by Tony West and Daryl Payne
2019 Volvo XC60, an Ultra-Lux Top Mid-size SUV Contender
Volvo SUV’s are all over the streets of Chicago, and in Europe the new XC60 is the shining star. Why? The luxurious SUV embodies elegance and sophistication with Scandinavian design cues giving it unique flair. For 2019, the Volvo XC60 is offered with Volvo’s Drive-E powertrains that include three diesel options, the gas-powered XC60 T5 with 190 horsepower, a 250 horsepower AWD T5, and the two whips we reviewed, the XC60 T6 AWD and hybrid T8 AWD with 320 horsepower. Both were decked out with Volvo’s infamous Inscription package.
The Volvo XC60 gets a touch-up for 2019 with refinements made to City Safety and Pilot Assist safety technologies. Both enhancements show a significant step towards Volvo’s Vision 2020 goal that states that no individual should be killed by a new Volvo by 2020.
The 2019 XC60 Inscription is a beautiful car inside and out. And its versatile powertrain options span athleticism and efficiency. With a smooth eco-friendly ride and sensual cabin with advancements to its 12 inch digital dash and 9 inch center tablet, the XC60 is one of the most refined midsize SUV on the road. Rightly so, because fully-loaded the XC60 Inscription costs more than a Benz truck and the Porsche Macan.
Amazing Design: T8 Hybrid Elements and T6 Advancements
The XC60 T6 Inscription and the XC60 T8 Hybrid’s designs are refreshed for 2019 with stylish aerodynamic enhancements. The 5-passenger Volvo XC60 boasts a chromed-out grille that looks like flowing water as the sun reflects in motion. Door handles have LED lighting that illuminates as drivers get close. Chrome runs parallel to a huge crease in the side. And big chromed-lined air vents in the front fascia help keep the SUV’s engine bay cool. Twenty-inch big-body wheels are fitted standard on the XC60 Inscription.
Check out highlights from our First Drive!
With the $1,900 Advanced Package, drivers have a colorful Heads up Display (HUD) and high pressure headlight cleaners. A panoramic moon roof stretches to the rear of the cabin. And wipers have integrated washers. Power folding mirrors are standard and will auto bend down to show the ground view when reversing.
The panoramic moon roof is a great concept but not as practical. During the summer, the open roof heats up the whip like a steam room. In hard rain the fabric doesn’t insulate the noise well. And with the fabric covering open, passersby can peek right in.
Standard Thor’s hammer LED daytime running lights wrap around the front end with optional dynamic bending functionality and high pressure cleaning for the LED headlights. LED fog lights are also standard. Aluminum sill plates and illuminated door handles are both standard along with integrated body-color chromed tailpipes. Boomerang shaped taillights give some dimension to what used to be a boxy frame as the rear windshield rakes forward under the big spoiler. Keyless entry is standard as is the power tailgate.
Volvo’s XC60 T8 Hybrid has some hybrid badging inside and out along with a specially designed digital dash where the tachometer is replaced with the energy monitor.
Elegant Inscription’ Cabin Replete with Innovative Tech
The Volvo XC60 Inscription cabin is replete with leather and Driftwood trim. A leather stitched dash, four-zone climate control and LED interior illumination add more sophistication.
With a 112 inch wheelbase the XC60 offers 41 inches of front and 37.9 inches of rear legroom. From the side the XC60 looks like a pretty-big mid-size SUV, low-slung with a raked windshield. Climbing inside the whip feels a bit smaller, like a CUV, even like the V90 Cross Country wagon.
Drivers have a 10-way power seat with memory. Power cushion extensions and side supports are fitted on the XC60 T8 Hybrid with the $3k Luxury Seat Package.
Drivers sit in the ultimate comfort with a leather-wrapped and contrast-stitched heated steering wheel and shifter. We love the wood grained center console area, from the long narrow storage drawer with a chrome handle door to the gloss black area with park brake, auto hold, drive mode switch and chromed-out shifter. A wooden door covers the cup holders and can slide closed giving the center area a clean sophisticated look.
Daryl likes the shifter in the XC60 T8 Inscription that’s shorter and looks crystalized, and he fell in love with the multi contour massage seats. The decked out steering wheel has controls for cruise control, audio, voice command and Pilot Assist, the precursor to autonomous tech.
There are few buttons on the center stack below the 9 inch tablet, just for entertainment. There needs to be a few climate controls, specifically for changing the fan speed and selecting the climate mode.
Power folding rear seats are standard with the $2,000 Convenience Package that includes Homelink, power 2nd row headrests and the heated wiper blades.
The $3,000 Luxury Seat Package gives the XC60 Inscription supple Nappa Leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a super dope massager for the front seats. Volvo is one of just a couple automakers that fit their luxury whips with pro-level massaging front seats.
Everything about the XC60’s cabin is well thought out from the ultra-comfy seats to the intricate placement of the Bowers and Wilkins speakers in the dash and doors that make for pristine sound quality.
The 12.3 inch digital dash displays two meters with the multi information display (MID) in between that shows important safety, convenience and driver assistance settings. The full-color navigation in the MID is the most detailed we’ve seen, showing gas icons, street names, lane configurations, speed camera warnings, current interstate and city names.
The Heads up Display shows tons of details including speed limits and school zone warnings. It can be customized to the perfect position with adjustments for brightness and navigation.
The nine inch center tablet hosts a wealth of info including the infamous Sensus system. For 2019 all Volvo’s now have Sensus, an infotainment system that combines navigation, convenience functions, connected services and in-car entertainment like Pandora and Spotify. The standard Sensus system in the XC60 includes a WiFi hotspot and smartphone integration for Apple CarPlay and Android auto.
Along with housing the settings for climate, apps, navigation and the 360 degree reverse camera, a status bar at the top of the touch screen shows vehicle activities and connection info to the left and media info on the right.
Switching to the climate view on the touchscreen allows the driver to select massage seat settings and adjust the fan speed and direction. But adjusting the temperature and fan speed is cumbersome because the dial has to be raised manually with the finicky touch commands. There should instead be a simple button on the center stack.
The Clean Zone interior package uses an air filter to remove contaminants. Preconditioning allows the vehicle temperature to be set ahead of time.
Standard Volvo On Call includes an enhanced mobile app and remote start plus a new Send to Car command as part of a complimentary 4 -year subscription.
Volvo On-Call allows owners to keep tabs on the XC60 remotely, with the ability to lock and unlock the whip, facilitate an SOS call and locate a lost vehicle.
Check out some of the coolest interior features in action!
There are also some dope customizations that can be done with the Volvo XC60 cabin comfort features with tech like Valet Mode that can lock the glove box and touchscreen with 4 digit code. And Driver Profiles and a Guest Profile can be created to go with each key via On-Call. Personal driver settings can be saved for the center display appearance, mirrors, driver’s seat, even navigation. The power tailgate is also programmable.
While the XC60 T8 powertrain seems to be ideal for a macho professional, its cabin has a mere 36 inches of headroom, so a man over 6’5” or a person with long arms may not be comfy. Daryl thinks that makes the XC60 more of a chick car though he’s only 6’2”.
XC60 T6 AWD Powertrain Stealthy and Smooth
With refinements giving each powertrain a unique personality, the XC60 has mass appeal. From the outside, the low-slung mid-size SUV boasts creases in the hood and sides that enhance aerodynamics. The whip isn’t sporty, but it looks athletic and fun. The 2019 XC60 T6 has a 2.0 liter super and turbo-charged 4 cylinder with direct injection. The efficient 4-cylinder boasts 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque at 2,200 rpm and a combined fuel economy of 23 mpg (21 mpg city / 27 mpg highway.)
The 4-cylinder is matched to a glorious 8 speed Geartronic automatic transmission that keeps the XC60 rolling smooth and steady and ready to jump rpms. Thanks to the refined trans the XC60 accelerates with purposeful precision easily leaving cars in its dust.
Rolling the sleek drive mode switch in the center console will switch the XC60 to comfort, off road, eco, dynamic, and individual drive modes. In comfort mode the whip is an everyday cruiser with more relaxed handling. Eco mode saves a descent amount of gas by keeping rpms low.
Dynamic mode is thrilling with tighter steering, lowered suspension and a more bridled throttle. As expected the XC60 T8 hybrid is more efficient than its T6 brother. But we still expected to the T6 to not pillage gas during city driving. And in stop-and-go traffic the drive range seems to dwindle by double digits after going just a few miles.
Start-Stop technology still needs to be smoother across the XC60 model range. While it saves a ton of gas in eco and comfort modes, it takes away from the overall driving comfort by rumbling the SUV when powering down.
Standard dynamic driving features include Advanced Electronic Stability Control, Dynamic Chassis and electric power assisted steering.
All-wheel drive is fitted on the XC60 Inscription adding much needed strength and resilience. Double wishbone front and integral link suspension is standard on all the XC60s. The suspension in the XC60 works perfectly with its spirited drivetrain and remains flexible and tough in all drive modes. Four-zone air suspension is available for $1,800.
The Convenience Package adds Adaptive Cruise Control and a Semi-Autonomous Drive System.
Braking is on a dime even at high speeds with 17 inch front and 18 inch rear disc brakes. Turning and cornering is precise thanks to advanced all-wheel drive and dynamic stability, so I speed right out of the turn.
XC60 T8 E-AWD Powertrain Aids Efficiency with less Innovation
The 2019 XC60 T8 E-AWD powertrain picks up where the T6 falls short. The plug-in T8 hybrid has the efficient 2.0 liter supercharged and turbocharged 4 cylinder engine. With an 87 horsepower electric motor, the T8 boasts a combined output of 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. Volvo’s Twin Engine is matched to an 8 speed Geartronic automatic transmission with Start/Stop technology.
I thought Start/ Stop technology would be more seamless in the XC60 T8. But it’s still jarring as it engages too fast, like when trying to roll to a stop light. At times passengers even complained about why the car was rumbling.
The T8 powertrain is more efficient than its T6 brother, but it still requires premium gasoline, and isn’t that much more efficient than the diesel XC60s. Volvo’s plug-in hybrid delivers all the benefits of a high performance, low emissions gas powered whip. The drive mode selector in the XC60 T8 consists of Pure (eco drive), Off-Road, Hybrid (comfort), Power (sport) and Individual Drive modes.
Fully-charged, which could take from 3-7 hours depending on the charging type, the XC60 offers a mere 20 miles of pure electric driving. Most of the city driving in the XC60 T8 will undoubtedly burn premium gasoline. And in Chicago, IL where gas prices can top $3/ gallon for premium easily, the XC60 T8 may not hold a benefit over its gas-powered siblings. Especially when in power (sport) mode, drivers are encouraged to not drive efficiently, to hit the gas and burn up rpms. The questions is whether the XC60 T8, with all its efficient advancements, can still be efficient while a driver seizes the highest athleticism the whip offers.
Moreover, thanks to spectacular all-wheel drive, resilient suspension and its dynamic chassis the XC60 can be fast, aggressive and nimble at high and low speeds. Dynamic chassis makes the whip feel brawny and less boxy than previous Volvo SUVs. The whip glides down the highway with precision. But it lacks finesse.
Daryl prefers the performance of the XC60 T8 over the T6. As a race enthusiast, Daryl loves the XC60’s low planted stance because he can whip it like a sedan when he needs to, yet is still has a descent ground clearance for the winter. He loves the hybrid powertrain working harmoniously with the 8-speed trans to deliver unbridled clean acceleration.
Yet Daryl drove the whip mostly in the power mode, where the benefits of the hybrid T8 powertrain aren’t truly actualized. When switched to power mode, the eco meter disappears from the digital dash and rpms are shown revving in real time. In power mode, Daryl liked hearing the growl of the exhaust as he wielded the more responsive power steering. He didn’t mind the fact that he felt more bumps in power mode because acceleration didn’t degrade as fast. And he found the brakes to be just right in power mode and too tight in comfort mode.
Both the T6 and T8 powertrains boast monumental advancements in efficiency and clean power. Editor Sommer is more of a fan of the T6 performance, responsive, athletic and versatile. Motorsports Correspondent Daryl prefers the stuntastic XC60 T8, which pushes the limits of power and efficiency. The only question remained, which is whether the performance of the XC60 T8 justifies owners paying nearly $10k more for it than the T6. After all the T6 offers a combined fuel economy of 23 mpg and even more in eco mode.
Safety Technology Ahead of the Pack
The XC60 boasts advanced safety technology standard across all models that includes Hill Start Assist, Advanced Electronic Stability Control, Collision Avoidance and City Safety, which together can detect, warn drivers of and eventually avoid an impending collision.
City Safety is one of the few advancements of its kind that detects crossing pedestrians, cyclist, and large animals. Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation are also standard.
The lane keeping aid was too forceful in its steering corrections. If the XC60 barely swerves near the edge of the lane divider, steering assist will forcibly push the whip back to the center of the lane. In windy Chicago this was dangerous. There were times I was in a narrow lane of a construction zone, and the whip was nearly pushed into another car. Drivers will have to correct the lane keeping correction. Other times I was avoiding snow and ice piled on the side of the road, but as I veered away, the lane keeping aid would push the whip back into the ice and cause it to slide.
Check out City Safety and Steering Assist in action!
Sometimes City Safety and collision avoidance can be life-saving systems, like when it tightens the seatbelts if a collision is imminent. At other times, the forward collision avoidance would buzz loud and brake the XC60 for a car that was simply pulling out in front of me some 100 feet ahead. It seemed like if I didn’t brake the car would auto brake, even though a collision wasn’t likely. The loud warning and the probability of causing the car behind me to crash was scarier than the likelihood of me hitting the car ahead.
Run Off-Road Protection and Run Off-Road Mitigation, standard on all XC60s can trigger brake and steering support. Standard Road Sign Information captures and displays speed limits and warnings in the center screen and the HUD if needed.
The $1,100 Vision Package adds the blind spot information system, cross traffic alert, front and rear park assist and retractable rearview mirrors. The blind spot info system is invaluable when it warns of cars in the next lane as I flip on my signal. But it also lights up for cars two lanes over, often misleading me to have to turn to check my blind spot.
Pilot Assist, Volvo’s semi-autonomous driving system, will maintain vehicle stability with cruise control and steering assist as it advances down the highway at set speeds below 80 mph.
The XC60 T6 Inscription is on sale for about $48k with the Inscription Package, while the XC60 T8 costs nearly $57k with the same Inscription perks. Fully-loaded, the XC60 T6 retails for over $60k and the T8 over $71k. That’s more than a Benz truck, more than a Porsche truck, and more than the Infiniti QX50. Yet up against class leaders like the Acura RDX, the Audi Q5, and the BMW X3, the base XC60 with just a few add-ons topples them all.