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2022 Volvo XC60 B6 first drive review: Mild hybrid, major improvements

The Swedish brand's turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder powertrain is vastly better with a little electric assist.

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The XC60 still looks as good as ever.
Volvo

More than maybe any other automaker, Volvo is impatiently ready for an all-electric future. Go to the brand's website and its EVs are prominently featured on the homepage and other sections. Plug-in hybrids get some nice billing, too, while traditional gas-only models are relegated to an "other cars" section. But Volvo won't have a fully electric lineup until 2030, so in the meantime the brand upgraded its T5 and T6 four-cylinder engines with a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system and an integrated starter-generator, dubbing the new powertrains B5 and B6.

The B5 makes 247 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, slightly less power and the same amount of torque as before, while the B6 puts out 295 hp and 310 lb-ft, 15 hp fewer but 15 more lb-ft. The ISG provides a boost of 13 hp and 30 lb-ft in both engines, filling in power gaps at lower speeds. Fuel economy slightly improves, too, with the XC60 B6 seeing 1-mpg increases in the combined and city cycles and the B5 getting a 1-mpg city increase.

Most of my drive time with the new B6 powertrain is in a loaded XC60 R-Design. As with other engines that feature an integrated starter-generator, the biggest benefit is the seamless start-stop system. In the Volvos it's nearly imperceptible, with no rough restarts or jerky movements when setting off from a light or stop sign. You can't turn the system off, but I don't know why you would.

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It doesn't look like much, but this engine is finally great.

Volvo

There are a bunch of other changes that further improve the powertrain. In the B6 a new electric supercharger replaces the T6's mechanical supercharger and both the B5 and B6 get both brake- and shift-by-wire technology. The eight-speed transmission was tweaked to deliver much smoother shifts and the engine is a lot quieter overall -- you still get some sweet turbo and supercharger wooshes, though. One interesting change is that Volvo has ditched the old switchable drive modes, though an Off-Road setting remains. A Volvo spokesperson tells me the brand wants to focus on making the car ideal as it is and that most customers barely switched between the old modes anyway. As relatively fun as the XC60 is to drive, it was never the sporty choice in the class, so the loss of an actual Sport mode is fine by me.

In addition to the engines, the other big news for the XC60 and V90 Cross Country is the Google-based Android Automotive infotainment system, which first debuted in the XC40 Recharge and Polestar 2. I've said this every time I've tried it out, but it really is way better than Volvo's old Sensus system but doesn't try to reinvent the wheel. The 9-inch touchscreen's menus and settings are simplified, and it takes fewer taps and swipes to get to what you want. I love Google Maps as the native navigation system, though I wish a satellite view was available; Volvo says that could come in the future with an over-the-air update. There's no Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto) functionality yet and most of the apps are limited to the media category like Spotify and Pandora, but even as a diehard iPhone user I don't mind. The Google Assistant voice function is a nice alternative to Siri, too.

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The new Google-based infotainment system is a big improvement.

Volvo

Volvo already debuted facelifts for the S90 and V90, but the XC60 gets some fresh styling for 2022, as well. The front bumper is a lot more angular and the grille has a new finish, while the rear bumper ditches the old exhaust garnishes; Volvo says none of its new gas-powered models will even have fake design elements that "celebrate C02 emissions." The car's front badge is heated, so the integrated sensors don't get messed up by snow. There are new colors and wheel designs as well and the interior is available with the same fabulous wool upholstery as the XC90. Including destination the 2022 XC60 B5 starts at $43,745 (add $2,300 for AWD) for the base Momentum, and the B6 costs $56,195 for the R-Design or $57,545 for the Inscription, all slight increases over last year's model.

In addition to the XC60, Volvo's new mild-hybrid engines and infotainment system are already spreading to the S60, V60 and S90, though it doesn't seem like any of them will last more than a few years. The next-generation XC90 is debuting in just a few months and might solely available as an EV, with the replacements for the rest of the Volvo lineup to soon follow suit. It's really a shame that Volvo is killing off its gas engines just as they're getting good, so let's enjoy them while we can.