Let's talk about premium/luxury compact SUV/crossovers, shall we?
The premium market alone is all about the combination of prestige, luxury, elegance, and sport – and to find the outer limits of all of the above. Their clientele is very particular about what to buy and can be very discriminating when it comes to the details.
This explains why the class has been ruled by the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. Both lead the pace because of their badge, their brand equity and familiar design that is shared across the product family. Though I hear that the Q5 is quite a good product in its class.
But, what if I told you that it could all change? What if I told you of a vehicle that has a chance to show up these two leaders and usual suspects found in its class?
Recently, I took a brief drive of the all-new 2018 Volvo XC60. Let me just say that this new entry in this highly competitive class is pretty damn good.
The example I drove was the T6 R-Design model. This is a very special vehicle considering that every time I got a Volvo, it would be the Inscription trim or somewhere near it. The R-Design is all about being sporty without resorting to adding Polestar performance and appearance items. Think of it as a BMW X3 M Sport or Audi Q5 with the S-Line package.
With that said, the R-Design brings out a personality of the XC60 that is both serious and fun – at the same time. The seats are of a tougher leather surface than an Inscription with the requisite "R" lettering. The mostly black cabin of my tester fit the part perfectly. That, and the satinized trim that set this cabin off.
The seats of the same design as the ergonomic ones found on #VOTY16 – the XC90. They offer adjustments aplenty to ensure the right combination of support and comfort. Rear seat space is also quite good, even with the lower roof than the previous generation. Needless to say, the XC60 is already promising to be quite awesome.
One thing a keen Volvo observer will notice is that the screen powering the Sensus infotainment system is a bit smaller. Perhaps a bit more concentrated. Still, this tester offered up a high level of connectivity, technology and controls one expects from the latest Volvo models. While it has become the main complaint of many of the long lead launch reviewers, I happen to like it. I'm probably the only one among my profession that does.
And, yes, this R-Design tester had the Bowers & Wilkins speaker system. It is as good inside the XC60 than it is on the XC90. Any questions? Good.
The T6 engine with its all-wheel drive is another familiar piece to behold. The big difference is because of the XC60's smaller mass – 4,074 pounds, compared to 4,627 pounds on the XC90 T6 Inscription – that you now feel the performance and traction better. The T6 combination starts with the Drive-E 2.0 liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine, good for 316 horsepower.
Being lighter in weight means the XC60 is also very agile and sure-footed. I found the lower ride height and shorter springs offering a sportier, but a smoother ride. Putting it into Dynamic mode will sharpen things up. In all, the R-Design offers up a personality in the XC60 that will appeal to enthusiasts looking for a smaller premium SUV. The steering action and brakes are extremely good.
I saved the best for last – its design. It is handsome. OK, very handsome! There is a lot of V90 and XC90 combined with some familiar last generation design elements. Yet, the lines are sharp with plenty of design elements that are very intriguing. The taillight design comes down from the pillar against the liftgate and crosses onto the top third of it – just the V90 wagon. I also like the extra angle added to the lower part of the three-dimensional grille. Plus, "Thor's Hammer" gets an extension to connect to the grille. For non-Volvo people, "Thor's Hammer" is an LED light that works as a daytime running light, a turn signal or just lovely accenting. It looks like a hammer set to its side.
Pricing will start from $41,500 for a T5 – turbocharging only – with all-wheel drive and the Momentum trim. This T6 AWD R-Design came with a sticker price of just over $61,000. The new XC60 will also be available with a lineup of plug-in hybrid T8 models, as well.
I know I skimmed through everything about the new 2018 XC60. It is because I cannot wait to get one in for its usual evaluation and testing. That means you will have to wait for a full review until…um…you do mind waiting until this winter, right?
From what I already experienced, I can safely say to anyone considering a BMW X3, Audi Q5 or any of its rivals to put the new 2018 Volvo XC60 on your shopping list. I have a good feeling you're going to love it – a lot.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Kline Volvo, Maplewood, MN
All photos by Randy Stern