2016 Volvo XC60 T5 AWD SE Premier Road Test Review

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This review is for the Canadian dealer market only

Great value for an excellent compact crossover SUV

The XC60 helped to usher in the entire compact luxury SUV segment when it arrived on the scene in 2009, and thanks to recent revisions to styling and electronics it's remained Volvo's most popular model.

The XC60's elegant, sporty lines have been a key reason for its success, with even the base model capable of turning heads. My test model was hardly base, however, but its T5 AWD SE (Special Edition) Premier trim made it the least equipped XC60 I've reviewed thus far, this version at the lower end of Volvo's "Editions" foursome, the other three dubbed R-Design, Ocean Race and Inscription, but value represents its own kind of beauty and the XC60 has plenty of that in both form and function.

First off you can get into an XC60 for only $42,000 plus freight and dealer fees, and it's just as well built and refined as the Special Edition I just drove. Highlights shared with the two trims and every other XC60 include a completely soft-touch synthetic dash top that wraps all the way down the instrument panel, the same pliable material used for the door uppers, which actually flow all the way around into the lower portion of the doors as well, covering everything but the map pocket inserts, while stitched padded leather fills the door inserts before melding into each armrest. Elegant satin silver trim circles around the switchgear to arrive at the door handles, while that same metal trim highlights the steering wheel, gauge surround, side vents, floating centre stack surround, CD changer slot and various switchgear, plus the otherwise leather-clad gearshift knob, and all the roof pillars are finished in fabric. It's a rich looking cabin that exudes quality, and yes this should be expected in the premium sector, but the XC60's interior is another notch above many in this class.

While I'm tempted to run through the entire menu of XC60 standard features that further testify to its excellent value proposition I'll just touch on some highlights, therefore along with the usual exterior LED lighting elements, powered accessories, heatable mirrors and front seats, dual-zone auto HVAC, etcetera, the notables include an electromechanical parking brake, engine auto stop/start for saving fuel, rain sensing wipers, a seven-inch colour touchscreen with Volvo's Sensus infotainment interface, high performance audio, Volvo On Call telematics, eight-way powered front seats with powered lumbar and driver's memory, B-pillar rear ventilation, versatile 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, a metal cargo threshold protector plate, locking cargo floor storage, and more.

On top of all this is a long list of standard safety gear including the usual four-wheel discs with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist, plus Optimized Hydraulic Brakes, Ready Alert Brakes, Fading Brake Support, City Safety autonomous emergency braking, 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 IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating and five stars from the NHTSA for every XC60 trim.

As far as upgrades go they're wide and varied with five available engines, two transmissions, front or all-wheel drive, numerous trims, plus options aplenty, the $56,450 T5 AWD SE Premier just one nicely packaged example of many possibilities. As you might expect it receives a lot for the $14,450 price increase, the most noticeable change being its direct-injected and turbocharged 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder engine that adds 10 horsepower and 8 lb-ft of torque over the base 2.0-litre Drive-E powerplant for a total of 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, but the big difference is the way the engine performs. It provides a more substantive feel, closer to a six, while power delivery is particularly smooth and linear, a nice match for Volvo's six-speed Geartronic automatic with truly Advanced Quick Shift manual mode and upgraded all-wheel drivetrain, not to mention a good choice to take advantage of the XC60's impressively deft handling and particularly compliant ride.

On top of the drivetrain upgrades the T5 AWD SE Premier receives plenty of other goodies such as HID headlights with adaptive cornering and auto high beams, silver accent side mouldings, silver roof rails, a silver rear diffuser, a rooftop spoiler, 19-inch alloys on 235/55R19s, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, a driver configurable TFT primary instrument cluster, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heatable steering wheel, heatable windshield and washer nozzles, adaptive cruise control, a garage door opener, a rearview camera, navigation, satellite and HD radio, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof with a powered sunshade, heatable rear seats, power-folding rear headrests, a programmable powered liftgate, road sign information, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane change merge aid, driver alert control, collision warning with full autonomous braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection with full auto braking, and more.

The stylish configurable TFT gauges just noted incorporate a main dial at centre filled with a speedometer spinning around the perimeter and a crystal clear, highly graphical colour multi-information system in the middle, flanked by two vertically curved ancillary gauges, the left for temperature and the right for the tachometer plus other functions.

I have long been a big fan of Volvo's floating centre stack and TV remote style control interface, the latter made up of numerous quick access buttons for modulating anything and everything you could want, ringing around a telephone keypad up top and Volvo's intuitive human body-shaped HVAC fan direction controller below, all of which is surrounded by metallic surfacing and four beautifully finished metal trimmed knobs at each corner featuring buttons for audio, infotainment, and the HVAC system in their centres. It's an eye-catching design that's easy to figure out and works flawlessly, especially the audio system that provided wonderfully rich, deep bass tones that were ideal for enjoying Macklemore's One Love and Fifth Harmony's (with Ty Dolla $ign) Work From Home.

The front seating area is very roomy for a compact, the XC60 quite wide for its class, allowing excellent shoulder and hip space and about four inches above my head, and that's despite the lower roofline due to the aforementioned panoramic sunroof. I'm not a large person, measuring five-foot-eight, but taller folk should also fit in with ease. When the driver's seat was positioned for my size I also had about six inches ahead of my knees and plenty of room for my feet when in back, plus another five or so inches over my head. The second row seats are superbly comfortable too, with excellent lower back support, while a wide leather armrest folds down from centre, complete with flip-out dual cupholders and a shallow lidded tray. As noted, Volvo provides excellent rear air circulation via B-pillar mounted vents that include their own flow modulator, while the seat heaters feature three temperature settings with the highest quite toasty.

Power up the liftgate and a nicely finished cargo area glitters with metal tie-down hooks and the metal threshold plate mentioned earlier, while both sidewalls and the seatbacks are carpeted. Volvo even includes a nicely finished compartment under the cargo floor, plus a pop-up divider. Overtop everything is a cargo cover that retracts into a strong steel crossbar, which is easily removable when loading in larger items via the folded seatbacks, and as noted the rear seats' 40/20/40 configuration really makes the most of the maximum 1,907 litres (67.3 cubic feet) available (there's 873 litres or 30.8 cubic feet when all seats are in use), plus both rear passengers will be happy on their way back from the ski hill thanks to everyone's gear down the middle and both outboard seats warm and comfortable.

Those looking to move up from a more mainstream volume brand into a compact luxury SUV, or for that matter anyone considering a vehicle in this class would do well to spend some time with the XC60. It's an excellent choice from the perspective of build quality and driving dynamics to standard and available features, not to mention class leading safety, while it offers one of the best value propositions in the class. That you can also get your XC60 tuned for fuel efficiency as impressive as 8.8 L/100km combined city/highway or alternatively up to 325 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of tire smoking torque, puts it well into a rare and respected league that few rivals can match. The XC60 is certainly easy to like.

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

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