Volvo’s XC60 at home in New England winter

–Bill Griffith

Most weeks we prefer to illustrate our auto reviews with photos of vehicles at their shiny best.

However, this week’s test vehicle, a 2013 Volvo XC60T6 SUV, did such yeoman work during a pair of nor’easters that we grabbed some shots of it looking right at home wearing a coat of snow, road slop, and salt. After all, that’s the way most New Englanders’ cars look during stormy stretches.

We think the XC60’s DNA shows through in the photograph, reflecting that Volvos are known for both safety and being comfortable in winter conditions.

The XC60 easily used its 9.1-inch ground clearance to ford foot-deep puddles in the first storm’s driving rains and was equally adept in using the “instant traction’’ aspect of its all-wheel-drive system to deal with the snow-covered hard-pack during and after the second storm.


Even after the sun came out, everything remained sloppy and the wind whipped a constant snow cover onto area roads, making that AWD a welcome companion.

The XC60 comes in 10 configurations, with four trim levels of the base 3.2 “normally aspirated’’ (nonturbo) six-cylinder and three each of the turbocharged T6 and T6 R-Design: standard, Premier Plus, and Platinum. All have a six-speed automatic transmission with an illuminated gear-shift knob. AWD is optional with the 3.2-liter models but standard with the T6es.

Long gone are the square Volvos (the legendary 144 and 740 series) in favor of today’s well established curvy look behind a standard trapezoidal grille with theVolvo iron bar emblem.

Stylistically, I’ve always felt the XC60’s taillights, which run from the roofline down the sides of the rear window and onto the car’s flank, are a signature styling statement. Interestingly, Honda’s new CR-V has adopted a similar rear lighting look.

Our test vehicle was a T6 (turbocharged six-cylinder engine) with a base price of $41,345 (including destination).The Platinum trim level ($4,600), Climate Package ($900), metallic paint ($550), and 19-inch alloy wheels ($750) drove the final sticker price to a pricey $48,145.

We’d shop it against the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Mercedes Benz GLK350. The one package our test car didn’t have was one we’d have appreciated, the $2,100 Technology Package. It adds Active High Beams (automatically switches to low beam when oncoming traffic is detected), Road Sign Information (uses the forward-looking camera to display traffic speed signs on the instrument cluster), Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning (with full automatic braking), Pedestrian Detection (also with full auto braking), Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control, and Lane DepartureWarning. All reflect the technologies that are filtering through the industry.


Still, our test vehicle had a normal array of safety technology besides the expected stability and traction controls; after all, it’s a Volvo.

Primary was the City Safety feature aimed at preventing or mitigating collisions at speeds of 19 mph or less. It uses a closing-velocity sensor to determine an imminent collision and can pre-charge the brakes or brake automatically.

The Climate Package added heated front and rear seats and washer nozzles plus an interior air quality system. There were also keyless entry, tinted rear windows, leather seats and trim, a panoramic moonroof, rearview camera, and Navigation with traffic.

The XC60 was introduced in early 2009 as a 2010 model. Like many Volvo models before it, this style will be around for a while as a redesign isn’t due until 2016.

Since Volvo was sold by Ford to become part of China’s Geely Automotive group, the world has wondered where the brand is headed.

Optimists speculateVolvo will continue as the company’s luxury brand with Swedish engineers working to ready the Chinese company’s lower-tier to compete in the US market as entry-level vehicles.

On the road, the XC60 finds a nice midpoint in suspension tuning: comfortable on the road, OK over the bumps, and not too much lean in a hard corner.

The T6 engine, with 300 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque, should be enough to satisfy all but the performance enthusiast who would want the R-Design, which adds another 25 horsepower. We were disappointed to be averaging 21.3 miles per gallon, but felt better later when we found it was representative for the vehicle, which is rated at 17 mph in city driving, 23 on the highway, and 20 combined.


Inside, Mrs. G gave the XC60 high marks for its passenger amenities, an eight-way power passenger seat, lighted vanity mirror, and quick-warming heated seats.

Both the gauge layout and slim center stack (with partly hidden storage behind it) have become standard-issue Volvo, and we’ve grown fond of the setup. The Sensus infotainment system allows for push button switching among radio, phone, and navigation. Familiarity with the system comes quickly.

Rear seat space was comfortable. We positioned two adults in the outboard spots and a child seat in the middle, situated so a 5-year-old could see well on a trip through the Bright Nights display in Springfield’s Forest Park.

That rear seat was a 40-20-40 arrangement, allowing for a variety of cargo space. We used every bit of that space to hold food, luggage, and presents during a Christmas excursion to Connecticut.

A final stop was a trip through the car wash to put the XC60 in picture-perfect shape.

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