San Francisco, ca
The Swedish automaker has long been considered a producer of premium cars known for their safety and durability. Take care of your Volvo and you’ll have a car for life is the cry.
Volvos were thought to be just a shade less durable and a shade less brand worthy than the prestigious iron from Germany. Not anymore. Intended or not, Volvo’s new XC60 crossover is squarely in the mix with BMW’s X3 and the new Mercedes-Benz GLK which just went on sale.
Pricing had not been released when I was in the Bay Area to test drive the XC60 but the dots can be connected. The GLK is base priced at $33,900. Common sense says you don’t pay more for a Volvo than you do for a comparable Bimmer or Mercedes-Benz.
But it does make sense to pay about the same, or a little less, for a vehicle that is arguably better than both. Now, don’t get it twisted, I haven’t test driven either the X3 or the GLK. However, it’s hard to imagine any crossover being head and shoulders better than Volvo’s XC60.
Let’s start with styling. The XC60 is a Volvo; you don’t need to ask when you start seeing it in March. It’s got the trapezoidal grille, the muscular shoulders and an enlarged iron mark badge in the middle of the grille.
The XC60 has a muscular stance that is backed up by a 3.0 liter turbocharged inline six cylinder engine that makes 281 horsepower; and 295 foot-pounds of torque at a miniscule 1,500 rpm mated to a six speed transmission. Combined with all-wheel-drive, initially this will be the only power train available.
We drove north from Cavallo Point through the harbor at Sausalito and then west to the Pacific Coast Highway. The XC60 was better than average at low speeds. It also had very unobtrusive A pillars which enhanced sight lines.
Once we got to the PCH, we found Volvo’s XC60 nimble, easy to handle and not at all challenged by the climbs along the twisting two-lane highway that lines the California coast. There was ample power, the transmission never hesitated in terms of gear selection and the all-wheel-drive system provided on the road stability.
We traveled about 100 miles up the cost to the Sea Ranch Lodge, then headed east through more Red Wood forests where we picked up U.S. 101 hwy. We encountered some ruddy surfaces on the highway and did find the road noise rather intrusive. Other than that, about the only grip was that the leather seats didn’t provide a lot of grip on the twisting PCH to keep driver and passenger in place.
I thought the interior was really special. It was clean, materials were top notch and the light oak veneer on the floating center stack was particularly appealing. It was about as flat as a flat screen TV and the oak veneer gave it an ambience that previously I’ve only experienced in products from the German automakers.
Overall, I thought the vehicle was extremely comfortable. Surprisingly, there was little driver fatigue, especially after the 100 mile ride and drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. Of course, there were other creature comforts, a twin panel glass roof; a first for Volvo was among them.
But safety is Volvo’s hallmark and the automaker lived up to its reputation with what it calls the City Safety system. At less than 9 mph, the XC will apply its brakes and bring itself to an abrupt stop to avoid a rear end collision. At less than 19 mph, the system will reduce speed as much as possible to the lessen injuries and damage in a rear-end collision.
This is not the sort of system that encourages drivers to let the XC60 bring stop itself. The halt is abruptly jarring. If anything, Volvo’s XC60 encourages drivers to pay more attention as not to activate the City Safety system.
That sounds like Volvo. Develop a system that encourages safe driving and if that’s not the case, the XC60 will stop itself. Look for this technology to spread through Volvo’s offerings as new models come to market.