In mid-January, following our staff gathering for the Detroit Auto Show, the XC60 changed hands and left our man George’s outpost in Pennsylvania to see out the remainder of its year with us at our Chicago home base. The snow hasn’t been bad since, and we’re still craving an opportunity to see how the latest all-road Volvo handles the real nasty stuff. Next month, we’ll hopefully have a report following a weekend road trip to Northern Michigan, where lake-effect snow is perpetually falling.
Until then, we should probably start with a few corrections from the last report. We complained that a premium crossover like the XC60 doesn’t come with standard Bluetooth, when in fact it does — ours was simply broken. After a trip to Volvo of Oak Park, we were told the Bluetooth module was dead, and it was replaced under warranty. Our reports of a check engine light coming on as a result of using 87 octane fuel were also proven to be wrong, although we have seen a slight ding in fuel economy when using the cheap stuff, and we hope to calculate the better combination of cheap-fuel-but-bad-mileage versus expensive-fuel-but-better-mileage to see which ends up costing less. The light, as indicated by our scan tool, was flashing due to a coolant sensor fault. It too was repaired under warranty, and required a new thermostat housing and sensor. While we had the XC60 in, the dealer fixed our two outstanding recalls (one for the driver’s seatbelt, the other a software-related fuel pump issue) and performed a 15,000-mile service.
The XC60 arrived to Chicago wearing its classy 20-inch Heico wheels, and we spent a few weeks enjoying the look and the surprising ride comfort from the thinner, wider rubber. But this week, we switched back to stock for the pothole-iest part of winter. We hate to say it, but steering feels noticeably sharper with the stock setup, initial acceleration is more eager, and the ride is a touch nicer with the stock 18-inchers. It’s a bit quieter, too, likely because of a less aggressive tread pattern on the stock Pirelli Scorpion Zeros versus the Scorpion STRs we bought from Tire Rack. Still, the large diameter and dark finish of the Heico wheels does help our car stand out from the crowd, especially as we witness the population of XC60s multiplying rapidly in our area. We’ll be happy to sacrifice that edge of sharpness again once the roads are willing to cooperate — this thing isn’t exactly a sports car anyway, after all.
That being said, the XC60 T6’s power has been one of the vehicle’s most enjoyable aspects thus far. The torque is ever-present, shedding away some of the XC60’s mass in the transition from on-paper specs to actual driving dynamics. The engine sounds great, too, and NVH levels are wonderfully low. As such, the XC60 delivers a serene, effortless driving style. We wish our trips to the pump could be less frequent, however. While our daily commute has returned a decent 18 mpg consistently, we were surprised to notice on a recent trip to Indianapolis (granted, in heavy winds and freezing rain) that the on-board computer never broke 19 mpg with the cruise locked in at 75 mph. We’ll watch more, and hopefully we can see better numbers. We also wish the transmission were as fluid as the engine; the Volvo’s six-speed automatic has delivered a few jerky downshifts lately.
Most of our passengers have enjoyed the size, comfort, and design of the XC60’s cabin, and the navigation system with controls mounted on the back of the steering wheel is starting to grow on us as we store the control locations and menus in our brains. All the front-seat cupholders and door compartments have been put to good use, and we haven’t found ourselves begging for more storage space like we did in our last Volvo project car, a C30 hatchback. And we haven’t encountered a cargo haul yet that the XC60’s rear hatch hasn’t been able to swallow.
Reaction to the exterior design, too, has been quite positive. The XC60 isn’t a boxy, simple Volvo of yesterday, and we’ve been surprised to encounter the number of people who don’t consider that a bad thing. Current XC90 owners, it seems, flash us more looks than anyone.
Customers with cash in hand seem to agree with many of our sentiments, because sales were strong leading into the end of 2009. In December, the XC60 was Volvo’s top seller with just about 1500 units sold in North America. That number dropped like a rock in January, but we’ve been told by a number of sources that the fall of about 900 units has to do with nothing more than the fact that they’re simply not rolling off the line fast enough. Indeed, Volvo NA President Doug Speck told us in an interview last month that the XC60 has been “tremendously well received in the marketplace, not just in America but globally. Demand beyond supply.” That isn’t a bad problem to have. As for us? We have a few months of winter left and a lot of places to be. With the XC60 around, that isn’t a bad problem to have, either.