wooden Wonderland
The cabin of our heavily optioned Inscription XC60 displayed new levels of style and polish that are now top-class competitive and will certainly make people take notice. The main attraction is the dash, which has contrast stitching and is underscored with long trim inlays that bend and weave around a 9-inch touchscreen and oversized climate vents. The Inscription model further impresses with its swoopy inlays made of real wood.

Below that, next to the gearshift, the cupholders and change drawer disappear under retractable covers made up of thin wood slats to match the curvaceous trim above. When pulled closed, the center console looks clean and minimalistic since most of the accessory and system controls have been consigned to the touchscreen. The few buttons and knobs that remain are ones that are better left out of a touchscreen for fumble-free operation, such as the hazard lights and volume-control knob.

2018 Volvo XC60

The minimalist theme carries through to the Inscription's two-tone leather steering wheel, where the labels for the controls look hieroglyphic. The usual cruise, audio and voice buttons are here, along with one to toggle through menus within the large 12.3-inch color gauge cluster. Beyond the aesthetics of a fully digital gauge screen, the ability to display info such as navigation route guidance is key, especially when you'd prefer to have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (standard on all models) cued up on the central display. With the myriad of functions assigned to the touchscreen, not having to continually toggle back to the navigation screen for your next direction is a boon.

2018 Volvo XC60

Volvo's Sensus infotainment interface in the middle of the dashboard adopts the smartphone tap, swipe and pinch gestures to navigate menus. Everything from driver assist systems to climate control settings are located here. And while the system responses aren't executed quite at smartphone speeds, the interface proves adequately easy to use.

There's a lengthy list of premium features available on the XC60 including premium leather, heated and ventilated seats, an 1,100-watt, 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system. Features such as the panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, a Wi-Fi hotspot with 3GB of free data, rearview camera, and lane keeping assist are standard, which is not the case for much of the competition. Additionally, you can specify class-exclusive massaging front seats and, for those who care deeply for their rear passengers, a four-zone climate control system.

2018 Volvo XC60

Synonymous with Safety
Those familiar with the Volvo brand know it has always emphasized safety. Smart marketing aside, Volvo says it remains wholly committed to that pillar of the company. With car structures getting safer and the proliferation of active safety aids working to mitigate and prevent vehicle collisions, Volvo's manifesto is to bring down the number of deaths and serious injuries in any Volvo to zero by the year 2020.

To prove it isn't just a bunch of empty speak, quite a few standard safety technologies come with all XC60s. Volvo's Steer Assist is the main component and is used in conjunction with other systems for various scenarios. There's the lane keeping assist, which is more commonplace and prevents accidental lane drift, but it also works if it senses the XC60 drifting into oncoming traffic. This system works at speeds between 37 and 87 mph, and if no action is taken by the driver, the car will steer itself back into its own lane. A related scenario is if the blind-spot monitoring system detects a car in an adjacent lane, the XC60 will take action to avoid a collision. A third scenario involves approaching an object in the road and swerving around it. Steer Assist will apply the front and rear brakes on the side you're steering to, dynamically helping the car to turn, while making steering corrections if needed. Once the object is avoided, the car applies brakes to the other side to help stabilize the XC60 after the maneuver.

Other standard features include a drowsy/distracted driver alert; automatic emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and animal detection; run-off road mitigation/protection; road sign information; and a full suite of airbags. Beyond the standard equipment Volvo also offers an assortment of packages that further lessen the chances of an unintentional incident. Key features within those packages include a 360-degree camera system, the aforementioned blind-spot monitoring, park assist with auto parking, and dynamic bending headlights.

To cap off its safety talks, Volvo also announced that it should have a working autonomous vehicle (Level 4) by 2021. Until then, perhaps we'll just continue to enjoy the driving experience that vehicles such as the 2018 XC60 have to offer.

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