I love car companies that take chances.
Volvo is one of those companies -- and it's worked for them, if the new XC60 is any indication.
Here's a car that is a complete departure from the stereotypical styling of most small crossovers.
In spite of the bold design, the XC60 remains a tasteful, elegant car. The striking, contemporary, two-tone interior could be featured in a contemporary art museum. Even the dramatic, boomerang-shaped taillights look like pieces of art.
All of the styling is underlined by a strong streak of practicality, such as CitySafety, a new safety system that automatically applies the brakes at a certain speed if you are close to colliding with the car in front of you.
I test drove the more expensive XC60 T6 model with all-wheel drive, which starts at $37,200. With options such as metallic paint and a surround sound system, you're looking at $44,240. The base XC60 3.2 starts at around $33,000. Standard equipment includes dynamic stability/traction control, roll stability control, many air bags, full power equipment, adaptive steering wheel column and leather seating.
The car is powered by a 281-horsepower, 3.0-liter, inline-six cylinder engine that is rated at 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. Be warned. Some owners say 14 mpg in the city is more accurate.
The XC60 feels heavier than other cars its size, but it's also considerably roomier. Cornering and handling are comfortable and secure, and acceleration is brisk. Like other Volvos, the XC60 is perfect for long-distance trips.
The annoyances are few, but one of the more bothersome was the darkness of the tint of the windows. It was hard to see out of the back window, almost unsafely so. I also found the navigation system and the controls mounted on the back of the steering wheel to be nonintuitive and cumbersome. This was the primary complaint in online chat rooms about this car. Why some controls were put on the back of the steering wheel is beyond me.
With a few minor corrections, Volvo's got a winner on its hands.
Don Hammonds can be reached at 412-263-1538 or firstname.lastname@example.org .