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Soberly styled station wagons have been the foundation for Volvo in the past; but its present hinges on its award-winning SUVs. The XC60 was new in 2010, and it's safe to say it's Volvo's most recognized vehicle in the U.S. today--as well as one of the safest vehicles on the road.
The 2014 Volvo XC60 is its mid-size ute, tinged with distinctive styling and infused with extensive safety gear, but still steeped in utility and all-weather capability. Handsome and rakish from most angles, yet a little chiseled, the XC60 is a big twist in Volvo's boxy wagon game from the recent past. While hardcore Volvo enthusiasts may not appreciate the step in this direction, we choose to chalk it up to the evolution of the vehicular marketplace. The interior is Scandinavian to the core–with its floating center stack, curvaceous seats and simple, dial-operated console, it's in a class with Audi here, in both look and feel.
The XC60 has received its mid-cycle refresh for 2014, meaning that a few of the cosmetic bits have been shuffled around, and it gets a new infotainment system. The headlights, bumper, grille and exhaust have all been updated, and cyclist detection has been added to the City Safe collision avoidance system. Inside, the infotainment system has been improved in both look and feel, and it's easier to use than past models. The nicer Sovereign leather is also available on upper trims of the XC60.
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 (or 325 in R-Design form), plus suspension improvements, as well as screen-based settings to adjust steering feel. 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.
Overall, handling is decent--don't let the XC60's tall proportions scare you off; the XC60 drives like a much lower vehicle, with a secure, planted feel in tight corners. And with 9.1 inches of ground clearance and a solid Haldex all-wheel-drive system, the XC60 has the goods for getting through deep snow, or even through a muddy path to a trailhead.
The XC60's tall roofline affords a lot of passenger space inside. It's only a five-seater, but busy parents with weekend-hauling tasks will appreciate the level of versatility and cargo capacity. 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.
Top-notch occupant protection is pretty much a given in a Volvo (it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, which places it in an exclusive cadre). But even considering that, the XC60 makes perfect-ten scores thanks to its large roster of active safety systems offered in the XC60. Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Driver Alert Control, Distance Alert, and the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) all are likely to reduce the chances of an accident. And that's in addition to the City Safety system, which will brake automatically to reduce impacts with other vehicles, or through its expanded (and optional) Pedestrian Detection features, at low speeds for pedestrians.
A fully tricked-out R-Design Platinum can total more than $55k (more than $20k more than a base XC60), but then you'll get one of the best-equipped, most tech-loaded crossovers on the market. If you're not attached to one of those prestige brands, we dare say it's worth it.