Thinking and acting smaller is all the rage these days and Volvo’s new XC60 is the right vehicle at the right time.
Following on the heels of the Ford-owned Swedish automaker’s recent launch of the 2008 C30 compact two-door hatchback, the 2009 XC60 that arrives in North America early next year will join the XC70 (restyled for 2008) and size-large XC90 models that are geared for rough-, or off-road duties.
Volvo is touting the XC60’s compact dimensions, to be sure: it’s nearly eight inches shorter than its mid-size XC70 sibling. However, with plenty of standard and available technological wizardry, the big story, according to the company, is the vehicle’s outstanding safety content. And since some of the earliest protective devices were Volvo inventions (the lap/shoulder belt, for one), the safety image is a natural angle for Volvo.
The XC 60 ’s impressive looks represents a mix of tradition combined with startlingly new shapes. Creating a shorter-but-taller wagon with plenty of distance between the front and rear wheels and minimal body overhang has the effect of making the XC60 appear solid and imposing. Fortunately, the organically styled nose, steeply raked windshield and a rear liftgate framed by a set of the most sensuous taillights ever to appear on any automobile give the XC60 a decidedly delicious appearance.
The interior also reconfirms yet another Volvo tradition of providing well-bolstered front seats that deliver style as well as safety. In addition, the angled control panel that blends into the floor console is no-nonsense Swedish modern in its execution.
The XC gets its game on with a 281-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine. That’s 46 more horses than the current XC70 or base XC90 with the 3.2-liter V6, but one suspects that the turbo motor, standard on Volvo’s S80 luxury sedan, could eventually migrate to other Volvo models.
A six-speed automatic transmission with manual control completes the powertrain.
Volvo claims the 3.0 will push the XC60 to 60 mph in less than 7.5 seconds, solid performance for a vehicle that weighs close to 4,400 pounds.
The positioning of the XC60 is that of a fully vested member of the “small premium utility” group that includes the Acura RDX, Lincoln MKX, BMW X3 and soon-to-arrive Audi Q5. As such, Volvo has topped up the standard equipment to include dual-zone climate control, leather-trimmed interior with extra aluminum bits and pieces, eight-way adjustable power front seats and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with built-in audio controls.
Also included is what Volvo calls City Safety, a laser-based monitoring system that automatically applies the brakes if it senses the driver is about to make contact with the vehicle in front.
Optional safety gear includes a blind-spot alert that warns of approaching vehicles from either side, adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead and adaptive bi-xenon (high- and lowbeam) headlights that pivot up to 15 degrees in the direction of a turn. A new system issues an alarm if the driver begins to fall asleep, while Personal Car Communicator, consisting of a remote control device with a 330-foot range, uses a built-in heartbeat monitor to alert you if an intruder is in the vehicle. And those are just some of the biggies.
By blending the latest safety technology with cutting-edge styling, the XC60 could become a must-have machine among the upwardly professional crowd with young family members. In the process, Volvo will protect its reputation as a provider of avant-garde transportation.