2010 Volvo XC60 review:

2010 Volvo XC60

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Another safety technology called distance alert uses adaptive cruise control's radar to determine if the XC60 is at a safe following distance from the car ahead. Like the cruise control, it can be set between three following distances, and projects a red warning light on the windshield if the XC60 is following too close. In any area with moderate to heavy traffic, the shortest following distance is still too long to be practical, so we got used to seeing that red light constantly projected on the windshield.

Audio choices
Getting into our music possibilities while on the freeway, we had our choice of satellite radio, a single CD player that can read MP3s, and a USB port in the console that works with iPods. Early on, we were surprised to find that this iPod integration actually doesn't work with an iPhone. The interface for selecting channels from satellite radio, folders from an MP3 CD, or artists and albums from an iPod relies on a four-way switch surrounded by buttons labeled Enter, Exit, and Menu on the stack. With just a little trial and error, we were able to figure out how to use these buttons, but it's not the best interface. The monochrome display at the top of the dashboard is also a little small for easy music selection, and is an area where Volvo should have taken advantage of the navigation system's larger LCD.

Phone and audio information shows up on this monochrome display.

The navigation system actually comes in a package with a premium audio system, built by Dynaudio, Volvo's audio partner. This audio system uses 12 speakers and a 650-watt amplifier to create a very nice, well-balanced sound. Neither too bright nor too heavy, we found it created a distinct midrange, with sharp vocals. This system does really well with symphonic music. The major flaw we found was that, at high volumes, the speakers tended to produce hum.

As the stereo and phone system uses the same controls, we found it occasionally frustrating to move from one mode to the other. The fact they also use the same display makes it worse. We do like that this phone system let us download our phonebook to the car and dial by contact entry. But the small display hindered our ability to find contact names.

Where the XC60 really surprised us was on a long and twisty backcountry highway. Although at crossover height, the car took corners like a champ, showing no tendencies to wallow or roll. However, it's hardly a sports car, though it responded well as we pushed it through these maneuvers, the all-wheel-drive assisting by pushing the power to the wheels that needed it most. The big problem with cornering in the XC60 is the same problem shared with just about any car with an automatic transmission--it won't downshift quick enough to give the necessary power when coming through a turn.

The XC60 handled very well in the mountains, although fuel economy was poor.

The unpleasant surprise with the XC60 was the fuel economy. Although we like the idea of smaller engines getting boost from turbochargers as a means of saving gas, it doesn't really work out in the XC60. EPA economy is 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. During our driving, we maxed out at 17 mpg with plenty of long freeway runs.

In sum
There's a lot we like about the 2010 Volvo XC60. It drives effortlessly while offering comfort with quality materials in the cabin, giving it a good luxury angle. All-wheel-drive and the electronic driving aids inspire confidence, and having traffic integrated with the navigation system is becoming a must-have feature. Where the XC60 let us down was the interface for its tech. Volvo should have taken advantage of the big color LCD screen to show audio and phone information, rather than going with the current button paradigm, which is truly bizarre.

Spec box
Model 2010 Volvo XC60
Trim T6 AWD
Power train Turbocharged 3-liter direct injection inline six cylinder engine
EPA fuel economy 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 17 mpg
Navigation Optional DVD-based with traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player Single CD, MP3 compatible
MP3 player support iPod integration
Other digital audio Satellite radio, USB drive
Audio system Optional 12 speaker, 650-watt Dynaudio
Driver aids Adaptive cruise control, City Safety collision prevention, distance alert, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, rearview camera
Base price $37,200
Price as tested $44,240

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