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The station wagon is a Volvo staple, yet as of late even Volvo has shown signs of abandoning traditional wagon designs in favor of taller utility vehicles. Case in point: it's added to the XC60 crossover lineup and stocked it with the latest luxury features while it's announced the demise (at least in the U.S.) of the V70 wagon.
The XC60 looks (and is) tall, but overall it drives like a much lower vehicle, with a secure, planted feel in tight corners. The automatic transmission comes with a sport mode, and steering is definitely weighted better than that in many previous Volvo models, but the XC60 is still by no means a sporty vehicle when the road turns twisty.
In its base form, with a 3.2-liter in-line six-cylinder engine, the 2011 Volvo XC60 feels responsive but not as downright perky as its 240 horsepower (up 5 this year) should feel. Part of that's due to the fact that the XC60 is surprisingly hefty (more than 4,200 pounds in AWD guise); but the engine seems to come into its own on the highway and with the responsive six-speed automatic can pull off very rapid passes. Sporty T6 models get a turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six, now making 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet. As such, the XC60 is very quick, and capable of getting to 60 mph in seven seconds, or a little less. T6 models corner a bit better, and steering feel can be adjusted through screen-based settings.
The XC60's crossover shape provides lots of passenger comfort, and a cargo-friendly setup as well. Up front, the driving position is nice and upright, but there's a little less support from the bottom cushion than Volvo seats normally deliver, and the passenger footwell feels a bit narrow. The second row is just passable for two adults, as it's somewhat tight on legroom and there's not quite the width to fit three adults across. Overall, the XC60's interior speaks of quality trim and textures, with lots of upscale finishes like available real oak veneer. Cargo space is pretty generous, at more than 30 cubic feet with the rear seats up, but they fold down into a large cargo area (67 cubic feet), but they don't fold quite flat. However, there's an extra stash area just under the cargo floor.
In addition to all the conventional safety features, and good safety ratings, the XC60 offers a few active-safety tech features you won't find everywhere. City Safety wraps together the sensors used in various other high-tech safety aids in the XC60, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Driver Alert Control, Distance Alert, and the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS).
For 2011, you can now get the R-Design package. This new model includes most of the same equipment included in the T5 R-Design: dual xenon headlamps with Active Bending Light, a panoramic sunroof and power sunshade, leather sport seats with contrasting colors, roof rails, and a special R-Design grille, trim, and 20-inch wheels.
Top options include a Dynaudio 650-watt sound system, a rearview camera and navigation system, it runs $2,700. Volvo's nav unit takes some getting used to also, by the way—it's not a touchscreen device, and only the driver can operate it from wheel-mounted controls. Heated seats are part of a $1,000 package; adaptive cruise, distance alerts, lane-departure warning, and collision warning are bundled for $1,695.