Volvo’s re-invigorated lineup has a lot of fans in the DoubleClutch.ca offices. They’ve been on a roll with everything they’ve released, since coming under their new Chinese senior management. Products like the XC90 and S90 have been good enough to win DoubleClutch annual awards, let alone pull in critical acclaim from the rest of the motoring press, the world over. There’s the new and upcoming XC40 (reviewed here), which allows Volvo to fill in their crossover line from top to bottom, but there’s also the 2018 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design. Could it be the “just right” solution in Volvo’s hot new portfolio?
The first-generation XC60 actually stuck around for nine whopping years. In today’s hyper-competitive world (let alone the crossover market), nine years is an eternity. While it did see updates throughout its life, the XC60 managed to be both overdue for replacement, but also remain a strong seller for Volvo right to the end. The second-generation XC60 ditches the former Ford-derived platform and brings things back in-house. Based on Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), the basic underpinnings and structure of the XC60 are similar to that of the larger XC90. The biggest difference, other than its physical footprint, is that the XC60 is a two-row, five-passenger crossover, as opposed to the XC90’s ability to carry seven. Volvo Canada sent over a Bursting Blue Metallic XC60 T6 with the R-Design trim and additional goodies.
All of Volvo’s recent products have been very heavily focused on overall design, inside and out. The trademark Thor’s Hammer LED daytime running lights up front, and the high-mount tail lamp cluster in the rear. It’s a sharp-looking two-box design that is sure to stand out a little bit, when you’re in a parking lot full of white, silver, and black luxury crossovers from Germany. If you need to, think of the XC60 as a two-thirds sized XC90, and you’ll get the picture.
Inside, a lot of what we love about the XC90 is duplicated in the XC60. The large 9″ centrally-mounted touchscreen makes another appearance, but now adds full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity; it’s a little interesting how Volvo integrates the add-on interface into the lower half of the touchscreen. The open-pore wood trim we loved so much in the XC90 is also available in the XC60 in the Inscription trims. The little details like the Swedish flag tags on the seats are always a nice touch, and settling into some of the best seats in the business means it’s easy to feel like home. We’re in the midst of a brutal cold snap here in Toronto, and this XC60 R-Design allows you to configure how the heated seats and steering wheel behave under cold conditions, which is handy as the infotainment interface can take a bit of time to start up.
Part of the idea behind the shared architecture with the XC90 is the ability to tap into its all four-cylinder lineup. The base XC60 T5 Momentum starts off with a turbocharged 2.0L gasoline inline-four engine, good for 250hp. Stepping up to the R-Design trim tested here gets you the T6 engine, which bolts a supercharger onto the air intake, and bumps the horsepower rating to 316 horsepower at 5,700RPM, and 295 lb-ft. of torque from 2,200-5,400RPM. Volvo says the XC60 T6 will make the run from a stop to 100km/h in just under six seconds. If you’re looking for even more power and more efficiency (yes, you can have both!), Volvo offers the 400hp T8 “twin-engine” plug-in hybrid powertrain with the XC60.
We’re big fans of the T6 engine and its power delivery (for how seamless the transition from low-rpm supercharging to high-rpm turbocharging is), but the boosted four simply doesn’t sound great. Its four-cylinder roots make itself known all the time, though it’s hard for Volvo to really get away from that. Some other competitive options such as the BMW X3 M40i do a great job producing mechanical music, thanks to its inline-six engine singing away under the hood. The XC60 T6 sends its power to all four wheels through a transversely-mounted eight-speed automatic transmission, supplied by long-time partner Aisin.
Other than the slightly gruff sounds coming from the engine room, the XC60 delivers a confident feel to the driver. Four different driving modes allow the driver to change up some parameters, from accelerator sensitivity, transmission downshift behaviour, to climate control usage. By default, the steering is far too light for my preferences, but configuring the steering to “Sport” firmed things up. If you’re expecting a general “familial” feel similar to that of the XC90, you’d be right on the money here. This particular XC60 rides on 19-inch wheels with 235-section Michelin winter tires all around. Like we’ve seen with other Volvos, ride quality is quite decent thanks to the 55-series sidewalls soaking up road imperfections.
Volvo Canada rates the XC60 T6 at 11.4L/100km in the city, 8.7L/100km on the highway, and 10.2L/100km in a combined cycle. These numbers are typically obtained under “ideal” conditions, not in the middle of winter. The extended cold means longer warm-up times and more heater use – both of which contribute to increased fuel consumption. As such, I was only able to squeeze out an indicated average of 12.2L/100km, over a distance of just over 500km. The XC60 will hold 71L of premium 91-octane fuel.
Volvo Canada prices the base model XC60 T5 Momentum at $46,350. For the Canadian market, AWD is standard (as opposed to the United States market where FWD is available if you want it). Stepping up to the $56,000 R-Design means you get the more powerful T6 engine, and the sport-focused body kit. This particular tester adds the $2,200 Convenience Package, which adds Volvo’s excellent Pilot Assist semi-autonomous cruise control system, active lane keeping aid, electric power folding headrests (which are very abrupt to use in practice), and power folding heated seats. The $2,300 Climate Package with HUD adds heating elements to the windshield wiper system, heated rear leather seats, heads-up display, and the all-important heated steering wheel.
The $1,800 Vision Package adds blind spot information system, cross traffic alert, auto dimming power retractable mirrors, automatic parking assist, and a 360-degree camera. This particular car also features a $1,500 “Tailored Dashboard and Upper Door Panels”, which is the keyword for additional premium leather surfaces. The excellent Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system is an additional $3,250, and to these ears, it’s worth every single penny. Opting for Bursting Blue Metallic will add $900, for a subtotal of $67,400 as tested, before taxes and additional fees.
Volvo’s XC60 T6 R-Design plays in a seriously crowded field. The long-established players from Germany are all jockeying to offer the most to the buyer, and dynamic road-going performance is now just another way they can try to differentiate themselves. Off-road performance (other than having traction-enhanced all-wheel drive) simply isn’t much of a priority, but track day credentials are nowadays more attractive. Case in point: Audi’s SQ5, BMW’s X3 M40i, and the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43. All of those offer their own unique take (and six cylinders) on the fast midsize luxury crossover; and the lowest quoted horsepower figure is 354hp, which is a decent handful more than what the XC60 T6 offers.
The Volvo XC60 excels in the usual Volvo way: it offers a high-value, design-focused package, not necessarily focusing on pure performance. Active safety has always been Volvo’s strong suit, and their Pilot Assist system is among the best in the business. Volvo’s unique point with the XC60 is its T8 plug-in electric hybrid, which provides big power, but returns excellent numbers when driven optimally to maximize electric range. The Volvo XC60 T6 takes what we love about the excellent and award-winning XC90 and distills it into a smaller and tidier package.