Speak not of demonic driving forces, ardent aero tweaks, or deeply bolstered race seats, for these are the things that make Volvo’s Polestar line of performance machines anything but pious. This is a brand that built a reputation for itself around safety, luxury, drivability, and practicality, with station wagon storage capacities and turbocharged inline five-cylinder engines spurning soccer moms onward toward Chuck E. Cheese parties.
The Volvos most millennials will recall from their childhood are those brick-like rectangles that came filled with things like tan leather upholstery, strangely shaped headrests, and hard plastic cassette decks. But those days are long gone, and while Volvo retains many of its original ideals, it has a new lease on life that focuses on standing out from the crowd and making some of the most comfortable seats on the market today.
Today’s parental unit demands a connected, crash-approved car that is as autonomous as possible, and as history has shown, Volvo is not afraid to meet these needs by offering its own unique take on automaking. The T6 Dynamic version of the XC60 mid-size SUV is a prime example of the company’s evolution and future goals, and while this generation may be growing a bit gray-haired, and tries a little too hard to set itself apart from the pack, it offers a lot of the appropriate answers to problems that only busy parents fully understand.
Volvo has gone to great lengths to preserve its design language and heritage, a move that doesn’t always work out for other automakers, but elevates the Swedish brand significantly. With its signature styling, sharply reshaped retro-esque grille, swanky rear quarter lines, and instantly recognizable vertical taillights, the XC60 takes a beautiful approach to symmetry and rewards drivers with just enough ground clearance to make camping trips less of a chore.
Exterior pros and cons
+ Attractive alloy wheels, integrated rectangular exhaust ports, silver accent trim, and streamlined roof rails.
+ Signature Volvo LED lighting is instantly recognizable and sophisticated looking.
+ Proportions are right on the money, with a raked underside that is engineered for clearance.
– The XC60 may be stylish looking, but it’s also overdue for a refresh.
The XC60 T6 features a powertrain that is about as unorthodox as it gets, and while we did find it to be somewhat jumpy under duress, the way this 2.0-liter performs when the gear selector is slapped into manual mode is noticeably sharper. Being that this four-banger is both turbocharged and supercharged, boost builds instantly and doesn’t let up until you’ve had enough. The all-wheel drive system is quite good as well, and our only major regret was that our review vehicle arrived well ahead of any heavy snow.
Powertrain pros and cons
+ Being that this 2.0-liter motor is both supercharged and turbocharged, boost builds continuously, making all 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque a blast to experience. We found the upgraded Japanese eight-speed Geartronic transmission to be pretty fluid, too.
+ A 20 city, 27 highway EPA rating is pretty good considering the 4,277 curb weight of the car and that it’s an all-wheel drive model.
+ According to Volvo’s ownership website, premium fuel is recommended for ideal performance results, but “using 87 octane or above will not affect engine reliability.”
– Having both a supercharger and a turbo on board means there are more moving components that will be susceptible to failure down the line.
Where the shell of the XC60 may be overdue for an update, it still looks contemporary enough to be pertinent in today’s world. Unfortunately, its cabin is a bit of a mixed bag, as it exceeds expectations in quality of materials used and comfort levels, but loses points due to some surprising oversights and dated design language. The XC60 offers a very welcoming, comfortable cabin that comes loaded with a bevy of amenities, but when stacked up against the competition, it falls short of the bar being set by more moderately priced Asian options.
Interior pros and cons
+ Extremely comfortable two-tone seats, an easy to fold rear bench that features a 40/20/40 split, 67.4 cubic feet of storage space when the seats are folded flat, and both swanky soft touch materials and sturdy plastic materials can be found throughout.
+ Volvo’s cold climate package is worth the $1,550 upgrade fee, as it includes a heated steering wheel and seats, windshield, and washer nozzles, as well as a customizable child safety setup that features rear door locks and a two-stage booster layout.
+ Many of the switches and controls are one-touch in nature and very sturdy feeling, and while some may find the button-rich center stack to be convoluted, once you grow accustomed to its layout it is fairly easy to use.
– No ventilated seats or power steering adjust, rear headrests won’t raise to allow a direct anchor line for certain child safety seats, and the center console falls short in the storage department.
Tech and safety
Much like its interior, this SUV has a tech and safety lineup that looks good on paper, but when put into use on the open road, leaves you wondering how it can be so spot on in one regard but way off in another. All of the driving and safety sensory systems are right on the money, and it comes with a digital red gauge cluster that is all about modern automotive design, but shift over to the tiny center screen and the buttons below it, and things suddenly take a turn for the worse.
Volvo’s decision to keep the easily reachable infotainment screen devoid of any touch controls or central command knobs makes for a frustrating tech experience. Toss in the fact that this system is slow to respond when scrolling through channels and features 3D maps that only engage when you zoom in close, rendering street views almost useless.
Tech pros and cons
+ An IIHS Top Safety Pick+ crash rating gives you 10 years of complimentary emergency crash notifications, low speed collision avoidance, pedestrian and cyclist detection, whiplash protection for the first row, a large array of airbags, and every other safety feature in Volvo’s arsenal.
+ Extremely detailed 3D maps, sharp menu options, customizable infotainment tiles, and a sleek digital gauge cluster with loads of vehicle stats make a nice showing.
+ Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities, Volvo On-Call assistance services, and a Harman Kardon audio system upgrade are all notables.
– Shackled to a knob that refuses to do anything other than rotate, the 7-inch infotainment remains insensitive to touch, is slow to respond, and frustrating to navigate.
– Heavily laden with buttons, the center stack’s clunky numeric keypad seems more at home on a cellphone from 2006 than in a modern $50,000 luxury SUV.
If we were to sum up the XC60’s driving style with a type of food, it would be salsa verde. It’s just different and zesty enough to make you raise an eyebrow and consider it over the normal picante option on the table, but it isn’t quite a slow-roasted mole sauce with all the appropriate peppers.
It powers itself confidently down the interstate, absorbs bumps like a champ, and autonomously avoids danger via an armada of tech safety features. There is also a high-level of cabin comfort, and although it does strain when the throttle is suddenly mashed, the way in which the XC60 responds when its gear selector is moved over to the left for manual shifts is admirable.
Nothing feels so out of place that it will deter buyers, but its noncommittal steering feel and joyless handling prevents this SUV from living up to its full potential. This is the vanilla Volvo driving experience one expects when they hear the name, and despite having a firecracker of an engine option under the bonnet, the XC60 T6 is predictable and unexciting.
Wrap up and review
For all of our misgivings and dislikes, this luxury SUV still managed to win our favor, as it offered a lot of the features we like to see in an SUV of this caliber along with a few additional surprises. It’s a quiet, cushy, completely capable mid-size machine, designed for suburban living at its finest, and weekend kayak adventures in the mountains.
Mechanically it behaves as one might expect, and although it feels a little numb in the suspension and handling departments, there’s nothing really out of place with the way in which it gently tackles turns. Although the drivetrain can be a bit exuberant and does not offer locking differential settings like some of the competition, it still feels plenty capable of carrying the car’s hefty chassis through a snow storm or up a muddy incline.
Unfortunately, the standard amenities and affordable upgrade options on loaded versions of the Kia Sorento SXL and Mazda CX-5 make the $52,500 Volvo look overpriced for what you get. While the XC60 is technically in the luxury SUV segment, inexpensive Asian alternatives are now featuring things like ventilated/heated Napa leather seats, panoramic sunroofs, and many of the high-dollar features offered by high-dollar automakers.
Having said that, this is not an SUV to write-off as inconsequential either, but one that is overdue for a refresh, and worth waiting on. We are confident that once updated with the best that Volvo has to offer, it will hit all the right notes with dedicated European car buyers and luxury SUV snobs alike. Remember, luxury buyers fancy all that the outstanding XC90 has to offer, but don’t always require something so large, leaving the next generation of the XC60 plenty of room to win big.