Friday, May 22, 2009

Unmistakably of classic Volvo design lineage, the all-new 2010 XC60 is desirable because it’s in the sought-after compact crossover utility vehicle class, has turbo performance and is a pioneer in the study and application of safety.

The all-wheel-drive XC60 is the newest member in the Volvo family of utility vehicles. It’s smaller than the XC70 and XC90 and probably will appeal to buyers who are stepping down from sport utility vehicles and larger crossovers.

But stepping down from large does not mean letting go of power. The XC60 has a 3.0-liter, 24-valve inline six-cylinder turbocharged engine with an incredible delivery of torque performance of 295 lb.-ft. from 1,500 to 4,800 rpm. Horsepower is rated at 281 at 5,600 rpm. The turbo engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and average fuel economy is estimated at 16 miles per gallon in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway.

The XC60 is a driver-focused vehicle built to deliver driver satisfaction. My mother was a front-seat passenger and was not comfortable with the ride or the braking on the car. It felt too sporty and jerky for her. I was not aware of this, because I as the driver got all the drivetrain feedback in a driver-controlled way. The XC60 is not a sports car. It is a utility vehicle and it handles like one with off-road capability on 18-inch wheels and 9.1 inches of ground clearance. The XC60 is exceptionally rigid with a sport chassis.

In a safety first from Volvo, the automaker brings to market a new system called City Safety. The system stops the car by automatically braking the XC60 to a complete stop if it senses you are about to commit a rear-ender. How it works takes some getting used to as I found out in a couple of experimental feeble attempts to launch the City Safety system. Like a nervous first-time mother, I was afraid to let the car do what it is capable of doing.

The only way the system activates is when you get the vehicle speeds up to above 5 mph. That doesn’t seem like much action, but when you are closing in on the bumper in front of you, 5 mph seems like 40. When I only creeped and inched the car forward, I smacked the bumper in front of me. City Safety does not work if you are creeping along in city traffic.

You have to be moving at a pretty good clip - but at speeds no higher than 19 mph. When I gave the Volvo some distance and pressed on the gas and made no effort to brake, City Safety did it for me, stopping the 4,174-pound XC60 before I hit the car in front of me. It is quite amazing to deliberately activate the system in a closed course environment. I’d be very interested to learn of real stories from actual Volvo owners who had City Safety intervene for them in real-time traffic. City Safety is standard equipment on the 2010 XC60 at its base price of $37,200.

Beyond City Safety, this Volvo is loaded with standard safety: Dynamic Stability Traction Control; Roll Stability Control; front, side and head airbags; plus a new safety feature for towing purposes - Trailer Stability Assist - for a more stable drive. The XC60 has a tow rating of 3,300 pounds.

On initial introduction, Volvo is including at no charge a nice piece of optional equipment that customarily would go for $1,200. It’s the terrific power-operated panoramic sunroof with meshed screen that is included on the new Volvo at no charge, as was the case with my tester. For those looking at the premium utility compact segment, there is no doubt they will be testing the XC60.

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