Saturday, November 16, 2019

Volvo Is in the Sweet Spot

Volvo’s XC60 is just the right car for the times, if you can afford it. With fresh, attractive looks, a premium interior and available plug-in hybrid powertrain, it does everything right.

While Volvo is known for its sturdy sedans and wagons, the Swedish brand—now Chinese-owned—has done very well with its crossovers. The midsize 2018 Volvo XC60 sits between the larger XC90 and brand-new XC40 compact. That makes it ideal for a family of five.

2018 Volvo XC60

The 2018 Volvo XC60 is the middle child among Volvo’s crossovers

Pick from three levels—the Momentum, the performance-oriented R-Design and the top-level Inscription. Each level comes well equipped, but you get more as you move up.

The Top Level Model

My Crystal White Metallic 2018 Volvo XC60 tester had the Inscription package ($3,800). It adds chrome on the grill, side trim and tailpipes. Inside, driftwood accents enhance the tailored dashboard. You also get keyless entry and luxury illumination, even a cooled glove compartment.

The T8 model I tested boasted the hybrid powertrain. The regular XC60 uses a 250-horsepower (hp) 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 258 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque. The hybrid adds supercharging and, combined with an 87-horsepower electric motor and 10.4- kWh battery, achieves 400 hp and 472 lb.-ft. of torque. Despite weighing 4,638 pounds (more than 500 pounds heavier than the gas-only model), this family-hauling crossover can sprint from 0 to 60 in just 5.3 seconds.

2018 Volvo XC60

The XC60 had luxurious room inside

The battery holds about 18 miles worth of charge, which happens to be the distance from my home to my office. I commuted mostly in EV mode except for climbing grades, where the engine kicked in. At the end of my 297-mile test week, I averaged 63 mpg. The EPA combined numbers are 59 MPGe for electricity gas, and 26 mpg for gas only, so that’s pretty close. The gas-only models get 22 city/28 highway/24 combined, which is substantially lower.

The Plug-in Hybrid Advantage

Plug-in hybrids are great if you have a reasonable commute and can plug in at both ends, which I did. The Level 2 chargers at work refilled the battery in about 2-1/2 hours, while I simply plugged the car into my wall outlet at home and charged it up slowly overnight. With plug-in hybrids, battery size is limited by available space (since you still have the engine and its attendant fuel tank, radiator, etc.) and weight concerns.

2018 Volvo XC60

The dual-motor system features tight packaging

The 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 hybrid model earns EPA green numbers of 7 for Smog and 10 for Greenhouse Gas versus a pair of 5s for the gas-only model. It emits 199 grams of CO2 per mile against 367 g/m for the non-hybrid—a significant difference. The hybrid earns EPA SmartWay Elite status, putting it in the top performers, just under the pure EVs.

The driving experience is lovely, as you’d expect. The interior is supremely comfortable, and avoids the overwrought angles and swirls found in some new vehicles. The dashboard and doors look and feel substantial. The panoramic sunroof lets in light and air.

Tech & Electronics

The user experience of the electronics is superb. Volvo’s stacked rectangle arrangement on its large center screen is easy and intuitive to use. It has a swipe feature to get to the deeper levels of settings.  

2018 Volvo XC60

Tech is served front and center

My tester had the awesome Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound system ($3,200), which turns the car into a mobile concert hall. Actually, the “Concert Hall” setting does wonders with classical music. I found the “Individual Stage” setting worked well for jazz and the regular “Studio” setting brought out the best in rock.

Tallying It Up

The base Momentum hybrid starts at $53,895, including destination charges, but my test car, with a host of extras, came to $71,590. Here’s how that happened.

Besides the Inscription upgrade, my car had the Convenience Package ($2,000) with adaptive cruise control that you can set to follow the car in front, heated wiper blades, power folding second-row seat, electric folding rear headrests and more. A semi-autonomous drive system handles steering, acceleration, and braking on well-marked roads at up to 80 mph.

2018 Volvo XC60

Options can run up the price on the XC60

The Vision Package ($1,100) added safety and convenience with blind spot information with street assist, parking assistance, retractable rear-view mirrors and more.

The Luxury Seat Package ($3,000) added Nappa leather and heating and cooling to the seats. There was a backrest massage for both front seats. The list goes on.

I’m not sure the 4-Corner Air Suspension ($1,600) was a necessity, but it was included, along with a black headliner and sport steering wheel ($300).

Volvo is on a roll, with a series of substantially upgraded and improved models appearing at excitingly regular intervals. The XC60 is strongly competitive with rivals from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and others, while keeping its own style and feel. The company has said it will offer electric versions of every model, so the 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD represents the future of Volvo.

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].


Steve Schaefer, a Contributing Editor and EV specialist at Smarticd, has written a weekly automotive column for 26 years, testing more than 1,250 cars. Now, he’s focusing on EVs and hybrids. Steve remembers the joy of riding in his father’s Austin-Healey. After discovering the August, 1963 issue of Motor Trend, he became entranced with the annual model change, and began stalking dealers’ back lots to catch the new models as they rolled off the transporter. Coming from a family that owned three Corvairs, Steve was one of the first Saturn buyers, earning him a prominent spot in their 1994 product catalogue. To continue the GM tradition, Steve has a Chevrolet Bolt EV. Steve is a founding member of the Western Automotive Journalists. Recently, Steve became a Climate Reality Leader, trained by Al Gore, and is focused on moving to EVs and 100% renewable energy. Currently he is working at a start-up dedicated to Read his EV/hybrid blog at

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