Volvo’s volume player reborn: Second-generation XC60 gets new bones and new look while maintaining Swedish style
Now comes the breadwinner: the smaller XC60 crossover, which makes its world debut this week at the Geneva International Motor Show.
This is the second-generation XC60, and it abandons the EUCD platform from the days when Ford owned Volvo. When Ford sold Volvo in 2008, the Swedish automaker knew it had to create its own platform to make future cars. It came up with the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which made its debut with the XC90 SUV, followed by the S90 sedan and V90 and V90 Cross Country wagons.
Now it underpins a fifth vehicle, the 2018 XC60. It goes on sale in the North AMerica in the fall. Pricing has not been disclosed.
The XC60 does not undergo as dramatic of a redo as the larger XC90, but the smaller crossover is a key product. The current model has stood the test of time; it was Volvo’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S. in February despite its age.
The all-new 2018 XC60 is not a scaled-down XC90. “We were quite sure we wanted a different look and not babushka design,” Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo’s senior vice president of design, says, referring to the Russian matryoshka nesting dolls of decreasing size. An internal design contest netted eight designs that led to the model unveiled today. Ingenlath says it was the smoothest design process of his career, even with the pressure of replacing Volvo’s volume vehicle. “Smooth childhood, nice parents,” he says with a smile in describing the latest iteration of SPA.
Although the larger XC90 is more upright with an aristocratic presence, the XC60 has a more raked windshield and lower front, including a hood that drops down at the nose to denote a sportier vehicle. It has nice, clean lines and a side profile with a slimming character line that is particularly attractive.
Compared to its predecessor, the 2018 XC60 is longer, lower, and wider. The wheelbase grows 3.6 inches to 112.8 inches, and overall length is only 2.4 inches longer at 184.6 inches. Width increases less than 0.5 inch to 74.9 inches, and the vehicle is also 0.5 inch lower at a height of 65.3 inches. It is bigger but weighs roughly the same with greater use of lightweight steel.
The exploding midsize crossover segment has one drawback. It is hard to stand out in a sea of cookie-cutter design. The larger XC90 had a better shot at being distinctive in a field with fewer contenders.
The XC60 has the smallest rear overhang designers could achieve, made possible by the new architecture. Designers say the new S60 sedan will shorten it even more. The cab also sits back with the wheels closer to the driver, a move made possible when you only have to house a four-cylinder engine.
The back of the roof drops down, there are sharp lines over the wheels, and the front sports the next evolution of the Volvo grille with stronger vertical champers. The Thor’s Hammer headlamps meet the chrome of the grille.
The goal was to emphasize a stout, compact vehicle, girth rather than length, while still presenting a longer hood associated with a more premium vehicle.
We commend the decision to not simply mirror the XC90. You don’t sit as high in the XC60, where the roof is lower and more angled. The cockpit is more embracing than spacious; the sensation is of sitting in it as opposed to hovering over the dashboard. “The XC60 was not designed to look down on others,” Ingenlath says.
Switching to the SPA architecture also makes room for a T8 plug-in hybrid, which will be available from launch. The XC90 had a staggered launch with the T8 coming later.
The 2018 XC60 choices include a T5 with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; a T6 with a 2.0-liter both turbo- and supercharged; and the T8, which is expected to increase its electric range to about 30 miles, more than double that of the XC90 T8.
All launch with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission, but there are plans for a front-drive T5 in the future.
Volvo will also have a T4, a front-drive-base model with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine designed largely for China, and it will be built in that country with a later launch date than the other models. It is not expected to make its way to North America.
The 2018 XC60 for North America will come from the Torslanda plant in Sweden. When the South Carolina plant, currently under construction, starts making cars in late 2018, it will initially build the new S90 sedan and can add other 60-series vehicles later.
A Polestar optimization chip and accessories will be offered with the new XC60, but a separate Polestar performance model is not under development, nor is there a current Polestar XC60.
The XC60 has an air-suspension system that can raise the chassis 1.6 inches in Off-Road mode and lower it half as much in Sport mode. There are also Comfort and Eco modes. There is a control-arm suspension in front and a rear integral axle suspension as opposed to the trailing arm of the outgoing model on the Ford platform.
Inside is where the new XC60 improves dramatically over the current vehicle. A new look is introduced in top trim levels. Natural driftwood offers a somewhat washed-out, silver-gray techno look but retains a strong grain. You can feel the texture of the wood under the light protective coating. It is deliberately used somewhat sparingly—enough to pay homage to its Scandinavian roots, but it’s not overpowering and keeps the interior clean and uncluttered. There is a nice ribbon of wood across the dash, in the door, and on the center console. You can still order interiors with smoked larch wood if you prefer the glossier look.
Look closely on the dash on the passenger side for the Swedish flag stamped into the aluminum that stretches from the edge of the driver-side cockpit to the passenger door. It’s a clever way to disguise the break in the trim—it was too long to heat as a single piece.
The XC60 shares the Sensus Connect system and 9.3-inch touchscreen with the 90 series, but it has been updated with larger fonts and a clearer path to some of the functions after Volvo received feedback that the system can be tricky to navigate.
The other advantage of SPA is the electronic architecture that allows for advanced safety technologies, including Autopilot, which is a step along the road to autonomous driving with its ability to steer, accelerate, and brake as it reads the vehicle’s surroundings up to speeds of 81 mph.
Safety technology from the 90 series migrates to the 60 series, but the XC60 adds collision avoidance up to 37 mph, oncoming lane mitigation, which warns if there is not enough room to pass, and city safety, which steers around an unseen pedestrian. Blind-spot detection with steering assist will be optional.
Additional features include a panoramic sunroof, clever slats under the second-row seats to stash computers or tablets, and wiper blades with integrated nozzles that inject fluid into the rubber blade and keep it supple. Customers can opt for the high-end Bowers & Wilkins audio system.
XC60 buyers tend to be younger and less affluent than XC90 customers, but Volvo officials say price is not the purchase driver for the smaller crossover.
But they do expect sales to increase for this bread-and-butter crossover.