- Attractive, organic exterior
- Nicely trimmed interior
- Strong acceleration (T6)
- Firm but comfortable ride
- Tigh back seat
- Techno-cluttered controls
- Disappointing city mpg
The 2012 Volvo XC60 is an attractive, well-designed family luxury vehicle, with a class-leading roster of innovative safety and tech features.
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.
2012 Volvo XC60
The XC60 gracefully demonstrates how the brand's progressed from boxy to beautiful.
Organically smooth and rakish from some angles, the XC60 is a handsome crossover, one that marks a decade of progress in Volvo design. The box is dead--long live the beautiful. Especially from the sideview, the XC60 is svelte by ute standards, balanced and subtly adorned with only the necessary detailing. It's as cohesive a design as we've seen in the class, besting the Buick Enclave in traditionalism. The only hints of overt overstatement are up front, where Volvo's ironmark badge is actually pretty small and delicate, when you compare it to the likes of the Benz GLK's Civic-sized star.
2012 Volvo XC60
Quick and secure, the Volvo XC60 isn't an edgy performer.
The XC60 comes with a choice of base six-cylinder and turbocharged drivetrains, as well as front- or all-wheel drive. Either way, it feels quick and handles with a secure feel.
The standard XC60 gets power from a 3.2-liter in-line six-cylinder engine, an uncommon configuration these days, but one that pays off in drivetrain smoothness. In the XC60, the six is responsive though not as perky as its 240 horsepower on paper suggests. The XC60's a heavy vehicle, though (at more than 4200 pounds when all-wheel drive is specified). It wakes up more at highway speeds, when its responsive six-speed automatic puts the spurs to it. In that environment, the XC60 can pull off very rapid passes. The automatic transmission comes with a sport mode as well.
Turbocharging turns the XC60 into a more sporty T6 model. Rated at 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, the uprated crossover has gutsy performance, and it can accelerate to 60 mph in seven seconds or less.The XC60 looks tall, but overall it drives like a much lower vehicle, with a secure, planted feel in tight corners. 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. T6 models corner a bit better, and steering feel can be adjusted through screen-based settings. Ride quality in the XC60 is quite firm—enough so to allow better body control than you might expect, yet be pliant enough to take on most nasty, unmaintained road surfaces. It's quiet and stable, too.
The XC60 shares some mechanical and structural pieces with the Volvo S80—the crossover's turbocharged V-6 engine and Haldex all-wheel drive will be familiar to fans of the big four-door. That, however, means that under some slippery surfaces you'll have to feel a little wheelspin before the Haldex system sends power to the rear wheels. Its 9.1 inches of ground clearance can come in mighty handy for those needing to get through deep snow, though.
2012 Volvo XC60
Comfort & Quality
Back-seat room is somewhat tight, but the XC60's seats are excellent and its cargo area is large.
Tucked neatly into the Volvo XC60's organically smooth shape is a lot of tall-wagon room and a couple of extra inches of height, for good ground clearance or better step-in height, however you prefer to interpret its mission.
An upright driving position leaves tall drivers with enough head room, and Volvo's traditionally supportive seatbacks are in evidence, though the seat bottoms don't have the same delightful feel as Volvos past. The footwells are a little narrow, too. The second-row seat is a little tight on leg room, and three adults won't easily fit across, even for short trips, though three children will belt in with room to spare.
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.
Overall, the XC60's interior speaks of quality trim and textures, with lots of upscale finishes like available real oak veneer. About the only thing we aren't impressed with is the driver interface, which seems cluttered, and relegates some controls to a screen display and a button on the back of the steering wheel.
2012 Volvo XC60
The XC60 earns our top safety score for its stellar crash-test results and cutting-edge safety technology.
The XC60 gets a perfect score for safety for all the reasons you'd expect, and one or two new ones you may be unfamiliar with.
First things first: the XC60 earns top crash-test scores from both major reporting agencies. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards it five stars overall--it's one of the few vehicles to get that rating since the NHTSA changed its rating system in the 2011 model year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has equally good news for Volvo, as it gives the XC60 its Top Safety Pick award.
The XC60 sports some safety technology that aim to reduce pedestrian injuries in accidents. It's called City Safety, and it's been a Volvo exclusive in the 2011 and 2012 model years. City Safety can identify an object or person in the road ahead, and bring the vehicle to a complete stop at speeds of up to 9 mph, and engage the brakes to help reduce the severity of a crash at somewhat higher speeds.
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). And that's in addition to a well-rounded package of the safety features expected in this class, like electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, side and side-curtain airbags. Of course, there's more to it here; the stability control, for instance, includes a special mode for towing stability (up to 3,300 pounds).
2012 Volvo XC60
Repackaged trim levels don't change the XC60's well-thought-out assortment of features, though the navigation system feels clumsy.
The name Volvo makes us think restrained, but there's no holding back inside the XC60 when it comes to features.
All XC60s have a long list of standard equipment that includes power features; cruise control; a large sunroof; power front seats; and an audio system with satellite and HD radio, USB and auxiliary ports, and Bluetooth. The first three years or 36,000 miles of maintenance are also included.
Options can be bundled in Premier, Premier Plus, or Platinum trims, or chosen separately. The list includes active headlights and a panoramic sunroof. An R-Design package groups leather sport seats; 20-inch wheels; roof rails; and a special R-Design grille and trim.
The most powerful T6 wears 18-inch wheels standard, along with the panoramic roof and roof rails. Top options include a Dynaudio 650-watt sound system, heated seats, a rearview camera and navigation system. 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.
2012 Volvo XC60
Volvo's green-tinted reputation isn't helped by the XC60's middling fuel economy.
We like the XC60's straight-line performance and its five-seat space, but fuel economy could be better.
In its most basic form, the XC60 earns an EPA rating of 19/25 mpg. A few seven-seat crossovers will equal or beat those numbers, and adding all-wheel drive shaves off one mile per gallon on both sides of the equation.
The numbers dip more when the T6's turbo is fitted. It's rated at 17/23 mpg, about the same economy you'd find in a turbo Ford Flex.