Faced with the prospect of a six-hour, 375-mile drive over a broad variety of roads, through a multitude of weather conditions, one could make far worse choices than the Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design. Boasting all-wheel drive, comfortably supportive seats, and a handsome exterior that doesn’t draw undue attention, the XC60 R-Design is exactly the tool needed for a long distance, high speed run.
Throughout its existence, Volvo has cultivated a reputation as a safety-first car company. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the designs it chose for its vehicles. One cinematic parody of Volvo summed the company up in the following sentence; “Volvo—boxy, but good.”
Lately though, the Swedish carmaker has demonstrated more sensual proclivities. Suddenly, the lines of its designs flow. The bodies have a forward leaning rake to them now as if they’re leaning into the wind. And perhaps most significantly, there is an explosion of horsepower, torque, and silken turbocharged inline sixes.
Volvos have become—dare we say—sexy?
Yet, perfectly in keeping with 21st century sensibilities, the cars are still safe.
(At this point we’ll leave you alone for a moment to make the connection between safe and sexy in your head.)
OK, do we have your attention back now?
Introduced at the 2008 Geneva Auto Show, the XC60 went on sale in North America in 2009, as a 2010 model. With the XC60 came the safety technology Volvo dubbed City Safety. Basically, it stops the XC60 if it is traveling 19 mph or less and senses an imminent collision. This, in addition to all the other safety systems Volvo typically incorporates makes the XC60 one of—if not the—safest SUVs in its class.
Remarkably, even though the XC60 is a SUV, it drives like a sedan. And, if you order the R-Design package it is equipped, looks and drives like a sports sedan. The R-Design seats are nicely sculpted and firm in all the right places, providing hours of fatigue-free support. The 20-inch aluminum alloy R-Design wheels enable the XC60 to carry more aggressive rubber, while simultaneously minimizing unsprung weight on the upgraded suspension system. Additionally, the steering gear fitted to the R-Design models is quicker, resulting in improved steering response.
During our drive, the panoramic sunroof kept the cabin’s atmosphere light and airy, while the high definition audio system kept us suitably entertained. There’s something amazing about being out in the middle of somewhere—no signs of civilization apparent—with classic jazz piped into your environ. Even more so when you stop to think this is courtesy of a satellite orbiting 22,223 miles above your head. Updates to the interior for 2011 include a nice redesign for the ultra-thin center console, and a new seven-inch color central control monitor for all audio, climate and nav functions.
The power delivery of Volvo’s 300-horsepower turbocharged 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine fitted to our test car was smooth and free flowing. In the XC60, Volvo claims a 6.9-second 60 for it. Top speed is limited to 120 miles per hour (even downhill). The engine is very linear in its response, pulls strongly and winds freely. Next to a V-12, an inline six is the smoothest powerplant out there and Volvo’s six is one of the smoothest of the smooth. The six-speed automatic transmission paired with the engine functions crisply, delivering precise downshifts when required and permitting manual control when desired.
During that six-hour run we encountered a number of wide-open straights running for several miles across flat desolate valley floors. At significantly elevated speeds, the XC60 R-Design’s stability inspired exceptional confidence. When those straights ran out and the road climbed up and through mountain passes, the all-wheel drive system, in concert with the R-Design performance enhancements, enabled us to maintain a brisk pace with no concerns of losing the road. High in those mountain passes we encountered rain, which turned to snow as elevation increased. And again, the all-wheel drive system fitted to the XC60 delivered outstanding traction and control.
If you’re starting to get the impression this was one epic drive, you’re absolutely correct. What’s more, the thought of doing it 15 years ago in a car with a Volvo badge on it—while certainly reassuring from a security standpoint—would have been an absolute yawner from a performance standpoint.
Happily, things have changed.
Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design pricing starts at $42,150; destination charge is $875.
Speaking of destination, the purpose of the drive?
It was to go to shoot the photo below.