Top 12 Things to Know Before You Buy a 2015.5 Volvo XC60

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1. What’s new for 2015?

Mid-year powertrain advances so significant Volvo tags the updated version of this crossover a “2015.5” model. A new family of turbocharged four-cylinders under the Drive-E banner signals the automaker’s move away from five- and six-cylinder powerplants. Debuting here and elsewhere in the brand’s “2015.5” car and crossover lines, the more fuel-efficient engines feature stop-start and are accompanied by an upgrade to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Among other changes, every version of this premium-compact crossover gets Volvo On Call, a 3G-based telematics system that includes safety backups like automatic collision alert and enables the creation of a Wi-Fi hotspot for multiple devices inside the car. The upgrades come on the heels of a model-year 2014 freshening that gave this five-seater a restyled front end, improved seats, and expanded safety tech.

2. How much does it cost and what sort of deal can I expect?

Prices are about midpack against comparably equipped rivals, but you’re likely to score deeper-than-average discounts on the Volvo.

The 2015.5 lineup expands to include models with the new engines: the T5 Drive-E starting at $37,395 and the T6 Drive-E, priced from $42,145. Both are available only with front-wheel drive and in their top-trim Platinum grades begin at $44,895 for the T5 and at $46,545 for the T6. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Volvo’s is $995.)

All-wheel drive commences with the five-cylinder T5 AWD model (base-price range $38,895-$46,395), advances to the six-cylinder T6 AWD ($43,645-$48,045), and finishes with the performance-tuned six-cylinder T6 AWD R-Design ($47,945-$52,045).

The XC60 is not a big seller but volume was up significantly in the first quarter of 2015 on the strength of the 2014 freshening – and on surging demand for compact crossovers in general and upscale models in particular.

Buying service TrueCar.com reports transaction prices trending some 8.7 percent below base prices for front-drive XC60s and 6.6 percent below for AWD models. By comparison, they were trending 5.8 percent below for the Acura RDX, 5.6 percent under for the Audi Q5, and just 2 percent under for the just-introduced Lexus NX.

3. When will the next big change be?

Introduced for model-year 2010, the XC60 has gone on to become the brand’s second best-selling vehicle, behind the S60 midsize sedan upon which it is based. The 2014 facelift will likely carry its styling through to the next full redesign, probably for 2017 or ’18. It will be interesting, however, to see if Volvo makes the new four-cylinder engines available with AWD during this design generation or holds off until the next.

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4. What options or trim level is best for me?

If you’re interested in a front-wheel-drive XC60 (and we have some advice on that below), the best value is a T5 Drive-E Premier, the middle tier of the T5 line. It’s starts at $40,645 and is a nice step up from the base level, adding such standard features as leather upholstery, a navigation system, panoramic moonroof, rear privacy glass, and roof rails.

We’d add the $1,550 Climate Package, which heats all the seats, the steering wheel, and the windshield-washer nozzles. To that we’d add the $1,500 Proximity Package (rearview camera, power tailgate, and keyless entry with pushbutton ignition). We’d also spring for the $925 Blind Spot Information System Package with its front- and rear-park assist and blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alerts. Bottom line: $44,621.

The best value – though not the best performer — in an AWD XC60 is the T5 AWD Premier. It starts at $42,145 and duplicates T5 Drive-E Premier’s standard and optional equipment, but with a more powerful engine propelling all four wheels.

We’d recommend adding the same options while advising you also consider the $1,500 Technology Package. It contains most of the latest in safety assists, such as adaptive cruise control, steering-correcting lane-keep assist, and active high beams that dim for oncoming traffic. It also includes frontal-collision mitigation that can recognize vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists and automatically bring the XC60 to a halt if you don’t heed its warning signals.

5. What engine do you recommend?

At this point, neither Drive-E four-cylinder because they’re available only with front-wheel drive; we believe AWD is essential to getting the most from any crossover. We look forward to seeing AWD offered with these new 2.0-liter engines, which comprise the 240-horsepower turbocharged unit in the T5 Drive-E and the 302-horse turbocharged and supercharged variant in the T6 Drive-E.

Our value-pick T5 AWD uses Volvo’s aging 2.5-liter turbo inline-five-cylinder, here with 240 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, 8 pound-feet more than the T5 Drive-E’s four-cylinder but 29 fewer than the T6 Drive-E’s. Still, this is a sufficiently lively workhorse that co-exists happily with the 6-speed automatic transmission to furnish good movement away from a stop, fine throttle response, and strong highway passing response.

If you can stretch your budget, we’d urge you to sample the T6 AWD with its turbo 3.0-liter inline-six and 6-speed automatic. It starts at $43,645 and climbs to $48,620 with the Technology, Proximity, Climate, and blind-spot packages. The transition to Drive-E is ushering this inline-six into its sunset years, too. But for now, its 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque delivers a smooth, robust punch that creates the best all-around XC60. And the ’15.5 T6 and R-Design models are the automaker’s first crossovers with steering-wheel shift paddles.

6. How is the fuel economy?

Models with the five- and six-cylinder engines fall slightly behind the class curve with EPA ratings of, respectively, 21 and 20 mpg city/highway combined.

Rating 27 mpg combined, the new turbo four-cylinder puts the T5 Drive-E near the very top of the competitive set, exceeded only by diesel and hybrid rivals. The four in the T6 Drive-E — in which the supercharger delivers low speed boost then hands off to the turbocharger for higher-speed oomph – rates 25 mpg combined, quite good for 302 horsepower.

Expect these ratings to decline once the added weight of an AWD system is figured in. For now, their economy cause is bolstered by the 8-speed automatic, as well as exclusive use of Volvo’s ECO+, a driver-activated program that optimizes powertrain and climate-system calibrations, enables the vehicle to coast at idle-rpm, and modifies stop-start to kill the engine at 4 mph when coming to a stop.

7. How does it handle?

Surprisingly well, and not just for a brand known more for saving lives than slicing corners. Nicely weighted, natural-feeling steering, a rock-solid structure, and a suspension rarely upset by bad pavement adds up to road manners the equal of some competitors positioned as more overtly sporting.

Despite 9.1 inches of ground clearance – the class average is roughly 7.5 inches – this is no serious off-roader. The AWD system lacks locking or terrain-response capabilities but is tuned to apportion traction among all four tires to optimize grip on dry, wet, and snowy pavement. To further complement its 325-horsepower turbo six, the T6 AWD R-Design gets a stiffer suspension and quicker steering, but it’s still no challenger to the likes of the Porsche Macan or BMW X4 as a thoroughly sorted performance crossover.

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8. Are the controls easy to use?

Yes, after some acclimation to the symmetry and simplicity dictated by the cabin’s Scandinavian design. The main instrumentation – adaptive Thin Film Transistor-digital gauges on all but the base T5 – has the look of a high-end timepiece. The steering wheel’s clearly identified buttons and thumb-wheel access cruise-control, audio, and voice-command functions. The dashboard’s central control stack is presented on an artsy “flying buttress” panel and arrays main climate and audio functions concisely. Demerits include an undersized-by-class-standards 7-inch dashboard infotainment screen and main audio twist/press dials assigned too many functions.

Cabin decor is understated but upscale, with real aluminum inlays standard and most surfaces covered in richly grained padding or matte-finish plastic. Such upgrades as softer leather upholstery, walnut inlays, and a leather-covered dashboard and console are optional individually or as part of the packages.

9. Is it comfortable?

Quite, although rear-seat legroom is not a selling point. All models come with power front seats; the driver’s with memory and power lumbar (oddly, heated front and rear seats are optional, even on the most expensive model). Deeply padded yet long-haul supportive, the front buckets are exceptionally comfortable. Same for the rear bench, where three-across is possible with some squeezing, but also where knee clearance and foot room are tight unless front-seaters agree to adjust their perches no more than halfway back. Headroom is fine all-around.

Best described as firmly compliant, ride comfort is a very good, benefiting from that sold structure and a sophisticated approach to suspension tuning. Bump absorption in the R-Design, however, is severely compromised by its firmer chassis and low-profile 20-inch tires. Twenties are also optional on every other XC60. Our advice: save the $1,000 and your fillings and stick with the standard 18s.

Cargo volume is among best in class, with 30.8 cubic feet behind the reat seat and 67.4 with it folded. The luggage area is nicely carpeted and a metal threshold at the rear is a tasteful touch.

10. What about safety?

Couldn’t be better. Though the latest crash-test ratings are for the 2015 model they should hold for the structurally and safety-equipment-unchanged 2015.5. True to Volvo’s heritage, safety is an XC60 selling point. It aces the two most significant trials of occupant protection, earning the maximum five stars overall in the government’s 5-Star Safety Ratings system. And in more demanding testing by the insurance-industry-sponsored Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) it achieves the coveted Top Safety Pick+ award.

IIHS reserves this highest accolade for vehicles with front-collision-mitigating automatic braking and every XC60 has it. In fact, this crossover was the first vehicle equipped with Volvo’s pioneering City Safety system that can automatically slow it or even stop it dead from 31 mph or less to avoid a rear-end collision.

11. How’s the reliability and resale value?

Average at best, chancy at worst. Volvo ranks 24 out of 31 automotive brands for dependability in the most recent study by consumer-survey firm J.D. Power. The XC60 does outperform its brand for initial quality, the 2014 model (the latest for which results are available) rating average in the Power surveys. But it drops back to below average for predicted reliability.

As for resale value, the 2015.5 XC60 falls into the two-star category, well below the top five-star category organized by residual-analytics firm ALG. The firm projects a Drive-E model will retain just 28 percent of its original base price at the end of five years, an AWD model about 30 percent. By comparison, ALG projects the leaders in the class, the Macan and Range Rover Evoque, will retain 37-40 percent of their original value after 60 months.

12. Is it better than the competition?

It’s the equal of any for solid construction, ride quality, cargo volume, and safety ratings .The T6 AWD is a highly satisfying all-rounder with a bit of unexpected brio. The Drive-E program feels like a work in progress, however. And rear-seat legroom might be a concern, though not as serious as those reliability and resale red flags. To Volvo’s credit, it continues to update the XC60 and even gives it a junior partner in the just introduced V60 Cross Country, a crossover-ized station-wagon version of the S60 sedan. All these Volvos in a sense represent the past, however. The all-new 2016 XC90 flagship crossover will be the first modern Volvo fully designed without residual Ford engineering. The Detroit automaker sold the proud Swedish brand to Geely Holding of China in 2010 (the XC60 is built at a Volvo plant in Belgium), and the new owners seem committed to Volvo’s core values and, if the XC90 is any indication, to giving it a fully contemporary, premium image.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]