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2018 New Volvo XC60 First Drive Review

By   |   31 May,2017

Let us cut to the chase for 2017, Volvos global best-seller (over 1 million served!) shucks its ancient Ford EUCD/C1-Plus architecture in favor of a chopped and channeled version of the 100 percent Swedish-engineered Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). Relative to its SUV of the Year winning XC90 big brother, the new 2018 Volvo XC60s wheelbase gets bobbed 4.7 inches while track and body widths contract about a half inch. The weight also plunges about at least 280 pounds. Of course relative to the Ford bones the new wheelbase is 3.6 inches longer, the body is 4.3 inches wider, and the track broadens by 0.8 inch in front and 2.8 inches in back. But this SPAs bulk-up regimen trimmed enough fat, so the SPA XC60 scales no heavier than its predecessor. Also gone are the front struts in favor of control arms, and the rear coils for SPAs more compact and lighter-weight composite transverse leaf spring. Air suspension with variable-damping Four-C shocks is newly available on all models of the XC60 for $1,800.

Powertrain offerings and output ratings match those of the XC90 to the number: T5 AWD (turbo only, 250 hp/258 lb-ft), T6 AWD (supercharger and turbo, 316 hp/295 lb-ft), and T8 eAWD (supercharger, turbo, plus a 10.4-kW-hr battery powering two electric motors, 400 hp combined/472 lb-ft combined). Our market will get the diesels though with the 235 bhp 2.0 diesel first and later the less powerful cersions will come. As with the XC90 we will get the Inscription trim.

It would not be a Volvo product launch without a new safety gizmo or three in the PowerPoint presentation- after all, there are only a few years left until 2020, when Volvo has declared there shall be no more serious injuries or deaths in a new Volvo. In addition to automatically braking when a collision is deemed imminent, the XC60s City Safety system will provide steering assistance via a combination of gentle electric power assist and by braking the wheels on the inside of the intended turn. This system works to prevent collisions with vehicles, pedestrians, and large animals at speeds between 30 and 60 mph. From 37 to 87 mph, Oncoming Lane Mitigation steers to prevent accidents with oncoming vehicles if the car wanders over the lane divider. Those features are standard (along with all the 90-series vehicles' standard safety gear).

The SPA treatment has totally worked the kinks out of the interior, upgrading the 2018 XC60 to the same spare Scandinavian design aesthetic that we have enthused about in the 90-series vehicles. Top Inscription trim levels get new gray open-pore driftwood dash and door inlays. But the biggest upgrade is to the Sensus iPad-look vertical touchscreen. We liked the original in the XC90, but after living with it for a year we had suggestions for improvement. Most of these are incorporated for 2018 across the board as a ————simplified menu structure; bigger, clearer fonts; Apple and Android smartphone integration; and the addition of new native apps.

Thoughtful touches abound inside, including stowage cubbies for tablets under the outboard rear-seat cushions, remote seat-back releases in the cargo area, an accessory cargo mat with a rubber extension that can temporarily protect the bumper paint and can be unfolded to form a solid carpet surface over the folded seat backs, and a ski pass-through. The XC60 even gets windshield wiper blades plumbed to disperse washer fluid to right where it's needed from the rubber blades themselves.

To find out if its driving manners match its good looks, we stretched the legs of a 2018 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription model with air suspension in the hills around Barcelona, Spain, and found it acquitted itself admirably. The front control arms do much to lower and straighten out the geometric roll center, and stiffer springs (they are actually about the same rate as the XC90s, but by bearing less weight they behave more stiffly) and a front anti-roll bar do much to even the keel. The Michelin Latitude Sport 3 tires (size 255/45R20) squealed a bit but gripped like an insurgent politician. Ride quality seemed respectably supple, given the cars more sporting aspirations. The steering is tuned to be much more responsive than the XC90, just off center. This was appreciated along the twistiest stretches, but it came off as a bit nervous on higher-speed straighter stretches. None of the three steering effort settings did much for road feel, so we left that in the middle setting.

Despite being almost as wide as the XC90, the 2018 XC60 has a cockpit that feels more intimate and tidy, thanks to a more steeply raked windshield and side windows that curve in more at the top. That feeling is corroborated by the performance that comes from a 16 percent better weight-to-power ratio and a recalibrated eight-speed automatic with pleasingly quick and astute shifting (especially in Dynamic mode). But there is no escaping the reality that an engine this small with two boost devices is going to feel less creamy smooth than a larger naturally aspirated one, and with at least 280 fewer pounds to dampen the driver's perception of this, the XC60 feels less smooth than the XC90 when driven aggressively.

We tried out the steering assist by initiating lane changes that could have proven dangerous and felt the system reassuringly tucking back into the lane. We also appreciated the audible warning that can be set to ding every time the driver strays beyond a defined offset to the posted speed limits, or, more often, every time a posted speed limit drops. It even warns of speed cameras in Europe. (That functionality is not quite in place back home.) The Pilot Assist system is deliberately designed to discourage any notion of full autonomy. It only tolerates hands off the wheel for a matter of seconds, but it is highly useful when sightseeing or perhaps talking to a passenger while your hands are on the wheel, as it gently helps keep the vehicle centered in the lane.

Swedish AWD

BorgWarner has produced more than1 million of the Haldex-style AWD systems used by the XC60. The plant that builds them is in Landskrona, Sweden. The system employs a clever centrifugal electro-hydraulic actuator to vary the front/rear torque split between nearly 100/0 and 50/50 without need for an accumulator, a solenoid valve, ora filter.

Overall the new XC60 is mighty impressive and while we will get a fully-loaded model with the more powerful diesel at start, other models will further give the car a wider audience. As announced recently, Volvo will assemble the new XC60 alongside big brother XC90 thus expect competitive pricing.

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