- Distinctive design
- Better gas mileage (FWD only)
- Superb safety features, ratings
- Car-like handling
- Superb front seats
- AWD gas mileage low
- Rear legroom limited
- Interior close to severe
The 2016 Volvo XC60 remains a luxury-SUV contender, though a plethora of powertrains and options can take the $36,000 base price well over $50,000.
Now, in its seventh model year, Volvo's 2016 XC60 continues to offer a safe, sensible, spacious, and practical family hauler for people and their gear. It has more than a dash of design flair, subtly updated two years ago. As part of Volvo's renaissance, it also got new and vastly more fuel-efficient engines last year—but, sadly, only for front-wheel-drive models. If you want an all-wheel-drive (AWD) XC60 in 2016, you're still stuck with thirstier powertrains.
The XC60 is the brand's mid-sized SUV, sharing underpinnings with the S60 sedan and the more recent V60 wagon. It really occupies the role that old boxy Volvo wagons used to play, since the XC60 is a practical utility vehicle with optional all-wheel drive, while the V60 has little more space than a large hatchback. Together, these three cars are the core of Volvo's U.S. lineup—with the XC60 leading the way.
The XC60's midlife updates have been spread over three model years, Not only was there new front-end styling, but also richer optional leather seats, a new and easier-to-use infotainment system, and last year—in line with Volvo traditional advanced safety values—the City Safe collision-avoidance system added bicyclist detection. For 2016, the only changes are a handful of options eliminated and a couple of new badges.
Its lines are sleek, even rakish. For a car designed a decade ago, it looks modern, with the latest front end making it a little sleeker, more like a car than an upright, bluff utility vehicle. Inside, the design—with its floating center stack, superbly comfortable new front seats and simple, dial-operated console—is Scandinavian to the core. If you want a bit more luxury beyond the sober black interior that's standard, optional two-tone leather-upholstered seats add it in spades.
Inside, you'll fit three kids in the back just fine (there's no third-row option) but three adults is a tight squeeze even for short trips. Rear-seat legroom is on the tight side, though there's plenty of headroom. On the other hand, there's more than 30 cubic feet of cargo space even with the rear seat up, and that almost doubles when you fold down the seatback—although the load floor isn't quite flat.
The powertrain lineup is complex. Front-wheel-drive XC60s get either of two versions of the company's new, highly fuel-efficient Drive-E 2.0-liter direct-injected inline-4, both paired with a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Both are much lighter than the ones they replace, and provide higher EPA gas-mileage ratings and more power. The base XC60 T5, uses a 240-horsepower Drive-E turbo four, and the more powerful T6 gets a 302-hp Drive-E that's turbocharged (for increased horsepower at higher engine speeds) and supercharged (to boost power at low engine speeds as well).
The T6 in particular is powerful and responsive at any speed; both engines have a smooth and mostly subtle start-stop system fitted as standard. Fuel-economy combined ratings are 27 mpg and 25 mpg respectively, far better than the 21 mpg combined that previous FWD models achieved.
Then we get to all-wheel-drive models, with either of two engines driving through a 6-speed automatic into the Haldex all-wheel-drive system. Fuel economy takes a hit here, with combined ratings of 22 mpg for the T5 AWD model with a turbocharged 250-hp five-cylinder, or 20 mpg for the T6 AWD, with a turbocharged 3.0-liter six putting out 300 hp. (That goes up to 325 hp in the T6 R-Design performance model.) With all-wheel drive, the XC60 is a heavy beast, weighing more than 4,200 pounds, and real-world use is notably below the EPA city ratings of 17 or 18 mpg.
Volvo's crossover utility vehicles have always handled like cars, and the 2016 XC60 is no exception. It conveys a secure feeling in the corners that inspires driver confidence. The driving characteristics are quicker in models with the lighter Drive-E engines; the more powerful turbocharged and supercharged T6 front-wheel-drive model puts out enough torque that you can feel the stability control clamping down to keep it pulling in a straight line. All-wheel-drive models offer 9.1 inches of ground clearance and can take occupants through deep snow, up rocky trails, and across muddy sports fields without fuss or drama. And despite somewhat deliberate acceleration, the AWD XC60 really comes into its own on the highway—with plenty of power in reserve for passing.
The 2015 Volvo XC60 was deemed a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, and only a four-star rating for rollover safety kept it from a clean sweep of the top scores from federal testers. One reason is the City Safety system, which alerts the driver to impending collisions and brakes automatically if necessary—averting or reducing accident severity. The system's latest wrinkle is Pedestrian Detection, with Cyclist Detection added more recently. Standard or optional active-safety systems include . Adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, driver alert control, distance alert, and blind-spot monitors—each of them likely to reduce the chances of an accident under specific circumstances. Rear three-quarter visibility is relatively good.