2013 Volvo XC60: Solid sports car alternative with vast cargo room

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It used to be that a need for more room called for a move to a truck-like SUV. But then vehicles such as the Volvo XC60 crossover came along, feeling much like a sports sedan but providing lots of cargo space.

The 2013 XC60 drives more like a carlike compact premium crossover vehicle than a typical SUV. It continues in a variety of trim levels, starting at $34,200 for a front-wheel-drive (FWD) version and ending at $48,750 for a more powerful, deluxe, turbocharged all-wheel-drive (AWD) model.

The XC60 has a non-turbocharged 3.2-liter 240-horsepower six-cylinder engine or a potent turbocharged 3-liter six-cylinder that generates 300 horsepower—or 325 if you want the higher-performance R-Design model. Any XC60 model tops 4,000 pounds, so don’t expect more than average performance with the 240-horsepower engine. The turbocharged engine provides very fast off-the-line performance and strong highway acceleration.

The rub here is that the 3.2-liter motor provides 18 mpg in the city and 25 on highways, while the turbo engine delivers 17 city and 23 highway.

The 2012 XC60 was well-equipped. So is the new one, which has undergone few changes. Even the base $34,200 FWD model’s standard items include multizone automatic air conditioning, AM/FM stereo, CD player, power driver seat, power outlets, adjustable steering wheel with audio controls, keyless entry and power windows. Large power mirrors fold against the side glass to prevent parking lot damage.

The $37,150 Premier 3.2L FWD version adds a panoramic roof, power front passenger seat, leather-trimmed seats and keyless start. The $39,050 3.2L FWD Premier Plus adds items including a power liftgate.

And so on as you spend your way up the XC60 model range. As noted, the hot rod $46,050-$48,750 R-Design AWD has the 325-horsepower engine–besides a firmer suspension, retuned steering,  wider tires on larger (20-inch) wheels, appearance tweaks, navigation system and a back-up camera.

New for the 2013 XC60 are rain-sensor wipers, headlight washers, 18-inch “Merac” alloy wheels, leather-wrapped wheel with aluminum inlays and a new gearshift knob for the six-speed “Geartronic” automatic transmission. It’s responsive and has an easily used manual-shift feature..

New options include 19-inch alloy wheels.

All automakers are pushing for lower maintenance costs to lure buyers, and the 2013 XC60 offers oil change intervals of 10,000 miles or 12 months with full synthetic motor oil. That’s up from 7,500 miles.

I tested a new XC60 T6 AWD model, which lists at $40,450. Its muscular 300-horsepower turbocharged engine makes you wonder why the 325-horsepower version is needed. But many buyers of upscale vehicles now want a high-performance version.

Option packages contain items such as a power tailgate, navigation system, rear park-assist camera and heated front/rear seats. My test car had  $550 metallic paint and the $750 19-inch “Fenrir” alloy wheels.

My solidly built test XC60 was fun to drive, responding more like a large sports sedan than a tall crossover. The all-independent suspension with dynamic stability traction control and roll stability control provided sporty handling and a firm-but-supple ride.

Steering was responsive and nicely weighted. The anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution were strong, and the pedal had a nicely progressive action.

Numerous safety features included a passenger safety “cage,” lots of air bags and a whiplash protection system. An innovative “City Safety” system can activate the brakes if a collision is imminent. An optional $2,100 Technology package contains a pedestrian detection system that automatically stops the car at low speeds to avoid hitting a pedestrian.

The interior was upscale, but not flashy, with high-grade materials and tan-and-white stitched upholstery. The thick steering wheel was especially easy to grip. But gauge numbers only got a so-so readability rating. And there were too many small radio buttons.

A low floor makes it fairly easy to slide in and out, and occupants sit higher than they would in a sports sedan for better visibility.

It was surprising that front seats offered good support in most places, but little side support in curves and turns. It was roomy up front, but rear leg room was tight. The center of the backseat is stiff and high.It’s best left to the center fold-down armrest with its built-in dual cupholders.

Front door pockets and a deep covered console bin provide storage space behind nicely positioned console cupholders, but the thick owner’s manual occupies most of the glove compartment. Small rear door pockets are strictly for beverage containers.

The large trunk has a wide, but rather high, opening. The cargo area is large, and split fold-down rear seatbacks easily flip forward and sit flat to significantly increase the cargo area.

While the rear hatch has a handy interior pull-down feature, the available power hatch comes in handy when your arms are full of groceries.

The XC60 is up against the sportier BMW X3, Audi Q5 and other formidable rivals, but has plenty to offer.

Pros: Fast with turbo engine. Responsive. Roomy cargo area. Solid. Fun to drive. Many safety features.

Cons: Tight behind driver. Front seats need more side support. So-so gauge readability.

Bottom Line: Good sports sedan substitute if extra room is needed.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

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