Volvo is one of those companies that has always (pardon the clich?) ?marched to a different drummer?.
Examples of Volvo?s maverick behavior could be when they maintained boxy designs as other manufacturers went to jelly bean shapes, emphasizing safety when others were pushing performance and most recently, moving ahead of the pack, committing to an all four-cylinder fleet as others still dance with sixes and eights.
The small Swedish auto company has gone through a series of ups and downs and ownership changes in recent years, but indications are it?s headed in the right direction thanks to support from the new owner (2010) Chinese automaker Geely. We think Volvo is one of the car companies to watch for innovation and some exciting new products.
It had been a couple of years since we had driven Volvo?s best-selling XC60 so we were interested to see what?s happening with it. Introduced initially in the U.S. as a 2010 model, the XC60 received a makeover in 2014 including an all-new design from the A-pillar forward and more changes this year for what Volvo is calling their 2015.5 model.
As an overall impression, the 2015.5 Volvo XC60 looks good, and the styling is still fresh and contemporary. 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 glace.
The drivetrain offerings are a bit confusing, as Volvo integrates the new four-cylinder Drive-E engines into the lineup. The 2015.5 XC60 has four 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, has a 300-hp DOHC in-line six-cylinder engine. The T6 AWD R Design version has the same engine producing 325 hp.
The transmission for the new Drive-E engines is an eight-speed Geartronic driver adaptive automatic with sport mode. When the Sport Mode is selected or when using paddle shifters, software mapping improves gear change speed by 20-30 percent on third to sixth gears and up to 50 percent quicker for first to second gear.
All the AWD versions, which still use the turbocharged five- or six-cylinder engines, have a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
The XC60 is enjoyable to drive, with a solid precise feel. If we had any complaint it would be the car feels a little heavy and it is, tipping the scale at more than 4,200 pounds and it doesn?t feel quite as agile as some competitors which include some of the big names like Porsche Macan, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK.
Major improvements have been made to Volvo?s navigation system, which uses a seven-inch high-definition screen. For 2015.5 they?ve added in-car connectivity through an internal modem that creates a Wi-Fi Hotspot using 3-G based Volvo On-Call plus. This gives the passengers access to cloud based Volvo Internet services.
Volvo is still obsessed with safety and 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 (LCMA). 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 Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with Full Auto Brake, Active High Beam, Road Sign Information (which displays traffic speed signs for the driver on the instrument cluster based on the Forward Looking Camera), Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control and Lane Departure Warning.
We like the 2015.5 Volvo XC60 for its styling, great seats and good performance. It?s a good indication of the impressive vehicles Volvo is building and a precursor to what?s coming. Watch for a review of the flagship 2016 XC90 in this space in the next few weeks, we hear it?s fabulous.