The Volvo XC60 isn’t the first vehicle that comes to mind when people start shopping for a compact luxury SUV. So far this year, the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 have sold 49,694 and 41,825 units, respectively. In the same time, Volvo has only moved 23,511 XC60s. After a week with the XC60 in T6 R-Design trim, I think many US car shoppers have gotten it wrong.
This Volvo offers more cargo space, safety and tech features than many of its rivals, all while undercutting them on price. It’s arguably better looking than the others, too — even more so (to my eyes, anyway) than the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. It’s also remarkably nice to drive, especially in the T6 R-Design trim you see here, which I think is the sweet spot of the lineup.
Really, the XC60 is a compact luxury crossover that has it all. But is it enough to dissuade those who have their sights locked on the competition?
Safe and sound
For decades, Volvo has played up the safety aspects of its vehicles. Fittingly, the compact XC60 comes standard with active safety features such as collision-mitigation braking, rear collision mitigation support, lane-keep assist with oncoming lane mitigation and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The XC60 also includes dynamic LED headlights with automatic high-beams and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Even the base, $39,800 XC60 gets this full suite of tech. You won’t find this level of standard safety equipment anywhere else in the class.
The same goes for standard infotainment features. The XC60 comes withon an 8-inch touchscreen as well as satellite radio. None of the three Germans can boast that level of standard tech.
The Sensus Connect infotainment can be a little fussy. On several occasions when swiping between screens, the system would interpret my swipes as taps and bring me into menus I didn’t intend to trigger. This is especially frustrating on a system in which means you have to swipe across screens more than you might like to — it’s menu overload. The graphics are alluring, at least, so your fingers may get flustered, but your eyes will be appeased.
You’ll also derive palpable satisfaction with the XC60’s interior. Volvo is one of the top brands in the industry when it comes to cabin comfort, quality, fit and finish. The XC60, inside and out, shows top-notch build quality.
My favorite element of the XC60’s interior is its optional Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system. It’s without question one of theand worth the $3,200 asking price. Considering that a pair of home speakers will set you back $4,500, upgrading to B&W in your Volvo is a relatively cost-effective way to get world-class audio into your life.
Crossover consumers value cargo space, and the Volvo offers the best hauling credentials in its segment. Its 63.3 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity is greater than that of the Acura RDX (58.9), Audi Q5 (60.4), BMW X3 (62.7) and the Mercedes-Benz GLC (56.5).
The XC60’s cavernous cargo volume is even capacious enough to beat the Cadillac XT5 by 0.3 cubic feet, and the Caddy is half a size class above the Volvo.
Putting Thor’s hammer down
The ease with which the XC60 accelerates and devours a set of turns makes it feel like one of the lighter, more sprightly crossovers in its class. In the XC60 T6, Volvo adds a supercharger to its already strong 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine for a grand total of 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. That gives it alert acceleration with satisfying power delivery, thanks to the added supercharged boost.
The twin-charged engine is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles I rarely used, simply because the default transmission programming is perfectly fine. In fact, I rarely ever thought about the transmission because it’s so good at fading into the background, letting the engine’s robust power shine.
The XC60’s all-wheel-drive system is a laudable supporting cast member, though. Like the transmission, it also fades into the background, allowing all 316 ponies to hit the pavement with little drama when you need to pull out into traffic quickly, and it offers solid reassurance in inclement weather.
When it comes time to quickly haul the XC60 back down to a stop, the SUV’s brakes feel on the qui vive. Unlike the plug-in hybrid T8 version that, I didn’t find these brakes touchy. Volvo has yet to figure out how to mix regenerative braking with conventional braking and as a result, the T8’s pedal feel is disappointing. It has its modulation down pat with the T6’s conventional brakes, however.
The direct and accurate steering is pleasurable, too, complementing the XC60’s relatively flat cornering and confident grip. From behind the wheel, the XC60’s ride feels tuned toward the firmer side of the spectrum, but throughout my 564 miles of testing, the SUV never sent jolts up my spine large enough to register on my cerebellum’s Richter scale. With the expert ride and handling balance the standard steel springs offer, I’d recommend you save $1,800 and forget the air suspension option.
While we’re on that topic, I’d even prescribe saving $8,100 by forgoing the aforementioned T8 model. The T8 will give you another 84 horsepower, which is great, but not for eight grand. Also, 17 miles of all-electric range and a few extra miles per gallon aren’t worth all that money. My T6 tester gets 21 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined — I averaged 23.9 mpg. The T8 gets 26 city, 28 highway and 26 combined mpg. For people with short commutes who can plug in every night, that’s fine, but the economy gains versus the cost likely won’t be worth it for most people.
How I’d spec it
Actually, I would order my XC60 exactly as tested. The sub-$40,000 base model is a well-equipped value play in the segment, but as optioned, my $61,465 tester features LED fog lights, keyless access, a HomeLink transceiver, a heated steering wheel, heated seats front and rear plus napa and nubuck (sanded, suede-like leather) upholstery that’s so satisfying to caress. My test vehicle also includes power-folding rear seats, embedded navigation, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control with steering assist, a surround-view camera, lane-keep assist, a road sign monitor and park assist, which is fantastic for impressing your friends when you demonstrate how the XC60 can parallel-park itself autonomously.
The Advanced Package is also a must, bundling adaptive cruise control with steering assist, a 360-degree camera and a head-up display. All of that ain’t bad for $2,500. My tester’s 21-inch R-Design wheels are $1,000, but complement the $645 Bursting Blue Metallic paint with deeply pleasing visual harmony. With winter looming, I think $675 is worth several warmer winters for the heated steering wheel that’s bundled with heated rear seats.
Putting the Volvo’s as-tested price against a comparably equipped Audi SQ5 ($64,620), BMW X3 M40i ($66,770) and a similarly specced Mercedes-AMG GLC43 ($71,395) — all including $995 for destination — the Volvo stands out as a huge value.
But pro tip: Be sure to exercise restraint when optioning an XC60. Filling every option box with your exuberance could lead to a $79,280 out-the-door price for a bunch of stuff you really don’t need, in particular the air suspension, the T8 powertrain, $2,200 massaging front seats and 1-inch larger wheels that are $3,375 more than my tester’s set of 21s. There’s also an idiotic $1,765 Exterior Styling Kit that negligibly enhances the XC60’s already palpable sex appeal. Definitely don’t get that.
Goldilocks: Middle ground for the win
As equipped, my 2019 XC60 T6 AWD R-Design is likely the best compact luxury crossover you can buy for around $60,000. If you were to option the German competition with the same level of features while not exceeding the Volvo’s price, you’d have to stick with their lowest horsepower offerings. (Although, at that powertrain level, a loaded Audi Q5 can undercut the XC60 T5 AWD R-Design by about $1,500.)
Q5 caveat aside, the XC60 T6 still allows you to get all the luxury features you want along with some extra turbocharged and supercharged power to boot. Even if you wanted to compare the T6 to the 354-horsepower Audi SQ5, 355-horsepower BMW X3 M40i and the 362-horsepower Mercedes-AMG GLC43, the 316-horse Volvo is a little down on power, but for $3,000 to $10,000 less than those vehicles when comparably equipped, the Goldilocks XC60 screams “just right.”
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