Volvo announced yesterday its new premium crossover, the 2010 XC60, will be at dealerships this March with a base price of $37,200. This puts it right in line with its competitors that include the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Infiniti EX35, and Mercedes-Benz GLK 350.
Alas, its potent 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six will put its city fuel consumption (15 mpg) below even the GLK's dismal 16 mpg showing. That's only 1 mpg better than the behemoth Chevrolet Suburban and 3 mpg than the Cadillac Escalade, and considerably worse than those vehicles' hybrid versions that manage 21 mpg on the city cycle. The XC60's 22 mpg highway rating is in line with this segment, but still doesn't impress. 281 hp and 295 lb-ft torque (at just 1,500 rpm) will surely give this new crossover impressive acceleration, though Volvo's claimed 0-60 mph sprint in just over seven seconds places it a touch behind Audi's new Q5.
Styling is happily in line (or perhaps even beyond) with Volvo's newer, fresher entries like the pleasing C30 hatch; Motor Trend was impressed and calls it "possibly the curviest Volvo ever." A class-leading 9.1 inches of ground clearance should conquer curbs and parking stops if mom's too busy texting (off-road in a Volvo? Really?), and capacious rear seats for the class make it family-friendly. The rear offers a middling cargo space of 30.8 cubic feet.
Volvo takes its commitment to safety to a new height with the introduction of its City Safety system, standard on all XC60s. It's a remarkable new technology that prevents or mitigates collisions at 19 mph or less, a zone where they say the bulk of rear end smashups occur (perhaps also correlated with the wild popularity of the text message?).
Motor Trend found favor with the XC60's handling, finding it tight and rewarding even on swift canyon drives. Again, it sounds poised to do battle with BMW, Audi, and Infiniti's corner-carving crossovers.
The SUV market shrunk mightily in 2008. Smaller suddenly looks greener, and maybe that's all Americans want right now: the illusion of environmental responsibility. Analysts, however, perceive a sea change in buyer's tastes in the power/economy tradeoff, and sales of hybrids are a harbinger of things to come. The next few years will show whether the Swedes, Germans, and Japanese will find success in their small crossovers with big power gamble.
Luckily, Volvo fits smaller gasoline and diesel engines in the XC60 bound for markets outside the U.S., giving them the option to increase mpg if gas prices shoot up again and American buyers cry foul. It's surprising to see the horsepower wars continue in a tough economy, but perhaps buyers in this segment still value acceleration above economy.