Preview: Volvo XC60
Volvo arrived late to the SUV party, but they brought some killer tunes. The XC90 was a full-sized soft-roader CUV thingie before full-sized soft-roader CUV thingies were cool. Well, OK, it’s hard to argue that any Volvo was or ever could be “cool;” but the instantly recognizable ride was an instant hit with America’s safety-minded Soccer moms. Although the initial model sported a decidedly anemic five-cylinder engine, the company rectified the situation (for a price) with Yamaha’s V8; an inline six finally replaces the five banger for ‘07. Oh, and there’s a new, smaller XC60 coming too.
Codenamed Y278, the XC60 shares Ford’s C1 platform and major components (including an optional Haldex four wheel-drive system) with the new Volvo V70 and Land Rover’s forthcoming Freelander 2. TTAC’s resident photochopmeister Andrei Avarvarii has prepared a couple of renderings to give us an idea of how Volvo’s new baby will appear when car hacks wet its head at the next Detroit North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).
Avi’s based his work on confirmed reports that the Swedes have opted for a “Honey I Shrunk the Volvo” design approach (which sounds a whole lot kinkier than it is). The XC60’s snout will feature the traditional Volvo grille and a new pair of headlamps, inspired by the company’s other models. The trademark pronounced shoulder lines will suggest the XC60’s “sporty” character (they hope), while the XC60's short front and rear overhangs will emphasize its height (we know). In the rear, new lights and a sportier spoiler differentiate the smaller model from its big brother.
Given that the XC90 is a five passenger SUV/CUV, you gotta wonder why Volvo feels the need to offer another five passenger soft roader that looks the same as the bigger one, only smaller. If anything, they should've gone the other way: creating a seven seat SUV or, better yet, a minivan. Industry wags suggest Ford’s Swedish subsidiary has its sights set on luxury cute utes: the Lexus RX330, BMW X3, Acura RDX and the upcoming Mercedes-Benz MLK-Class (yes, another MB class). Nope. All these baby utes hang-out in the neighborhood of 35 large, where the XC90 also lives. The XC60 will compete lower down in the cute ute food chain, in the low to mid-20’s. It’ll have to take on Toyota’s V6 RAV4, Honda’s VTEC four-powered CRV and (oops) the Mercury Mariner.
So forget luxury. To conquest sales from these highly evolved, much loved competitors (Mariner aside), Volvo will have to sell affordable safety, rather than “premium” branding. The XC60 is also aimed at any members of the Volvo faithful who wants to step out of their cars and step [up] into something larger (taller?) that’s not quite as big (long?) as the XC90– assuming anyone moves from a car to an SUV these days. Of course, a lot of drivers suffering from PTFSD (Post Traumatic Fuel-Sucking Disorder) are getting out of full-sized SUV’s into cute utes. Given the XC90's higher margins, downward migrating XC90 owners must be something of a worry for Volvo of NA.
On the upside, Volvo’s commitment to safety shtick gives their vehicles a huge competitive edge in certain demographics. For example, there may be a large number Volvo owners with university-bound kids for whom a safety-oriented cute ute would be an ideal going away gift. There are two caveats to this scenario: 1) Will style-conscious college kids “let” their parents buy them a boring old Volvo– especially one that looks just like Mom’s? and 2) Did the Ford Explorer SUV = Death equation convince parents that SUV’s are inherently dangerous, even if they own one themselves? More generally, can safety be cute? Does it have to be?
Anyway, in these "SUV's are the anti-Christ" days, much of the XC60’s sales potential depends on the cute ute's fuel economy. We hear that the XC60 will get the same 235-horse 3.2-liter powerplant recently bestowed upon the XC90. In that installation, the EPA awarded the six pot 17/22 mpg. If you add a few mpg’s to the XC90’s economy (allowing for the XC60's lighter curb weight), the smaller ute might just break the critical 20mpg barrier. Then again, it might not. Then again, it better. Toyota’s Toyota RAV4 V6 FWD clocks in at 21/28. Wild card: the XC60’s 158hp 2.2-liter diesel. If the oil burner is US (i.e. California) compliant, a high mileage diesel XC60 with sufficient torque to get out of its own way would sell all day.
On one hand, I thought the Jaguar X-Type died (it is dead, right?) for the sin of building an affordable mini-me version of a pricey product. On the other hand, no one wants to die, and Volvo owns that not dying mind space like Pee Wee Herman owns that icky porno theater head space (they still have porno movie houses, right?). On balance, I reckon the XC60 will steal sales from the XC90– and still be a major hit.
[For more of Mr. Avarvarii's work, please visit www.spyshots.carbonmade.com]
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The XC90 is a 7 seater not just a 5 seater. Virtually all the ones on the lot when I bought mine come with the fold flat third row seating. That feature only exists in a select few midsize suvs... Also most XC90s as configured on the lot are north of $45k. A smaller 5 passenger suv that is in the low to mid 30k range only makes sense to me.
Give me a break! These "cute utes" are another fashion fad that everybody is jumping on. Volvo makes the V50 wagon with a 218HP turbo 5 and all wheel drive. The thing is, no Volvo dealer within 50 miles of where I live (Long Island) has one. In fact, very few of them even have the V50. What can this new cute ute do that the V50 can't?