2018 Volvo XC60 Review: Pushing the Envelope

Strong points
  • Very modern looks
  • Technologically advanced powertrain
  • Living room-style interior
Weak points
  • Confusing infotainment system
  • Cumbersome climate controls
  • The four-cylinder engine sounds as you'd expect
Full report

Volvo’s assault on bland-looking vehicles hits the compact SUV segment with the release of the all-new 2018 XC60. The brand’s resurgence since 2015 has been nothing short of astounding as we see new model after new model receiving critical acclaim. In fact, the XC60 was just awarded the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year title for 2018.

Looks Can Kill

I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t like the look of the new Volvos. It started with the XC90 in 2015, then the S90 and V90 in 2016, and now we have the XC60 released in the fourth quarter of 2017. The latest is the subcompact XC40 SUV which is hitting dealers this month. Whether it’s a sedan, wagon or SUV, the brand’s new design language is the modern definition of success.

Photo: Danny Geraghty

At the forefront of the look, and the most distinctive new Volvo feature, are the new “Thor’s hammer” LED daytime running lights in the shape of a “T” on its side. The amber LED front indicators are similarly shaped and the same size, which is not something many automakers have figured out is important. Nothing is worse than a beautiful front fascia scorned by the presence of century-old technology like an incandescent turn signal bulb. Fortunately, we have none of that here.

Same goes for the rear brake lights and turn signals which follow Volvo’s L-shaped theme on their new SUVs, which run as high as the roofline. The R-Design package features a number of distinguishing exterior details, such as the unique front grille, lower front spoiler, window surrounds in silk metal, an R-Design dual tailpipe surround, integrated bright roof rails and mirror covers in matte silver.

Heavy Investment in Technology

Volvo’s aren’t all just pretty sheetmetal. There is a lot of substance underneath that pretty face and it’s clear Volvo’s heavy investment in research and development have paid dividends. I’m impressed each time I write about the new powertrains because they are so good. Volvo calls its architecture Drive-E is based on a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. The company managed to make that engine go a long way, so don’t get discouraged at its small displacement.

There are three powertrains available: the turbocharged T5 engine with 250 horsepower, the turbo and supercharged T6 engine with 316 horsepower as well as the T8 plug-in electric hybrid system with 400 horsepower. The XC60 is also available in three trims: Momentum, R-Design and Inscription.

The test subject was a T6 R-design with the 316-horsepower engine. While the familiar whirring sound of a four cylinder is present, I didn’t care because it propelled the SUV to highway speeds in the blink of an eye. There is no turbo lag whatsoever, so you can be confident in any driving situation thanks to great road feel and precise handling. To make matters even more enjoyable, you have the pleasure of knowing that you’re saving hundreds of dollars per year because of the increased fuel efficiency versus the larger engines employed by the competition. My consumption was a little higher because of my mainly city driving, but expect to get around 11 L/100 km.

Photo: Danny Geraghty

Living Room Comfort Level Unlocked

You’ll be surprised at the level of comfort the 2018 Volvo XC60’s seats provide. The sport units found in the R-Design package and perforated leather steering wheel are accompanied by special R-Design details, such as unique shift knob, pedals, floor mats and illuminated door sills. The driver also gets an exclusive R-Design leather-covered keyfob. The Volvo will rival your living room La-Z-Boy recliner and remains one of the most comfortable rides I’ve ever experienced.

Even though you are shielded from the outside world, the XC60 is still in tune with the pavement.

Save the Buttons

Volvo has chosen a touchscreen interface for many functions and eliminated the presence of physical buttons whenever possible. In particular, the climate controls require as least two taps on the screen in order to manipulate, which is something I don’t find acceptable because it forces you to take your eyes off the road. In winter, these controls need to be adjusted several times per trip, so it often got under my skin.

The other aspect I didn’t like was how much of the fan system is automated. Volvo wants you to set the temperature level and leave the car to decide how much fan speed to utilize. This is enraging if you just want to blast the fan for a few minutes which I was never able to accomplish.

There is a course you can take when you purchase the vehicle but let’s be realistic—nobody has time to learn how to operate their vehicle. It should be self-explanatory.

The Bower & Wilkins sound system is one of the best. Sound clarity is simply phenomenal, thanks in part to the open-air subwoofer and dashboard tweeter. Even the AM radio sounds great and that’s nearly impossible to do.

Photo: Danny Geraghty

A Compelling Package

I remember overhearing two journalists talking about the XC60 at an auto show back in the fall. “They’re going to print money with these things” was the quote that stuck in my head. I can’t say I disagree. In the final three months of 2017, after the new XC60 went on sale in Canada, they sold almost as many as in the first nine months combined (1117 vs 1198 all year). However, they still have a way to go before catching up to the monthly sales of the Acura RDX (715), Audi Q5 (695) or Mercedes-Benz GLC (685) recorded last December.

The XC60 T5 powertrain is solely offered in the Momentum trim and carries an MSRP of $46,350 before freight and delivery charges. Pricing for XC60 T6, based on Momentum, R-Design and Inscription powertrains is $52,700, $56,000 and $57,600 respectively. The XC60 T8 offers two trims—R-Design and Inscription—which carry an MSRP of $70,250 and $71,850 respectively.

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