Review: 2010 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design

By Kevin Miller

In 2003, Volvo delighted members of their enthusiast community when they launched the 2004 S60R sedan and V70R wagon. Equipped with a high-output powertrain and all-wheel drive, the R vehicles had blue-faced instruments, more aggressive styling details, and sporting aspirations. The R brand never expanded beyond the initial two products and was quietly discontinued in 2007 as Volvo chose to focus on safety rather than performance, but the aggressive styling cues from those cars lives on visually in the R-Design trim packages, which are available on most new Volvo vehicles. The XC60 luxury CUV is the latest Volvo to get the R-Design treatment.

A vivid Passion Red XC60 T6 AWD R-Design recently spent a week in the Techshake garage. While the base XC60 has a curvy, sensuous shape, the R-Design package adds 20” wheels, side sill extensions and a rear diffuser in silver which enhance the XC60’s sporting pretensions. My logbook notes that the XC60 has “lovely, shapely bodyside curves that accentuate the sexy/sporty look of the XC60.” That being said, I wish that the tail lamps extended down to the rear bumper. Too, the sill extensions collect water in bad weather, threatening to get pant legs dirty just like in Volvo’s XC70. The XC60 immediately followed an equally-bright red Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 CUV in my test vehicle schedule, so I had a good opportunity to see what works in this segment and what doesn’t.

Throughout the cabin, the interior of the XC60 is tastefully designed, with matching textures on plastic dash and door parts. Volvo has implemented interesting shapes on the dashboard and the door panels which look both artful and stylish.

The XC60’s steering wheel is essentially a three-spoke design, though the bottom spoke is split. In the space between the two lower spokes and the steering wheel is a solid, real metal part that I loved- it looks great and feels great (though the plastic “R-Design” logo glued on to it does neither). The leather-wrapped wheel is perfect in both thickness and diameter.

The instrument panel has two analog instruments, a tachometer and a speedometer. They are finished in anodized blue metal (an R-Design exclusive feature that is descended from Volvo’s hallowed S60R and V70R). The centers of each of those instruments has a monochromatic electronic display for information like fuel level, trip computer, cruise control status, gear selected, and cruise control status. Those displays are fairly low-resolution; a higher pixel count would make these displays look more high-end. Even with the low resolution, though, there is plenty of information displayed. The instrumentation was subdued and legible at night, when the XC60’s Active Bending Light xenon headlamps did a great job illuminating the road ahead.

The XC60 I tested was equipped with a navigation system, whose color screen sits in a prominent position in the dash. There is an additional small monochromatic display in an odd pod atop the dash, which displays audio system, phone, and HVAC information. The reason for the dash-top pod is that the navigation screen is not integrated with any functions other than the backup camera; that is, the large navigation screen is not connected to the XC60’s infotainment system, meaning that there are no other functions displayed on the navigation screen. The navigation display is not a touchscreen; instead you interface with the screen with a joystick-type control mounted to the back of the steering wheel, or with a remote control the same approximate size and shape as a TV remote. Neither the wheel-mounted control nor the remote can be used to enter destination information when the vehicle is underway. I was incredibly underwhelmed by the rudimentary integration of the XC60’s navigation system. Rumor has it that MY11 vehicles will be receiving an infotainment system transplant, getting the same touchscreen controller that has recently debuted in the new S60; this will see removal of the XC60’s dash pod.

The remainder of the center stack in R-Design XC60s consists of a diagonally-striped metal which surrounds the audio, HVAC and other secondary controls. Lesser trim levels of XC60 have wood in this spot, and the wood lends a warmer look to the interior. The center stack is ringed by a silver trim piece that felt like real metal; its top tended to reflect in the windshield under certain lighting conditions. Behind the gear lever, a retractable cover conceals two nice-sized cupholders which can hold drinks ranging from the size of a soda can to a commuter mug. Farther back, the (too-low) elbow rest between the front seats flips open to reveal a deep-but-not-broad lidded compartment containing USB and AUX jacks. Unfortunately, an iPod connected to the USB input was not readable by the Volvo’s audio system. (Another minor complaint about the audio system is that Sirius satellite reception would drop out regularly, even driving under overpasses at freeway speeds). Front door pockets have fairly large storage bins with interior shapes to hold water bottles in place; the rear doors each have a water bottle holder as well.

Climbing in to the XC60’s driver’s seat, I found my body instantly relaxing into the Volvo’s seat. Volvo seats are among the best in the business, and the comfort on the XC60’s thrones does not disappoint. The R-Design model has two-tone leather seats with ivory-colored inserts and some ivory stitching to accentuate the mostly-charcoal-colored leather. The front seats additionally have “R-Design” embossed into the backrests. That is a lot going on for the seats and they tend to look a little busy, but the visual overload doesn’t detract from the seat comfort.

When I first climbed in, I was adjusting the seat to a comfortable position and I was initially disappointed by the fact that the seat adjustment didn’t allow the seat position to be as close to the floor as I would have liked. It took several days of living with the XC60 before the seating position felt comfortable rather than unnaturally high. Still, the tall seating position ensured good visibility out of the XC60’s large windows (large exterior mirrors also helped with that), so perhaps that was Volvo’s reason for not allowing the seat position to go any lower.

The XC60 is is a two-row crossover, and the back seats have more knee room than the Mercedes GLK. In my tester, the rear seats were heated. Installing a forward-facing convertible carseat as well as a booster seat for my 18-month and five-year-old kids was not a chore; while my toddler was able to kick the driver’s seat (adjusted for my 6’4” frame to pilot the Volvo), neither of the girls was in constant with the seatback in front of her. Volvo does offer integrated rear booster seats on the XC60, though the car I tested was not equipped with them. The center section of the back seat has a fold-down armrest containing two cupholders and a small storage compartment.

Out back, the cargo area is a good size- significantly deeper than the cargo area in the Mercedes-Benz GLK, though probably not quite as deep as Volvo’s XC70. There is a shallow well under the cargo floor for small items. There are just four meager cargo hooks for securing cargo, but nothing else for keeping items like grocery bags or a briefcase in place. On a quick run to the store, I ended up putting my grocery bag and gallon of milk on the floor in the backseat rather than letting them roll around in the trunk. The back seat in the XC60 is 40/20/40 split folding to increase cargo space, and folding the seat forward creates a flat load floor. The manually-operated cargo door opens tall enough for somebody taller than 6’5” to stand under when it is open.

On the road, the interior of the XC60 is quiet. The Volvo’s chassis does a good job transmitting what’s going on with the road, and it rides fairly smoothly, although the ride can get choppy on rough city streets.  That could be partly attributed to the 20” wheels and relatively low-profile tires. When pushed in corners, the XC60 exhibits moderate, predictable understeer as would be expected from the front-wheel-drive based platform.

The T6 engine in the XC60 is rated 281 HP. While that sounds like plenty of power for a two-row crossover, it has a lot of weight to contend with. The XC60 has a stated curb weight of 4225 lbs- which is more than Volvo’s larger XC70. Volvo’s six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission is the only transmission choice in the XC60, and it shifts smoothly and predictably, if not particularly quickly. The unit actually seemed to shift more quickly in automatic mode than when the shifts were commanded using the manual shift gates on the console-mounted shifter. While the XC60 wasn’t breathtakingly quick, power was more than adequate, and calibration was such that off-the-line performance felt impressive.

The XC60 has an electronic parking brake, which is actuated by a push/pull controller below the light switch, on the dash to the left of the steering wheel. My instinct was to step on a pedal to set the brake, but instead it is set just by pushing on the actuator. The parking brake is released by pulling gently on the actuator while the driver’s foot depresses the brake pedal.

The XC60 I tested was equipped with Volvo’s Technology Package, which includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Collision Warning with Auto Brake, and Distance Alert Driver Alert Control. While I found the Distance Alert to be somewhat irritating (flashing a red light in the windshield if it felt I was too close or approaching the car in front too quickly), I quickly came to love the Adaptive Cruise Control, which could be set to freeway speeds but would slow the car as low as 15 MPH in heavy traffic and accelerate again when traffic eased, all without any driver interaction or operation of the brake/gas pedals. I found to system to be quite effective. The Lane Departure Warning system, on the other hand, was not universally effective at monitoring my lane position, though disclaimers state that the system only works well when lanes are properly striped in such a way that they can be processed by the system’s camera.

During my week with the XC60, I drove nearly 300 miles, with an average speed of 31 MPH and average fuel consumption of 19.7 MPG, according to the Volvo’s trip computer. The XC60 has a 16/21 MPG (18 MPG combined) fuel economy rating using premium unleaded fuel. That seems like a poor fuel economy rating for a vehicle of the XC60’s size, but the similar-sized Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 has slightly less interior room and slightly less power with the same EPA rating.

The least expensive front-wheel drive XC60 available starts at $32,400, but the XC60 T6 AWD R-Design has a base MSRP of $41,550, which includes the powertrain described above and features such as Hill Descent Control, Volvo City Safety, Laminated Panoramic Roof with Power Sunshade, Eight-way Power Front Seats with Three-Position Memory for the driver, 40/20/40 split folding rear seat Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror, Bluetooth Handsfree Telephone Interface, Dual Xenon Headlamps with Active Bending Lights, R-Design Elements including 20” 5-spoke wheels with all-season tires, Sport Chassis, Dual Chromed Tailpipes, Color-Matched Lower Body Moldings, Blue Watch-Dial Instruments, R-Design Seats with Accent Inserts; High Performance Audio System (4×40 W Amplifier with 8 speakers, in-dash single-disc CD player, HD Radio, USB and AUX inputs with illuminated steering wheel controls). It was also equipped with the $2700 Multimedia Package (Dynaudio Premium Sound System, Navigation System with Real-Time Traffic, Remote Control, and DVD Map, Rear Park Assist Camera); and $2700 Climate and Technology Package (Heated Front and Rear Seats, Heated Windshield Washer Nozzles, High-Pressure Headlamp Cleaners, Rain Sensor, Interior Air Quality System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Collision Warning with Auto Brake, and Distance Alert Driver Alert Control). Including the $850 Destination Fee, MSRP of the XC60 T6 AWD R-Design is a substantial $47,800.

While dynamically it is not a successor to the S60R and V70R, the XC60 T6 R-Design looks the part both inside and out; it is an aggressively sporty-looking vehicle, especially when ordered in Passion Red as my tester was. I enjoyed driving the XC60 and found it both comfortable and entertaining. During my week with the XC60, several strangers came up to me to ask me questions about the car. I preferred its style, both inside and out, over that of the Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 I drove immediately before the XC60. Truthfully both seem expensive and thirsty for their size, and shows the Volvo XC60 to be nearly $2500 less expensive than the Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 when the two vehicles are similarly equipped. Of the two luxury crossover vehicles, I preferred the Volvo XC60’s blend of style, comfort, safety technology, and driving characteristics.

Author: Kevin Miller

As Techshake’s resident Swedophile, Kevin has an acute affinity for Saabs, with a mild case of Volvo-itis as well. Aside from covering most Saab-related news for Techshake, Kevin also reviews cars and covers industry news. His “Great Drive” series, with maps and directions included, is a reader favorite.

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  1. I loke the looks of it, but when will Volvo put out a car that gets modern fuel-economy numbers?

  2. Thanks for the detailed blog post…my mom has long been a Volvo fan and has been bugging me to get a wagon.

    Guess I’m going to have to drop in at the dealer soon and deal on one of these.

    So much for my patience!

  3. If you want an XC60 with miserly economy numbers Buy one with a 4 cylinder engine. However if you want to blow the doors off the Mercedes ML350, BMW X3 Buy the Volvo XC60 Turbo and if you want to kick the BMW X5 or MB GLK get the XC60 R with the Polestar option and run Premium 93 or Premium 95 gas. All you luddites who want good gas mileage get a 3.2 non turbo FWD or get a European diesel model ( a D4) and dont sqwawk when everyone leaves you behind. {it is now what U wanted- higher fuel mileage]

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