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2010 Volvo XC60 T6: Sporty, distinctly New England

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  June 26, 2009 08:12 AM

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A Lexus RX passes Volvo's distinctive new crossover on Beacon Street. (All photos: Clifford Atiyeh/Boston.com)

If you’re a mainstream automaker and still don’t have at least two car-based crossovers in your lineup, you’re either sick with bankruptcy or making out like a bandit on just one. The progenitor of the luxury crossover segment, Lexus, is in the latter with its RX 350, now in its tenth year. Toyota didn’t need a Venza alongside its hot-selling RAV4 and Highlander models, but thought Camry buyers needed an alternative.

While Ford is axing the Taurus X, leaving us with the Edge and underappreciated Flex, BMW is so pumped it added a third, the unclassifiable X6, and is due for a fourth (X1) in 2010 or 2011. Chrysler, which once sold Pacificas by the barrel, is down to the Jeep Compass (and if you’re really stretching it, the Dodge Nitro and maybe the Jeep Patriot).

Saab has none at all, and its sad, tattered divorce with GM has made rival Volvo even happier to introduce the 2010 XC60, the compliment to its beefier car-based XC90. As a Volvo, even a 2010 Volvo, the XC60 isn’t tailored for Joe Mercedes. Even under a decade of Ford management, Volvo’s quirky and unconventional behavior hasn't rubbed off entirely, and that's exactly what the marque's rabid New England fan base desires.

For one, Volvo has kept those elbow-twisting lumbar cranks on the sides of the front seats. Conventional luxury buyers might get frazzled by the navigation system – controlled either by buttons behind the steering wheel or by a remote – or how the radio LCD display looks like an afterthought placed in the raised center dash speaker. There’s good news behind all of this. The thin seats, trimmed with orange stitching, are so supportive you won’t need the extra cranks. The LCD display, in fact, is at perfect eye level and doesn’t get washed out.

2010-Volvo-XC60-nav-controls.jpg

And after a full day trying to clear the incessant legal warning off the navigation screen, I succumbed to reading the manual to locate the invisible buttons (the instructions just said to press the “enter” button, and there’s two in the XC60). It’s not as intuitive as a touch-screen, but Volvo’s system was easier to manage without taking a finger off the wheel. New Englanders, who are as happy in 20-year-old 240 wagons as they are in late-model XC70s, won’t mind these critiques, and will likely snatch up most of America’s XC60s.

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Our T6 AWD tester was very Germanic with its brushed aluminum accents, black everything, and driver-angled dashboard. Volvo’s “waterfall” center stack, as seen first on the S40, has a storage tray directly behind it, but retrieving small items is awkward. An optional $295 wood inlay on the stack actually feels like wood, and the rest of the interior – especially the bumpy textured leather on the door sills – is first-rate, save for some sharp plastic mold seams on the door handles and chintzy-feeling driver window switches.

2010-Volvo-XC60-rear.jpg

Volvo’s rounded, flat body style has been tailored to greater taste on the XC60. Those arching LED tail lamps are drizzled artfully onto the small hatch, which is easily closed with one hand. The now-trademark shoulder flanks create forward motion as they slope toward the hood, and the vertical LED parking lights and massive Volvo badge are not-so-subtle reminders of prestige. The shape is remarkably clean without being generic, and makes the XC60 more recognizable than most premium crossovers, including Audi’s new Q5.

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On the road, it’s hard to pin the XC60 as the taller V70 wagon/S80 sedan it’s based on. Compared with the V70, the XC60 is 7.7 inches shorter, only 1.1 inches wider, and sports a 1.7-inch shorter wheelbase. The 6.5-inch increase in height isn’t towering, just enough to require a higher step-in. That means you can toss the XC60 around, and with Volvo’s torquey turbocharged inline-six (295 pound-feet at just 1,500 r.p.m.), it’s flat-out enjoyable, even with 4,225 pounds on board. Volvo has dialed back the steering boost in favor of greater road feel, and the wheel’s on-center accuracy is less numb than in other Volvos.

Brakes are equally impressive in their firmer feel and bite. Body-roll was surprisingly flat. The ride is taut but compliant (better to have the 18-inch wheels on our car versus the optional 19s). The first-generation S80 pins the Land Rover LR2, and by comparison with the XC60’s second-gen chassis, the little Brit drives like a big yoga bouncy ball. This Volvo is all-around sporty, and the EPA 16/22 rating is on par for the class. After 451 miles – half spent on the highway – I averaged 19 per gallon.

Volvo’s latest safety innovation, “City Safety,” uses a laser device mounted on the windshield to detect cars directly in front, and stomps on the brakes if it senses the driver won’t. City Safety is active from 2 to 19 miles per hour, which Volvo says is the average speed range of most city accidents. At 9 miles per hour and below, the XC60 will come to a full stop, and at higher speeds up to 19 miles per hour, the XC60 will definitely hit the car in front, but at a reduced speed.

It’s standard and will eventually trickle across the Volvo range. There are limitations, such as reduced sensor visibility in poor weather, and it’s not designed to detect motorcycles or pedestrians. Still, the feeling of a car braking by itself was startling, and impressive, when I tried it during a Volvo-sponsored demo in the Prudential garage. It’s a helpful guardian for that one time when you weren’t looking.

Our XC60, with optional navigation, backup camera, surround sound, heated front and rear seats, heated washer nozzles, headlamp washers, rain sensor, and cabin air filter, rang up $42,250 with destination and a no-charge panoramic sunroof. For those who don’t need all-wheel-drive or a turbo, the 3.2 starts at $32,995.

For those who don’t understand Volvo, there’s a long line of buyers threading from Fairfield County to Bar Harbor who do. Get out of it.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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28 comments so far...
  1. Beautiful car but I would still prefer and recommend the Chevy Traverse / GMC Acadia. These cars are the most functional in terms of use of 2nd and 3rd row, have better gas mileage than the volvo. And are US-made.

    Posted by Lambda June 26, 09 11:33 AM
  1. Great front exterior shot at night. Interesting new lighting. I like it.

    And that's saying A LOT from a consistant Volvo hater.

    Well Done

    Posted by Andy June 26, 09 12:56 PM
  1. The last 240 was made in 1992. All 240's are now at least 27 years old, closer to 30 years than the mentioned 20 years.

    - A consistent Volvo fan.

    Posted by volvofan June 26, 09 01:13 PM
  1. "If you’re a mainstream automaker and still don’t have at least two car-based crossovers in your lineup, you’re either sick with bankruptcy or making out like a bandit on just one"

    This made me laugh. Unfortunately domestic auto's can't even compete right now with these overseas makers. Who wants to pay retail for a new GM when I can go to a place like www.repofinder.com and buy a repossessed one at my local bank for 1/4 of the cost? I see a dismal future for US automakers. Who would take a GM over a Volvo today?

    Posted by Mikedudical June 26, 09 03:18 PM
  1. "If you’re a mainstream automaker and still don’t have at least two car-based crossovers in your lineup, you’re either sick with bankruptcy or making out like a bandit on just one"

    This made me laugh. Unfortunately domestic auto's can't even compete right now with these overseas makers. Who wants to pay retail for a new GM when I can go to a place like www.repofinder.com and buy a repossessed one at my local bank for 1/4 of the cost? I see a dismal future for US automakers. Who would take a GM over a Volvo today?

    Posted by Mikedudical June 26, 09 03:18 PM
  1. We live in Northern NH where AWD/4WD is a necessity. Subaru full time AWD is very popular here. We bought a Tribeca, average 22 MPG during non AWD weather, for 10K less than a comparable Volvo. Very comfortable ride with the same bells and whistles as Volvo.

    Posted by Doug June 26, 09 04:45 PM
  1. C'mon Volvo - I'm waiting for better gas mileage, or how about a biodiesel?

    Posted by SG June 26, 09 05:31 PM
  1. I've owned 240's since 1985. As a matter of fact I own 2 presently. (BTW volvofan, 1992 to 2009 is 17 years.) ;-) In 2004 my wife and I purchased a new GMC Envoy XL for a lot less than the XC60. The Envoy now has over 100K miles. Other than oil changes, breaks, tires and a ball joint we had virtually no trouble! I'm shocked at the fact that the XC60 barely has better gas mileage than my full size Envoy. I'm sorry Volvo, you lost me when you stopped making the 240 in 93 and I've been unimpressed since. I agree with the other posts...there are better options out there like the Subaru and the Acadia.

    Posted by 240 Lover June 26, 09 08:41 PM
  1. My volvo S60 gets 30+ mpg's on the highway and about 24 around town. A hell of a lot better that the Mexican built lemon of a Buick we bought. We had the Principle Engineer at Buick trying to get a new car for us, since we had some many problems with our car (a known problems with that model).

    BTW, 2009 - 1992 != 27 years.

    Posted by Anonymous June 27, 09 07:48 AM
  1. "For those who don’t understand Volvo, there’s a long line threading from Fairfield County to Bar Harbor. Get out of it."

    *** I don't understand the last line of this entry.
    what does this mean/refer to?

    thanks.

    Posted by blake June 27, 09 11:38 PM
  1. I never let a Volvo driver into traffic, same goes for the BMW and Saab drivers. Screw them.

    Posted by Dodge guy June 28, 09 06:34 PM
  1. To Anonymous who posted this

    "My volvo S60 gets 30+ mpg's on the highway and about 24 around town. A hell of a lot better that the Mexican built lemon of a Buick we bought. We had the Principle Engineer at Buick trying to get a new car for us, since we had some many problems with our car (a known problems with that model). '' I get the same on my
    XC70 2009. Unlike my 2006 BMW 500 series which parts are made in China and gets 12 mpg in the city

    Posted by Boston20 June 28, 09 06:39 PM
  1. did anyone actually take out a calculator?
    2009 - 1992 = 17

    ok?

    gosh.

    (ps. i definitely like the look of this XC60)

    Posted by born in 1987 = 21 years old June 29, 09 12:11 AM
  1. mikejudicial - have you been paying attention to Ford, Cadillac, or Corvette lately? I'm a foreign car owner, mind you, but even I can't deny that US automakers are slowly coming around and making cars people want to buy. Check out the pics and reviews of the new 2010 Ford Taurus - it's 100 times better than that awful Five Hundred. A relative of mine recently bought a brand new 2008 Ford Edge Limited AWD, he paid nowhere close to retail for it of course, and it's a great car. The Fusion and Focus continue to hammer away at the compact/mid size segments.

    That said, the foreign options are plentiful and great. I'd rather buy a certified Mercedes or BMW, because you get legendary performance with AWD systems that put that of Subaru, et al to shame - yes, even in Northern New Hampshire. I've had my Benz E-class now for 3 years, bought it used, it's been crazy reliable, AWD, 8 cylinders, and extremely luxurious with a classic feel to it - got it for under $20K.

    That's another issue w/ the XC60 is price...it comes loaded with a lot of great stuff, which is fine, but the price tag will scare some off. That said, I've driven my sister's Xc90 and was amazed at the comfort level of the seats & cabin.

    anonymous & volvofan - 2009-1992 = 17 years, not 27. The oldest 240s are therefore at least 17 years old, not 30.

    Posted by fj June 29, 09 07:44 AM
  1. What in blazes is the last line of this article supposed to mean?

    Posted by IknowVolvo June 29, 09 10:04 AM
  1. I guess simple arithmetic is not required to post here.

    2009 - 1992 is 17 years as "240 Lover" points out. #9 Anonymous and #3 Volvofan need to get remedial math help.

    Posted by Mike June 29, 09 11:37 AM
  1. Can't believe how many reasonably intelligent people who can afford cars like these don't know basic arithmatic. 240Lover is correct. From 1992 - 2009 is 17 years, not 27

    Posted by Anonymous June 29, 09 11:38 AM
  1. 2009 - 1992 is 17 years old the author was correct with his comments when he said 20 years.

    Posted by Bernie Brewer June 29, 09 12:18 PM
  1. Perhaps I should have said "there's a long line of buyers." My error - I'll change it to avoid confusion.

    Posted by Clifford Atiyeh June 29, 09 12:20 PM
  1. I read the comments about how a comparable Subaru can be had for $10k less. Not true, because it's not comparable. In the last three decades of driving Volvos, I've been in two major accidents, The first was in a 760T, when a Toyota driver blew a red light crossing a major throughfare and I t-boned his car doing just under 50mph. The front of my car hit his squarely between the Toyota's wheel wells. The impact ripped both passenger side doors out of their frames and shoved them so far into the middle that the driver's right arm was hit with the passenger door. The passenger seat was crushed to less than 5inches wide -- anyone sitting there would have been killed instantly. The Toyota was literally bent in half around the front of mine, completely totaled, and he went to the hospital. The damage to mine was limited to replacing the bumper, hood and one fender. It didn't even break the headlights on my volvo, and I drove home.

    The second Volvo epiphany was a drunk driver in a Subaru hitting us head-on as my wife was driving an XC70, towing a small camper. Long story short: The Subaru mushroomed around the front of the volvo, with the Subaru's engine coming loose and driver's side wheel sheared off the a-arm, and both shoved partway into the passenger compartment. The impact crumpled the Subaru's roof & passenger compartment such that both front doors flew open during the impact. The driver's leg was broken against the wheel, front passenger w/broken arm, and the back seat passengers bloodied up pretty badly. While there was a lot of body damage to the Volvo from that one, there was *no* damage to the Volvo behind the front wheels, no compromise of the passenger compartment, and *no* injuries. Everyone in my car continued on to the camping trip.

    Sorry to sound like another raving Volvo convert, but I have a deep respect for the laws of physics, sheer strength of good steel, and good design. (And by all measure, the P2 platform is even better than the P1). I like how the others drive, but good design by itself is not enough. No Toyota or Subaru for me.

    Posted by Jon June 30, 09 12:59 AM
  1. Perhaps I should have said "there's a long line of buyers." My error - I'll change it to avoid confusion.

    Please do, Cliff. Please do!

    Posted by IKnowVolvo June 30, 09 12:08 PM
  1. That is some terrible fuel economy! A CR-Vs and Rav4s get around 20/27 or better. I'm assuming they're similarly sized vehicles, but I'm not sure.

    Posted by E July 2, 09 11:07 AM
  1. The best thing ever to happen to Volvo was FORD. They've come a long way from the days of the clunky old bricks (240's). Not a bad effort, this cute-ute, but the mileage is pretty poor ... I'm surprised no mention was made of this vehicle's relative carbon emissions. And 42 grand? That's a hard sell, objectively, over a BMW X3. Or a MB GLK. Or heck even certain Japanese and Korean cars. But of course certain New England types will buy anything with the right badge on it.

    Posted by VolvoOwesFord July 7, 09 06:55 PM
  1. Just leased a XC60 well set up. They are dealing - got ~$7,500 off list. Very nice practicle features -seats fold flat while head rests automatically shift to avoid front bucket seats, -laminated moon roof keeps road noise down, -locks on all 4 doors when you use the new fob (vs. key). MPG is very dependent on how you drive. City average has been ~17 mpg with Hwy average 21 mpg. Previous vehicle was a BMW X3. This feels larger and more domestic. The X3 is rear wheel drive in dry conditions. Miss that feel. On the other hand the X3 could never take four adults on a weekend trip. You make your choices.

    Posted by MPB July 10, 09 10:18 PM
  1. While it is very nice to see Volvos having actual style on the outside of their cars now Volvo used to have tasteful, and even sometimes nice looking interior treatment on the inside where the driver sits with real wood and the like. This one seems to continue the plastic budget look that came in a few year ago and completely turned me off from a C70. (Though the new wood trim I just noticed on the Volvo website helps. A bit.) And it is always nice to see that there are other reasons for buying a Volvo than "safety".

    But since there is always a bigger fish I had to comment on Jon's story about the Volvo VS Toyota and Subaru incidents. My best friend was driving her 1999 DeVille on 128 approaching I93 on winter morning 3 years ago and suddenly the cars in front of her came to a quick stop. She stopped the Caddy and avoided hitting the cars ahead of her only to have a Volvo sedan ram the back of her car. Poor Volvo. (Don't worry about the Volvo driver he was fine. More than fine, he was spouting off how well is Volvo had done in the crash seemingly unaware of the major difference in the results from this physics experiment.)

    Understanding that modern cars have front and back ends designed to crush on impact, and understanding that whole rear facia of the DeVille was soft plastic (except trunk lid), it was still amazing to see the Caddy after the accident as compared to the Volvo that had been smushed in so the sheet metal was wrapped around the wheels. I had to really look to see where the damage was on the Caddy, and it wasn't all hidden either - the underyling structure was sound and not repaired. The trunk was fine. The most costly repair was replacing the exhaust system that was pushed in from the back.

    The most humorous part of her story was that she wasn't even sure she had been hit until she looked in her mirror to see the Volvo, and it's pieces in the road behind her. She only recently traded the '99 for a sleek '05 DTS. That accident was one reason she got another Cadillac.

    Posted by Marie July 15, 09 09:29 AM
  1. My S60 averages aroun 28 MPG as well, while being a lot more solid than the tin cans both foreign and domestic that pull that number. But Volvo is going backwards in that respect. The 2001-07 XC70 had ok mileage, 25 highway. The 08+ stinks and matches the XC60, which is quite a bit worse than the X3 by the way. The XC60 looks very nice, but the price is too close to the Q5, and it isn't *that" nice. Volvo has tried to join BMW, Audi, MB and Lexus, rather than slot itself in between those brands and the Toyotas, Fords and Hondas...big mistake. Saabs and Volvos always used to run cheaper than the German brands.

    Posted by Steve July 21, 09 01:51 PM
  1. Hello MPB ,

    Where did you get $7500 off for XC60? I am shopping around for this car, seems like I can not get any deal.. Thanks a lot

    Posted by Star July 23, 09 11:13 AM
  1. Yes MPB, I would like to know as well. I just purchased a XC60 yesterday. I got the most basic model which was plently luxed out for me, but I wasn't able to get anything more than $1000 off if I purchased it or ^$4500 off if I leased. Previously had XC70's and always had wonderful luck and experience, never any significant problems in 11 years of owning them. I wanted to get out of the mommy mobile a bit, but still have the safety that Volvo is so famous for. The XC60 has a lot more punch!

    Posted by VolvoFan July 23, 09 07:02 PM
 

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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