2015 Volvo XC60 Review and Road Test: Introduction
Safety is not as important to car buyers as it used to be*. It still ranks among the top 10 factors that people consider when buying a new vehicle, but as far as swaying a decision in one direction or another, safety has dwindled in terms of importance, and perhaps because car buyers simply assume that all modern cars, trucks, and SUVs are safe.
While it’s true that tougher crash-test standards and new regulations regarding safety equipment have dramatically improved your chances of surviving a collision, all vehicles are not created equal. Take the 2015 Volvo XC60, for example. It weighs just over two tons, which matters from the perspective of comparing its excellent crash-test ratings against other vehicles you might be considering. It’s also offered with numerous standard and optional safety features, and the upgrades are remarkably affordable. Volvo has always taken safety seriously, and as we shall see, the XC60 is proof of that.
As a father and family man, I can’t imagine why anybody might buy a new vehicle that is intended for transporting loved ones and doesn’t excel in terms of safety. It’s a good thing for Volvo that plenty of people share my viewpoint, because otherwise the XC60 might prove itself a tough sell.
* Source: J.D. Power
2015 Volvo XC60 Review and Road Test: Models and Prices
With the introduction of new engines in certain versions of the 2015 Volvo XC60, the lineup gets a little confusing. Let’s try to sort things out for you.
The new engines are installed in the 2015 XC60 T5 Drive-E ($36,675*) and the XC60 T6 Drive-E ($40,975). In the former, the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine makes 240 horsepower, and in the latter it adds a supercharger in order to generate 302 horsepower. I think these are terrific new engines and I recommend that you try one, but there is a caveat. For 2015, they’re available only with front-wheel drive.
For some people, the whole point of buying an SUV is to get all-wheel drive, especially after the winter much of country experienced in 2014. Unfortunately, the only engines available for a Volvo XC60 equipped with AWD include an aged 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder engine for the 3.2 AWD model ($38,175) and a thirsty turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine for the T6 AWD ($42,475) and the more powerful T6 AWD R-Design ($46,725) models.
In addition to making more horsepower and torque than a standard T6 AWD, the T6 AWD R-Design includes modified exterior styling with unique 20-inch aluminum wheels, active bi-Xenon headlights, matte-silver mirror housings, sport-bolstered R-Design front seats, an R-Design steering wheel, R-Design instrumentation and interior trim, sport pedals, and a sport-tuned suspension. In my opinion, it’s the best-looking version of the XC60.
Once you’ve decided which of these five versions of the XC60 will best meet your requirements, you can choose between four different trim packages: Standard, Premier, Premier Plus, and Platinum.
In addition to standard equipment, Premier trim ($3,100) adds leather, a panoramic sunroof, an adaptive digital instrument display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Keyless Drive passive entry with push-button ignition, silver exterior trim accents, and dark tinted rear window glass. These features are standard for all versions of the XC60 wearing a T6 badge.
Every XC60 model can be upgraded with Premier Plus trim ($1,400), which adds a power tailgate, a reversing camera, a compass, a universal garage door opener, and power folding rear head restraints. Premier Plus trim also includes a cargo cover, a grocery bag holder, and a quick-fold front passenger’s seat to help make it easier to carry longer items.
Platinum trim ($2,600) is also available for all versions of the XC60, adding a navigation system, a premium sound system, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, power retractable exterior mirrors, and interior accent lighting.
My test vehicle was the XC60 T6 Drive-E Platinum ($44,975) equipped with the optional Sport Package ($1,500 – sport suspension, 20-inch wheels), the Technology Package ($1,500 – Adaptive Cruise Control with Distance Alert, Collision Warning with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Full Auto Brake, Lane Departure Warning, Active High Beam headlights, Road Sign Information system), a Blind Spot Information System ($900 – includes Rear Cross Traffic Alert, front and rear parking assist sensors), and active bi-Xenon headlights ($800), for a total of $49,675.
* All prices include a $925 destination charge
2015 Volvo XC60 Review and Road Test: Design
- No changes for 2015
Last year, the 2014 Volvo XC60 received a subtle styling refresh. Everything forward of the windshield was new along with revised rear skid plate styling and integrated exhaust outlets. At the same time, Volvo freshened the paint color choices and added new wheel designs. This year, looks-wise, the XC60 is unchanged.
That’s fine, though, because the XC60 is a stylish little SUV, especially in R-Design trim. Other versions have a puckered look to their front bumpers, and while I think the Titania-style 20-inch wheels that are included in the optional Sport Package are too big for the XC60’s overall proportions, the standard 18-inch aluminum wheels are definitely too small.
Volvo also freshened the XC60’s cabin for 2014, installing a new instrument cluster, a new steering wheel, white nighttime illumination, improved materials, and revised décor. A new Inscription Package also arrived last year, pumping up the luxury quotient with premium leather, wood and aluminum trim, and other upscale materials.
My test vehicle didn’t have the Inscription Package, and while the interior mostly rendered with quality materials, nothing about the cabin struck me as particularly luxurious in terms of look and feel. But then, given the SUV’s Scandinavian design ethos, perhaps that’s the point.
2015 Volvo XC60 Review and Road Test: Comfort and Cargo
- Power front passenger’s seat is standard
- Nubuck/textile seats standard for T6 AWD R-Design model
In addition to safety, comfort is a Volvo hallmark, one of those things you should always be able to count on when buying one. I’ll say this much for the 2015 XC60: Both of my test car’s front seats were exceptionally comfortable and supportive, and I’d love to yank either of them out, put it on wheels, and turn it into a desk chair.
That said, I’m not crazy about how the seats are mounted within the XC60’s cabin in relationship to the center console, the steering wheel, and the door panel armrests. As a result, I had trouble dialing in the right mix of height, legroom, and thigh support, which is an unusual problem for a Volvo. Therefore, while the XC60’s seats are excellent, their positioning within the cabin needs work.
That’s why, in this particular Volvo model, I prefer sitting in the back. The dished rear seats envelope and coddle their occupants, there’s lots of foot space, the front seatbacks are softly padded, and if front occupants are willing to slide up just a little bit, tall adults can fit with no trouble. Air vents located in the B-pillars help keep rear seat riders comfortable, too.
Like most of its competitors, the XC60 offers the same cargo space as a typical compact crossover suv. There’s 30.8 cu.-ft. of room behind the rear seat, which features a 40/20/40-split folding design providing the flexibility to carry skis in addition to four occupants. Fold the Volvo’s rear seats down, and maximum cargo capacity measures 67.4 cu.-ft.
2015 Volvo XC60 Review and Road Test: Features and Controls
- Power retractable side mirrors standard for Premier Plus and Platinum models
As is true of anything in life, with time and acclimation, things get easier. That’s the case with regard to using the XC60, anyway, and it sure helped that the week prior to driving this SUV I had evaluated a Volvo S60 sedan with most of the same features and controls.
Nevertheless, it’s important for me to clarify that it was simply easier to operate the XC60, not necessarily easy. For example, after a week with the S60, I was accustomed to the mish-mash of buttons on the XC60’s center control panel but I still kept forgetting that if I had the navigation map displayed on the screen and wanted to change radio stations, I first needed to push the “Radio” button and then select a station pre-set button or twist the tuning knob.
My family encountered new problems with the XC60, though. On a couple of occasions, we couldn’t figure out why the power exterior mirrors would not unfold. Eventually, we discovered that by locking and then unlocking the doors, we got them to power open. On another occasion, we opened the rear doors, tossed the Keyless Drive fob on the driver’s seat, strapped the kids into their car seats, closed the doors, and then couldn’t open the locked front doors. Talk about throwing a scare into a parent on a sunny 80-degree day. I tried to replicate that particular situation, and I tried to find related settings for the mirrors and locks in the “My Car” menu using the dash-mounted screen, but never did determine exactly why the XC60 behaved in such fashion.
I also had trouble using the cruise control system. Driving down Pacific Coast Highway, I tried to set the cruise for 60 mph in a 55 mph zone, and the XC60 would have nothing to do with it, automatically dropping down to whatever speed its road sign information database thought was the posted limit. After that, I could increase velocity using the steering wheel buttons, but this sure seems like a more distracting and less safe way to use cruise control than simply letting the driver set the desired speed. Of course, as tends to happen with technical glitches, on another occasion I had no trouble activating the cruise control for 75 mph in a 65-mph zone.
I also found that the XC60’s road sign information database was sometimes inaccurate. For instance, while driving on the freeway in a 65-mph zone the display said 45 mph, which was the speed limit on the adjacent frontage road. Check out our full Volvo XC60 photo gallery for a picture of this error in action.
2015 Volvo XC60 Review and Road Test: Safety and Ratings
- No changes for 2015
The main reason to choose a Volvo XC60 over other entry-luxury crossover SUVs is for safety, both for the standard and optional features offered on this model and for its top-notch crash-test ratings.
In addition to a robust underlying vehicle structure and features such as Ready Alert Brakes and Emergency Brake Light illumination, the 2015 XC60 is equipped with standard City Safety technology. City Safety operates at speeds between 3 mph and 30 mph, using radar to identify when the XC60 might collide with another vehicle or a stationary object. After issuing a warning to the driver, City Safety can automatically apply the XC60’s brakes if the driver fails to take action to avoid a collision. If the driver activates the brakes or steers the SUV, City Safety defers to the driver’s actions.
Numerous safety-related options are offered for the XC60, and at relatively affordable prices. Highlights include front and rear parking assist sensors, a Blind Spot Information System, a Rear Cross Traffic Alert system, a Lane Departure Warning system, Driver Alert Control, Distance Alert, Active High Beam headlights, and a Collision Warning system with Full Auto Brake and both Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection.
In my experience, though, the Collision Warning system was a bit too eager to sound the alarm. On a couple of occasions, while cruising around a bend in a road, the system thought I was going to crash into a vehicle ahead that was turning left, or parked at the side of the road.
Notably, though, the XC60 is not available with the same Lane Keeping Aid technology that comes on the S60. As a result, I kept the Lane Departure Warning system engaged the entire time, rather than shutting it off as I did in the S60.
2015 Volvo XC60 Crash-Test Ratings:
Want to know how many luxury suvs match the Volvo XC60 when it comes to crash protection? Just one, and it’s called the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. That’s because the Volvo XC60 and the Mercedes are the only models to achieve both a 5-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a “Top Safety Pick+” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) when evaluated with standard equipment.
If safety is at the top of your priority list, you can’t go wrong with this Volvo.
2015 Volvo XC60 Review and Road Test: Engines and Fuel Economy
- Drive-E 4-cylinder engines with automatic stop/start systems
- Drive-E engines get 8-speed automatic transmission
- Drive-E engines get Eco+ driving mode with Eco-coast and Eco-climate functionality
- AWD offered only with XC60 3.2 and XC60 T6 with turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine
For 2015, the Volvo XC60 is equipped with new Drive-E engines, a new 8-speed automatic transmission, and other technologies designed to help the SUV save gas. However, if you want all-wheel drive, you’re stuck with one of the XC60’s old engines.
In the XC60 T5 Drive-E model, the new engine is a turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 240 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,500 rpm to 4,800 rpm. It is equipped with automatic stop/start technology, and a new automatic transmission with Normal and Sport driving modes delivers the power to the front wheels.
My test model was the T6 Drive-E, powered by the same 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine but with both a supercharger and a turbocharger. As a result, this version makes 302 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque between 2,100 rpm and 4,500 rpm, providing more than enough oomph for the 2-ton SUV.
Both of the XC60 Drive-E models also have an Eco+ driving mode, which extends automatic stop/start operation, adjusts throttle response and transmission shift points, and modifies climate control system operation in order to maximize mileage. Clearly, the EPA generated the XC60 Drive-E’s fuel economy estimates with this setting engaged, as it claims the T5 Drive-E will get 27 mpg in combined driving while the T6 Drive-E will return 25 mpg. I got 20.4 mpg with my T6 Drive-E test vehicle, well below EPA estimates.
Admittedly, I didn’t drive the XC60 with Eco+ mode engaged because its Eco-Climate system produces tepid, barely detectable levels of air conditioning and it was too hot outside during my week with the SUV. During winter, in cloudy or cold climates, I can see how this Eco+ mode might be desirable and effective.
2015 Volvo XC60 Review and Road Test: Driving Impressions
Trading the keys to a Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E, which weighs 3,472 pounds, for the keys to a Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E, which weighs 4,043 pounds, results in a predictable observation. The supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine doesn’t feel as strong in the heavier SUV model.
Still, this is a quick crossover, especially with the transmission’s Sport driving mode engaged. Unlike the S60 Drive-E, the XC60 Drive-E lacks electric steering, and unlike the S60 Drive-E, torque steer is plainly evident when applying lots of throttle and powering out of a corner. Turn right on red or to merge into traffic, and it’s easy to spin the XC60’s front wheels, inadvertently activating the traction control system. Volvo needs to figure out how to pair this engine with AWD ASAP.
Take too much advantage of the 302 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, and you’ll be as disappointed by the fuel economy as I was. The EPA led me to believe I’d get something close to 25 mpg, but instead I had trouble breaking the 20-mpg mark. Granted, I did not drive the XC60 with the Eco+ mode engaged, and I used the Sport mode for all of my mountain driving, but this SUV still should have returned better mileage. I’m sure my test vehicle’s 20-inch aluminum wheels and 255/45 tires didn’t help to maximize fuel economy, and while they improve grip when taking corners they also degrade ride quality by what is likely equal measure.
In addition to suffering from torque steer, the XC60’s steering is generally unpleasant, rubbery, with a weird elasticity that always wants to tug the wheel back to center. The rack also transmits lots of kickback whenever the front wheels encounter bumps during acceleration, and the system takes driver inputs as suggestions rather than clear directives. Let’s put it this way: I was glad to get the XC60 off of a twisty mountain road and onto a coastal highway.
The XC60’s brake pedal was more agreeable than it’s steering, drawing zero attention in terms of complaint or praise. Driven with vigor down a mountainside, a hint of brake fade was evident, but the main dynamic flaws with the XC60 are torque steer, front wheels that break loose pretty easily, a lousy ride on lumpy pavement, and dissatisfying steering. Unless you really need the T6 Drive-E model’s extra power and the Sport Package’s 20-inch wheels and stiffer suspension, skip ‘em.
2015 Volvo XC60 Review and Road Test: Final Thoughts
No surprise here, but safety is the main reason to choose the 2015 Volvo XC60 over other small luxury SUVs, though I can certainly understand why someone might instead buy one for its styling, for its seating, or for its turbocharged engines, which are far less susceptible to the weakening effects of thinner atmosphere at elevation.
In other respects, though, the 2015 Volvo XC60 strikes me as a vehicle ready for a complete redesign rather than a refresh. That’s coming, though timing is unclear. In the meantime, you can rest assured that a new XC60 will protect your family better than just about any other luxury SUV.
2015 Volvo XC60 Review and Road Test: Pros and Cons
- Exceptionally safe
- Comfortable seats
- Turbocharged engines
- Appealing design
- Accessible safety technology
- Unrealistic Drive-E fuel economy estimates
- AWD offered only with the old engines
- Dissatisfying steering, ride quality
- Funky controls, mysterious quirks
- Small SUV cargo space, big SUV price tag
Volvo supplied the 2015 XC60 for this review
2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E photos by Christian Wardlaw