There’s something about Volvo’s SUVs and rugged wagons that have stood the test of time. Though I am car-savvy, I am by no means a Volvo expert and even I can have trouble distinguishing between a 10 year old model and a brand new Volvo. There is also a certain nobility that Volvos carry and I believe that stems from the fact that they never play into current hype and flash. Rather, Volvo has chosen to stay the course and stick to their deeply established roots. This strategy attracts buyers who appreciate the stability of the brand, who care more about making sound long-term decisions than having the trendiest looking car. Want proof? Drive through an “old money” neighbourhood in Toronto and count the number of Volvo SUVs and wagons in the driveways. Those cars weren’t purchased because they were trendy; they were purchased because they were the right tool for the job, and if a decade later they’re still getting the job done, why replace them?
The 2015 XC60 continues the lineage and looks just like you would expect a Volvo SUV to look. But don’t kid yourself, Volvo has been making massive improvements to their powertrains, technology and efficiency. I spent a week with a brand new 2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E Platinum to see if the current XC60 still remains true to its roots.
The most important thing to know about the T6 Drive-E is that it’s powered by Volvo’s new Drive-E 2.0L 4-cylinder. The T6 version of the engine in my tester is twin-charged, utilizing both a supercharger to provide low end response, and a turbocharger for high rpm torque. The engine puts out an impressive 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, while Volvo’s literature calls it the answer to the V8. Interestingly, a T5 version is also available for those without the need for V8-like performance, which utilizes only a turbocharger and puts out 240hp and 258lb-ft of torque.
I have to admit, I was pretty excited to test my first twin-charged engine, but the biggest let down for me occurred before I even got into the vehicle, as I learnt that the Drive-E engine is currently only available in the front-wheel drive format. I’ll spare our readers my usual rant about front-wheel drive SUVs and move on to mention that Volvo claims their engineers are still working on how to make the 8-speed transmission fit into the AWD platform, and that we can expect to see an AWD Drive-E XC60 in the next generation, expected soon. Until then, if you want an AWD XC60, you’ll have to stick with the time-tested 3.0L turbocharged inline 6.
Stepping into the XC60 on a warm spring day, I quickly forgot about my FWD qualms and immediately focused on how well put together the interior is. It is purely Volvo, from the soft form-fitting leather seats, thick leather wrapped steering wheel and heavy feeling aluminum accents. Much like the BMW X6 I tested a week ago, everything you touch inside the Volvo feels like it’s been built to last a lifetime. I found it very easy to find a perfect driving position and used a rotary dial on the turn signal stalk to easily navigate the gauge cluster display to find all the driving information. The rest of the controls take a bit of getting used to, though I wasn’t able to figure out how to sync the dual climate control. The huge panoramic sunroof contributed to making the otherwise dark space feel light and open, and both rear seat and cargo room felt more than adequate for most family tasks. Even up front, the massive storage cubbies in the door panels and large cup holders made up for the limited space inside the center console for storage.
With an MSRP right around $56,500, my Platinum tester represents the highest trim level Drive-E model available. Happily, even a base model XC60 comes very well equipped, but the Platinum package adds accent lighting, the Harman/Kardon sound system and in-dash navigation. Speaking of which, I did find the navigation in need of some improvements- the interface was confusing and the map is bland-looking and difficult to read. My tester also came equipped with the climate package ($1350) which heats everything including the rear seats, steering wheel and windshield. It also boasts the technology package ($1500) and BLIS package ($1000), both of which add a long list of electronic driving aids and adaptive cruise control. Lastly, my tester came with bi-xenon headlamps ($1000), which perform as good as they look
My time with the XC60 became really interesting when I was behind the wheel, where I developed a love/hate relationship with the XC60 T6’s driving characteristics. I love the response and power from the twin-charged 4-cylinder, I love the distinct supercharger whine while accelerating under 3500rpm and I loved the relatively thrifty 9.8L/100km that I averaged over my week of commuting. What I hated is the amount of torque steer I experienced. I absolutely expected to deal with some torque steer just based on the fact that we’re talking about a pretty powerful little engine in FWD platform, but the torque steer in the XC60 definitely caught me off-guard a few times. I quickly had to get into the habit of keeping both hands firmly gripped on the wheel before any kind of brisk acceleration.
That aside, the XC60 is a very pleasant vehicle to drive both in the city and out on the highways. The ride is soft enough to easily absorb the city’s rough pothole riddled streets, yet offers minimal body lean through the corners and is spirited on-ramps. The XC60 really shines out on the highway, where it silently swallows the miles and keeps its occupants in perfect comfort. On a late Friday evening after a very long and tiring week, I was dreading an hour and a half long highway run I needed to make. I grabbed a coffee and settled into the driver’s seat of the XC60, switched all the driving aids back on, and made use of the adaptive cruise control feature to make my drive as painless as possible. The radar enabled adaptive cruise control in the Volvo is among the most intuitive I’ve used and it smoothly maintained my pre-set driving distance. It was late enough that the typical GTA traffic had subsided, so I sat back and enjoyed the peacefulness inside the XC60, disrupted only by the exceptional sounds of the Harman/Kardon. The XC60 was the right tool for the job.
The XC60 is still the right tool for many families. It’s held true to its roots as the safe option in more ways than one. It’s agreeable styling, fuel efficiency, comfortable cruising dynamics and the fact that it’s just the right size for the average family make it a very strong under-the-radar competitor in a very competitive segment. Combine that with the fact that the XC60 now boasts the “right sized” engine and I am certain that it’s another Volvo that will continue to get the job done and carry the Volvo torch for years to come.
2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E Gallery