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Buy a Volvo crossover for safety, sure, but style, performance, and premium-grade luxury? The compact 2019 XC60 makes its case

2019 Volvo XC60

2019 Volvo XC60

What changes will make it the 2019 Volvo XC60 different?

Perhaps the re-introduction of a front-wheel-drive model, but little else of consequence as the newest version of Volvo’s premium compact crossover enters its sophomore season. The XC60 was fully redesigned for model-year 2018, gaining elegant new styling, a roomier and more upscale cabin, additional safety features, and a plug-in-hybrid-powertrain option.

This second-generation XC60 debuted with all-wheel-drive (AWD) standard across the board. It’s 2010-2017 predecessor was available with front-wheel drive and Volvo could offer sunbelt buyers a lower price of entry for model-year 2019 by returning a front-drive edition at $2,000 or so cheaper than its AWD counterpart. Otherwise, this five-seater will return largely unaltered, again slotting into Volvo’s crossover lineup between the subcompact XC40 and midsize, seven-passenger XC90.

Why should I wait for the 2019?

Unless you’re in the market for a possible front-wheel-drive version, you probably shouldn’t. A front-drive model would likely save you some dough at purchase time and perhaps through slightly higher fuel economy — at some sacrifice to the all-weather security of AWD traction.

Aside from that, and maybe a new paint color or two, Volvo isn’t apt to alter a formula that earned the ‘18 XC60 critical and commercial favor. The ’19 should repeat a lineup that offers three levels of trim – volume-selling Momentum, sporty R-Design, and uplevel Inscription – each available with a choice of engines ranging from 250 horsepower to 400. Every 2019 XC60 should also return with amenities such as leather upholstery and a panoramic moonroof as standard, along with a full suite of safety features, including optional semi-autonomous driving.

Waiting for the ’19 XC60 would almost certainly mean paying higher asking prices for essentially an unchanged vehicle. On the upside, the ‘19’s styling and features will remain relevant at least until model-year 2021 or ’22, when the XC60 would be due a midcycle freshening. Note also that if you like the XC60’s basic design but fancy it in a sleeker form, waiting for the 2019 model year would enable you to audition the 2019 V60 Cross Country, a station-wagon-based crossover with a lower profile than the XC60.

Should I buy a 2018 model instead?

Yes if, like the vast majority of buyers in this segment, you want your premium-compact crossover with AWD and don’t cotton to the prospect of higher prices for no real changes. The ’18 model marked the XC60’s transition to Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture. Shared with the flagship XC90, the new understructure gives it a thoroughly modern platform with which to do battle with such rivals as the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Cadillac XT5, Audi Q5, Acura RDX, and BMW X3.

The ’18 XC60 trailed those competitors in sales but matched most and beat a few for looks, features, and performance. Credit Volvo’s owners, Geely Holding of China, which purchased the Swedish automaker from Ford in 2010. Geely has supported Volvo with the development, engineering, and design resources that are underpinning its comeback as a player in the premium car and crossover segments.

Will the styling be different?

There may be a fresh color choice or two, but nothing else will change. Thanks in large measure to its new platform, today’s XC60 boasts comelier lines and more contemporary proportions than the first generation. It’s two 2 lower, but nearly 2 inches longer, more than 4 inches wider and, significantly has a 3.6-inch-longer wheelbase. Expanding that span between the front and rear axles not only helped stance and stability by pushing the wheels to the vehicle’s corners, it resulted in an additional 4.5 inches of sorely needed rear legroom, putting this Volvo among the class leaders for back-seat accommodations.

Every ’19 XC60 will return with LED headlights and taillamps, the former sporting the “Thor’s Hammer” t-shaped light piping first seen on the XC90. All will also have roof rails and a power liftgate, with visual differences again running to 18-inch alloy wheels on the Momentum, 19s on the R-Design and Inscription, with sizes up to 22 inches (and summer performance tires) available as options that for 2018 cost up to $4,375. The R-Design should again be distinguished by darkened exterior details and more aggressive lower front air intakes, while the Inscription returns with more brightwork. The plug-in hybrid can also be identified by the fuel-filler-type door in its left front fender that accesses its electric-power port.

Inside, all ’19 XC60s will again feature a central-dashboard infotainment touchscreen that’s oriented portrait-style. The display is 9-inches in diameter, or a generous 12.3 with the imbedded navigation system that for 2018 was optional on the Momentum and standard on the other models. Expect the return of aluminum inlays in the Momentum, metal mesh in the R-Design, and a choice of metal or classy driftwood veneer in the Inscription. The R-Design should also return with Nubuck-and-Nappa-leather upholstery and front buckets with extra bolstering.

Any 2019 XC60 cabin should again present an impressive environment rich with details like diamond-faceted control knobs, colander-aluminum speaker grilles, and a crystal gearshift for the plug-in hybrid model. Absence of a central controller, however, compels you to interact with the touchscreen for virtually all navigation, audio, connectivity, and climate functions. That’s often distracting, although some functions can be governed via steering-wheel buttons or voice commands.

Passenger space will remain a high point, with an especially commodious and supportive rear seat. Unfortunately, we couldn’t dial in an appropriate balance of comfort and support with the multi-adjustable front buckets available in the Inscription’s

Luxury Seat Package, which cost $3,000 for 2018. And the cabin-brightening panoramic moonroof needs more than its pale fabric shade to ward off solar heat gain in hot, sunny conditions.

Cargo volume is above average for the segment, at some 30 cubic feet behind the 60/40 split rear seat and 63.3 with them folded. Folding the rear seats creates a usefully flat load floor, though you’ll again probably need to order the Convenience Package ($2,000 for 2018) to get cargo-bay release buttons that automatically drop the rear seatbacks (but don’t raise them).

Any mechanical changes?

Other than the possible addition of a front-drive model, extremely unlikely. Each 2019 XC60 trim level should again be available with one of three powertrains, which in turn would again define a model range.

The T5 range of Momentun, R-Design, and Inscription trims would reprise a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. In displacement and output, this engine is typical for the class and provides the T5 range with perfectly serviceable performance. It’s a little slow off the line but picks up steam quickly and in many ways is the most rational XC60 choice.

Moving up in complexity, the 2019 XC60 T6 range will again have a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that employs a supercharger and a turbocharger. Both supply the engine with a condensed air-fuel charge that enhances power, but the supercharger, activated electromagnetically at engine speeds below 3500 rpm, is designed to deliver torque off the line and from around-town speeds. Above 3500 rpm, it automatically hands off to the turbocharger, which is driven by harnessed exhaust gases and is intended to furnish high-speed horsepower.

Volvo says this supercharged-and-turbocharged engine delivers the best of two worlds: the fuel economy of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the uninterrupted muscle of a larger V-6. Indeed, its 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet are V-6-like. In our testing, though, it acts almost entirely like a powerful turbocharged four-cylinder, relying on the onset of boost to furnish the desired acceleration. The presence of the supercharger doesn’t eliminate sleepy throttle response at low rpm, it merely enhances the power on hand once it begins to deliver boost. From there, this engine does feel strong and alert, it’s claimed 6.1 seconds 0-60-mph a good showing for any compact crossover.

Volvo will again add plug-in-hybrid technology to this super- and turbo-2.0-liter to create the 2019 XC60’s T8 range. The T8 Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription carry two electric motors, one near the engine, another at the rear axle. They also house a battery pack that can gain an initial charge when you plug it into the commercial or residential electric grid. It stores enough energy to propel the XC60 on electricity alone – Volvo claims up to 31 miles, although the EPA rates it at up to 17 miles. When the battery is depleted, the T8 automatically reverts to a conventional hybrid, running on gas, electricity, or a combination as sensors determine the best mix for power and efficiency. Net output of the gas-engine and electric-motor combination is impressive: 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. That’s good for 0-60 in a Porsche-Macan-worthy 5.1 seconds, although in practice, the T8 engine acts much like its T6 cousin – just with more oomph.

No matter the powertrain, expect every ’19 XC60 to return with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the R-Design again supplying steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters to facilitate manual-type gear control otherwise possible by toggling the floor shifter. Drivers get a console thumb wheel to dial up economy, normal, and performance drive modes, along with an “off-road” setting. The last optimizes AWD traction, but the XC60 is not intended as an off-road vehicle. In normal driving, it’s AWD system shuffles power from the front wheels to the rear to maintain grip (the T8 range relies on its rear-mounted electric motor to automatically power the back wheels as needed).

Neither is the XC60 pitched as a taut-handling rival to performance-oriented competitors from BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, and Porsche. Rather, it furnishes confident and tidy road manners that tolerate aggressive cornering but don’t encourage it. This relaxed-but-ready character is best appreciated on the 18- and 19-inch wheels and tires, which work with the suspension to cushion bumps and ruts for a solid but never-jarring ride. The larger wheels look cooler, but their low-profile tires degrade ride comfort and most vitally, can compromise stability in bumpy corners. Try before you buy.

Will fuel economy improve?

If Volvo introduces a front-drive-only XC60 for 2019, expect it to be slightly more fuel-efficient than its AWD counterparts – perhaps 1-2 mpg in city, highway, and combined driving. (Its bigger savings are likely to come via a lower purchase price.) Absent powertrain changes, 2019 EPA ratings for AWD XC60s should mirror those of the 2018 models.

That means T5 and T6 ratings should again be on par with premium-compact-crossover rivals of similar power. Expect the T5 range to again rate 22/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined and the T6 21/27/23 mpg.

Turns out, the plug-in-hybrid T8 isn’t so much an economy poster boy as a high-tech, low-emissions power wagon. Running on electricity alone, the EPA rates it 59 MPGe, or miles-per-gallon-of-gas equivalent. For 2018, it was the only plug-in-hybrid in the class, but for comparison, the larger and heavier, but less powerful, midsize BMW X5 xDrive 40e plug-in crossover rated 56 MPGe (and 13 miles electric-only range). Running in conventional-hybrid mode, the 2019 XC60 T8s should again rate 26 mpg city-highway combined. Note that you can fiddle with a T8’s overall efficiency via driver-selectable modes called Power for performance, Hybrid for gas-electric running, Pure to maximize electric running, and Save to reserve battery power for city rather than open-road driving.

Will it have new features?

Not likely. Expect all 2019 XC60s to again come equipped with a comprehensive level of standard equipment including the panoramic moonroof, leather, LED headlamps, power memory driver’s seat, and Apple Carplay and Android Auto integration.

Volvo isn’t shy about billing the XC60 as “one of the safest cars ever made,” and backs up the claim with a plethora of active safety systems. Standard again on every ’19 trim level will be the brand’s Intellisafe City Safety System that includes autonomous emergency braking designed to stop the XC60 when sensors detect an impending fontal collision with another vehicle, a pedestrian, a cyclist, or an object, even a large animal. Between 31 and 62 mph, when emergency braking alone won’t help avoid a potential collision, the XC60 automatically applies steering correction.

Similarly, the lane-maintaining automatic steering system is supplemented by Volvo’s Oncoming Lane Mitigation, designed to steer you back to avoid a head-on collision when you wander from your lane between 37 and 86 mph.

Given its safety bent, we hope the automaker makes blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic detection standard on the 2019 XC60. For 2018, it was optional within the Vision Package, which cost $1,100. Regardless, it should again be supported by Volvo’s worthwhile Steer Assist, designed to use the automatic steering to prevent you from changing lanes into other vehicles.

Finally, Volvo’s Pilot Assist automatically steers, accelerates and brakes to provide semi-autonomous driving. Designed to operate on well-marked roads up to 80 mph, it works as advertised, keeping the XC60 centered in its highway lane, although we question its basic premise because it requires the driver to maintain contact with the steering wheel. Expect Pilot Assist to return as part of the optional Convenience Package, which should again be priced around $2,000.

Imbedded navigation along with the 12.3-inch screen probably will return as a $1,400 Momentum-grade option, but extra-cost packages should again be fairly uniform across the 2019 XC60 range. They’ll be priced from around $750 to $3,000, depending on trim level and content details. They’ll include the Convenience Package that in addition to Pilot Assist, should bring heated wiper blades, the drive-mode settings, full keyless entry with a hands-free liftgate, and the power-released rear seatbacks.

Optional ventilated and massaging front seats, a Bowers & Wilkins-brand audio upgrade, and air suspension will also return. Same for other packages primarily intended to add to the Momentum features standard on the other models, such as LED fog lamps and cornering illumination, heated seats and steering wheel, and a head-up instrument display.

How will 2019 prices be different?

They’ll probably rise, with base prices remaining competitive within the competitive set, but sticker prices inflating quickly as options are added. Estimated base prices in this review include Volvo’s destination fee, which was $995 on the 2018 XC60.

Within the T5 range, estimated base prices are $43,100 for the Momentum, $46,400 for the R-Design, and $47,00 for the Inscription. Within the T6 range, they’re $46,500, $49,800, and $50,300, respectively. That’s with AWD; if Volvo adds a front-drive alternative, expect to subtract as much as $2,000.

The 2019 T8 range will continue with AWD as standard. Estimated base prices are $54,500 for the Momentum, $57,800 for the R-Design, and $58,300 for the Inscription. Note that purchasing or leasing a 2018 T8 made qualified owners eligible for a Federal Tax Credit of up to $5,002, as well as additional state incentives. Lawmakers and regulators could of course alter or even eliminate these incentives for buyers of 2018 T8s or any other electric-assisted vehicles.

As mentioned, options can easily drive up base prices. Load even a T5 Momentum AWD with every factory extra, including the extra safety gear, air suspension, 20-inch wheels and upgraded audio, and your looking at an estimated $62,300 for 2019. Sticker prices for generously outfitted T6s and T8s will easily crest $70,000. At that price, you’d do well to also consider larger, midsize-premium crossovers, including Volvo’s own XC90.

When will it come out?

Expect a 2019 Volvo XC60 release date in the fall of 2018.

Best competitors

Acura RDX, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Audi Q5, BMX X3, Cadillac XT5, Infiniti QX50, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan, Range Rover Velar

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]