Still a Safe Bet

New power comes to 2017 Volvo XC60.
Nov 1, 2016
Barry Spyker

Sure, Volvo deserves all the kudos for safety innovations like its automatic braking system and exclusive pop-out booster seats for kids.

But it's puzzling when the Swedish carmaker (now Chinese-owned) stumbles with simple nomenclature. Take the 2017 XC60 T6, its luxury compact SUV. While the T6 suggests a turbocharged 6-cylinder engine, this one's a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder -- and it's not just turbocharged, it's supercharged as well. Was TS4 so difficult? Another engine choice is the T5 but, yep, another 4-banger.

The good news is that these new engines, called Drive-E (don't even ask), are welcome upgrades over the 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine from last year. And more good news: All-wheel-drive is available across the lineup this year.

A week in the T6 AWD proved that it carries all the power necessary for a family of five and their luggage, and even has a towing capacity of 4,400 pounds to take along the boat. The supercharger pushes max power to 302 horses and 295 pound-feet of torque.

Acceleration is strong and smooth, and reaching 60 mph from the stoplight can happen in 6.4 seconds. An 8-speed automatic transmission distributes the power smoothly and with adequate decisiveness whether you're heading uphill or down.

While handling is decent, no one should expect a sport drive from the XC60. There's stiff competition out there from the Europeans, and foes like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, to name a couple, are more spritely alternatives. The XC60 offers a lightweight steering and it's less responsive on the twisty roads.

XC60's suspension, however, is well engineered to smooth out the bumps and dips in the roadway and offer a comfortable ride around town or on the open road.

A start-stop feature may help out on fuel economy but it's a little sluggish and can be frustrating sometimes in traffic. EPA estimates put the AWD T6 at 20 mpg around town, 27 on the open road for a combined 22 mpg.

Inside, thick leather and comfortable, supportive seats make for great road trips, and visibility in all directions is outstanding with its wraparound windshield. Rear seats also have decent headroom and legroom for adults, plus Volvo's unique built-in booster seats.

Touch surfaces on the dash and doors feel good and walnut trim adds a hint of elegance. The infotainment system is easy enough to use but feels outdated with a knob instead of a touchscreen.

There's better-than-average space to stuff your bags and equipment, with 30.8 cubic feet in the rear and 67 cubes when the rear seats are folded down.

Always a stellar participant in government crash tests, the NHTSA gives the XC60 top grades -- five stars -- for frontal and side crash protection, and four stars for rollover protection. And the Institute for Highway Safety awarded the XC its top safety pick, too.

Standard on all XC60s is the City Safety system, an emergency braking system that alerts drivers and helps prevent low-speed collisions. This year it also has pedestrian and cyclist detection. Most of the other bells and whistles are there, too, from whiplash protection to blind-spot monitor and rear camera with cross-traffic alert.

Three trim levels are available and each can be further customized with option packages and either engine choice. The base (Dynamic) is anything but, with dual panoramic sunroofs, most of the safety systems, leather sport seats with 8-way power and driver memory.

Top-of-the-line R-Design adds special elements inside and out, like adaptive xenon headlights and folding side mirrors, plus a dose of attitude with sport pedals, paddle shifters and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

While the XC60 may lag behind when it comes to some high-performing rivals, it remains a solid contender for those in the market for a safe, attractive and family-friendly SUV. 

2017 Volvo XC60 AWD Inscription

MSRP: $46,350

As Tested: $53,555

What's all the excitement about? New turbocharged and supercharged 4-cylinder engine and top safety ratings

Powertrain: 2.0-liter engine good for 302 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque

How's the performance? Smooth and comfortable, not too sporty; zero-to-60 in 6.4 seconds

What about fuel economy? 22 mpg combined (27 highway, 20 city)

Barry Spyker was the automotive editor and columnist for the Miami Herald.

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