2018 Volvo XC60 Review

Liz Kim | Dec 20, 2017

Introduction

Infused with reams of Chinese cash, Volvo is bequeathing drastic makeovers for every one of its vehicles. During the past couple of years the company's flagship sedans, wagons and crossovers have transmogrified into sleek eye-catchers with beautifully spare interiors and enough infotainment and safety technology to keep up with other luxury automakers.

Now, Volvo waves its magic wand over the XC60, its 5-passenger SUV, and the company's most popular model. The all-new 2018 Volvo XC60 competes with the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Lexus NX, and Mercedes-Benz GLC, all compact premium SUVs with petite outer dimensions but stuffed with just as many goodies as their bigger brothers, as long as you're willing to pay the price.

For the review, J.D. Power evaluated a Volvo XC60 T6 Inscription. It was equipped with nearly every option: metallic paint, the Convenience Package, the Vision Package, the Advanced Package, the Luxury Seat Package, the Bowers and Wilkins audio system, and the 4-Corner Air Suspension. The price came to $63,290, including the $995 destination charge.

What Owners Say

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the Volvo XC60, it is helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this Compact Premium SUV, and what they liked most and least about their XC60s.

Compared to owners across the segment, XC60 buyers are more often female (46% vs. 44%) earning a median annual household income of $165,726 (vs. $157,767). Their median age is 57 years, identical to the segment. Notably, the XC60's performance in the annual J.D. Power APEAL Study is remarkably even, trending between 814 and 822 out of 1,000 on the APEAL Index during the past five years.

In terms of their attitudes about vehicle ownership, Volvo XC60 buyers are more likely to agree that they will pay extra to ensure that their vehicle has the latest safety features (93% vs. 86%), that they will pay more for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (67% vs. 54%), and that they need a versatile vehicle that accommodates a busy lifestyle (87% vs. 83%).

Volvo XC60 owners are less likely to agree that they prefer to drive a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (73% vs. 83%). They are also less likely to agree that their friends and family think of them as someone who knows a great deal about autos (54% vs. 59%).

Owners report that their favorite things about the previous XC60 were (in descending order) the seats, exterior styling, visibility and safety, driving dynamics, and interior styling. Owners indicate that their least favorite things about the previous XC60 were (in descending order) the engine/transmission, climate system, storage and space, infotainment system, and fuel economy.

What Our Expert Says

In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own perceptions about how the Volvo XC60 measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2017 APEAL Study.

Exterior

Volvo shows the world that you can design a vehicle that's as practical as all crossovers are, but is also as alluring as a low-slung sports sedan.

Well, not quite, but the new Volvo XC60 is one of the more appealing compact premium SUVs in a designer-graced lot. With its harmonious curves and head-turning sculpturing along its flanks, little about the XC60's styling can be criticized. Big 20-inch wheels braced the test vehicle's stance, and buyers can select even larger 22-inch wheels as an expensive means of ornamentation.

Owners of the previous XC60 really liked the way their vehicles looked, and they're no doubt going to be very pleased with this latest iteration.

Interior

The XC60's cabin is just lovely. Furnished with Blonde leather and Driftwood accents, my test vehicle's minimalistic interior was airy yet cozy. A big, vertically oriented infotainment screen dominates the dashboard, adding modern and surprising element and warranting attention from everyone who enters.

Most of the materials supported the test vehicle's lofty price tag. Unfortunately, some cost cutting is evident as you start tapping some of the plastics on the lower portions of the interior, detracting from an otherwise premium environment.

Seats

Owners of the previous XC60 have reported that their absolute favorite thing about their SUV is the seats.

Rightly, with the new XC60, Volvo has remained true to the supportive comfort that owners love, delivering seats that have just the right amount of cushioning and bolstering. The loaded test vehicle included myriad adjustments like thigh support extenders and bolster adjustments, along with heaters and coolers, to help extend comfort levels. What's more, it also had seat massagers, so that every commute transforms into a spa session. The front seats of the Volvo XC60 are truly a privileged place to be.

Rear-seat passengers don't have it nearly as good. While legroom is decent, shoulder space is tight for three abreast, as is typical of a compact premium SUV. The test vehicle's outboard seat cushions included seat heaters, and the XC60 test vehicle boasted a 4-zone climate control system to quell any possible bickering, which is great. Too bad Volvo doesn't include any USB charging ports for the back seat.

Climate Control System

Volvo integrates the XC60's climate controls into the Sensus display, which means that you have to go through a couple of menus and be fairly precise in choosing a setting. It's more complicated than it ought to be, the price to paid for minimalistic design. As an alternative, you can speak commands into the voice control system, which is sometimes frustrating to use.

The Clean Air ionizing filter system is a nice feature, though, and the 4-zone climate control is a feature rarely seen at any price, let alone this bracket.

Infotainment System

As previously mentioned, the XC60's big Sensus infotainment display is immediately conspicuous, and is enhanced by stylish screen graphics. It's not the easiest or the most intuitive system to learn to use, however.

Most vehicles that go the minimalist route in getting rid of buttons and knobs, and instead integrate them into the touch screen, get dinged for making everything harder to use when driving. Touch screens are great for when you're lounging on the sofa with your undivided attention paid to a display in order to press the exact spot needed. Touch screens are not so great when you're hurtling down a busy expressway at 70 mph and trying to avoid sideswiping the semi-truck next to you while attempting to find the tile icon that controls the seat heaters.

The digital instrumentation is lovely, however, and the head-up display did its part in keeping the driver's eyes on the road. And the upgraded Bowers and Wilkins sound system dazzled even the neophyte with the quality of its sound.

Storage and Space

The XC60 never lets you forget that it's a compact SUV. If you need more space, the larger and slightly more expensive XC90 is available.

Behind the XC60's second-row seat, 29.7 cubic feet of space awaits. Folding the rear seats down reveals 63.3 cu.-ft. Those are competitive numbers within the segment, but compared to a midsize model the difference in size and ability to hold significant amounts of cargo becomes quite distinct. If you regularly carry bulky sports equipment or have a membership to the wholesale store, you might want to go up a size.

Helpfully, my test vehicle had power folding rear seats and a power hands-free tailgate. Storage around the cabin is decent, with a good-sized glove box and door panel bins, but the center console bin is very small. Covered cup holders and trays for holding the key fob and a smartphone are arrayed around the gear selector.

Visibility and Safety

From the driver's seat, you've got a good view over the sloping hood, and while the windshield pillars are chubby visibility in not a problem.

In any case, my test vehicle was veritably bristling with active safety features that aid the view out and help to prevent collisions. Some of these features, like the automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assist systems, gave occasional false warnings that kept annoyance levels elevated, but Volvo's leadership in developing forward-thinking technologies is always appreciated.

As far as protection in a crash is concerned, the NHTSA has yet to test the 2018 XC60. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, however, has deemed it a "Top Safety Pick+" thanks to high marks all around.

Engine/Transmission

I love stealthy fast vehicles. Forget garish McLarens and Lamborghinis – one of my dream cars is a humble but beastly Mercedes-AMG E 63 S station wagon, which would be perfect for blowing past snooty PTA members gossiping in their basic BMW X5 lease specials.

While the XC60 is much sleeker looking than Volvos of yore, this still is not a brand known for its ability to lay down rubber. My test vehicle, however, had a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 316 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Translated, it was one quick people mover.

Power proved plentiful, smooth and consistent throughout the engine's rev range, delivering impressive thrust at highway merges as well as away from intersections. The ponies flow from the engine to an all-wheel-drive system through a quick-thinking, crisp-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel Economy

While the T6 powertrain was most satisfying, the 2018 XC60 will, if my experience is any indicator, get hammered by owners for the same issue that caused the most amount of dissatisfaction with the previous XC60: fuel economy.

I averaged 19.4 mpg over the course of a week of mixed driving conditions, a number falling far short of the 23 mpg that the EPA says to expect. That surpasses disappointment and borders on offensive.

Driving Dynamics

Sharing its scalable architecture with larger Volvos such as the S90 sedan and XC90 SUV, the new XC60 is robustly engineered. The test vehicle also had the optional air suspension, providing up to 10 inches of ground clearance combined with masterful weight management and a smooth, tranquil ride quality. Combined with light steering, the tested XC60 Inscription was soothingly capable in cities and suburbs alike.

Get it onto a twisty road for some fun, however, and the test vehicle falls behind its finely honed competitors when it comes to dynamism. Body motions are beautifully controlled, the brakes bite with authority, and the drivetrain delivers a rush of speed between corners. Still, pushing this XC60 into a kinked curve did not inspire joy.

Even when placed in Dynamic drive mode, the suspension is biased toward soft comfort rather than taut athleticism, and the light steering is a liability in this environment. The test vehicle's 20-inch tires weren't up for playing in the twisties, either.

Realistically, few XC60 buyers will want to use it for performance-oriented purposes. However, who might want to take the long way home will want to check out the XC60 R-Design for its tauter underpinnings.

Final Impressions

The 2018 XC60 improves upon the original model in almost every way, especially in terms of its appearance inside and out. It becomes exceedingly expensive when luxury features are ladled on, however, and the fuel economy deficit is cause for concern. The infotainment controls are a bit fussy to use.

If you want a safe, stylish, and speedy daily driver that easily takes the sting out of a dreary day by providing a supremely comfortable commute home, however, the new 2018 Volvo XC60 may just have your number.

Volvo Cars US supplied the vehicle used for this 2018 Volvo XC60 review.

 









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