2018 Volvo XC90

A five-passenger Swede that comes out swinging

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

For a near-mainstream automaker, Volvo’s enhanced lineup of Sweden-built vehicles is perhaps surprisingly competitive with better-known and more-popular luxury rivals, such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Cadillac XT5.

The 2018 XC60 — due out later this summer — is a five-passenger utility vehicle that represents a new breed of Volvo. It also plays a critical role in the automaker’s increasing global popularity; the previous model accounted for about 30 percent of total sales for the brand.

The new 2018 model is sleeker and far more artful than before. It’s right there with Jaguar’s arrestingly gorgeous F-Pace wagon. Of particular note the signature “Thor’s hammer” LED headlights and taillamps that are intended to provide instant identification.

Compared to the outgoing model, the new XC60 is about two inches longer overall, more than four inches wider and gains about 3.5 inches between the front and rear wheels. Much of the gain benefits rear-seat passengers with added legroom and elbowroom. On the minus side, there’s a bit less total cargo space, which is likely the result of a more aerodynamically shaped body with a longer hood and a less upright liftgate.

Unlike the previous XC60, this one rides on Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). The larger XC90 and V90 wagons and the S90 sedan also use it. The platform will eventually be adopted by other Volvo models.

If the XC60’s exterior is a vision of joy, the same can be said for the interior. Accommodations are first rate and copied from no other competitor. The front seats are especially well bolstered and the 9.0- and optional 12.3-inch touch-screens are surrounded by wood and aluminum garnish.

Keeping the XC60 on the boil is a trio of 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines. The base version in the T5 model is turbocharged and produces 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The supercharged and turbocharged 2.0 in the T6 literally boosts total output to 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet. Here, the supercharger increases low-speed power, while the turbo increases power at higher revs.

The XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid calls on a pair of electric motors to assist the turbo-supercharged 2.0 for a combined system output of 400 horses and 472 pound-feet. With an estimated 30 miles of electric-only driving range, the T8 is ideally suited for commuting in gridlock as well as launching the 4,300-pound beast when max acceleration is desired. Zero-to-60-mph times are estimated in the 5.5-second range.

All models operate through eight-speed automatic transmissions.

For the time being, every XC60 is equipped with all-wheel-drive, regardless of engine choice, but that doesn’t preclude front-wheel-drive models becoming available at some point. Note that engine and transmission availability exactly mirrors that of the larger seven-passenger XC90.

The XC60 is sold in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trim levels that can be mixed and matched with any of the three powertrains.

At a $42,500 starting price, the base T5 Momentum has a panoramic sunroof, leather-covered seats (10-way power-operated in front), power liftgate and, being a Volvo, standard active safety technology such as lane-keeping assist and pedestrian detection.

The R-Design has a sport suspension and front seats, shift paddles, navigation system, dynamic drive-mode settings — for changing the engine, transmission, suspension and steering settings — and upgraded interior/exterior trim.

The top-end Inscription trim gets quad-zone climate control, hands-free power liftgate and some other doodads. Inscription buyers can also order the air suspension and higher-end front seats with massage. The optional Pilot Assist works with the adaptive cruise control and can take over the steering function at highway speeds.

Through continuous refinement, Volvo has regained its reputation for innovation and relevance in a me-too automotive environment. The latest XC60 is the embodiment of that approach.

What you should know: 2018 Volvo XC60

Type: Four-door, all-wheel-drive wagon

Engines (h.p.): 2.0-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged (250); supercharged and turbocharged (316); supercharged and turbocharged, with electric assist (400)

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Market position: For much of its existence, Volvo has chosen an uncommon approach in automobile construction. The result are vehicles such as the XC60 that dare to be different in powertrains, styling and advanced safety.

Points:
• Artful redesign makes the XC60 look as good or better than the competition.
• Increased rear-seat room reinforces luxury image. Unorthodox supercharged/turbocharged induction system broadens the power curve. Standard content implies luxury.
• An odd mix of standard and optional active safety systems.
• Tough to beat for looks, content and price.

Active safety: Blind-spot detection (opt.); active cruise control (std.); pedestrian/cyclist/ animal/vehicle detection (std.); lane-keeping assist and mitigation (std.)

MPG: (city/hwy) 22/28 (base 2.0, est.); Base price (incl. destination) $42,500

By Comparison:

Jaguar F-Pace
Base price: $43,500
New-for 2017 wagon available with supercharged or turbo-diesel engines.

BMW X3
Base price: $41,000
Luxury and sportiness in an attractive package. Optional 300-h.p.twin-turbo is quick.

Audi Q5
Base price: $42,500
Second-generation model gets more power. SQ5 version pours on the coals.