2013 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Platinum: Beautiful, fun -- but worth the added cost?
Price: $48,154 as tested ($45,050 base). A barebones model can be had for $34,350.
Marketer's pitch: "This award season we brought home top honor. Twice." (One for the XC60 and one for the S60 sedan.)
Conventional wisdom: Of course, it was an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety award.
Reality: Beauty, safety, some excitement.
Catching up: Last week we tried out the Mazda CX-9. It's not considered a direct XC60 competitor, as this has room for just five people and costs quite a few pennies more.
Outside: I called the CX-9 handsome. Well, so is its ex-cousin (after the Ford divorce), the XC60. But they're definitely distant cousins, sharing nothing but a twinkle in their headlights and a rugged, chiseled look. The XC60 is certainly not the boxy, staid look of the '70s and '80s Volvos I grew up with.
Inside: This is where Volvo is able to shout "class," if a Volvo could shout (which it wouldn't, because it's just too classy). Just like in Volvos of yore, the XC60 interior looks gorgeous and feels like a million bucks. Tradition dies hard at Volvo, though, and the numeric keypad under the infotainment display just screams "Clinton administration."
Driver's Seat: The seating position is wonderful, but the seats are stiff and lumbar-y.
On the road: The 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine makes 300 horses, so it's pretty quick. Handling is fine for a vehicle of its height and size.
Shifty: The 6-speed automatic transmission does well, although once as I followed a school bus, I noticed some distinct hesitation. Sport mode offers +/- for shifting but it will still shift on its own, if you let it. Not the greatest setup for driving enthusiasts.
Friends and stuff: Those Scandinavian kids sure live well. The rear seat is heated, just like the front, and HVAC vents back there also keep everyone happily. (The seat heaters are part of a $900 climate package, which also heats the washer nozzles.) It's also comfy back there, but legroom and foot room are scant.
Up front, there's a weird little tray down by the knees to hold things you don't really want to see again until your trip is over. A phone holder rests underneath the breadbox door in front of the cupholders. The center console also holds plenty of debris.
In and out: The XC60 is so just right height-wise that it's worth writing home about. If you're at an age where clamoring up and sliding down can be difficult, try the XC60.
Play some tunes: The radio controls are so easy for the driver to reach, they almost render the steering-wheel buttons useless. But on the wheel, nice wide buttons and good positioning make those easy to use. The white-on-cream was hard to see at first (I had white-on-black in an S50 that had better contrast). And brushed silver surrounded the radio area -- gorgeous. Walnut is available as well.
Keeping cool: The two dials that control cabin temperature are both easy to reach from the command post. That's a good thing, because Volvo doesn't offer the "sync" function, which in almost every other car allows you to control the whole cabin from one dial. I adore the "little person" buttons that allow a driver or passenger to simply press head, chest or legs to choose which way the wind blows.
Looking out: A recent development in automaking seems to be the tall beltline with tiny, peephole windows. The XC60 takes drivers back a bit, with tall windows that really offer a panorama view.
Infotain me: Viewing the map in navigation mode does add a level of work to changing the radio station. Drivers have to press radio, then change the station. It's not as difficult as some, but still an extra step.
Fuel economy: I just barely achieved 22 mpg in my usual mix of highway and city driving.
Where it's built: Ghent, Belgium.
How it's built: Consumer Reports recommended the XC60, but reliability has been only about average. I have heard lots of stories about not-so-old Volvos needing some fairly expensive repairs over the years.
Next week: The final competitor for crossover buyers who like to go their own way, the 2013 and 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander.
Editor's Note: This column was changed to reflect the fact that Volvos do not need premium fuel.
Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.