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Does Volvo’s new XC60 compact crossover merit a trip to the wet side?

Here in the S-R Auto pages, we tend to focus our efforts on vehicles that are locally available.

Every now and again, though, we set the locals-only embargo aside. Today is one of those days.

On a recent family visit to Wisconsin, we were given the opportunity to test Volvo’s new 2018 XC60 crossover. For reasons we’re not privvy to — though they almost certainly are based on a dollars-and-cents decision — Volvo is not currently represented in Eastern Washington.

Nevertheless, the brand has a loyal local following and the XC90 is a significant new addition to the family portfolio.

Marked by understated elegance

For the record, the nearest Volvo dealership is an AutoNation franchise in Bellevue. Local repairs and warranty work are handled by the local AutoNation affiliate, Spokane Land Rover/Jaguar.

As for the XC60, it’s an all-new, five-passenger compact crossover. Beautifully styled inside and out, it offers a distinctly Scandinavian take on the crossover segment. Its cabin exemplifies the understated elegance popularized by the Swedish design movement. 

Inside, a tiered and stitched dashboard flows laterally in simple lines, with a single vertical bump that accommodates the gorgeous tablet-style touchscreen that anchors the design and serves as the visual and functional heart of the XC60 front-of-cabin.

Adding visual interest, an accent panel runs the length of the dashboard. In upper trims, it can be made of handsome open-pore wood. Such details as the grilled dash-mounted tweeters and the metallic speaker inserts in the door panels introduce a clever hint of industrial design.

Luxury in three trims

Leather upholstery is standard across the line. Fit-and-finish and materials quality easily satisfy luxury-class standards.

Thanks to the standard panoramic sunroof and generous windows, the cabin has a bright, fresh and open feel.

Cargo capacity is about average for a compact crossover, but casual cabin storage fell short of expectations.

The XC60 is available in three trims, each powered by a unique powertrain. A turbocharged, 250-horsepower 2.0-liter four powers the base T5 ($39,200). One step up, the T6 ($44,900) runs the same engine, but with the addition of a supercharger which boosts horsepower to 316. 

The plug-in hybrid T8 ($52,900) mates the T6 engine with a pair of electric motors to make 400 total horsepower.

All engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive is standard, AWD is available.

Hard-working powerplant a mixed bag

Volvo asks much of Its bread-and-butter powerplant and for the most part it delivers. Acceleration is class-appropriate, and efficiency is exemplary. Still, the engine is noisier and less refined than its competitors.

At speed, our AWD tester felt planted and surefooted. Out in Wisconsin’s Amish country, north of Madison, we cruised confidently through the handful of sweepers we encountered. Steering feel is nicely weighted — not too light, not too heavy — and reasonably communicative.

On particularly rough road surfaces, the ride can turn a bit harsh. But for the most part the XC60 has a smooth, if not quite creamy, ride.
 
Our T6 Inscription ($46,55) included the Luxury Seat package, whose broad seats were deeply contoured, supportive and comfortable. They were also heated and ventilate and included a deeply relaxing massage function.

Rear seat passengers will appreciate the extra knee room accorded by the front seats’ scalloped backs.

Touchscreen complex, but a thing of beauty

Automated emergency braking and lane-keeping assist are standard across the XC60 lineup. Other safety and driver-assist features — lane-departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control,  and a pre-collision system that can cinch the seatbelts and prime the brakes in anticipation of a rear-end collision — are available.

The standard Sensus Connect infotainment system is accessed via 9.0-inch tablet-style touchscreen. It includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Bluetooth connectivity and an onboard Wi-Fi 4G LTE hotspot are also included.

Upper trims, and those fitted with navigation, get a 10.3-inch screen, which is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, its menus are complicated enough to require a long and serious session with the owners manual. 

So is the XC60 worth a trip to the wet side? As I see it, there are other, locally available options that are at least as appealing. But for Volvo loyalists, who resonate to their own set of frequencies, the answer may not be so clear-cut.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2018 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription
Vehicle base price: $39,200
Trim level base price: $48,700
As tested: $63,290 (includes destination and handling)
Options included adaptive cruise control; semi-autonomous driving; blind-spot warning with steer-assist; rear cross-traffic alert; Nappa leather upholstery; heated and ventilated front seats with massage; heated rear seats; LED headlights with Active Bending Lamps; air suspension; metallic paint; Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound; more.
Tow capacity: 3500 pounds
EPA rating: 23 combined/21 city/27 highway
Premium unleaded fuel required



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.