2017 Volvo XC60 T5 Drive-E AWD Special Edition Road Test Review

 

Comfortable and efficient Swede remains an excellent compact SUV choice

If you're looking for a comfortable and efficient compact luxury SUV for good value, it's difficult to argue against Volvo's proven XC60.

For 2017 the XC60 focuses on efficiency while still delivering strong performance, much thanks to its award-winning new Drive-E engine lineup. Gone are the old inline five- and six-cylinder powerplants, the latter an engine we saw disappear from the fabulously successful second-generation XC90 SUV and stylish new mid-size S90 when these models went on sale in late 2014 for the former and mid-2016 for the latter, so now it's the XC60's turn.

Advanced Drive-E engine an intelligent choice

Volvo's direct-injection 2.0-litre four-cylinder has proven to be amazingly flexible thanks to turbocharging, supercharging, and electrifying, with output ranging from 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque here in base XC60 T5 guise, to 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft with XC60 T6 trim. In XC90 T8 trim this same four-cylinder is good for 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque (the magic of plug-in electric assistance), but rather than explain how Volvo masterfully engineered this ultra-advanced power unit it's best you check out my review of that model from a couple of months ago. After all, this engine's most basic design is impressive enough.

Drive-E is Volvo's new family of lightweight high-pressure die-cast aluminum DOHC, 16-valve, direct-injection, four-cylinder engines capable of six- and eight-cylinder levels of output thanks to both turbocharging and, in T6 trim, simultaneous supercharging. Few other engines in the industry combined both technologies. Instead of testing this more energetic variant my 2017 XC60 loaner came in T5 Special Edition specification, the same trim level as last year's tester other than the replacement of the 250 horsepower turbo I-5 with the slightly less potent base engine.

Superb efficiency for such a powerful engine

While the old I-5 was a smooth and refined powerplant it wasn't as efficient as the new I-4, last year's numbers making this clear at 12.6 L/100km city, 9.1 highway and 11.0 combined compared to today's 11.3 city, 8.4 and 10.0 combined for the T5 Drive-E AWD; this year's FWD version is good for 10.4 city, 7.8 and 9.2 combined, whereas the top-line T6 AWD gets a claimed 11.7 L/100 km city, 10.4 highway and 10.4 combined rating.

 

From the driver's seat the 2017 T5 AWD's slightly lower numbers are difficult to detect, especially because full torque arrives at a very tractable 1,500 rpm. Also, instead of the old six-speed autobox, which was very good, the smaller engine comes mated to a more efficient yet still smooth-shifting, fast-reacting eight-speed automatic with manual Sport mode, adaptive shift control, and auto start/stop that, when switched to Eco+ mode, even disengages the engine when coasting at the 5 km/h mark instead of the usual complete stop. The Special Edition is standard with AWD, adding extra grip off the line that's especially useful in slippery situations. This helped the XC60 T5 respond from standstill quickly, build up speed well and deliver strong passing power when required.

As comfortable as SUVs get yet still fun to drive

The Special Edition's chassis setup is nicely balanced between sport and comfort, the way most people like. After all, who wants to get beat up by a rigid suspension on their way to drop the kids at school, while running errands throughout the day, or commuting. Performance SUVs capable of record-breaking Nürburgring laps and others that can overcome rocks, roots and rivers while scaling the sides of mountains might look exciting in ads, but living with them day-in and day-out can quickly become tiresome. Instead, you might even feel better after driving the XC60 for an hour than you did before climbing behind the wheel, the eight-way powered front seats with four-way powered lumbar, plus memory for the driver, so incredibly comfortable and suspension so compliant that I found myself arriving at my destination more refreshed than I was starting out. Yet despite the XC60 being easier on buttocks and backside than most competitors, it still held its own when the road started to wind and was a dream on the highway. Really, this is an SUV I could drive all day without tiring.

 

Standard features list is big on safety

Those superb powered and heatable front seats aren't the only XC60 standard features, the $42,000 base model's list of goodies also including 18-inch alloys, auto on/off headlights, front and rear fog lamps, LED daytime running lights, roof rails, heatable power-adjustable side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone auto climate control, a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Volvo's Sensus infotainment interface, high performance audio, Volvo On Call telematics, genuine milled aluminum inlays, T-Tec stain resistant fabric upholstery, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks that increase the already sizeable 873-litre cargo hold (or 495 litres under the tonneau cover) to 1,907 litres, City Safety autonomous emergency braking that detects impending collisions at speeds below 50 km/h and automatically brakes to prevent an accident or reduce the severity of impact, IntelliSafe which incorporates a front end design that reduces pedestrian injuries, plus four-wheel discs with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, Optimized Hydraulic Brakes, Ready Alert Brakes, Fading Brake Support, stability control with a sport mode and torque vectoring corner traction control, roll stability control, active front headrests, safe approach and home safe lighting, a security system and immobilizer, plus the usual count of airbags, all of which combine to earn the highest possible five stars from the NHTSA; the XC60 achieves IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus status with active safety upgrades.

Enough options to build it just the way you want

Standalone options include two no-cost standard exterior paint finishes and 12 $900 metallics, 20-inch alloys for $1,000, Linear Walnut wood or Piano Black lacquered wood inlays for $425, satellite radio with six-month subscription for $650, dual-stage integrated child booster seats for $650 (these are awesome if you've got young kids), and a $125 prep cable for a park assist camera, while bundled options include the $1,350 Climate package featuring a heated windshield and washer nozzles, a heatable steering wheel, an interior air quality system (that monitors incoming air and closes the exterior vents if it detects excess carbon monoxide, ozone, or other harmful gasses), and heatable rear outboard seats, or for the same price you can swap out the last feature for the aforementioned child booster seats; a self-described $1,100 Active Dual Xenon Headlights with Headlight Washers package; a $1,000 Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) package that adds the obvious upgraded active safety as well as front and rear parking assist; while available accessories include $180 rear door sunshades, $1,950 running boards, and a $1,080 tow bar with a hitch that let's you make use of the XC60's 1,588-kilo trailering rating.

Alternatively, Premier trim can be had for an extra $4,450, which adds configurable colour TFT primary gauges, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, navigation, leather upholstery in black or beige, a panoramic sunroof, rear privacy glass, and more, plus the option of $750 sport seats in black, beige, or two-tone Hazel Brown and black or Blonde grey and black. This trim allows all of the same available upgrades as the base model as well as a $2,050 Convenience package including auto-dimming power retractable side mirrors, interior accent lighting, a rearview camera, a digital compass, HomeLink universal garage door opener, power folding rear headrests, a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area, a powered tailgate with programmable height memory, a cargo cover, grocery bag holder, and more; a $1,600 Technology package with adaptive cruise control featuring Queue Assist, and Driver Alert Control; while the standalone options list grows to include a $1,500 10-speaker, 5x130-watt digital amplifier enhanced Harman/Kardon audio upgrade with Dirac Live sound staging.

Ample accessories help create an SUV tailored just for you

Additionally, the accessories catalog now includes a $940 front blind view camera that increases the field of vision by 45 degrees to the left and right; a $2,160 rear entertainment system with dual eight-inch monitors on the backside of the front head restraints, and all the usual inputs; a $450 protective steel grille that keeps cargo from becoming potentially deadly projectiles in the event of sudden braking or an accident; and a $325 Protection package that adds a very nice set of all-weather floor mats.

The as-tested $57,850 Special Edition is upgraded with standard AWD, plus the aforementioned HID headlamps, climate and air quality system, premium audio, leather upholstery, panoramic roof, and blind spot monitoring, while available colours are limited to six but there's no extra charge. Additionally, unique machine-finish 19-inch alloys are included, while as-tested Connected Navigation is available.

The T6 Drive-E AWD I mentioned earlier comes in base or R-Design trim, the latter sporting some upscale exterior and interior styling improvements including unique 20-inch alloys and standard sport seats, plus more.

Build quality and refinement a cut above

No matter the trim you won't be disappointed with interior quality as the XC60 does a better job of living up to premium status than many of its contemporaries, while interior quietness and overall refinement is also excellent.

That pretty well sums up the entire SUV, the XC60 a better option than many of its peers. If you're looking for a comfortable and fuel-efficient yet still sporty, well-made and accommodating small SUV for a good price, this stylish Swede remains a great choice.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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