The second-generation Volvo XC60 is a scaled down version of Volvo's XC90 three-row SUV, whose arrival signaled the brand's rebirth. Like its big brother, the XC60 boasts an elegant, uncluttered interior design. It also brings the latest in advanced safety features, and the Pilot Assist driver-assistance system. But not everything is rosy in this newest Swede, including its frustrating controls and stiff ride.
Volvo's optional semi-self-driving Pilot Assist system combines steering assistance and adaptive cruise control to try to make driving easier. It has no proven safety benefit, but can make driving more convenient in stop-and-go traffic. Drivers still need to constantly pay attention and be ready to take over when needed.
Acceleration is prompt from our T5's 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but the Volvo isn't the swiftest model in the luxury compact SUV class. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly in most cases, apart from the occasional bumping into gear at low speeds. We measured 23 mpg overall on premium gas, which is not a standout for the segment. A 316-hp version of this engine with turbo- and supercharging is also available, denoted as the T6; the top-of-the-line powertrain is the T8-badged 400-hp plug-in hybrid.
In typical Volvo tradition, the ride is unduly stiff. It is particularly jarring when encountering bumps, ruts, and potholes. That may not be a problem on a perfectly smooth Swedish highway but it's a complete disconnect from what you might expect from a luxury SUV. While the cabin is mostly quiet, the engine sounds unpolished when revved.
Handling is responsive and secure, though it won't inspire you to take the long way home. It is not as rewarding to drive as an Audi Q5 or BMW X3.
Also in true Volvo custom, all of the seats are comfortable and supportive, even for long trips, and the rear-seating area is spacious.
Many of the XC90's positive features and traits have trickled down to the XC60. The leather surfaces, combined with the matte wood and brushed aluminum trim, provide a rich ambience that makes it a treat to spend time in the Volvo's cabin.
The center screen looks inviting and high-tech, and resembles a tablet computer. It serves as the command center for climate, audio, and phone controls. However, actually using the system while driving is frustrating, thanks to the multiple taps, swipes, and scrolls necessitated to navigate through the layered structure of the menu. This system is unintuitive and distracting to use requiring frequent, precious seconds with eyes off the road and a hand off the wheel. For a brand that built its reputation on safety, this woefully unintuitive and distracting system means frustrated drivers will have to rely on the safety features more than they should.
Fortunately, the XC60 comes equipped with a standard full-speed-range automatic emergency braking system. But we're dismayed that blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning are only optional.