2014 Volvo XC60 Walk Around

The Volvo XC60 is about the same size as compact sport-utilities or crossovers from other European luxury brands, including the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK. Yet the XC60 has substantially more cargo volume than any of those competitors.

At an overall length of 182.8 inches, the XC60 is sized comparably to the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, with similar cargo capacity. With 9.1 inches of ground clearance, and skid plates that actually protect some of its underpinnings, all-wheel-drive versions of the XC60 offer a bit more legitimate off-road capability than other vehicles in this class.

The XC60 has the rugged, adventurous, substantial look buyers might expect in an SUV, but it’s also very clearly a Volvo. The XC60 bears a close resemblance to its elder and larger stalemate, the XC90. The XC60 continues the Volvo design trend away from sharp angles and square corners, and toward softer and more rounded lines. It’s less severe, more relaxed, than Volvos of yore.

Without altering the vehicle’s basic form, Volvo gave XC60 a fresh front-end appearance for 2014. Modifications include a new hood and front fenders. A new version of the trademark eggcrate-mesh, trapezoidal grille features a larger ironmark at its center, again emblazoned with the Volvo logo. Headlights have been reshaped, embedded in swept-back fenders, and the new lower front spoiler is brightwork-trimmed. New vertical LED daytime running lights are installed up front.

The outlines of the front-end openings, all V-like in overall shape, flow into each other, giving the fascia an of-a-piece look. The resulting head-on view is pleasing, while substantial and a little tall. Standard Pan alloy wheels on the XC60 3.2 hold 18-inch tires, while the XC60 T6 AWD gets a different wheel design.

Side perspective presents mild confusion between a sportier, almost coupe-like hood slope and roofline and a wedgy beltline that rises in a straight line from the front wheel well to the rear door handle, leaving a bulbous mass of a rear quarter panel. This somewhat unbalanced look leaves a relatively hunkered down front end attached to a high, bustle-like rear end. Granted, this allows that class-leading cargo capacity of almost 70 cubic feet, but it leaves the XC60 with a stubby, chopped-off posterior.

The rear view shows broad shoulders capped by a tapered glasshouse, with LED taillights climbing up the sides of the glass on the one-piece liftgate. The rear bumper cups the bottom edge of the liftgate, with widely spaced exhaust tips. The body mass also minimizes the visual effect of the XC60’s height, giving the rear perspective a more planted presence than the front.

The XC60 R-Design treatment has a bolder look, starting with 20-inch alloy wheels and color-matched lower body moldings. Bright metal mirrors, window trim and tailpipes have a matte, almost silky finish, and the grille is imbedded with a prominent R logo.

Interior

Seating five, the XC60 cabin is Scandinavian in style, and elegantly understated. The interior is as true as the exterior to Volvo’s contemporary styling idioms.

Materials and finish are very good, and functionality rates almost as high, despite some Volvo-specific quirks. It’s easy to master the XC60’s multitude of controls, which are simpler and more efficient than those in most luxury-brand competitors. The seating arrangement is flexible and the cargo compartment is expansive, incorporating tie-downs and other useful accessories. It offers nearly all the features you’d expect in a luxury vehicle.

The cuts and stitching on the XC60’s seats and floor mats, and the brushed aluminum trim on its door panels and center stack, add a smart, cosmopolitan look. R-Design models are more metal-heavy in their finish, with more aluminum trim and inserts. Volvo steering wheels have some of the chubbiest rims in the business. They’re so thick that drivers with small hands might find them a bit too hefty.

Front seats offer all the expected comfort for the everyday driver and passengers, whether around town or on the road. They’re modestly bolstered, but no less comfortable for being so. Interior dimensions in the XC60 rank in the middle of its competitive set. Nevertheless, in perceived roominess, this Volvo fares well, feeling as spacious as most competitors, if not more so.

Visibility from the driver’s seat is good all around. The rear headrests, large in the Volvo fashion for safety, fill a lot of the space in the rearview mirror, but the power-folding option allows the driver to lower those headrests with the touch of a switch when the back seat isn’t occupied. The optional rearview video camera is especially appreciated for its assistance when parking. The video display bends a set of superimposed guidelines to reflect the car’s path, based on the position of the steering wheel.

Controls are concentrated in one of two spots: on easy-to-use stalks flanking the steering wheel, or in the flat-panel center stack rising from the console. Here you’ll find some of those Volvo traits that are just a bit different from the norm.

Airflow controls, for example, are fashioned with a large icon that looks like a seated person. Point to the feet and all air flows through the floor vents; choose the head, and air flows toward the windshield. The audio controls are different, too, with a twisting knob that cycles through menus and a keypad that looks like telephone buttons. They all work quite well, once a user gains some familiarity. Nearly all are large and easy to locate, even at night.

The premium audio system is superb, with crisp highs and booming lows. Auxiliary jacks and USB ports provide access to personal MP3 players and the like.

The optional panorama sunroof is two pieces of glass, with a front section that retracts up and over the back section. This produces a neat skylight effect, which also benefits rear-seat occupants. The sunroof does exact a cost, however, chopping a full inch out of front-seat headroom and nearly a bit more over the rear seat.

Bins molded into front and rear door panels, and pouches sewn into the back sides of the front seatbacks, provide more than adequate occasional storage. The lighted glove box is deep and tall enough to hold quite a bit more than the leather-bound owner’s manual portfolio.

The rear seat is more bench than bucket. That’s proper, as it’s intended to accommodate three average adults; which it does, if somewhat snugly. The XC60 makes an excellent vehicle for families with two children growing into their teens. For families with toddlers, optional built-in child safety seats include optimized belts.

The XC60 is a benchmark for cargo volume. There’s nearly 31 cubic feet of storage with the rear seat in place, and 67.4 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. Rear seatbacks fold easily to a truly flat surface. The middle section, representing the 20 in 40/20/40, works like the pass-through in vehicles with a trunk, allowing longer items like fishing poles to be carried inside. The front passenger seatback also folds forward and flat, creating room for much wider and longer items than fit in the typical small SUV/crossover.

Carpeting covers all surfaces in the rear cargo area, and the removable floor panel extends rearward enough to be secured beneath an overlap from the closed liftgate.

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