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Volvo XC60 – Update 2

posted by on 21 December 2009 in Daily Driver

We’ll admit that before the XC60 was added to our garage we were skeptical of the whole five-passenger crossover segment. Sure, the segment is one of the few showing signs of growth today, and the XC60 does offer Volvo’s wagon proficiency applied to a marginally smaller and more fuel-efficient take on the company’s stalwart seven-passenger XC90. But would it be any fun to drive, even with the capable turbocharged six and a quick-shifting six-speed automatic? Over the past few months we’ve logged several thousand miles and have determined a prodigious list of likes and dislikes.

On the plus side, the XC60’s looks are some of the most appealing in the segment — sporty and aggressive in a field that includes the dowdy Lexus RX, some freakishly styled Nissans and Infinitis, and box-shaped offerings from Mercedes and BMW. Its cabin is handsome, functional and upscale compared to the aging XC90 it sits next to in one editor’s garage. Seats are as sublime and supportive as we’ve come to expect from Volvo. Infotainment is a step ahead of older Volvo models with full iPod integration and jukebox functionality, though we’d love it if Ford would share its wonderful Microsoft Sync system with its most premium brand. On the road, the XC60’s handling is compliant but not wallowy, feeling downright sedan-like, which is nice.

The engine’s lack of direct-injection technology is touted as a benefit, allowing it to run on any pump fuel, but we’ve found the Volvo throws a check engine light when you run 87-octane gas. Performance isn’t noticeably affected, however. Aggressive use of the throttle from full stop results in slight wheel spin, something we thought had disappeared after Volvo added a non-return valve to Haldex’s controller wunderbox back when the XC90 V8 was introduced.
Fuel efficiency has danced around a bit. Settle in at a reasonable highway speed and it will break into the twenties, but city driving rarely returns numbers over 16 mpg. Actual mileage trends about one mpg south of indicated figures on the Volvo’s trip computer.

That our $40,000-plus XC60 doesn’t include Bluetooth really leaves us scratching our heads. Another odd equipment omittance is bumper-mounted proximity sensors that beep when there’s an obstruction. Our XC60 has a great camera with built-in trajectory lines but it could still use the added security of the proximity sensors, especially if Volvo’s programmers are insistent upon forcing text warnings across the top of the screen that, ironically, partially block the camera’s view. Our other gripe is the lack of shifter paddles. We don’t expect a manual transmission option on an XC60, but shifter paddles would certainly up the crossover’s driving pleasure quotient. 

We recently upped the XC60’s game a bit by installing of a set of 20-inch Heico Sportiv alloys decked out in their titanium wheel finish. We’ve always had good success with products from Heico, a leading Volvo tuner with deep connections within the Volvo engineering staff in Europe. When it came to sourcing tires for our new alloy setup we went to our good friends at Tire Rack. We found the XC60 OE-fitment Pirelli Scorpions on sale in our larger size. At the time of our purchase, the 245/50R20 Scorpion STR As were just $122 per tire, proving it pays to monitor Tire Rack’s online promotions. Installed, changes to the ride of the XC60 were as expected. Turn-in is crisper and ride is more sensitive but never harsh. Grip seems improved and our first experience in snow-covered roads left us impressed by these Pirelli all-seasons. 

Another plus of our upgrade is the visual improvement the more aggressive wheel design brings to the XC60. Where our Volvo’s stock shoes had all the sex appeal of the budget aisle at a Hertz lot, a handsome set of five-spoke wheels in such a large diameter really emphasizes Volvo designers’ intent in making the XC60 more of an athletic and coupe-like interpretation of the XC90 design language. Where our silver crossover once passed anonymously down the road, we now regularly find drivers and passengers in other cars on the road giving the car a second admiring look.

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