Consider the small luxury crossover: It has to deliver style, comfort and enough versatility to make it practical for families who want something more distinctive than a sedan or minivan. Enter Volvo's sleek XC60, which, coupled with the brand's safety cred, delivers in most of these categories.
Appearance: The color of our XC60 — Passion Red — is only for those who like attention. (It seems tailor-made for those holiday commercials where they put the giant bow on a car.) And you can forget any images you may have of boxy Volvos of the past. The XC60's profile, with its high beltline and sloping stance, is one of the more elegant and dynamic we've seen in an SUV; it seems to be in motion even when standing still. Our tester had the sporty R-Design package, which includes 20-inch wheels, chrome tailpipes, a panoramic sunroof and special interior/exterior styling elements and trim. The result: probably the most attractive vehicle in the Volvo lineup.
Performance: The AWD XC60 feels solidly built — it weighs 4,200-plus pounds — and has a smooth ride, even on bumpy brick roads. There's minimal body roll and the handling is nimble, especially given the car's weight. The R-Design's sports chassis delivers firm, road-hugging grip. This turbo version of Volvo's inline 6-cylinder puts out 300 horsepower, but because of the weight, it's no jackrabbit (0 to 60 in 7.1 seconds). It certainly isn't in the same league as some other performance crossovers we've driven. It also features City Safety, a low-speed collision prevention system that detects approaching vehicles. If the driver doesn't respond in time, the system brakes to slow the car, and it activates the restraint system.
Interior: The R-Design touches in the Scandinavian-design cabin include comfortable, two-tone leather sport seats, an ergonomic, four-spoke sport steering wheel and a center stack angled for the driver. For a small SUV, we found the cabin had adequate head and leg room, with only taller passengers risking feeling cramped in the rear seats, which fold flat. The dash features blue "watch-dial" gauges that Lyra found difficult to read because of glare. Like other Volvos, the console has a "floating" design and a nav system remote control that can be stored behind it. (That location is a difficult reach for some.) We're not big fans of Volvo's nav system, which has a convoluted user interface, or that remote. There's no auto open or close button for the rear hatch, but thankfully, the door is light and easy to close.
Our 3 favorites
Design: Yes, your family car can be an eye-catcher.
Cargo space: There's an impressive 67.4 cubic feet.
Paint: The vivid red screams, "Look at me!"
Panoramic sunroof: Big opening with a remote retractable screen.
At the wheel: Ergonomic 4-point steering wheel had a good feel.
Protection: Energy absorbing structure, whiplash protection, antisubmarine seats, much more.
The bottom line: The R-Design trim XC60 we drove is more of a triumph of style over performance, but you'll never look better when hauling the family. Plus, it's rated highly in crash tests.