Although it's not a touch screen, Volvo makes clever use of the buttons and knobs on the console for entering destinations. For example, when choosing a location on the map, you use keypad buttons to move the maps along eight axes.
The voice command system also works well, although it doesn't offer control over the stereo, only navigation and the Bluetooth phone system. When entering destinations, we found voice command did an excellent job of recognizing street names and showed available commands on its screen. With the phone system, it recognized names from the phone book, although with a paired iPhone it required last name first.
Volvo's unbranded premium audio system in the XC60, with 650 watts and 12 speakers, offers excellent detail and full bass. It gave light percussion instruments a naturalistic quality and broadcast multilayered music well. It includes surround-sound processing and you can adjust the center channel volume, but music sounded better with surround sound disabled.
The stereo incorporates a full array of modern, digital sources, including a USB port for connecting an iPod cable or USB drive. It also has Bluetooth audio streaming, but there is no onboard music library.
The standard engine for the XC60 is a 3.2-liter inline six, but CNET's car came with the more powerful turbocharged 3-liter six-cylinder as part of the XC60's T6 trim. Think 240 versus 300 horsepower. The turbo is also a torquey engine, ringing in at 325 foot pounds. It works out to a more than adequate amount of power for the XC60, which makes hill climbs and freeway merges comfortably.
But stomping on the gas yields a slow reaction, as the six-speed automatic takes its time downshifting and the turbo spools up. The six-speed has a manual shift mode, which is primarily useful for engine braking on a grade. It doesn't shift fast enough for cornering.
Not that you would attempt hard cornering in the XC60. A premium SUV, it is designed for road trips with the family and general around-town service. As such, it gives a comfortable ride and is an easy driver. The steering tuning is well-balanced, offering some engagement, without requiring weekly weight lifting to turn.
Volvo fits the XC60 with an all-wheel-drive system designed to help the car out in slippery conditions. Given the car's Scandinavian roots, you can trust that the all-wheel drive has had ample testing on snow and ice. This system doesn't offer locking differentials so doesn't qualify as an all-around off-roader.
One of the most impressive things about the XC60's power train is its fuel economy. Although rated at 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, CNET's car never dipped below 20 mpg, even with slow, heavy traffic thrown into its miles. Its final average came in at 22.1 mpg, actually above the EPA range.
The Volvo XC60 sent to CNET came with not only the upgraded turbo engine, but also Volvo's R-Design package. R-Design adds $3,000 to the price, bringing in special wheels and a tighter suspension, which seem extraneous to the XC60's purpose. Its steering tuning, engine, and transmission make it a very easy and comfortable driver, although the transmission does not make full use of the available power.
Volvo scores big on driver assistance systems in the XC60, helping to improve the car's safety. The navigation system is about average compared with the competition, and the car's only connected feature is traffic data. The stereo offers a modern set of sources, and the audio system won't disappoint audiophiles.
|Model||2011 Volvo XC60|
|Power train||Turbocharged 3-liter inline 6, 6-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||17 mpg city/22 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||22.1 mpg|
|Navigation||Flash-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Bluetooth streaming, USB drive, satellite radio|
|Audio system||12 speaker, 650-watt system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, City Safety collision prevention, distance alert, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$50,100|