2018 Volvo XC60 Review

Confidence is a term that’s often used when describing cars, but perhaps no vehicle on the market embodies that word more than the new 2018 Volvo XC60.

The latest all-new vehicle from the Swedish automaker hits the right mark in so many ways, but what will make it stand out is how it can turn stressful and potentially dangerous situations into non-issues.

While the automaker will say that it didn’t just shrink the current (and popular) XC90, this new vehicle certainly shares a lot with that bigger, more premium SUV. Engines, for example, are pretty much the same, as you can get the XC60 with the same T5 turbocharged four-cylinder making 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Other more advanced powertrains are available, too, like the supercharged and turbocharged T6 engine with 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The T8 model builds on that with an electric motor and battery, turning the XC60 into a plug-in hybrid with 400 combined horsepower and 472 combined lb-ft of torque. Don’t ask me where the T7 engine is, maybe Volvo only likes one prime number in its powertrain lineup.

More Trims and Packages

On hand in sunny Barcelona, Spain, were T6-equipped Volvo XC60 Inscription models, which are fairly well equipped. While T5 models will cost somewhere in the low-to-mid $40,000, T6 models will be mid-$40,000 ($50,000 in Canada), and T8 models will swing in just under $55,000 (Around $70,000 in Canada) (before all those PHEV incentives). You can get the T6 in three different trim levels: Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription. Momentum is the base model, although you’ll be surprised at all the standard equipment included such as City Safety, which can automatically bring the car to a complete stop to prevent a collision with a pedestrian, bicyclist, large animal, or another car. R-Design models are considered to be the sportier trim with more aggressive trim bits, unique wheels and seats, and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Inscription models are the topline trim and include premium items like cooled and heated Nappa leather seats and sexy open-pore wood interior trimmings. Highlights of my test vehicle included the upgraded Bowers & Wilkins sound system, a head up display, four-corner air suspension, blind spot assist, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist.

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The advanced safety features are a huge part of what makes the car so easy to drive. Confidence is built through a car that can handle itself as well as you can. The adaptive cruise control is proactive and doesn’t hatch butterflies in my stomach as the XC60 approaches slower traffic. It slows the car down predictably, but there are also other ways the XC60 showcases its smarts.

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The forward collision system can also detect when you’re reacting to a stopped or slower vehicle in front of you and assist you in maneuvering around it. Don’t mistake that for an auto-pilot system, though, this just ensures that when you direct the car around the obstacle, it’s done in a smooth and controlled way. That forward collision system can also work in tandem with the lane keep system to see if you’re drifting out of your lane and into oncoming traffic, and save you by selectively applying brakes to keep you in your lane. That lane keep system will also work with the blind-spot information system to prevent you from changing lanes and sideswiping a car next to you. Confidence arrives with the car taking an active interest in keeping you and your passengers safe.

Supercharged, Turbocharged, Confident Acceleration

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Confidence comes with that supercharged and turbocharged engine, too. The engine certainly feels less stressed in this car than it does in the larger and heavier XC90. Highway speeds arrive in under 6 seconds with the T6, while the T5 does the trick in 6.8 seconds, and the T8 does it in 5.3. An eight-speed automatic transmission does duty directing that engine’s power into useable motion, and all engines can be equipped with all-wheel drive, though front-wheel-drive will be offered on T5 models in the US. The XC60 may come across as a portly car, ranging between 3,900 lbs to 4,800 lbs, but it feels lighter than it is. Towing capability is rated at 3,500 lbs, which should be good for small watercrafts.

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Confidence is inspired on the road, too, but it’s clear the XC60 isn’t as stiff or sporty as some of its German rivals, although maybe that might be rectified with the R-Design model. On the flipside, the car is extremely comfortable, floating through curves without upsetting the car at all. The air suspension is a huge asset here, and if you’re the type to prefer smooth driving over sporty driving, it’s the optional upgrade tailored for you. Steering is light, although it can be modified to be a bit heavier through the various drive modes or a personalized function that allows drivers to customize a variety of elements of the drive.

Modern, Clean, Quiet Cabin

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Something that stood out while on the road was how quiet the car was. The cabin is isolated and serene, and conversations between myself and my passenger were only interrupted by the navigation system, which was eager to not let us get lost in the countryside of North-East Spain. The interior design is also killer and except for a few hard plastic areas around switches on the doors, it is full of premium touches. The drift wood interior is an amazing addition to a very clean and modern dashboard that has done away with all unnecessary controls, which are now placed in a revised infotainment system. The Sensus touchscreen system is a vertical screen that incorporates swiping gestures, just like a tablet. In past iterations, it felt like there was a lot of small text that was difficult for the driver to read, and while the new revision hasn’t completely fixed the small touch points on the infotainment system, it is much better. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also supported. It’s nice to see Volvo adopting a top notch audio setup in its cars, and the optional Bowers & Wilkins sound system is no slouch and packs a ton of settings to make your music really pop, which is a great complement to the quiet interior.

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The Volvo XC60 is slightly less spacious than the Audi Q5 and features less head room than the BMW X3, but more legroom. Total cargo space is a pretty solid 63.3 cubic feet, which is on par with the X3 and more than the Q5. You can flip down the rear head rests with a button on the touchscreen, and the rear seats can be folded via a button in the cargo area. The trunk lid is power operated as well, as expected in this class. The car should be a good fit with small families as there’s a pair of USB ports in the arm rest, and a rubber-coated slot under the rear seats that can conceal an iPad. Other touches make it extra special. A tiny Swedish flag pokes out of the front seats, and there’s an embossed Nordic cross found under the front-passenger side vents. The side sills have “Inscription” embossed in them, while the tail and headlights have “Volvo” typed up in them too.

The Verdict: 2018 Volvo XC60 Review

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All these little details help the car feel less like an appliance and more like a proud purchase. It fills its job better than just any appliance — it’s now a high-end showpiece like a fancy Nespresso machine or KitchenAid mixer. With the confidence brought by the XC60, I feared that perhaps it would lose its charm, but that’s not the case at all. The SUV makes driving easy not a chore and certainly not a headache. High tech, and modern, the car is probably the most well-rounded vehicle in the Volvo lineup.

  • WillyWonkaisdead

    At one time the T5 designation meant a turbocharged 5 cylinder engine as in the 850,S/V70, S60, C30 and just about every other model in the Volvo lineup since 1992. The T6 designation meant a turbocharged inline 6 cylinder as in the 1st gen S80 and the T8 designation meant a V8 engine as in the 2nd Gen S80 and the XC90. Today those designations mean nothing as Volvo’s powertrain lineup is solely 4-cylinder. You think Volvo could have been more imaginative with their model designations. The new XC60 is a nice ride no matter which “designation” you choose.

  • Rocket

    “… and modern dashboard that has done away with all unnecessary controls, which are now placed in a revised infotainment system.”

    Unfortunately, it’s done away with some very necessary controls, too. Auto journalists need to stop encouraging these ‘clean’ center stacks. Sacrificing functionality for the sake of styling (and no doubt cost-cutting) is a step backwards. Bring back the buttons, Volvo.