It has been awhile since I have driven a Volvo so I was excited to try the midsize Volvo XC60 – one of Volvo’s best-selling models. The younger generation is very excited about the release of the Volvo XC40 – noted in its commercials as the vehicle you “subscribe” to. In fact, the company wants to banish keys all together and leave all control as an app on the smartphone. For now, the XC60 still comes with a fob, although it is a gorgeous unit wrapped in interior-matching leather. In new Volvos you can even have Amazon deliver your packages right into the trunk using something called Amazon Key and the vehicle’s WiFi interface. One thing is for sure: although safety is still paramount as Volvo’s core competency, technology has easily become a close second. And now, a third unexpected trait: Luxury.
The Volvo XC60 Inscription looks the part. The gray driftwood deco inlays mimic the fine wood spotted at a beach house. The dashboard stitching is done by hand, and oddly enough I could spot one small spot where the seamstress went off the pattern. Knowing it was probably performed by a loving Swede I can forgive the minor mistake and write it off as charm. You can even find a Swedish flag Easter egg stitched into the front seat. The exterior is dominated by Volvo’s new pretty front grill, flanked by “Thor’s Hammer” daytime running light. Yes, the LED DRLs that dominate the face of the pretty SUV mimic hammers!
Moving to the interior the centerpiece is a crystal shift level made by Swedish masters at Orrefors. It certainly does not look like any other shifter on the market that is typically wrapped in leather and aluminum. Unfortunately, it does not act like a typical shifter either. You have to visually look at the shift pattern to get used to it. If you live with the car daily, you will probably memorize its functions. However, from the get-go it is a bit counterintuitive. Same for the Engine Start rotating knob that you twist clockwise to fire up the powertrain, and also twist it clockwise to turn it off. Having been brought up with key cylinders that all turn clockwise to start and counterclockwise to turn off, it was tough getting used to “turning on to turn it off.””
The ergonomic niggles aside, the Volvo is loaded with technology that starts with its hybrid powertrain. A two-liter engine is both turbocharged and supercharged to eliminate lag. In addition to the gas engine an 87 horsepower electric motor augments it to come up with 400 horsepower and 472 foot-pounds of torque combined. The result is massive thrust out of an SUV that puts it in Porsche SUV territory. The only problem is sometimes the powertrain is not buttery smooth when transitioning from supercharger to turbocharger to electric motor. If only the transitions were as beautiful as the interior…
The seats alone are worth purchasing the car. The $3000 luxury seat package includes heated and ventilated seats that are finished in a chocolate brown leather. They feature power cushion extenders and bolsters, along with 10-way movement. Moving onto the dashboard that is dominated by the 9” touchscreen. iPad users rejoice! Although the ‘Home’ button is not a circle, you will soon be swiping and using pinch-to-zoom to figure everything out. One thing that was a little perplexing was with all of that real estate, I would have liked the display to show all of the data of the camera system without relying on hard-to-understand Volvo acronyms while backing up. But, the camera system had an excellent stitching feature that made it a snap to back up and keep an eye the surroundings. Camera systems that show an ‘overhead’ view of the vehicle by mounting a camera at all four corners is something that can be achieved in the aftermarket.
The audio system is the wonderful Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound System. One unique feature is it can be programmed with the same delays as Gothenburg Concert Hall. Although a bit too much reverb for my taste, at least you are only a few swipes away from properly dialing in the system. There is even an onboard EQ and time alignment tweak settings available. The system overall sounds great but could use a bit more power if you crank it. $3200 toward amplification and speakers in the aftermarket may indeed yield results that crank louder and sound better, especially since replacing the excellent OEM screen is out of the question.
All the usual Volvo safety features are onboard, but the vehicle/cyclist/large animal detection feature is among the most useful. Because keeping you and the other party out of harms way is considerate for all parties. We wish more manufacturers would act like Volvo and consider safety an inclusive part of the luxury experience.