Test Drive: 2018 Volvo XC60

Scandinavian-influenced design meets high-tech safety and luxury in this new model

Motoring along a two-lane roadway in Catalonia that coils through small Spanish villages, the views of Montserrat—a majestic, multi-peaked rocky range located near the port city of Barcelona—are dramatic. The Scandinavian-inspired interior of the car we’re driving, the 2018 Volvo XC60, is also splendid. The aim of the vehicle is to shelter its driver and passengers in a sanctuary of tranquil luxury (with plenty of comfort, convenience and technology features) and to protect the onboard cargo in a cabin engineered to provide world-renowned safety.

Longer, lower and wider than the previous version, the compact crossover has more interior roominess that not only brings more elbow room for up to five, but also makes it feel more planted on the road. Of course, there is a number of significant upgrades, along with standard all-wheel drive and an optional air suspension. Each iteration of the 2018 XC60 comes with a choice of a 250-horsepower four-cylinder T5 powertrain or a 316-hp. A T8 supercharged XC60, built on Volvo’s gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain, will get 400 horses and join the line-up later.

Essentially, the second-generation XC60 is a smaller version of the award-winning seven-passenger, recently-reinvented XC90, as it borrows the athletic influence on the design language introduced for the mid-sized sibling both outside and in. The new crossover utility vehicle’s more contemporary exterior has been sculpted to communicate muscle and performance through a brawnier design sketched with a long hood, short overhangs, a sleek profile and a shorter and more snubbed backend. The front is distinguished by a glossy chrome frame grille, LED headlights with the heritage-indicator Thor’s Hammer design, and fog lights integrated into the front spoiler. Also outside are heated power-adjusted outside mirrors with optional blindspot warning, athletic rear wheel arches, LED taillights with side markers, and dual-integrated tailpipes. A range of wheels includes 20-inch and 21-inch alloys, as well as highly-crafted diamond cut versions.

The subtle, comfortable interior is crafted with an atmosphere that whispers. With a driver-oriented cockpit that has uninterrupted design surfaces, the inside is made from beautiful natural materials and tasteful trims that include reclaimed driftwood inlay and hand-stitched leather. Although leather wraps a healthy portion of the interior real estate, it is more nuanced and decidedly different from its German competitors who use a similar yardage of leather, but present it as a fashion statement.

Front seats are 10-way power buckets, while the luxe-level cabin gets four-zone climate control and automatic air-recirculation for travel in polluted areas. Standard on all trims is an updated interface for the Sensus Connect touchscreen that sits in the center stack and works via infrared technology. The patented four-tile homepage keeps navigation, phone, media and applications available and the new user interface has color-coded tiles and larger fonts.

We drove a 2.0-liter T6 inscription-trimmed model with 316 horsepower and 295 torque, the turbo- and super-charged engine blends the best of both worlds bringing instant boost when we motivated the throttle and top-end performance for passing and more-sprightly driving. The AWD system typically motors in front-drive, but can hastily transfer torque and traction of up to 50 percent to the rear, when needed to enhance all-weather traction and/or slippery surfaces.

Drive modes include Comfort, Dynamic, Off Road, and Eco settings, with changes that instantly affect throttle, steering, brake pedal feel, suspension—and fuel economy. There’s also an Individual driver-defined mode that enables a more personalized set-up. Electric steering is well-weighted with three levels of driver-adjustable settings to vary overall power assistance to mesh with personal preference, as well. Other drive attributes are strong, linear braking and a flat motoring demeanor, with little-to-no body roll in corners and a wonderful combination of relaxed-handling settings for everyday driving that can adjust for spirited motoring. The XC60’s suspension and engine are the same as the larger, heavier XC90; the XC60 moves a bit more quickly and its slightly-revised suspension dynamics help it carve corners more crisply.

One of our favorite takeaways is the clean palette of Scandinavian luxury. But we also enjoy its compact and park-easy size, still with ample interior space for five with 38 inches of backseat leg room (plus plenty of stowage in the rear). On the long list of comfort and convenience features, the heated, ventilated and massaging front seats are a true luxury. While for those who like singing in the car, the Bowers and Wilkins sound system (with 15 speakers and the world’s first body integrated air-ventilated subwoofer) will thrill. Of course, perhaps most importantly, the sense of wellbeing that comes from Volvo’s long and impressive list of super-smart safety attributes is ever-present and comforting—no matter where (or how fast) you’re driving.

On sale by the fall of 2017, the 2018 Volvo XC60 will be joined by the T8 electric version by the end of the year or early in 2018. (The company will produce only electric or hybrid vehicles starting in 2019.) Three trims include the base Momentum that starts at $41,500 (plus $995 destination and delivery), the sporty R-Design, and the top-of-the-line Inscription priced from $48,700.

Images courtesy of Volvo