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Volvo built its reputation in the U.S. largely on station wagons, yet the brand has now dropped all of its conventional wagons in favor of somewhat taller and more rugged 'XC' crossovers--like the 2012 XC60, its mainstream model that's just on the compact end of mid-size.
With a design that's organic and rakish on the outside, and more fashion-forward on the inside, the S60 has a smooth, cohesive design throughout, and we venture to say that there are few who won't find it good-looking. It was designed by the same team that did the more aggressively styled S60 sedan, yet it's a little more reined-in and formal. Yet in a class of crossovers that too often tend to look like wagons on stilts, the XC60's design has more grace, with shoulders that flow nearly from headlamps to taillights. Inside, you'll see design attributes from other Volvos, like the 'floating' center stack with storage behind, meshed with a more upright dash. Contrasting two-tone upholstery and trims--including wood (Nordic Light Oak) or metallic-finished center stack (surfaces with curves that remind us of Scandinavian furniture) materials--give it a high-end finish.
From behind the wheel, the 2012 Volvo XC60 incorporates some of the best attributes from crossover vehicles--in that it looks (and is) tall, yet it drives like a much lower vehicle, with a secure, planted feel in tight corners. The automatic transmission comes with a sport mode, and while it's not quite a performance vehicle, the steering is weighted better than that in many previous Volvo models. In its base form, the XC60 gets a 240-horsepower, 3.2-liter in-line six-cylinder engine that gives it a responsive, but not altogether perky, feel. 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, plus suspension improvements, as well as screen-based settings to adjust steering feel. In R-Design form, the XC60 can get to 60 mph in seven seconds, or a little less. One of our chief complaints is that with either of the powertrains, gas mileage is somewhat disappointing; EPA ratings are 17 or 18 mpg in the city, but we've seen lower in real-world use.
That tall roofline provides a lot of passenger space in the 2012 XC60. 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. Legroom can be a bit tight in the second row, as it is in the S60 sedan, and there's not quite enough width for three adults. But cargo space is impressive--more than 30 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks up. They fold down (albeit not quite flat) to more than double the space.
A Volvo wouldn't be complete without a roster of safety features that's more extensive than most; and in this respect, the XC60 is no letdown. The XC60 comes with all the usual features for this class, as well as a number of active-safety tech features that are either Volvo exclusives or ones you would normally only find on more expensive flagship models. 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).
An R-Design package was new to the XC60 last year. For 2012, Volvo has separated the lineup into base (3.2), T6, and T6 R-Design models, with the base model offered in Premier, Premier Plus, and Platinum trims, and the T6 models only in the latter two. Through these packages you can get extras including dual xenon headlamps with Active Bending Light, a panoramic sunroof and power sunshade, and a power tailgate. R-Design models get leather sport seats with contrasting colors, roof rails, and a special R-Design grille, trim, and 20-inch wheels. A Dynamic Package on the T6 adds an active chassis system, speed-sensitive steering, and active headlamps, while other top options include a Dynaudio 650-watt sound system and navigation system. Get some of these, and you can easily add $10k to the XC60's sticker price--although you'll have one of the best-equipped vehicles in this class for about the same as the entry price of some competing luxury models.
- Attractive, organic exterior
- Nicely trimmed interior
- Strong acceleration (T6)
- Firm but comfortable ride
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- Tigh back seat
- Techno-cluttered controls
- Disappointing city mpg