2016 Volvo XC60 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
April 30, 2016

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.

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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.

9

2016 Volvo XC60

Styling

The 2016 Volvo XC60 combines the design flair of a sportwagon with the practicality and safety Volvo's known for.

The 2016 Volvo XC60 wears its seven years well, with a design that still looks contemporary—and also timeless. The chiseled lines of the wedge shape are distinctive and striking, with smooth surfaces blended into some rakish angles. The beltline is swept up, and there's surprising cargo volume inside this practical utility vehicle. It's got traditional Volvo virtues dressed in more recently acquired stylish clothes.

Three years ago, Volvo made the front end low, crisp, and more car-like, giving the XC60 slimmer bumpers and a look that's less bluff and more sleek. It's led by a chrome diagonal running from lower left to upper right in what Volvo calls its traditional "ironmark," with chromed horizontal bars that give the grille a low, wide look that's far away from big, blocky truck-like SUV, despite its actual height.

The body proportions make the XC60 visually svelte, with nicely balanced proportions and minimal detailing. Volvo has banished contrasting sills and wheel-arch moldings, most chrome, and any fake vents or random accent lines. The exterior is entirely a single color, looking more elegant than the usual crossover cliche.

Inside the car, the black dashboard is relatively plain—at a time when more and more crossover utilities are adding leather, contrast stitching, metal brightwork, and other luxury accoutrements. The XC60's dashboard—shared with the S60 and V60—is businesslike and the antithesis of showy, somewhere between a very high-quality Subaru dash and the more stark end of the German luxury cars it's priced against. The dash angles toward the driver, with a large high-resolution display of all virtual instruments in the cluster. They're bright, clear, and thoroughly modern.

The floating center stack remains, though for some reason the space underneath seems less obvious—perhaps because it's no longer a novelty as it was five years ago. And for those who want to add some warmth to the interior, the optional two-tone treatment is exceptionally nice, while remaining as non-garish as you'd expect from sensible Scandinavian designers.

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8

2016 Volvo XC60

Performance

The 2016 Volvo XC60 offers power and fuel economy in FWD models, but all versions handle well and drive more like cars than SUVs.

With four engines on offer, giving several different levels of performance and the option of all-wheel drive, the 2016 Volvo XC60 needs to be shopped with some care. All versions of the mid-size crossover utility handle well, though the engines offer a clear difference in acceleration feel among them. The newest and far more fuel-efficient engines and transmissions come only with front-wheel drive—it's a packaging problem, Volvo says—so if you need AWD in the XC60, you'll get legacy engines with lower gas-mileage ratings.

Volvo's new, light, and highly efficient Drive-E 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, an entirely new design created in-house, powers front-wheel-drive XC60s. Two levels of performance can be ordered: The base car has a 240-horsepower Drive-E four that's direct-injected and turbocharged, while the more powerful optional Drive-E puts out 302 hp, courtesy of not only a turbocharger (to boost power at higher engine speeds) but also a supercharger (for more oomph at low revs). Each is paired to a compact new eight-speed automatic transmission.

The new powertrains are all about economy. The transmission shifts frequently to keep the engine at its most efficient range, but it's not particularly noticeable/ In steady-speed cruising, the engine stays around 1,500 rpm, and we even noticed a bit of thrumming noise as the engine stayed at lower speeds even when more power was demanded—the modern-day equivalent of low-speed "lugging." Only on the fastest acceleration did the transmission snap off a remarkable four downshifts to run the engine up near its 6,000-rpm limit. In that 302-hp front-wheel-drive model, in fact, we could feel the electronic control systems fighting against torque steer as the XC60 surged forward.

The new engine includes both Sport and Eco+ modes, which alter the throttle mapping for either more aggressive performance or maximal fuel economy. It's also fitted as standard with an unobtrusive and fast-responding start-stop system. The fuel-economy results prove that it all works: 27 mpg combined for the base engine, 25 mpg combined for the 302-hp version (against 21 mpg combined for the best XC60 last year).

Many buyers in Snow Belt areas won't forgo all-wheel drive, however. Those XC60 models use older engines and transmissions, along with Volvo's solid and capable Haldex system. The base XC60 T5 AWD car has a 2.5-liter inline-5 paired to a 6-speed automatic. It can take awhile to move the heavy (4,200-pound) all-wheel-drive crossover, though it's strong and smooth Then there's the XC60 T6 AWD, with a turbocharged 3.0-liter six rated at 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Volvo quotes acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 7 seconds or less. Finally, the top-of-the-line T6 AWD R-Design model ups the output of the 3.0 turbo to 325 hp (and adds a host of performance and appearance items as well). The AWD five is rated at 22 mpg combined, the sixes at 20 mpg.

The new Drive-E engine is just much lighter than the older engines, meaning there's now quite a difference between the FWD versions—which feel light, better balanced, and eager to go, especially in Sport mode—and the heavier AWD models, which proceed more deliberately.

Despite its tall proportions, the XC60 handles well. It stays planted in tight corners and drives with the secure feel of a much lower vehicle in tight corners. It's not exactly sporty, but you can certainly call it stable and responsive. We found the steering to be better weighted than in previous Volvo models, with road feel apparent through the wheel. Plus, with 9.1 inches of ground clearance and the Haldex AWD, the XC60 has the goods for getting through deep snow, muddy fields, and even rutted trails and rocky roads.

The firm European ride quality of the XC60 is not as smooth as many other crossovers, especially on the optional 20-inch Titania Alloy Wheels with lower-profile tires that were fitted to our test car. As always, ride comfort will likely be best on smaller-diameter wheels with tires that have taller sidewalls. But the XC60 is forgiving for rougher road surfaces, and its well-suppressed interior noise meets the standards of the near-luxury crossover segment.

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8

2016 Volvo XC60

Comfort & Quality

The 2016 Volvo XC60 has supremely comfortable front seats and lots of cargo room, but falls down a bit on rear leg room.

It looks totally different from the boxy old Volvo wagons of yore, but the 2016 Volvo XC60 crossover utility vehicle performs exactly the same family functions—now with the addition of optional all-wheel drive. It seats five, it's roomy and useful for families, and the cargo hold has enough room to satisfy even the most diligent parent who hauls kids to sports practice and after-school activities, visits large stores on the weekend, and takes full-family road trips. All the uses that wagons were once intended for are now performed by car-based SUVs like this one.

Volvo always does a good job with its seats; the XC60 has simply some of the best front seats we've been in. During 300 miles of test driving over two days in three different test versions, we experienced not a single ache, twinge, or sag. Side bolsters on both the lower cushion and the seatback hold occupants firmly in place, though we worry that wider people may not find them quite as accommodating as we did.

The front footwells are narrower than some competing vehicles, but headroom abounds both front and rear. Legroom is a little tight in the rear, and second-row riders with longer limbs will have to bargain for space with those up front. Three children fit fine in the back, but even for round-the-block trips, three adults will be a bridge too far.

Family utility requires lots of cargo space, and the XC60 delivers. With the rear seat up, there's more than 30 cubic feet of space for groceries and kids' gear. Fold them down, and the resulting 67 cubic feet should handle most of what you could throw at it from a big-box store. The sole drawback is that the cargo floor isn't entirely flat, which can make large flat items a challenge. A hidden storage compartment sits under the rear deck, though, always useful for anything from valuables to tools.

The dashboard shared with the S60 and V60 uses an entirely digital display on a high-resolution panel to replace mechanical gauges. It's crisp, clear, and easy to read, but the rest of the dashboard comes across as somewhere between sober and severe. The console keeps Volvo's characteristic "floating" center stack—a thin panel for climate and audio controls, with a pass-through for storing (and hiding) smaller items behind. 

The interior's black plastic has soft-touch surfaces, with a coarse grain that reminded us of animal hide, but we miss the formerly optional wood trim in Nordic Light Oak. No longer can XC60 consoles resemble Scandinavian furniture. Very few people ordered it, Volvo said, so it's gone. The optional two-tone leather upholstery goes some way toward upping the premium feel, but all versions—even the plainer ones—remain comfortable in real-world use.

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10

2016 Volvo XC60

Safety

The 2016 Volvo XC60 continues to earn excellent safety ratings, missing a clean sweep of top scores by just one little star.

Volvo has always been justifiably proud of its record in safety technology, and the 2016 Volvo XC60 remains of the best-rated cars on the market for safety—even in its seventh model year. The IIHS deemed last year's XC60 a Top Safety Pick+, with its best rating of "Good" in every test category. And it earned a top five stars overall from the NHTSA, and five-star ratings for all categories except rollover, where it received four of five stars.

Active safety systems on offer in the Volvo XC60—whether standard or optional—include lane-departure warnings, forward-collision warnings, blind-spot monitors, and the increasingly expected adaptive cruise control. All of them work to cut the chances of an accident and lessen its severity if it cannot be avoided.

Then there's the City Safety system, which automatically stops the XC60 to reduce crash severity when the car is approaching other vehicles. Volvo pioneered this system, and it's been available for many years now—while other makers are just now introducing similar systems. The optional pedestrian detection with full auto-brake feature (part of the Technology Package) identifies an object or a person in the road ahead, and will also bring the XC60 to a full stop—or, at minimum, reduce the severity of the impact if it is unavoidable. And it now has a bicyclist detection feature as well.

These electronic safety features add to the now-standard systems that include side and side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and tire-pressure monitoring systems. We're also fans of the XC60's external visibility. Despite an upswept belt line, its thin pillars give better rear three-quarter visibility than you might expect. A rearview camera can be added too, but drivers who reverse the old-fashioned way—by looking over their shoulders—can actually see what's out there, to Volvo's credit.

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9

2016 Volvo XC60

Features

The 2016 Volvo XC60 starts at $36,000, but powertrain, trim level, and optional equipment choices could boost that over $50,000.

The 2016 Volvo XC60 seems to have as many powertrain offerings as it does features and trim levels. The base model, coming in around $35,750, can easily gain almost $20,000 once all-wheel drive, a more powerful engine, and various trim levels and options are added on. That may require slightly more thought than usual when selecting among the many XC60 configurations.

Standard equipment includes power front seats, a large sunroof, cruise control, satellite and HD radio, USB connectivity, and Bluetooth. (Volvo also notably provides a standard annual oil change for XC60 models.) Other technology features on every model include wipers that sense rain and respond automatically, headlamp washers, tunnel-detecting headlamps, and—on the non-technical front—a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Three basic trim levels are dubbed Premier, Premier Plus, or Platinum. It's complicated, though, since equipment provided with each of these three trims levels differs depending on the precise mode and powertrain. The Premier level gets keyless ignition and the Personal Car Communicator system, which can detect security issues with your car as you approach. Moving up to Premier Plus adds dual xenon headlamps (active in T6 models); beyond that, it gets more complicated.

Major options that are offered at higher trim levels include a suite of active safety systems bundled together in the Technology Package (adaptive cruise, collision warning, pedestrian detection, full auto brake, distance alert, lane departure warning, active high beam, and road sign info). For Volvos likely to be used frequently in snowy regions, a Climate Package includes heated front and rear seats, heated washer nozzles, and an air quality system. Blind-spot monitors can be ordered separately.

As of last year, the XC60 front-wheel-drive models come with new 2.0-liter Drive-E four-cylinder engines and 8-speed automatic transmissions. The entry-level XC60 T5 starts at $35,750 and the more powerful XC60 T6 comes in at $40,050. The faster T6 model gets larger 18-inch alloy wheels, leather-upholstered seating with power adjustment, a power panoramic roof, silver roof rails and keyless ignition. Both engines are fitted with a fast-responding stop/start system as standard.

All-wheel-drive models start with the 3.2 AWD model using a 240-hp 3.2-liter six. Then there's a more powerful T6 AWD model, featuring a turbocharged 300-hp 3.0-liter six. Both are fitted with a 6-speed automatic transmission and Volvo's capable Haldex all-wheel drive system.

Individual options include heated seats, a rear-seat entertainment system, a Dynaudio sound system rated at 650 watts, a rearview camera and navigation system with a new user interface that improves on earlier—and much-criticized—systems in the same car.

At the very top of the range comes the XC60 T6 AWD R-Design model. It includes a 325-hp engine, a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights and unique trim and body cladding. While this starts around $46,000, a heavy hand on the options list can take you well toward $55,000—giving you one of the best-equipped, most tech-loaded crossovers on the market.

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7

2016 Volvo XC60

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Volvo XC60's Drive-E engines offer power and good gas mileage, but only for front-wheel-drive models.

The 2016 Volvo XC60 is somewhat two-faced on fuel economy: The front-wheel-drive versions are at the top of their luxury crossover class, but add all-wheel drive, and it's back to the doghouse again.

Last year, front-wheel-drive XC60 models received a pair of Volvo's new Drive-E high-efficiency 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines. They are rated at 22 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined for the 240-horsepower turbocharged Drive-E engine, or 23/31/26 mpg for the 302-hp version that uses both a turbocharger and a supercharger. The ratings are notably better than those earned by non-AWD versions of the Acura RDX and the Infiniti QX50.

The stop-start system fitted as standard to the Drive-E engines responded quickly to restart the engines during our test drives, and we give it high marks.

If you want all-wheel drive, however—and a majority of crossover buyers in cold-weather climates do—a handful of three-row SUVs on the market can achieve similar ratings to the XC60 while offering far more utility. The older and less fuel-efficient options in the XC60 AWD models are rated at 19/26/22 mpg for the T5 AWD 250-hp 2.5-liter turbo inline-5, or 17/23/20 mpg for the T6 AWD with its 300-hp 3.0-liter turbo six. The R-Design model, also with the 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine comes in at 20 mpg combined as well, despite a power boost to 325 hp.

In other words, if you want a fuel-efficient XC60, opt for front-wheel drive.

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December 31, 2015
2016 Volvo XC60 FWD 4-Door T6 Drive-E Platinum

My 2013 was so good I traded it for a 2016

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While not perfect and, with lots of options - certainly not cheap - this is a GREAT car. I owned a 2013 T5 Platinum model for two years (purchased pre-owned) and never had an issue with it. So much so that... + More »
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December 19, 2015
2016 Volvo XC60 FWD 4-Door T5 Drive-E Platinum

Volvo XC-60, T5 Platinum

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Electronics are confusing, one does get used to them but it takes a while. Wish they could get the driver's seat to go back further. A little cramped for a tall guy. Absolutely ;love the car. Have been able to... + More »
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