Executive Wheels: Volvo’s perfect storm

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2010 VOLVO XC60 T6 AWD

The catchword for the modern automobile is technology, and this Volvo XC60 T6 is a great example.

Frankly, I was surprised to find this XC60 referred to by anyone as a SUV, but that seems to be the consensus. The XC60 is more of what I would call a crossover, but with a twist. It’s not a wagon, it’s not a SUV in the classic sense, and it’s not a sedan, but seems to draw all of the things one would like about each one of those types of platforms and mingle them into a car that would appeal to buyers in all of the categories. It struck me right off the bat as a direct competitor to any sedan on the market. There’s no trunk, but in all but one other aspect the XC60 feels and drives like a luxury sedan. The lone exception is that it sits up a little higher and has more ground clearance, but even looking at it parked it looks like a sedan with a hatch back, and it handles in traffic like the nimblest sedan.

I started this piece with a nod to technology, and this Volvo is loaded with it, not all of it good. On the plus side, it has this total technology feature called City Safety where, if the car is going under 18 miles per hour, the car will detect that there is something in front of it – a pole, a wall, a stopped or slow-moving car – and it will brake itself. I tried it out and it feels a bit unusual, but it works great and it a wonderful safety feature. A version of this feature also works if a collision is imminent, braking the car if it senses that a crash is going to happen at any speed; fortunately I didn’t experience this.

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Then there’s another system that works in a variety of ways to alert the driver of potential troubles. There’s Adaptive Cruise Control that monitors the speed and distance of the car in front and makes adjustments of your speed on its own. A variant of this is Distance Alert/Driver Alert Control that gives an electronic signal of warning if vehicles get too close, sort of a tail-gater alert, I guess. Yet another variant is Lane Departure Warning, which beeps the driver drifting in and out of his/her lane. To take this further, a driver can set a computer measure with some set criteria for length of a driving session and lane drifting frequency, and a message will pop up in the middle of the speedometer that says “Time for a break” with a picture of a cup of coffee next to it. This is a lot of high tech gadgetry and most of it is quite useful.

Of course, the car has navigation with a map screen and the wonderful Volvo sound system and climate control mechanism (the one you adjust by pushing the appropriate area of an icon of the body – the face, the torso or the feet. So easy to use, so beautiful, and so intelligent. The only thing I didn’t like was that there is a hand-held remote control the system that, apparently, must be used to get the map to appear in the LCD screen. The text there says to push “enter,” which is on the full telephone keypad that operates the radio and built-in Bluetooth, but it doesn’t work; only the hand-held remote will get the map to come up, and this is not only cumbersome, but it’s inevitable that the unattached remote will come up missing. Not good design.

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The XC60 T6 is equipped with a turbo charged 3.0-liter I6 engine with 281 hp (rated at 16 mpg city/21 highway), and I can attest it is particularly powerful and quick. Great in city driving, quick off the line, this engine is also a wonderful highway cruiser that allows for rapid acceleration when needed for passing with ease. Loved it. (The base model the 3.2 XC60 features a 3.2-liter I6 with 235 hp[rated at 18/27], but this model is not AWD). The transmission is a 6-speed auto that is as smooth as they come, and this handling of this car is simply astonishing. It sits up high for great visibility, weaves in and out of traffic wonderfully, and corners like a dream.

Maybe the most astonishing thing about the XC60 is how quiet and comfortable it is. Everyone in it commented on it, front and back seats. The two-toned leather seating is amazing and I only wish I would have taken this on an extended highway drive; I can tell from experience that the T6 would be a wonderful 8-hour-+ drive. The other thing I liked was the 33/33/33 split rear seat – you can put down all three, flat, for amazing cargo space from the large back area, or any one or two of the three for gear like skis or golf clubs. Really nice design.

The base price on the T6 is $41,550, and that includes the AWD and all of the usual luxury items. On this test-drive model they added a Multimedia Package, for $2,700, that included an amazing Dolby surround-sound premium system, the navigation, and the rear park assist camera. The Climate and Technology Package add-on, also $2,700, included heated front and rear seats, heated windshield nozzles, headlamp cleaning, a rain sensor, and the Volvo Interior Air Quality System; on the tech side this package included all the adaptive cruise control, lane warning, auto brakes, and distance alert mentioned earlier. Add $850 in destination charges and the bottom line is $47,800 – a wonderful price for a car of this quality. So many people asked me about it and wanted to drive it or look inside that I considered printing up a handout.

Get the XC60 T6 before the world figures out how great it is and the price rises. Just be prepared to have many friends and strangers ask you about it all the time.

RATING: FOUR WHEELS PLUS THE SPARE (OUT OF FOUR).

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