2011 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design Road Test - VIDEO ENHANCED
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
Volvo's press events are always noteworthy for the amount of seat time involved. Some other manufacturers may have as little as an hour or two of drive time, and four or five is typical, with a couple hundred miles of mostly back roads covered.
Volvo's recent "2011 XC Adventure" was anything but typical. Participating in that, my driving partner and I drove a 2011 XC60 T6 R-Design, the premium model of Volvo's most popular crossover, from Los Angeles to Gateway, CO, in two long days. The first day was a freeway slog from LAX (Los Angeles airport) to St. George, UT, all on I-15. The second day was much more interesting. Forget the slab - we went south from St. George through Zion National Park, and then north on US89 through more mountains and high plateaus until getting back on I-70 to head to Grand Junction, CO. Toss in a little light-duty dirt road side trip for extra fun. All through spectacular Basin and Range scenery - basin followed by range followed by basin followed by range over a stretching spreading center than may be a future sea. Gateway is 45 or so miles south of Grand Junction, through more geological wonderland and in an area of water- and wind-eroded Permian/Triassic red rock canyonlands as beautiful as the area around Sedona, AZ, but without the encumbrance of multi-million dollars homes, New Age crystal shoppes, and woo-woo energy vortices.
That was just under 1000 miles in two days, maybe eight hours on the road the first day and ten the second. Yes we stopped, for fuel, food, and photography. But, that said, that amount of time in a car can be cruel and unusual punishment. Any seats are tolerable for an hour, and most for two or three. Few are comfortable for eight or ten, repeatedly. Volvo seats are among those few, and, in my experience, at the top of the list.
Another recommending attribute of the XC60 T6 for long-distance touring is its drivetrain. At over 4200 pounds, the small Volvo crossover is no lightweight, but the 300-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six moves it smartly. And the 325 lb-ft of torque developed between 2100 and 4200 rpm, the most-commonly used engine speeds, means instant, strong response from any speed. Turbocharging means no loss of power at altitude, and with a few five- to eight-thousand foot passes on the route and Gateway being at around a mile in altitude there was ample opportunity for medium-high altitude driving.
A six-speed automatic transmission means both good acceleration -- the official 0-60 time is 6.9 seconds -- and good fuel economy are available. EPA mileage estimates are 17mpg city, 22 highway. We got 24 overall for the trip, according to both the car's trip computer and our refueling stop calculations. The speed limit on the Utah Interstate is 75 mph, and that was the T6's sweet spot for highway cruising. Add in the slow, tight road through Zion, and all of the elevation changes, with some steep grades, and we're talking real world, not EPA "highway cycle" simulated 50 mph on a chassis dynamometer.
Also working in the XC60's favor for distance in comfort are interior ergonomics and design. Elegant simplicity is the design theme, think Swedish Modern furniture. It's not austere, but neither is it needlessly over-detailed and distractingly complex. Style does not trump function, and all controls are simple and intuitive, unlike some of its German competitors.
Our drive vehicle was the R-Design model, which is a cosmetic and functional upgrade over the standard T6, adding upgraded interior trim and a firmer suspension calibration and quicker steering. It's firm enough for good control with minimal body roll, and comfortable enough for repeated long days on less-than-perfect road surfaces. Low interior noise levels further aid comfort, and the XC60's muscular shape is resistant to crosswinds. Yes, it gets a little windy out in that part of the world - look up "Wyoming wind sock" some time… Not a problem in an XC60.
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Interior space… with two people, one (me) traveling almost ultralight with a medium-sized messenger bag and small camera bag (a last-minute addition for camera and iPod storage due to addition of layers after checking the latest Gateway weather forecast before leaving to find that "85 and sunny" had changed to "55 with rain") and driving partner with a standard roll-aboard and large camera bag, no problem. Even for a family of four, or five with smaller children, ditto. Rear seat room's good, especially headroom, and there's no lack of luggage space behind that. Roof rails allow some external storage if really necessary, but then the double, "panorama" sunroof view would be obscured. Any rear-seat passengers would have had a treat through Zion.
The XC60 is a Volvo, so safety, both active and passive, is designed and built in. Besides the standard sturdy, crashworthy construction and antilock disc brakes, there are a number of high-tech safety options included in the Technology Package, including Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, Distance Alert (DA), Driver Alert Control (DAC), and Lane Departure Warning (LDW). And those comfortable, supportive seats also improve safety, as a driver undistracted by aches and pain will be more alert than one who has been victim of poor seats.
An early model year 2010 introduction, the XC60 has some important changes for 2011. The naturally-aspirated 3.2-liter inline six gets five more horsepower, for 240, in ULEV-rated versions. Those rated PZEV get the same increase, for 230 hp. There are some trim changes to the standard 3.2 model, and a new R-Design model with the same interior, exterior, and suspension upgrades as the T6, but in a less-expensive naturally-aspirated, front-wheel drive package.
The T6 engine, as mentioned, also gets more power, an additional 19 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque. The standard T6 has some cosmetic changes; the T6 R-Design is unchanged except for the addition of a cargo cover and power folding rear head restraints to the Convenience Package.
In any form, the Volvo XC60 will satisfy the needs of anyone who wants a medium-sized crossover with style, power, handling, comfort, and good fuel economy. And let's not forget Volvo seats - I was painfully aware of the difference between them and airplane seats all the way home.
Base Price $ 42,150
Price As Tested $ 50,025
Engine Type DOHC turbocharged and intercooled 24-valve inline 6-cylinder
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 180 cu. in.
Horsepower 300 @ 5600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 325 @ 2100-4200 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic with "Geartronic" manual mode
Wheelbase / Length 109.2 in. / 182.2 in.
Curb Weight 4264 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 14.2
Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires 255/45 R20
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink
Drivetrain transverse front engine, automatic all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 17 / 22 / 24
0 to 60 mph 6.9 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Climate Package - includes: heated front and outboard rear seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, headlight washers, rain sensor, Interior Air Quality System (IAQS) $ 1,000
Convenience Package - includes: power tailgate, front and rear park assist, 12V power outlet in cargo area, grocery bag holder, cargo cover, compass in rearview mirror, electric folding rear headrests, Homelink® integrated garage door opener $ 1,200
Multimedia Package - includes: Volvo Premium Sound System with Dolby® Pro Logic® II Surround Sound, 650 watt, 12 speakers, rear park assist camera, navigation system with real-time traffic and 2 complimentary upgrades, nav and Bluetooth voice control $ 2,700
Technology Package - includes: Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, Distance Alert (DA), Driver Alert Control (DAC), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) $ 2,100
Destination charge $ 875