Volvo is the king of the family-hauling luxury SUV. When the XC90 hit the scene, it began a slow domination of the three-row market. Soon after, the Swedish automaker moved into the smaller market with the XC60 and once again, Volvo had a relative hit for the brand. Now for the new 2015.5 model, the XC60 is updated, upgraded and supposedly better than ever, and I was going to drive the new, more fuel efficient T6 Drive-E model.

As someone who ordinarily hates family hauling crossovers, but loves nicely designed cars like those from Sweden, I was interested in giving this car a run for its money. One of my favorite small hatches of all time is the Volvo C30, so would Volvo be able to make me like a crossover?

It is great to look at, has lots of nice details and features, plus it has 300 horsepower under the hood. I took the keys for a week and a few hundred miles to see if it was worth buying. Would the fuel saving features ruin the fun? Would the generally boring driving dynamics of a family car make me hate driving it?

Read on to find out more about the new 2015.5 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E.

  • 2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Transmission:
    8-speed automatic
  • MPG(Cty):
    22
  • MPG(Hwy):
    30
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.0 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    40900
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 567911
2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 567926
2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 567924
The 20-inch alloy wheels do feel a bit garish on a vehicle that is otherwise so tastefully designed, but the thin spokes do help reduce the impact.

Volvo gets hated on quite frequently for producing bland and dull-looking cars, but I find lots of beauty in the exterior of the new XC60. As someone who enjoys clean design and subtle details, the Volvo is one of the best looking cars I have had in my driveway. The shape is uncluttered and modern; it should stay handsome for years and years. Everywhere you look there are small design flourishes the help make the outside more exciting.

The top of the HID headlamps feature a small piece of silver trim, like many cars these days, but the trim in the Volvo has this nicely sculpted texture to it that is waving pattern with multiple levels that reminds me almost of wings.

There is a large, black-painted section in the grille that features a silver strip through its center that Volvo uses to hide most of the cameras and radar equipment that XC60 uses to operate its various and advanced safety features. You can see it when you look for it, but in general practice it hides what would normally be a hideous collection of sensors hanging from the nose of the car.

2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 567903
The rear of the car also has some nice details.

The profile of the car has plenty of sharp sculpted body lines that serve to lengthen and lower the visual presence of the XC60. Additionally, all the windows have black trim to give the effect of one large pillarless window that runs from the front to the rear. The 20-inch alloy wheels do feel a bit garish on a vehicle that is otherwise so tastefully designed, but the thin spokes do help reduce the impact.

The rear of the car also has some nice details. The trademark tall Volvo taillights are slightly rounded and protrude from the rear of the hatch by an inch or so. This design feature acts somewhat like a spoiler that helps make the car more aerodynamically efficient by smoothing the air as it falls off the back of the car. The top-mounted lamp is also embedded higher into the spoiler allowing Volvo to lower and extend the spoiler slightly. This should also benefit the aerodynamics.

Interior

2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven Interior
- image 567918
2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven High Resolution Interior
- image 568648
2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven Interior
- image 568652
The technical colors of the interior leather are listed as Blonde and Off-Black.

It is pretty obvious that I like the outside of the XC60, but from a visual and practical standpoint, the interior is leagues ahead of nearly every car in this price range that I have ever driven. Every surface and design flourish feels well thought out and deliberate. It is everything I look for in a premium interior.

The optional sports seats fitted to my XC60 have a nicely sculpted shape and feature a very handsome two-tone white and black combination color scheme. The technical colors of the interior leather are listed as Blonde and Off-Black. The color scheme continues on the door panels, but the dash gets none of the contrasting hide. The dash is smooth and designed at a slightly off-camber angle visually. The top of the center stack is higher on the driver’s side, and the whole system is slanted slightly towards the driver’s seat. It makes the cockpit feel visually larger and focused.

2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven Interior
- image 568629
If you have kids, the XC60 is an excellent choice.

With no animal hide on the dash, the Volvo could look rather bland with its large slabs of black nothingness. However, bright trim work around the center stack, a beautiful heavy-brushed finish around the shifter and HVAC controls, as well as the attractive shape of the front-center speaker grille add excitement and class. If you are a fan of storage and unusual Swedish design, you will be happy to know that the center stack still uses the traditional Volvo “waterfall” design with its small cubby behind the controls.

Some of the other subtle touches that I found enjoyable include the frameless rearview mirror and the continual swoop of the bright work on the door panel.

If you have kids, the XC60 is an excellent choice. Thanks to optional Child Booster Seats package, each outboard rear seat comes with built-in safety booster seats that are adjustable to both required heights. The seats are very easy for an adult to use, but the latch is designed in such a way that it would be virtually impossible for a child sitting in the seat to operate it. They also covered the entire mechanism with a sewn-on skirt so that those flying Cheerios don’t get nestled into places you can’t clean. It was a very smart design, like everything else in the cabin.

Drivetrain

2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven Drivetrain
- image 568636
The engine was incredibly smooth and powerful, just like a straight-six should be.

When the car first arrived with its T6 badge on the back, I expected this to feature the same inline-6 engine Volvo has used in the past. I just assumed Volvo had modified it to be more fuel efficient. The engine was smooth and powerful, just like a straight-six should be. But then I did some research. The inline-six was nowhere for me to find. In its place, Volvo has fitted a new 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that is supercharged and turbocharged. It produces an astonishing amount of power too; 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Power delivery is incredibly linear and predictable. There is also no real sign of harshness, exhaust drone or lag. It is an impeccably well-designed powerplant.

I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how Volvo managed to make a super high-strung turbo four that is so good that I didn’t know that it wasn’t a lightly boosted inline-six.

2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven Drivetrain
- image 568637
The goal of using an eight-speed transmission combined with a small four-cylinder engine is to improve fuel economy.

Part of the smoothness in the drivetrain might be thanks to the car’s transmission. It comes standard with an eight-speed automatic that doesn’t deliver the crispest or sharpest shifts, but they are smooth and prevent any harsh driveline lash when swapping cogs. The automatic modes of the tranny work pretty well to keep you in the right gear for whatever driving style you are using, but you can choose your own gear with the included paddles on the steering wheel.

The one downfall to my XC60 is that it is a FWD model. With 300 horsepower pointed at only the front wheels, things can get a bit hairy on occasion. An AWD model won’t boast the same fuel economy, but it will make the engine’s power more usable.

The goal of using an eight-speed transmission combined with a small four-cylinder engine is to improve fuel economy. The EPA-estimated fuel economy for the XC60 Drive-E is 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. Sadly, like all small turbo motors, the fuel economy only comes if you are gentle with that throttle. I was not gentle in the slightest, and I was averaging under 25 mpg after my week-long adventure.

Driving Impressions


With 300 rampaging horses in a front-wheel-drive crossover, the Volvo XC60 is a surprisingly tame beast to drive. If you drop the hammer and let go of the steering wheel it will torque steer harder than a mule kicks, but thanks to the electric power steering system a firm grip is enough to keep the wheels straight 99 percent of the time. That speed and power is a bit intoxicating though. This crossover is designed to be a fuel-sipping machine, but with the transmission’s willingness to downshift and that smooth leather steering wheel in your hands, it is hard to show proper restraint.

Even the chassis setup seems to goad you into being a bit of a hooligan. The suspension is far stiffer than expected, so body roll was well-controlled; thanks to smart damping rates, the ride over broken pavement didn’t suffer for it either. My tester also came with massive 20-inch alloy wheels wearing some very low-profile Pirelli rubber. Last time I checked, 20-inch rollers and Pirelli didn’t equate to calm and sensible driving. When you feel like caning it, the car will lean and fight back a bit, but with the proper throttle control you can get it to tuck into a corner better than anything this tall ever should. I actually enjoyed bombing around some of my back roads.

2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 567930

The XC60 is a Volvo though, so there are lots of sensible bits to it. My tester has the BLIS blind spot monitoring system, forward collision detection, radar-guided cruise control and more. In a move of inspired genius, Volvo has created an infotainment system that is not complicated to use, and responds in a lightning-fast fashion. You can turn off every one of those safety features in a matter of seconds, and activate them all again just as fast.

The new XC60 also comes with the fancy Volvo On Call system. After a rather quick sign up process, I gain access to the car via an app on my smartphone. I can see the dashboard, read warning lights, lock or start the car, and track it via GPS. It even has a function that will alert you if you left it unlocked for more than 30 minutes. Did you forget to roll up your windows, and you see a storm rolling in? Yeah, you can even check that. It was awesome.

Pricing

2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven Emblems and Logo Exterior
- image 567929

Like all Volvos, all that practicality and impressive design doesn’t come cheap. The base XC60 T6 Drive-E model like mine will run you $40,900. Add the Platinum Package to get the goodies like Keyless Drive, HID headlamps, Harmon Kardon audio and more, you just tacked on $4,400. The Child Booster Seats kit and the Sports Seats for the front are $500 per package, and the BLIS system was $900. The Crystal White Metallic paint is nice, but it cost $550, and those 20-inch wheels were another $1000. After a $925 destination fee and a $500 charge for the seat heaters up front, my XC60 came to a total price of $50,175.

Competitors

BMW X5

2014 BMW X5 Exterior
- image 508507

When you are talking about Luxury family haulers, you can’t avoid comparisons to the X5. You still get seating for 5, large trunk, an eight-speed automatic transmission and 300 horsepower, but you sacrifice on the fuel economy. The EPA rates the BMW at 19 mpg city and 27 highway. With a quoted 6.2-second 0-to-60-mph sprint, the BMW should be a bit quicker in a straight line and thanks to its RWD architecture it should be a little more fun to drive too.

But the BMW has one sore spot when it comes to this comparison, price. With a base price of $53,200 the cheapest X5 costs more money than our optioned up XC60. That doesn’t bode well for the Bavarian.

Acura RDX

2013 - 2014 Acura RDX Exterior
- image 463724

If you just want some luxury and technology, but don’t want to run to the Germans, Acura is willing to help out. Its 3.5-liter engine is good for 273 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of twist, but thanks to a transmission that only has six gears, it suffers in the EPA ratings. Acura can only claim 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway with a combined of 23 mpg. It is also a front-wheel-drive machine, like the Volvo, so if you prefer the feel and safety that comes with driving a FWD machine, the Acura has you covered.

It also takes top honors in the price wars. It may not be nearly as luxurious or handsome as the Volvo, but with a starting price of only $35,095, you have plenty of extra cash for all the options you want to add. In fact, you can add nearly every single option and dealer extra to the Acura and still come out a few grand cheaper than the final price of my Volvo.

Conclusion

2015 Volvo XC60 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 567921

Despite my general distaste for the eternally compromised segment of cars called crossovers, I found myself enjoying my time with the Volvo XC60. It is lovely to look at, has some of the best detail work I’ve seen on a car in a while, and every feature seems smartly integrated and chosen for a specific reason. It doesn’t handle like a terrible boat, it has plenty of power, and it is an excellent choice for those of you with smaller children.

I even like the fancy technology that litters the cabin. Unlike most cars that feel as if every piece was created by someone different and then just all thrown together with hope and a prayer that everything functions properly, every system, menu and interface was smartly designed, and it all worked properly. Even the engine is impressive. Managing to drag 300-plus horsepower from a 2.0-liter engine without making it an undrivable mess is quite the accomplishment. Compared to its rivals like the BMW 5 Series, it’s even one hell of a bargain.

My only concern is that fuel-economy number. I worry too many people will see that 30 mpg on the sticker and purchase this machine solely on that. If you drive this car with any amount of urgency, your fuel economy is going to suffer dramatically.

  • Leave it
    • Fuel economy is well below expected levels
    • Rear seat space is tight for adults
    • Transmission can be a bit sluggish on shifts
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: