The 2013 Volvo XC60 certainly fits the manly bill required of today's crossovers.
The Volvo XC60 bathes its occupants in luxury. For controls it offers everything, except the "sync."
By Scott Sturgis
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.