2018 Volvo XC60 T8 is a hybrid chock-full of safety and style

Cruising through Colorado's Rocky Mountains in the 2018 Volvo XC60 T8, my drive partner wondered what elevation we were at. We both thought we were at 6,000 feet or so, as the 2.0-liter four cylinder was pulling strong, not succumbing to the thinner air as many internal combustion engines do.

I checked the compass app on my phone, and to my surprise, we were more than 8,000 feet above sea level. Volvo's unique turbocharged and supercharged hybrid engine had climbed up the pass with nary a stutter. That's the glory of the XC60 T8. This model's powertrain combines the guts of internal combustion motivating the front wheels with the instant power of an electric motor on the rear wheels.

2018 Volvo XC60

The 2018 XC60 is available with three engine options. We prefer the T8 plug-in hybrid. 

Volvo

The XC60 is Volvo's latest crossover, but the company has already sold over one million units since the model was first introduced nine years ago. This midsize offering is available in base Momentum trim, sport-focused R-Drive or deluxe Inscription. You also get your choice of three powertrains, including the turbocharged T5 or the turbocharged and supercharged T6 engine. However, the plug-in T8 electric hybrid, featured here, is the powertrain to get.

This unique engine utilizes a supercharger at lower rpms and a turbocharger at the higher revs to force more air into the combustion chamber, producing more power. By supercharging first, the driver never has to wait for the turbo to spool up. Instead, power delivery is consistent no matter where the engine is in its power band. It's a pretty neat trick. The addition of the 87-horsepower electric motor brings total system output up to 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. For those keeping score, those numbers best the Jaguar F-Pace S and Mercedes-AMG GLC43, matching the Porsche Macan Turbo in horsepower while providing 66 pound-feet more of twisting power.

A 10.4-kWh battery is mounted in the center tunnel, so the hybrid doesn't lose much interior space in relation to its non-hybrid counterparts. It can be charged using a standard 110v or 220v household outlet or at a 200v public charging station, reaching full-tilt boogie in about two-and-a-half hours. Or if you prefer to never plug the thing in, the gas engine can be used to charge the battery as well, but doing so isn't as efficient. The T8 hybrid has an EPA fuel rating of 56 MPGe or 26 mpg with premium gas. When compared to the low mid-twenties combined rating of the T5 and T6 engine, the hybrid is looking pretty darn good.

New self-driving features

Steer Assist comes to the XC60 for 2018. If a computer detects the driver is attempting an evasive maneuver to avoid hitting an object from the front, the XC60 will make the turn as effective as possible by braking the inner wheels during the turn, adding steering input, and then braking outside wheels after the maneuver to settle the chassis. I'm not crazy enough to speed toward a stationary object to test this feature for you, dear Reader, so I will just say that the inclusion of this technology is part of the company's commitment to zero deaths or serious injuries in a new Volvo by 2020.

With the "Thor's Hammer" headlights, the XC60 cuts a striking light signature. 

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Also new this year is Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which uses the forward-facing camera to read lane markers and radar to detect oncoming cars. If the driver inadvertently drifts onto the wrong side of the road and into the path of an oncoming car, the XC60 can steer itself back into the correct lane. Again, I'm not brave enough to deliberately drift into oncoming traffic to test the technology, but it's one more level of safety other car companies have yet to match. 

Similar technology is at work in Volvo's new blind-spot monitoring system. If the driver does not heed the system's warnings and attempts to change lanes in front of a vehicle approaching from the rear, the XC60 will steer itself back into the correct lane. While I'm not comfortable barreling towards a pedestrian or driving on the wrong side of the road, I had no problem performing a slight lane drift for the sake of this review. The technology intervened gently after a visual alert and audible warning. It was neither jolting nor surprising, and is sure to be a boon in California, where motorcyclists often split lanes and seemingly appear out of nowhere.

Volvo's excellent Pilot Assist II adaptive cruise control works well in stop-and-go traffic, bringing the car to a complete stop with a brief pause before disengaging, and it keeps the car centered in its lane when on the move. It can't handle twisty roads and still requires you to keep your hands on the wheel, but it's a great relief in heavy traffic, responding quickly to road conditions,. On my drive, it even responded to a little chicane in the road outside of Denver. After our long day of mountain driving, giving up some control on the final bumper-to-bumper trek back to our hotel was a welcome respite.

As with all current semi-autonomous technology, the driver still needs to pay attention and is ultimately in charge of the car. However, these features help make stop-and-go driving as safe and stress-free as possible.

And don't think the Volvo is a one-trick safety pony. It's got the goods when it comes to interior tech, as well. The updated user interface debuting on the XC60's 9-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen includes tweaked menus, color-coded tiles and bigger fonts. It's easy to use, super-intuitive and even works while wearing gloves. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but neither will take over the entire screen. This makes it easy to access the native navigation, media and Bluetooth phone while still having all your smart phone goodies nearby. 4G LTE connectivity and a Wi-Fi hotspot are also included.

Behind the wheel, performance is engaging, with the aforementioned T8 powertrain providing strong and consistent acceleration. While all-wheel drive is standard, the system is biased toward the front wheels. The computer distributes power to the front wheels under normal driving conditions, but can send up to 50 percent of the engine's torque to the rear if necessary.

The eight-speed automatic transmission puts power down quickly and with minimal fuss. And yes, there are different driving modes. The XC60's default Hybrid mode is like a comfort setting, providing the best mix of fuel efficiency, performance and ride quality. Select Pure mode for maximum eco-efficiency and an all-electric range of 25 miles at speeds up to 78 miles per hour. The fun is in Power mode, which turns off the electronic stability control and sets steering and braking to their most dynamic. Slippery conditions can be met with All-wheel Drive mode, which puts the power from the gas-powered engine to the front wheels while power from the electric motor to the rear. There's even an Off Road mode that works at low speeds on rough roads. If none of those tickle your fancy, you can dial in your own settings in the Individual mode.

2018 Volvo XC60 R-Design

It's easy to switch between Apple CarPlay and the native infotainment features in the XC60.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

My test model had the optional air-suspension system with automatic leveling and height adjustment. Cruise down the highway at 75 miles per hour and the XC60 will hunker down nearly half an inch. Increase that speed to 112 mph and the ride height lowers a tick more, all in the name of improved aerodynamics and efficiency.

The air suspension kept body roll in check and the XC60 tucked into turns nicely on our curvy mountain drive, too. I personally prefer a little more weight in the steering, but most folks should be satisfied. The regenerative brakes are a bit touchy and take some getting used to, but that's really my only complaint from my short time with the car.

You can score a 2018 XC60 T8 in the base Momentum trim for $52,900 (plus $995 for delivery), but the top-of-the-line Inscription that I drove, complete with navigation, a cooled glove box and a few pleasing aesthetic touches, can be had for $56,700 before options. With a $5,002 federal tax incentive, the base price is brought down to $47,898, a bit of a jump from the base with the T5 engine, at $41,500, or the base T6, which goes for $44,900.

Still, the XC60 T8 is value-packed with all the standard safety features and an excellent hybrid powertrain. The adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist is worth the extra $2,000 or so, making the XC60 T8 a sub-$50,000 luxury midsize crossover that's fun, and safe, to drive.

Roadshow accepts multi-day vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.

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