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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Scandinavians behind the Volvo XC60 not only wrap safety and luxury into a classic two-row SUV, but make an irrefutable case about the power and strength of a four-cylinder engine.

I drove a 2017 Volvo XC60 T6 with the supercharged 302-horsepower 2-liter turbo four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission plus all-wheel drive. Simplified into three trims (Dynamic, Inscription and R-Design) and two engines (T5 and T6) standard highlights on my Inscription model included: seating for five; leather upholstery; wood interior trim; comfort seats; eight-way power front seats; Volvo’s Sensus Connect media system with WiFi Hotspot and a seven-inch touchscreen with navigation; Bluetooth; eight-speaker audio system; panoramic sunroof with power sunshade; power tailgate; roof rails; illuminated sill plates; and twenty-inch wheels. Price as described without options starts at $46,350.

The Volvo XC60’s main competitors are the refined mid-size utility vehicles promoting less bulk and more performance such as the Audi Q5, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, but also extends to solid entry-level luxury choices like the Lexus RX 350 and Acura MDX.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Tasteful but simple, the XC60’s interior features a signature waterfall center stack that has storage behind with infotainment commands front and center – I’d like to see the system take some updates and move beyond a myriad of buttons and multifunctional dial (check out the vertical nine-inch touchscreen on the XC90’s R-Design more likened to an iPad in terms of size, graphics and swiping motions). The Sensus system may be a bit too complex. The optional built-in booster seats continue to boarder on genus and reason alone for a family to go with Volvo. While the Inscription is certainly accommodating, available packages found only standard on the R-Design makes one salivate a little harder (xenon headlights, heated steering wheel, Harman Kardon audio system, safety technology) – my test drive had roughly $8k more in options.

Reliability & Safety Factor: No surprises here – the 2017 Volvo XC60 earned 5-Stars for overall crash protection with The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). With The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the vehicle received the highest score of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests to be a Top Safety Pick. Standard safety equipment highlights are Land Departure Warning and City Safety, Volvo’s version of a trending safety technology other makers are also providing where the vehicle's brakes can actually be applied without driver intervention in low-speed situations.

Cost Issues: Not cheap, an entry-level 2017 Volvo XC60 starts at $40,950 with my test drive reaching $53,585 with options – I recently drove an XC90 T8 R-Design with a price tag that topped $80k. A similarly outfitted 2017 Acura MDX will cost $56,400.

Activity & Performance Ability: Performance headlines for the Volvo are their four-cylinder engines that are on par with many V6 powertrains in terms of swiftness and strength but offer better fuel economy at 22 miles-per-gallon – Volvo also offers a hybrid system on the XC90 that cranks the horsepower up to 400 thanks to a powerful electric motor with an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 25 miles-per-gallon. Twenty-inch tires do make the ride a bit too firm, and the Acura MDX feels more poised.

The Green Concern: Fuel economy for the supercharged 2-liter engine is 20-city and 27-highway for a combined 22 miles-per-gallon. The Acura MDX gets the same with a 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine.

Call it a preference for serving safety with classic European styling, but the 2017 Volvo XC60 would be my top pick for a sophisticated two-row SUV – I like the 2-liter engine accomplishments, too.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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