2012 Volvo XC60 Test Drive Review
Having spent a week with the fun yet flawed 2012 Volvo XC60 T6, I’m somewhat surprised by the attachment I’ve formed with our Cosmic White Metallic sample, an R-Design Platinum model with enough extras to push the price tag over $52,000.
My fondness is only partially attributable to the XC60’s stellar crash-test ratings, which make me 100-percent confident in the SUV’s ability to protect my family every single time I snap my daughters into their child seats. And the fact that its Audyssey surround sound audio system pumps enough distortion-free bass through the door panel speakers to ruffle my leg hairs while cranking LCD Soundsystem isn’t necessarily the source of my wistfulness over the XC60’s departure from my driveway.
EXCLUSIVITY AT A RELATIVELY LOW PRICE
Rather, I like this Volvo SUV because during 500 miles of driving in Los Angeles, I never saw another one exactly like it. Audi Q5 owners and BMW X3 drivers can’t say that. Nor can Lexus RX or Mercedes-Benz GLK buyers. In California, those SUVs seemingly prowl every nook and cranny of the second largest city in America. But a Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design? Painted Cosmic White? Driving this, you’re as exclusive as Angelyne in her pink Corvette, which amounts to a minor miracle.
THE VOLVO XC60 T6 HAS A TERRIFIC ENGINE
Getting back to that fun yet flawed assessment, here’s the deal with the XC60 T6 R-Design. It comes equipped with an outstanding turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine making 325 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 354 pound-feet of torque from 3,000 to 3,600 rpm. This engine is refined, powerful, and easily capable of generating extra-legal speeds. We even averaged 19.9 mpg during a week of mixed driving. That’s the fun part.
The flawed part is that this engine is bolted to a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission that is regularly caught napping when the driver wants to dip into the power. A manual shift gate helps, but is located to the right of the main selector path, rather than on the left where it would be closer to the driver.
We’re also thinking that the turbo three-liter in the regular T6 might be the better choice. Though it makes 25 fewer horses and 29 less lb-ft. of twist, the horsepower peaks 900 rpm lower at 5,600 revs, and peak torque is spread across a far more generous portion of the tachometer, from 1,500 to 4,800 rpm.
That said, only the R-Design model is equipped with the handsome 20-inch wheels you see in the photos, shod with sticky P225/45R20 Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires. The level of grip is pretty amazing, but the trade-off is an occasionally jittery ride quality. At least the XC90 is equipped with good old-fashioned hydraulic power steering, which, unfortunately, feels too heavy at low speeds and too light at high speeds.
DRIVING THE XC60 T6 R-DESIGN
We took the XC60 for a ride on our regular test loop. Weather conditions were sunny and warm, with 80-degree temperatures at mid-morning. The turbocharged engine certainly would have felt stronger had the Malibu mountains been draped in cool fog, but then we may not have noticed the brake fade our XC60 R-Design suffered. The massive tires squealed a bit too much, but the XC60 exhibited admirable composure in terms of roll, squat, and dive, and the stability control system rarely intervened in the proceedings. When it did, though, it did so with authority.
Under normal driving conditions, and by that we mean city and highway travel, the XC60 is pleasing except for the occasional reminder that this 4,236-lb. SUV is riding on 45-series performance tires. Sightlines are excellent, and the optional Blind Spot Information and Forward Collision Warning systems saved my ass on L.A.’s multi-lane freeways at least twice. As mentioned, at lower speeds the steering can feel a little heavy, but we prefer it to the flaccidity exhibited by more modern electric steering systems.
And, as every man knows, flaccidity is the enemy.
INTERIOR DESIGN AND COMFORT
In the “Flaws Department,” the XC60’s controls are sometimes difficult to decipher and use. For example, the radio’s tuning knob spins old-school-style, but to actually select the station you’ve spun to, it is necessary to press the upper embedded button on the knob labeled “OK.” Know what, Volvo? If I didn’t want that new station, I wouldn’t have turned the knob to select it.
Additionally, I never got the hang of the sunroof controls. Powering the shade and the glass open was easy enough, but closing the glass was a frustrating pain in the butt. Dear Volvo – if I hold the overhead control in the forward position, and keep holding it there, I don’t really want the glass to remain vented. I want it closed. Maybe you guys should check out the sunroof controls in a Volkswagen or Audi.
The XC60’s seats are also not up to Volvo’s traditional comfort standards, or able to match the tires’ ability to grip the pavement. Past experience led me to believe the XC60 would supply utter, sumptuous comfort on big, plush, supportive front chairs. While the XC60 is certainly comfortable, it wasn’t a model of perfection like Volvos that have come before it. And if the R-Design is going to offer these grippy 20-inch tires, bigger seat bolsters are a necessity.
Installing child seats is easy. If you don’t need to carry those, you should know that rear seat room for adults is snug. The front seatbacks are nicely padded and friendly to knees and shins, which is good, because grown-ups are going to have their legs jammed flush against them.
As for interior materials, they’re top notch. Still, our sample XC60 exhibited plenty of buzzes and squeaks, making us want to go through the cabin with a screwdriver to tighten everything up.
SPEEDY DADDY SAYS…
The 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design is fast and its safe. Right there, it meets Speedy Daddy requirements for recommendation. Plus, among luxury-branded SUVs, the XC60 is also a rarity on the road – especially in the Cosmic White Metallic paint that’s exclusive to the R-Design model. Though the XC60 is flawed, it can be forgiven because in many ways it is an excellent choice in the compact luxury SUV class.
The real problem here is the price tag. Equipped with the turbocharged engine and all the safety goodies – and what’s a Volvo without safety goodies? – the XC60 T6’s price eclipses $47,000. Ouch.
Nevertheless, I miss the XC60. Though imperfect, Speedy Mommy and I both liked driving it because this Volvo exuded personality. Plus, nobody else on the road had one.
– Christian Wardlaw
2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design Photos Copyright 2012 Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.