By Mike Hanley on January 27, 2009
The compact luxury crossover segment is set to rapidly expand with the introduction of all-new models like the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class and Volvo XC60, which I recently drove near San Francisco. As you can imagine, that’s a stunning setting in which to test a new car, and for the most part the all-wheel-drive XC60 was a pleasant companion for the 130 miles I logged behind the wheel.
Our route traversed a variety of roads, from winding mountain two-lanes to freeways and city streets, which provided a good opportunity to see how the XC60 performed in different driving situations. Over the course of the drive, the XC60's standard 281-hp, turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine proved itself a capable performer. The engine makes a lot of low-end torque — 295 pounds-feet at 1,500 rpm — and it was nice to have that power when accelerating up hills. Overall, the inline-six makes the XC60 feel light and lively despite its more-than-two-ton curb weight, and it has power to spare at higher speeds. This performance comes at the expense of fuel economy, which Volvo expects to be rated at 16/22 mpg city/highway. As some consolation, the turbo six-cylinder can run on regular gas.
While the XC60 comported itself well on mountain roads, where it really impressed was on the freeway. It readily accelerated up to cruising speeds, it was easy to maneuver in traffic and it had a generally solid feel to it. The cabin was also mostly free of wind and road noise.
Speaking of the cabin, the XC60's interior brings a lot of style to the segment. Its thin center control panel looks like a piece of art when finished in optional Nordic Light Oak (aluminum trim is standard). Buyers can also select two-tone leather seats — like my test model had in place of the standard solid-color leather — as a no-cost option. High-grade fit and finish and materials quality seem appropriate considering the XC60 is expected to start around $40,000.
The XC60 will likely enter a challenging sales environment when it hits dealerships this March, where it will also face strong competitors like the Infiniti EX35.
Senior Editor Mike Hanley is a father of three boys; he reviews new cars, admires classic cars and has embraced the minivan lifestyle. Email Mike