2018 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design Review : Can I Get An Encore?

Back in 2016, we wrote about the updated XC90 and the future of the Volvo brand under Chinese leadership from Geely. Things looked bright as the revolutionary interior trim and smooth hybrid and twin-charged powertrain helped thrust the automaker directly into the luxury market and out of the shadows. But as every great musical artist knows, your first chart-topping hit puts pressure on each consecutive attempt. The follow-up Volvo S90 avoided the sophomore slump and kept the momentum. But can that streak continue with the brand’s “bread-and-butter” XC60?

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On the exterior, the new XC60 is less square and rigid than the larger XC90. It has spent some time on the treadmill and ditched the vanilla, “soccer mom” vibe that many would picture with the outgoing model. The 21-inch R-Design wheels help increase the radically new attitude of this XC60 and transform the overall design into something really quite handsome. However, like anyone that may have had some recent trims and tucks, there are a few awkward angles. The head-on view can be less than flattering at times and there is a hint of the Mazda CX-9 where the front meets the narrow and prominent grille.

Our tester was outfitted in the sportier R-Design package, set off with a deep Bursting Blue Metallic paint color that looks as brilliant as the clear sky, especially on our particularly sunny drive through the canyons. The R-Design package is highlighted with a black grille, body-color side molding, and properly European leather and Nubuck seats. The traditional “R-Design” badging also graces the steering wheel. Sure, we would prefer a steering wheel in a flat-bottom variety for this package, but we’ll give the Swedes a pass in this instance.

Minor styling misses are easy to forgive when an interior is done up in the way that Volvo has with the new XC60. The attention to detail on everything from the air vents to the speakers show that the brand isn’t ready for a curtain call just yet. The aluminum inlays across the dash blend into the air vents, where you’ll find a small Swedish flag engraved beneath the opening. The engine start knob and drive mode controller are textured in a diamond-cut metal pattern that feels prestigious. The “love it or hate it” multimedia touchscreen that you’ll find in every new Volvo makes an appearance and continues to precariously balance modern styling against over-complication. The Bowers and Wilkins Premium sound system remains best in class and produces soul-shaking music.

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Beneath the blue bonnet, the XC60 packs the same twin-charged 2.0L powertrain that we fell in love with in the outgoing model. This time around, the turbocharger and supercharger combine to create 316 horsepower, up 14 from the last go-around. This power helps to move along about 500 pounds of additional weight and keep the mid-size SUV moving at a rather quick pace. The increase in heft has gone to refining the chassis for a more sporty feel and the difference is measurable. As we hustled through the canyons, mashing the “+” paddle behind the steering wheel, you feel confident to push the SUV beyond any reasonable limits. The all-wheel drive system in our T6 model aids in traction and keeps the luxury stay planted where you point it.

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The 8-speed transmission from the XC90 makes an encore appearance here and utilizes a similar start-stop technology to eek out 23 combined miles per gallon. The XC60 is rated for 27 miles per gallon on the highway, but we never truly got above 25. Our model was outfitted with just about every safety feature that Volvo can offer. Despite all of the modern changes, the Volvo brand remains at the forefront of developing technology to protect your cargo. The adaptive cruise control, semi-autonomous drive system, and steer assist are simply the best that we have ever tested and continue to set the standard for the industry.

We know you’re waiting for it, the price. At just shy of $60,000 as equipped, the new XC60 is more expensive than the outgoing model. That said, there is no way you could put the 2017 XC60 in the same class as this new vehicle. Volvo continues their quest to make drastic improvements to each of their models and may have another hit on their hands. We certainly give this attempt a standing ovation.


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