By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Washougal, Wash. to Butte, Mont. ? When we last traveled to Montana in April to visit family, Bill?s nephew, Cody, announced he was getting married in July. Of course that compelled us to plan another road trip from our home near Portland, Ore. to Butte, Mont. and then to Deer Lodge, for the wedding.
Bill?s three nephews are real cowboys, the kind that work on cattle ranches, ride in rodeos and when they get married, they do it cowboy style. Kyle, the first nephew to get married a few years ago had the ceremony by a rushing stream (there were actually white water rafters going by during the ceremony) and the reception was in a massive ranch arena. Cody?s wedding plans called for the wedding in a freshly cut field with the reception in the barn. It turned out to be one of the most interesting and fun weddings we?ve ever attended.
We love road trips, but after more than a dozen, the route from our home in Southern Washington State to Southwest Montana is starting to get a little tedious, and there aren?t many alternate routes unless we want add a lot of miles and hours to the trip. The one saving grace is the audio books we listen to in route — they make the time pass more quickly.
Volvo was kind enough to lend us a new XC60 AWD for the trip, and it turned out to be one of the best road trip cars ever. Driving the Volvo excited us because we think they make the best seats in the business, and that becomes very noticeable when you plan drive 650 miles in one day. We actually got out of the car at the end of the trip, both directions, and didn?t have numb butts.
Volvo has advanced their driver assistant technologies extensively the last few years and the XC60 we used had all the latest and greatest. We planned to listen to audio books from Bill?s smartphone, so the first thing we did was pair the phone with the Bluetooth? system. The process took about a minute, and we didn?t have to read the owner?s manual or repeat the process ? that?s impressive. It also allowed phone calls to come through the Volvo audio system.
Most cars now have the keyless entry and start system, but this one was easier to use than most. With the key in a pocket when we left the car we simply pushed the button on the door handle and everything locked, when we returned we just grabbed the handle and it unlocked. Then the driver put a foot on the brake, push the button and the car started — push the media button on the radio and the book restarted. There was no fussing or menus or pushing multiple buttons it just worked perfectly.
We found the same ease of operation with the map system using both destinations input by hand and by voice. The Volvo also has a camera that reads the speed limit signs and displays the speed limit on the center IP display. Some systems use data built into the map, but the camera system is more accurate because it ?sees? the temporary signs put up in construction zones, rather than just relying on the data base.
One of the new features we especially enjoyed was the Active Duel Xenon Headlights. It was still dark at 4:30 am as we pulled out of Washougal and the bright headlights lit up the road ahead quite nicely and they turned the direction the steering wheel turned. Even better was the automatic dimming, so it wasn?t necessary to dim or brighten the headlights as vehicles approached or when we came up on the taillights of a car ahead, it was all automatic. The Adaptive Cruise Control is also very helpful on a road trip. Simply set the cruise speed and the distance you want to stay behind the vehicle you are following and it keeps your pre-set distance behind your lead car. If the vehicle slows you slow — if it stops, you stop and the Volvo Queue system stops until traffic starts to flow again.
The 2015.5 Volvo XC60 looks good with fresh and contemporary styling. The interior is typically Scandinavian ? simple, clean, functional. The materials are high quality with what appears to be top level workmanship. We like the new high-tech instrument cluster with a digital display. It has a large tachometer in the center of the pod, with a large digital speedometer in the middle. It makes it easy to check engine speed and vehicle speed in a glance.
The drivetrain offerings are a bit confusing, as Volvo integrates the new four-cylinder Drive-E engines into the lineup. The 2015.5 Volvo XC60 has five available engines. The base engine for the front-wheel drive (FWD) T5 Drive-E models is the 240-hp turbocharged four-cylinder double overhead cam four-cylinder. All-wheel drive T5 models have a 240-hp 2.5-liter DOHC five-cylinder. The FWD T6 Drive-E model is powered by a 302-hp turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Our test car, the XC60 T6 AWD, had a turbocharged 300-hp DOHC in-line six-cylinder engine. The T6 AWD R Design version has the same engine producing 325 hp. All the AWD versions, which still use the turbocharged five- or six-cylinder engines, have a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters while the four-cylinder engines all have the new eight-speed Geartronic transmission.
The XC60 with the T6 engine is fast — buff magazine tests list a 0 to 60 time of 6.1 seconds — and were especially impressed by the passing power. About 300 miles of our drive was the two-lane Washington Highway 14 which runs along the Columbia River. We don?t like to get stuck behind slow moving vehicles, so it requires an occasional pass, and the XC60 passing power was great allowing us to make quick safe passes. The XC60 felt more like driving a sport sedan, than an SUV or Crossover. It also made our trip easier and more comfortable than flying to Montana, which ends up taking nearly as long when you consider waiting and transfers.
If we had any complaints about the XC60 it was the fuel economy. We averaged 22.8 mpg driving about 5 to 10 mph over the posted speed limit, and in Montana and Idaho the posted speeds were often 75 mph. So at those speeds, that wasn?t too bad. The EPA rates the XC60 at 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. We understand there is a diesel coming to the U.S. in the future, so that should help the mpg numbers.
We appreciate Volvo?s safety obsession, it always makes us feel more confident when we drive one. The XC60 has a full menu new technologies including Corner Traction Control which uses torque vectoring to push more power to the outer wheel in a corner. This results in less understeer and better control. Other available safety enhancements include the available Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) Package. The BLIS package includes front and rear park assist, Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Merge Aid. The system is based on radar technology installed behind the rear wheels and will detect traffic from a longer distance than the previous BLIS system.
Our XC60 T6 Platinum edition included the Technology Package which adds Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control and Lane Departure Warning along with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection and Collision Warning all with Full Auto Brake.
The 2015.5 Volvo pricing ranges from $37,125 for the T5 Drive-E to as high as $51,675 for the T6 AWD R-Design Platinum.
When you spend this much time in a car in just a few days you learn quickly what you like and don?t like. With the 2015.5 Volvo XC60 we liked everything about it from the great styling to the performance to the high level of technology, but what we liked most was the amazing comfort. It?s a car we?d love to have in our garage permanently.