Executive wheels: Luxury — and safety

2013 VOLVO XC 60 T6 AWD

I have long liked Volvos, even though I once referred to them as Subarus for people with money. The dig meant something then: Both lines were rather stodgy and had reputations for safety and durability, and they appealed to the same kind of folks. Subaru and Volvo remain among the leaders in durability and safety, but both have long since ceased being stodgy.

Volvos are still more expensive than Subarus, but both lines today appeal to a much broader audience than they did way back when. About 20 years ago, Volvo transformed itself from boxy and appealing to upscale yet safety conscious. Indeed, the 2013 Volvo XC60 was one of only two luxury cars (the other was the Acura TL) awarded a Top Safety Pick Plus designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in a new comprehensive test.

The XC 60 is a wonderful entrant in the mid-sized SUV market, and it offers plenty of luxury. My neighbor bought one last year and loves it more all the time, particularly in the snow – its AWD package is among the best on the market. I found the same thing in my week-long test drive.

I simply loved nearly everything about this XC60: the very quiet interior, the nicely appointed cabin, the room both up front and in the second row seats, the look of the vehicle outside and, especially, the way it drove.

Volvo offers three SUVs, which they call crossovers: the larger XC90, which seats seven and has a base price in AWD of $41,700; the XC70, which looks more like a station wagon, and has a base price in AWD of $35,600; and the XC60 AWD, which has a base price of $36,350.

These are all very similar vehicles, but Volvo offers a wide variety of options in the engines and the horsepower, which I think is confusing and unnecessary. Of the three, I’ll take the XC60. It feels fresher than the other two, and I like the size.

The performance with the 3.0-liter, turbocharged I6 with 300 hp is awesome – it can cruise or it can bust a gut when needed – and the handling is about the best I have experienced in an SUV. I also liked how quiet it is, and how it is obviously so well-made. This is a vehicle that feels as though it will last for a couple hundred thousand miles and remain reliable the entire time.

There are a couple of niggling things that bugged me, however. An LED screen that handles all of the information – radio, cd, navigation, backup camera, etc. – but the backup camera stays on too long after going from reverse to drive. I’m ready to go and want to change the music, and there is this annoying wait.

Also, all Volvos use the phone key-pad approach to operate the hands-free phone and radio station storage, which is a wonderful feature that allows for the storage of many stations. Unfortunately, it stores only AM stations in AM, FM in FM, and satellite in satellite, so rather than having all of your favorites at your fingertips, you have to switch the band back and forth to get what you want. It does allow for the storage of up to 30 favorites, but it takes cumbersome extra steps to get there.

On the positive side: the auto rear lift-gate goes up and down with the touch of the key fob or a button – easy to use and handy.

The base price on this T6 model is $40,450 which includes a ton of luxury standards. On my test-drive vehicle, they added in the Platinum package for $4,600 that brings premium sound (wonderful), the power tailgate, active dual xenon headlamps (they move from side to side when you do), and a few other little things. Then they added the heated seats front and rear, heated windshield washer nozzles, an interior air quality system, metallic paint and 19” alloy wheels, all for around another $2,200, and a destination charge of $895. The bottom line: $48,145.

Given the competition – BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, VW – the Volvo XC60 T6 Platinum is an excellent competitor, especially given the price. I would have a tough time deciding between this vehicle and the Mercedes GLK 350. At my suggestion, my neighbor drove both – then picked the Volvo.

The Volvo XC60 T6 is among the best SUVs on the market for Colorado.