Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

It could easily be argued that Volvo’s XC60 is fast approaching its expiration date, though you might not be able to tell from looking at it. The XC60 has been soldiering on since 2009 when it was introduced as a 2010 model, and despite some of the underlying tech feeling dated, the XC60 remains a standout in the compact luxury crossover segment thanks to its good looks, comfortable ride (those Swedish seats!), luxurious interior and incredible variety in its lineup.

A turbocharger and a supercharger!?!?! What’s not to love? Oh, front-wheel drive.

Okay, that last might be crossing over into a deterrent, with 17 variations of powertrain and trim, with additional packages, colours and options available to customize your XC60.

However, the focus of this review is Volvo’s new powertrain: a 2.0L four-cylinder that makes 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque courtesy of both a turbocharger and a supercharger.

A turbocharger and a supercharger!?!?!

What’s not to love?

Oh, front-wheel drive.

Yes, unfortunately Volvo’s advanced new drivetrain, which is the first of its kind in North America (though Volkswagen has had a 1.4L ‘twincharged’ four cylinder for European markets for some time), it is routed exclusively to the front wheels, and with 295 lb-ft of torque available at 2,100 rpm right through to 4,500. That early surge of torque with the supercharger pumping in air right from the first dab of the throttle and the turbocharger kicking in seamlessly as revs build.

On the engine end it is fairly invisible, but on the tire and steering wheel end, not so much. In wet weather in particular, the comfort-oriented tires slip and slide, scrabbling for purchase, and even in the dry there’s an occasional chirp. When the power hooks up, the squirming moves through the steering column as the torque steer tries to wrestle the wheel out of your hands. It mars an otherwise smooth driving experience, and creates another barrier in selling this new innovation and big power from extremely small displacement.

And as I said, the driving experience after initial acceleration is just right for this compact crossover from Volvo. The suspension is mellow and could be labeled soft, while the steering is light and easy, though with little in the way feedback. This is no driver’s car, so we won’t fuss around with dynamic assessments. It is a comfortable vehicle that is easy and relaxing to drive. That is a very good thing. You want dynamics? Consider the V60 Polestar.

The T6 Drive-E’s purpose is to achieve stellar fuel ratings while still delivering inspiring performance. While not inspiring, the T6 Drive-E is plenty fast, able to reach 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds, but more impressive is its responsiveness, always offering power on tap at various speeds. The eight-speed automatic transmission is tuned more for efficiency and smooth operation, so sudden bursts of speed do require patience as it wanders over to the right gear. The result is an official rating of 10.7 L/100 km in city driving, 7.8 highway and 9.4 combined. That compares very favourably with Volvo’s other T6 powertrain, the 300-hp turbo inline-six that rates 13.5/9.9/11.9 with the same acceleration figures even with all-wheel drive. In the real world, we saw 10.6 L/100 km in mild weather and typical commuting duties; that’s neither disappointing nor particularly exciting. 

Visibility and turning circle is typical of the segment, and with the high seating position it is easy to maneuver in traffic and into parking spaces. Parking is aided by a back-up camera displayed in the dash-top screen with guidelines that help with reversing and sensors that warn you of your proximity to objects ahead and behind.

At higher speeds, there are more planted cars for highway cruising, but it is smooth and soaks up road vibrations and delivers a quiet ride even if the steering wheel doesn’t offer a reassuring locked-on feel due to a bit of play in the wheel.

The XC60 has a veritable safety bubble available to those who feel the need to supplement their human sensors with electronic aids. Volvo’s City Safety low-speed emergency braking is standard. The $1,000 BLIS package adds blind spot warning,

Cross Traffic Alert, lane change merge aid (radar-enhanced blind-spot warning) and the aforementioned parking sensors. The $1,500 Tech Package with (take a deep breath here, folks) adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto brake, pedestrian & cyclist detection with full auto brake, distance alert, driver alert control, lane departure warning, road sign information and lane keeping aid.

This kind of electronic safety shield is one way to make drivers and passengers feel comfortable, but Volvo has always offered a more direct form of comfort with their always-amazing seats. These leather-lined thrones are padded and contoured in all the right places, with power adjustment, memory settings and heating, though no cooling. With the $1,350 Climate Package, the rear seats, windshield, washer-spray nozzles and steering wheel are heated as well. The rear seats are a bit tight, but when unoccupied, drivers can drop the rear headrests for maximum rear visibility, which is aided by a frameless rear-view mirror and rectangular rear window – it’s the thick D-pillars and vestigial rear side windows that limit the XC60 driver’s all-around vision.

Trunk space is one of the best in class by the numbers (872 L in the trunk and 1,909 with seats down and 40/20/40 split-folding seats), and even if it weren’t I’d take Volvo’s bag-holder panel and strap over a couple hundred litres of outright volume any day if you want to compare it against mid-sizers like the Lexus RX or Mercedes-Benz ML-Class instead of smaller utes like the RDX and GLK-Class. After all, that’s where the price ends up at once you tally up the Platinum trim and all those option packages.

The finish from the trunk right through to the dash is impeccable, thick carpeting in the trunk and floor, soft buttery leather and genuine aluminum trimming soft-touch dash and high quality switchgear. The gauges are lovely to look at, with a wealth of information from the vibrant digital gauges, with various design themes to suit different tastes. The main infotainment screen and controls take some getting used to, and neither the hard buttons and dials on the centre console or the steering wheel controls seem intuitive, so I’m looking forward to experiencing the next generation in an upcoming XC90 test drive we have booked. The system isn’t illogical or convoluted (like Acura’s repeated struggles in this area), but I prefer steering wheel controls that relate to displays in the gauges for a more direct association and proximity.

The XC60 is a simple proposition, a comfortable SUV with quality interior, but in Platinum trim, with every package loaded up, the XC60 T6 Drive-E we tested was creeping up on $60K for a FWD luxury SUV and there is a lot of competition in that price range in the compact and mid-size categories. Volvo’s XC60 good looks and high quality impress, and the powertrain delivers the promised double-whammy of efficiency and power. Unfortunately, the lack of AWD at this price makes it a hard sell in the utility category, and the far more balanced and unique proposition of the V60 Cross Country with its old-school turbo-five and AWD make a much more convincing argument for Volvo intenders looking for a rugged all-around crossover with a distinctive Volvo flair.

4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Audi Q5
Mercedes-Benz ML-Class
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
Lexus RX
Lincoln MKX

Model Tested 2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E FWD Platinum
Base Price $51,950
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,195
Price as Tested $58,895
Optional Equipment
Climate Package $1,350 – heated rear seats, windshield, steering wheel, windshield washer nozzles, interior air quality systems; Technology Package $1,500 – adaptive cruise control w/ queue assist, collision warning w/ full-auto brake, pedestrian & cyclist detection w/ full auto brake, distance alert, driver alert control, lane departure warning, road sign information, active high beam, lane keeping aid; BLIS $1,000 – blind spot information system, cross traffic alert, lane change merge aid (radar-based BLIS), front and rear park assist; active dual xenon headlights w/ headlight washers $1,000; metallic paint $800