Review: 2009 Volvo XC60 T6

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
review 2009 volvo xc60 t6

As an Elvis fan, I have to say that the singer created an enormous body of completely unlistenable music. The Hollywood years are particularly execrable, generating as they did an entire canon of crap. In the same sense, Volvo. In recent history, the American-owned Swedish automaker has unleashed a range of vehicles that did little more than remind us how far the iconic brand has fallen. For example, Volvo’s minivan, which—oh wait. They didn’t make a minivan. Right. Volvo’s XC SUVs arrived late, with the wrong engines, with a rep for tank-like build quality and unimpeachable reliability that was only obvious by its absence. Ditto Volvo’s sedans. And now, Volvo’s ’68 Comeback Special: the XC60.

First, let’s get something into the open: I don’t like CUVs. I understand that an elevated driving position creates a sense of control and (perceived) safety. But if I’m high, I want to be mighty. Or, at the very least, driving something that’s mighty big inside. Every CUV I’ve driven was either a gas-sucking lard ass, a poorly packaged gas-sucking lard ass or a joyless hybrid.

The moment I laid eyes on the Volvo XC60, I felt my anti-car-on-stilts position softening. The crossover’s press shots make the model look goofy (you shouldn’t see the ones I didn’t publish). In the metal, the XC60 is as perfectly sized and proportioned as a Steinway piano. The Swede’s shape and stance—boasting better ground clearance than many trucks—generates a look that’s solid without being stolid; projecting macho ruggedness and dynamism.

Volvo gets credit for attaching a brand-faithful snout to a highly raked windshield without creating an acre of dashtop plastic or A pillars that could support Trump Tower. The XC60’s profile is appropriately outdoorsy, in a diminutive but not dainty sort of way. The XC60’s rear is also particularly well wrought. It’s got that Land Rover take stuff anywhere thing happening, and mellifluously melds melted tail lamps with a roof spoiler and shark fin.

Taken as a whole, I’ll take it.

Inside, rental car. I so didn’t want it to be so. XC60 buyers who share this desire will find it easy enough to generate the necessary suspension of disbelief to con themselves that they’re driving a premium product. The Volvo’s interior design is fastidious. The controls are ergonomically sound and appropriately Ikea-like. The jaunty little LCD screen popping up from the top of the XC60’s dash is as cute as Wall-E’s itty bitty face. Sure, there’s no surprise and delight, but c’mon, it’s a Volvo. The brand that schlepped a thousand minimalists.

Yeah, well, it’s a $40K Volvo. Swedish style, careful craftsmanship and totally flat-folding rear seats can’t mask the XC60’s low-rent materials’ quality. Equally dire: the switch-gear operates with all the satisfaction of a lowfat deep-fried peanut butter sandwich. Let’s hope the XC60’s haptically hideous plastics are Ford tough; I can’t think of any other reason to remind yourself you overpaid for a Volvo. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Volvo XC60’s interior is “Blue Hawaii” to the Audi Q5 cabin’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

The XC60’s engine is a hit. The 281hp 3.0-liter in-line six sounds distinctly MOR, and there’s a touch of turbo-lag from the git-go. But once underway, there’s a hoon of torque underfoot: 295 lb·ft. @ 1,500-4,800 rpm. The XC60’s stable yard is never, ever shy of horses. Which is just as well for a four-plus-one seater that burns gas at 15/22 mpg.

In terms of actual hoonery, the XC60’s grip and composure will leave you wanting better seat bolstering. Once again, damn the man who invented all-season tires. Thanks to its overly stiff rubber, the XC60 is just that little bit too hard riding. It ruins any chance of an upscale vibe, serving an unwelcome reminder that the XC60 shares its underlying architecture with the ill-fated Land Rover LR2.

Do I have to mention safety? How about this: if you can find a Volvo XC60 without the $1695 Technology Package (Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with Auto-Brake, Distance Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Driver Alert Control), that’s the way to go. In other words, file all those gizmos under “more electronic shit that will go wrong” and “more evidence that Volvo’s brand managers don’t get it.”

For under $30K, Volvo would sell XC60s all day long. Even in the current economic climate. Even if Wo Fat buys the brand. Knocking on $40K, Volvo’s high-priced cute ute is almost as inadvisable as a Lincoln MKS. But not quite. ‘Cause the XC60 is a “real” Volvo—provided it goes the distance mechanically.

If not, well, the King of Rock and Roll ended his career in a blaze of self-parody, picking invisible bugs off his arms as he tried (and failed) to remember lyrics he’d been performing for twenty years. I’d hate to see Volvo go the same way. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

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  • Mhadi Mhadi on Jun 30, 2009

    As someone who actually owns a new Volvo XC70, I would agree that the XC60 interior materials used are of lower quality. This surprised me quite a bit when I sat in the XC60 - it seemed to me that Volvo produced their finest car in the 70/80 range and now have been cost cutting. Another example is that the XC70 / V70 has a gas strut to lift and hold the cargo area storage lid, while the XC60 does not. I don't like this review for the simple fact that it does not take competitors into consideration: the Volvo's closest competitor, the BMW X3, is just awful in all aspects. Judge a product by its competition, and not be what could be if each one cost a million. If money were not a factor, the interior of the vehicle would be built like a Rolls-Royce.

  • AnUnidentifiedMale AnUnidentifiedMale on Aug 22, 2010

    I can't believe you used the word "hoonery". Did you really have to? I had hoped that word (and its variations) had died in 2008.

  • GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.
  • Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
  • Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…
  • Mike978 Wow 700 days even with the recent car shortages.
  • Lorenzo The other automakers are putting silly horsepower into the few RWD vehicles they have, just as Stellantis is about to kill off the most appropriate vehicles for that much horsepower. Somehow, I get the impression the OTHER Carlos, Tavares, not Ghosn, doesn't have a firm grasp of the American market.