By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor - Updated Date: 8/24/2011
Volvo has a well established reputation for building safe, family-friendly wagons that are as reliable as a Maine winter. Unfortunately, consumers in general have no love for wagons, preferring instead small and midsize crossover vehicles. Given this scenario, the most logical step for Volvo was to create a new vehicle, one with the ride and handling of a wagon, but look and feel of a small SUV. Based on the sporty S60 sedan platform, the 2011 Volvo XC60 fills the void between the larger XC90 and the aging XC70 wagon. Smartly styled and competitively priced, the XC60 is well equipped to take on long-established luxury CUVs like the BMW X3, Lexus RX 350 and Acura RDX, not to mention new comers such as the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK350. Coupled with Volvo's long list of safety and engineering firsts, the XC60 makes a rather attractive prospect, and its numerous trim variations and engine choices enable it to compete with such premium competitors as the Subaru Outback Limited and Volkswagen Tiguan.
If you're seeking a midsize crossover with a strong emphasis on safety that doesn't conflict with the vehicle's sense of style and comfort, the 2011 Volvo XC60 certainly fits the bill. Available all-wheel drive allows the XC60 to tackle all manner of road conditions and even confidently venture off-road.
If you want the security of all-wheel-drive, but without the higher price and lesser fuel economy of a six-cylinder engine, Audi's Q5 2.0-liter quattro is a better choice.
New for 2011 is the XC60 3.2 R-Design, which includes a leather interior, panoramic glass moonroof, HID headlamps with Active Light Bending technology and 20-inch alloy wheels. The base 3.2-liter V6 gets a five-horsepower bump, while the turbocharged models see an increase of 18 additional ponies, bumping output to 300 horsepower.
We spent equal time in both the base XC60 3.2 and the top-of-the-line T6 R-Design and came away with two distinctly different driving impressions. The base XC60's 240-horsepower engine has enough muscle to allow safe passage onto freeways or when overtaking slower cars, but once you get a taste of the 300-horsepower turbocharged engine in the T6, there's no going back. The turbo spools up quickly meaning there is no lag in power or sudden rush after the engine reaches a particular rpm. While the driving dynamics improve markedly with the T6, the ride quality seems to diminish exponentially. Riding on 17-inch wheels and tires, the XC60 3.2 provides a smooth and comfortable ride with little tire noise entering the cabin. However, the T6 R-Design's stiffer suspension setup and 20-inch wheels make for a rather firm ride frequently punctuated by rude jolts when encountering nasty road distortions, and slightly more interior noise. During highway driving, we found both vehicles felt stable and well-behaved, tracking straight even on crowning pavement and responding instantly to steering wheel input.
Distracted drivers are becoming more and more frequent these days, which is why we applaud Volvo making the City Safe feature part of the XC60's standard equipment. At speeds below 19 mph, City Safe detects stopped or slower-moving objects ahead and applies the brakes to slow the vehicle helping to avoid or lessen the severity of an impact.
Although the ride can be a bit stiff, we love the power, handling and elegant R-Design styling. For the money, we think the XC60 T6 R-Design is one of the most-alluring crossovers on the market.
Functionally, there is nothing that stands out about the 2011 Volvo XC60's interior, but its aesthetics are notably interesting. Lovely contrasting colors adorn the seats and door panels while a distinctive open-back console plays home to the climate and audio controls. High on our plus list are the extremely comfortable bucket-style seats, and the long list of available electronic safety features that do everything from warn when the vehicle is drifting from its lane, to slow the car before an inevitable front-end collision can occur (this should be particularly helpful to those who can't help texting while driving). Not so impressive are the awkwardly placed and hard to turn manual lumbar adjustments, and the overly complicated screens on the available navigation system that, while artistic, are inferior to the simple touch screen menus found on any $100 Garmin unit.
If there's one place the 2011 Volvo XC60 outshines most of its competition, it's the vehicle's exterior. Where most competitors display squared-off edges and boxy greenhouses, the XC60's slicked back profile, curvaceous sheet metal and highly stylized tail lamps speak to the driving enthusiast in all of us. To achieve the XC60's sleek roofline, Volvo engineers have created roof rails with minimal height, a design that also cuts down on wind noise. An available cross bar system can be attached to the rails and features a number of supports for bikes, skis, kayaks, windsurfers and a cargo box. There's even a gas-sprung lift-arm option to help lift your bike onto the supports. The R-Design models feature larger, more stylish wheels but the performance tires that come with the package lessen the XC60's off-road abilities, prompting us to recommend the base 3.2 or T6 trim over the R-Design if mud or snow is a part of your regular driving routine.
The most basic 2011 Volvo XC60 includes a 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine, six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, front and rear skid plates and four-year/50,000 mile warranty. In addition to power windows, mirrors and locks, the Volvo XC60 includes heated outside mirrors, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, dual-zone automatic climate controls, cruise control, eight-way power driver's seat, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth, and 180-watt sound system with eight speakers, CD/DVD video playback, HD radio, Sirius Satellite Radio, and a USB input. Standard safety features include front side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, City Safe (a system that can slow the car at speeds under 19 mph when an object is detected ahead), electronic traction and stability controls, Trailer Stability Assist, whiplash protection seating and a tire pressure monitoring system.
A nicely-loaded 2011 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design includes dual xenon headlamps with Active Light Bending technology, aluminum trim on the steering wheel, laminated panoramic glass moonroof with power sunshade, an eight-way power passenger's seat, leather seating surfaces, 20-inch "Cratus" alloy wheels, and R-Design inlays and contrasting interior panels. All-wheel drive is available on 3.2 and 3.2 R-Design models and is standard on the T6 and T6 R-Design. Volvo groups its most popular options into packages, including the Technology Package that adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, and Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake. The Climate Package brings heated front and rear seats, headlamp washers, heated windshield washer nozzles and rain sensing wipers, while the Multimedia packages adds a 650-watt premium Surround Sound audio system with iPod integration and navigation featuring Rear Time traffic, remote control operation and a rear backup camera. Standalone options include BLIS blind spot warning system, Volvo's Personal Car Communicator with Keyless Drive and two-way car communication, rear-seat DVD entertainment, and dual outboard rear child booster seats.
The 2011 Volvo XC60 3.2 is powered by a 3.2-liter in-line six cylinder engine generating 240 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. This dual overhead cam, 24-valve powerplant is fairly fuel efficient, runs on regular fuel and delivers its power without vibration or coarse sound. The T6 models receive a turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine that, like the 3.2-liter, runs on regular fuel yet pumps out an impressive 300 horsepower. Both engines are mated to the same six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission that allows for manual shift operation. And, despite its added power, the turbocharged engine nearly matches the normally aspirated 3.2 in city and highway fuel consumption.
3.2-liter in-line six
240 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
236 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 (FWD), 18/24 (AWD)
3.0-liter in-line six, turbocharged
300 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
325 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2100-4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/22
The 2011 Volvo XC60 3.2 has a Manufacturer's Suggest Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $34,000, while a 3.2 R-Design with all-wheel drive stickers closer to $41,500. A fully-loaded T6 R-Design tops out just over $52,000. With a price range this wide, the Volvo XC60 can compete at the low-end with crossovers like the Acura RDX at around $34,500 and the Infiniti EX35, which starts closer to $36,000. At the high-end, an XC60 T6 R-Design with all the options significantly undercuts a loaded Mercede- Benz GLK350 ($58,000), Lexus RX 350 ($57,000) and the Audi Q5 3.2 ($59,000). To make your best deal, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price which reflects what others in your area have paid for their XC60. As for resale, we expect the 2011 Volvo XC60 to retain slightly-better -than-average values over a five year period, outperforming the Land Rover LR2 and Mercedes-Benz GLK350, but falling below the Audi Q5, Acura RDX and Lexus RX 350.