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2015 Car Review: Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E by Carey Russ +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Volvo XC60

The Volvo XC60 is better than ever


    • SEE ALSO: Volvo Buyers Guide

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Volvo XC60

New Math, Swedish style: 4 + turbo = 5. 4 + turbo + supercharger = 6.

Say what? Volvo has a new engine. As is increasingly popular in the industry, a smaller forced-induction four-cylinder replaces a larger naturally-aspirated six. And inline five, in Volvos. Or even a forced-induction six, again in Volvos. Even with the extra boost hardware, the new Drive-E four is smaller and lighter than the engines it replaces, further improving efficiency, the E in the name.

Why both a turbo -- which, technically, is a turbo-supercharger, driven by exhaust gasses, not mechanically -- and a supercharger? The two methods of forced induction work best at different engine speeds. A supercharger provides instant boost from low engine speeds, while a turbo needs time to spool up to speed. Not necessarily a long time, but more than the supercharger, and it works best at higher engine speeds. So what could be better than using a supercharger for low-rpm boost and a turbocharger for higher-rpm power? If you can get them to work together‚€¶

Volvo has done that. And in doing so, has gotten 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque out of its new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in T6 form. That's similar to the turbo 3.0-liter inline six's 300 hp and 325 lb-ft, and much better than the 3.2-liter naturally-aspirated six's 240 hp and 236 lb-ft. Or the turbo-only 2.0 T5 engine also used in the 2015 XC60, with 240 hp and 258 lb-ft.

Internal combustion requires fuel and air. Forced induction feeds more air, which then requires more fuel. A forced-induction car can use less fuel than a naturally-aspirated one of the same power specification, depending on how it is driven. Since maximum fuel consumption takes place under maximum acceleration, a light foot with a forced-induction engine can bring surprisingly good fuel economy‚€¶ if you can resist the boost thrills.

For 2015, the XC60 has the greatest choice of powertrains ever with T5 and T6 Drive-E versions with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive with six-cylinder engines in naturally-aspirated 3.2 AWD and turbo T6 AWD form and T6 AWD 325-hp R-Design versions. Base, Premier, Premier Plus, and Platinum are the trim levels for T5 Drive-E and 3.2 AWD models, with T6 base being equivalent to Premier, with Premier Plus and Platinum above that.

Watch the R-Design Volvo XC60 promo video

My test car for the past week was a T6 Drive-E Platinum, a fine showcase for all of Volvo's current engine, transmission, and safety technology. No complaints about the engine. With lovely, solid power and flexibility, it made the eight-speed automatic transmission's job easy. Part of the Drive-E philosophy is engine stop/start, to improve fuel economy in city driving by stopping the engine when the car stops at a stoplight. Some such systems are overly noticeable. This one is nearly transparent. This T6 had all of the comfort and safety expected in a Volvo, including good handling and maneuverability. It's always best to avoid trouble, after all. EPA fuel economy estimates were listed as 25 mpg city, 30 highway on the window sticker. I saw more like 18-22 around town and 24 to 28 on the open road, at speeds higher than the EPA simulation. I also enjoyed the of forced induction a bit more than any EPA simulation would, so not bad at all for a two-ton crossover.

APPEARANCE: For 2014, the XC60 got its greatest styling change since its debut. 2014 was a short year for it, so there are no external changes for 2015. If the overall shape is familiar and recognizable, most of the details are new, especially at the front where the hood, fenders, and grille and bumper fascia are all new. As on its cousins S60 and V60, the bottom of the grille has gotten more rounded, and is almost a smile, but still with the diagonal "ironmark" company logo. Metallic plastic "skid plates" front and rear are a classic SUV/crossover touch. These are better at aerodynamic management than rock-bashing, although with nine inches of clearance an XC60 is quite capable on dirt trails.

COMFORT: Changes inside are less than outside, and no demerits for that. As ever, a Volvo interior is a comfortable, quiet, and safe place to spend time. The XC60's upright, high-eyepoint seating position offers very good visibility. Swedish styling is not as austere as German, but still simple. It works well here, with pleasant and functional shapes, high-quality materials, and excellent fit and finish. A bright TFT instrument display is easy to read in any light, and it and the Sensus system at the top of the flying-buttress center stack lets the driver or front passenger easily manage information, audio, phone, and navigation systems. The steering wheel adjusts for both tilt and reach, and both front seats are power-adjustable. And wonderfully comfortable no matter how long you might be in them. The twin-pane moonroof lets plenty of light in, or air as the front section is tilt and slide. Rear passengers get the best view through it. They also get plenty of room and comfort. The rear seatback is split 40/20/40 for maximum versatility, and there is a bit of extra storage under the rear load floor, along with a space-saver spare tire.

SAFETY: The XC60 has a five-star overall rating from NHTSA and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick +. The XC60 protects passengers with a unibody structure that includes a safety cage around the passenger compartment, and front and rear crumple zones. There is a full complement of airbags. Brakes are four-wheel ventilated antilock discs, with support systems including brake assist, Optimized Hydraulic Brakes (OHB), Ready Alert Brakes (RAB), and Fading Brake Support (FSB), plus the Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) system, which now incorporated Corner Traction Control (CTC). Also standard is front and rear ultrasonic Park assist and the City Safety system. The optional Technology Package adds Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, Distance Alert (DA), Driver Alert Control (DAC), and Lane Departure Warning (LDW). The BLIS package includes the Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert and front and rear parking aids. The XC60's nose and hood are designed to minimize injury to a pedestrian in an impact.

RIDE AND HANDLING: An XC60 higher and heavier than a wagon like Volvo's own V60, so there is some noticeable body roll when playing hard and its reactions to driver inputs aren't quite as quick. It's still near the top of the luxury crossover class for its abilities on the road, though. Suspension is fully-independent, with MacPherson struts in front and a multilink setup at the rear. The standard Touring tuning is moderately firm but supple enough for all-day comfort. Steering effort is moderate, and there can be some torque steer under heavy acceleration. There's some torque going through the front wheels then, too‚€¶

PERFORMANCE: Efficiency is the name of the game here, hence the "-E". Compared to an engine with more cylinders, all else being equal a four has fewer moving parts for less weight and less frictional loss. The block and head are aluminum alloy, and both camshafts have continuously-variable phasing. Four-cylinder engine vibrate more than an inline six, but dual balance shafts ensure smooth operation here. Volvo's new engine architecture was designed for use as diesel as well as gasoline power, with thicker iron cylinder liners and a different cylinder head for the diesel, so it should stand up the lesser pressures of gasoline operation just fine, even with two forms of forced induction and over 150 horsepower per liter at maximum output. An eight-speed automatic transmission offers further improvements in efficiency and performance, with low low gears and high high gears for effortless and economical highway cruising. With peak torque of 295 lb-ft available between 2100 and 4500 rpm -- the most commonly-used part of the engine's rev range -- precise shifting is a non-issue. There is a "Geartronic" manual mode, via paddles behind the steering wheel, but it's not a necessity -- and I don't mind shifting! If my mileage -- high teens to low twenties around town and mid- to high-twenties on the highway -- didn't match the EPA's, I live in the real world. Level ground is a rarity around here, and highway speeds are well over the EPA simulation except during ever-longer rush "hours". At that time the engine stop feature should help save a bit of premium unleaded.

CONCLUSIONS: With freshened styling and new engines, the 2015 Volvo XC60 is better than ever.


2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E

Base Price $ 40,050

Price As Tested $ 50,725

Engine Type DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder, direct fuel injection, supercharged and turbocharged

Engine Size 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.

Horsepower 302 @ 5700 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 295 @ 2100-4500 rpm

Transmission 8-speed automatic with manual mode

Wheelbase / Length 109.2 in. / 182.8 in.

Curb Weight 4043 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 13.4

Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal.

Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline

Tires 235/45R20 105V Pirelli Scorpion Zero Asimetrico

Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, HBA, RAB, FBS, EBD standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink

Ground Clearance 9.1 inches

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive


EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 22 / 30 / 22

0 to 60 mph 6.5 sec

Towing Capacity 3500 lbs.


Platinum Package -- includes: power-operated tailgate with memory, rear park assist camera, power retractable exterior mirrors, HomeLinkģ, cargo cover, grocery bag holder, 12VDC power outlet in cargo area, electric folding rear headrests, navigation system with real-time traffic, Volvo premium sound system, accent lighting, auto-dimming exterior mirrors $ 4,000

Sport Package -- includes: sport seats, 20" alloy wheels $ 1,500

Technology Package -- includes: adaptive cruise control with queue assist, collision warning with full auto brake, pedestrial/cyclist detection with auto brake, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control, Lane Departure Warning, active high beams, Road Sign Information $ 1,500

Active xenon headlights with washers $ 800

Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) Package: BLIS, cross-traffic alert, lane change merge aid, front and rear park assist $ 900

Metallic paint $ 550

Heated front seats $ 500

Destination Charge $ 925