2015.5 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD review: This premium SUV is a safe choice in more ways than one

Starting at $51,055

Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.8 Overall
  • Performance 8
  • Features 7
  • Design 8
  • Media 8

The Good The Sensus Connect infotainment system in the 2015.5 Volvo XC60 T6 includes Yelp, WikiLocations, TuneIn and Stitcher, among other apps. The XC is packed to the gills with optional and standard safety and driver-aid tech. Volvo's steering wheel controls go above and beyond, enabling total infotainment control without letting go of the wheel.

The Bad The driver-aid features seemed a bit overzealous, constantly beeping and nagging at me during my testing. A rear camera should really be a standard feature for an SUV at this price, not an optional upgrade.

The Bottom Line As the new Sensus Connect upgrade for the 2015.5 Volvo XC60 is as understated as the SUV's exterior and interior design, but it adds many new, useful functions and features an excellent, low-distraction interface.

No, that's not a typo. Yes, this is the 2015.5 Volvo XC60. We've grown accustomed to the model year creep, but it's rare that we see an x.5 update. This mid-year refresh adds a new 3G wireless connection to the dashboard, enabling the new Sensus Connect 3G infotainment, as well as Volvo's Mapcare updating and Volvo's On-Call telematics subscription services to the tech mix.

Design

The XC60 is a midsize SUV that features similar lines and exterior design to Volvo's V60 wagon and S60 sedan. The tall seating position affords excellent forward visibility and the tall rear end offers excellent utility. I was able to cram 17 cases of wine into the rear hatch during my testing, even with the optional locking cage installed.

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The 2015.5 XC60 has a massive rear cargo area. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The interior has an understated and premium feel. Think Volkswagen design with Audi construction. It doesn't scream for attention, but the solid-feeling touch points and high-quality materials help to justify the SUV's price tag.

Our example arrived equipped with the optional Platinum package, a $4,400 option that, in one fell swoop, adds most of the best available features to the XC60. The package adds a power liftgate to the rear end, smart keyless entry and push-button start and a rear camera (which really should be a standard feature on an SUV in this price range), then rolls in all of the cabin comfort features of the automaker's Convenience package and driver-aid features of the Technology package, which we'll get back to shortly.

2015.5 Sensus Connect tech

Another part of Platinum package is an upgrade to a 650W, 12-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. Sound quality is quite good, with a marked improvement in clarity at volume and audio staging when compared to the standard 8-speaker setup that we heard in the V60. Standard audio sources for the single-CD rig include HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, USB/iPod connectivity, an analog auxiliary input, Bluetooth for audio audio streaming, hands-free calling and text messaging. This system checks all of the boxes.

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It doesn't scream "luxury!" but that's OK. The XC60's cabin features high-quality materials and a premium feel. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The driver interacts with these audio sources, the standard navigation software, and more via the 7-inch Sensus Connect infotainment system. This Web-connected infotainment system is the major upgrade that marks this XC60 as a 2015.5 model and is identical to the one that we recently saw in the 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R-Design, where Senior Editor Wayne Cunningham states:

The Connect label is a recent addition to Volvo's Sensus system, adding a dedicated 3G data connection through AT&T powering a variety of built-in apps. Showing good organizational sense, Volvo includes a link to navigation-oriented apps on the destination menu. These apps included Yelp, Park and Pay, WikiLocations and a simple local search option. The apps proved a little slow to connect, requiring some patience, but I was very pleased with the first three. I especially like WikiLocations, which worked as a kind of tour guide for my immediate location by showing descriptions of nearby landmarks.

Local search proved less successful. When I searched a store name with two locations in the San Francisco bay area, it only had a few results to show that where hundreds of miles away. By contrast, entering the exact same search term into my iPhone's Google Maps app returned the correct results. Volvo uses Nokia's Here service for maps and business locations, which doesn't seem to have as good a directory as Google. However, Yelp proved a useful alternative.

Most of the other apps available in Sensus Connect center around audio. Rather than show these apps among the audio sources menu, I had use the main apps menu. In the V60, I had access to Pandora, Stitcher, Rdio and TuneIn. Volvo should be able to add and update apps over the car's data connection.

In addition to apps, the Sensus Connect data connection enables the automaker's Mapcare service, which periodically updates the map data for more accurate routing and the Volvo On-Call telematics service. Via an On-Call smartphone app, the XC60 driver can monitor their vehicle (fuel levels, location, mileage, maintenance warnings, etc.) and control some of the vehicle's systems (such as the locks, remote starter and climate controls) remotely. On-Call also includes such services as roadside assistance and automatic emergency crash response.

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Every function of the Sensus Connect infotainment can be accessed without removing a hand from the wheel. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

This is going to sound underwhelming, but one of the best features that I found when evaluating the XC60's Sensus Connect infotainment system was the excellent implementation of steering wheel controls. On the right spoke of the wheel, a clickable scrolling wheel and a "back" button control the cursor on the main Sensus Connect system allowing complete access to every function of the infotainment without removing a hand from the steering wheel. Combined with the vehicle's excellent voice command system, which let me input full addresses without multiple prompts, I never had to reach for the center console.

Platinum package safety tech

The all-in-one Platinum package rolls in all of the driver-aid features of the Technology package.

This includes Volvo's forward-collision and distance-alert systems -- both extensions of the standard City Safety low-speed collision-avoidance system. Together, these three systems keep an eye on the road, notifying the driver with an audible alert and flashing red light when following too closely or closing too quickly, and automatically braking if necessary. Personally, I found the systems to be just a bit obnoxious and overzealous; the Volvo seemed to always be beeping at me for something. In stop-and-go traffic, the XC60 was beeping when I closed the gap with the lead car. In smooth-flowing traffic, if the car ahead brushed its brakes, the XC60 was beeping before I could get my foot from one pedal to the next. Sure, the addition of full-auto brake is useful in a situation where the driver's attention momentarily lapses, but when I'm looking right at the car ahead and driving safely, ohmygawd, stop beeping at me!!

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The Volvo SUV is packed to the gills with driver-aid tech. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The driver-aid systems use a combination of forward-looking stereoscopic cameras and radar, which also come into play with the XC60's pedestrian and cyclist detection system with full-auto braking. This technology package also adds adaptive cruise control with queue assist (for full-range speed control), audible lane-departure warning (one more thing to beep at me), steerable active headlamps with automatic high beams, and a road sign information system that can read signs along the road and display, for example, the current speed limit within the digital speedometer.

Also equipped is the optional $900 Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), a welcome addition to the safety feature set for a vehicle this large that also adds cross-traffic alert when reversing and front and rear proximity alerts when parking. However, I'm a bit disappointed that these features aren't included in the Platinum package.

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Sensors in the grille work with cameras at the top of the windshield to monitor the road ahead. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

T6 AWD performance

Under the XC60 T6's hood lives the automaker's twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine. This is the same engine we saw recently in the Volvo V60, but without the R-Design's Polestar tuning. (Though, an XC60 T6 R-Design model is available.) Output is stated at 300 horsepower, which feels like an adequate amount of "go" for this 4,277-pound people mover.

The I-6's 325 pound-feet of torque reaches the Volvo's all-wheel drive system via a six-speed automatic transmission with manual and sport shift programs. These extra programs are hardly the point when you're talking about an SUV that's really too massive to be properly sporty on a really fun stretch of tarmac. At this trim level, it is a vehicle that emphasizes getting its passengers to their destination safely and with a premium level of comfort; speed and sport are incidental.

That doesn't mean that the XC60 can't hustle away from a traffic light when asked to or deftly dance around a pothole. The XC60's "touring chassis" -- with its advanced stability control, roll stability control, ready alert brakes, electronic brake distribution and more -- is up to the task of keeping the SUV rubber-side down when asked to juke around an unexpected obstruction.

Front and center ahead of the driver is the LCD instrument cluster, which features a trio of user-selectable display modes (Elegance, Eco and Sport) that alter the color scheme and what information is displayed. Elegance is a dark theme that features a large, central analog speedometer flanked by coolant temperature and tachometer gauges. Eco, the most useful theme IMHO, replaces the coolant gauge with an Eco Guide meter monitors how efficiently the XC60 is being piloted for the current conditions. Heavy throttle use will empty this meter and result in poor fuel economy. Keeping the Eco Guide filled is the best way to meet the EPA's estimated economy numbers. Finally, the red Sport theme features a large central tachometer, a digital speedometer, and a power gauge.

I should note that none of these themes actually alters the actual performance of the vehicle; they're just tools to help the driver to monitor that performance.

The EPA estimates that the XC60 in T6 AWD trim is good for 20 mpg combined, 17 mpg city, and 24 mpg highway. I averaged 22.4 mpg during my testing under the Eco Guide's guidance and over mostly highway miles.

Those aren't bad numbers, but the T6 AWD isn't the Volvo XC60 model with the best blend of power and efficiency. That accolade should belong to the T6 Drive-E FWD model with its turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine. This dual-charged and direct-injected models steps down to a front-wheel drive configuration, but steps up to an estimated 30 highway mpg, thanks in part to its lower overall weight, more efficient 2.0-liter engine, and eight-speed automatic transmission. We saw this engine previously in the 2015 S60 and loved it. For those looking for fuel efficiency in milder climates where AWD isn't strictly necessary, the Drive-E could be the powertrain of choice.

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With excellent cabin tech, an understated design, and more driver-aid tech than you probably need, the Volvo XC60 is a safe choice for a premium SUV. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

In sum

The 2015.5 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD starts at $42,400 before options. We've got an extra $550 for Crystal White Pearl metallic paint, a gorgeous color. Our spec sheet also included $500 more for heated front seats, which should probably be a standard feature at this price point, or at the very least, part of that $4,400 Platinum package. Add $1,000 for 20-inch Titania alloy wheels, $500 for sport seats, $900 for the Blind Spot Information System, and a $925 destination charge to reach our as tested price of $51,175.

At that price, the XC60 is a better buy than, say, the 2015 Acura RDX, but faces stiff competition from the likes of the admittedly slightly more-expensive Audi Q5 Premium Plus and BMW X3 xDrive35i.

If you're lucky enough to live in an area where AWD isn't necessary, consider the more fuel-efficient T6 Drive-E FWD model; it's both less expensive off the lot and less expensive to keep filled up. The truly safety conscious will also want to consider the Front Blind View Park Assist Camera, a $860 option that adds a 180-degree camera to the grille, allowing the driver to see around blind corners. Our model was not so equipped.

To hit the road in an XC60 T6 AWD in the UK, you're looking at £31,260 to start. Packaging isn't exactly identical to the US market, but equipped as closely to our example as possible, you're looking at £47,620. In Australia, the XC60 starts at AU$59,990.

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