2012 Volvo XC60 SUV - FROM $33,300
The 2012 Volvo XC60 is a well-rounded compact luxury SUV that's one of the top choices for families.
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Volvo XC60 gets new sub-trim levels in lieu of previous option packages. The T6 R-Design also gets a power bump, while a newly optional Dynamic package adds to the T6 AWD an upgraded suspension and steering.
The compact luxury SUV segment is growing. Almost every premium automaker now offers one, and while each has its own character, the 2012 Volvo XC60 sets itself apart with its capability as a family car. With impeccable crash test scores, generous interior space and several unique features, the XC60 is ideally set up to keep your family comfortable and safe.
Frankly, that description makes the XC60 sound pretty similar to the safe and practical Volvo wagons that were once so popular. And in a way, the XC60 is indeed the modern Volvo wagon. Yet even if the XC60 accomplishes similar goals, it does so with handsome, unique styling that stands in sharp contrast to those boxy Volvos of yore. Whether you're looking at its nicely sculpted exterior or enjoying the distinctive shapes, surfaces and color combinations of its chic interior, the XC60 not only stands out from its predecessors but also from its contemporary competitors as well. It can even be pretty sporty thanks to the R-Design model and its extra power for 2012.
Notably, the XC60 is one of the few vehicles on the road in 2012 to get a perfect five stars in the government's tougher, new crash tests. It also offers a slew of safety features designed to prevent an accident in the first place. Especially nice for young families are the dual booster seats for children that pop up in the backseat. You'll no longer have to remove Junior's booster (and find some place to put it) when you go out for an evening with the neighbors. Your friends will also appreciate the greater amount of room the XC60 provides compared to its rivals.
As for those rivals, the well-rounded Audi Q5 comes closest to matching the XC60's family friendliness, while being a tad more luxurious as well. The Mercedes-Benz GLK350 isn't as roomy as the Volvo, but it boasts solid build quality, added refinement and a similar emphasis on safety. You could also consider SUVs from non-premium automakers that provide as much or more practicality than the XC60 for a lower price, such as the Ford Edge or Nissan Murano.
These are all good choices, but when it comes to finding family-friendly transport in a stylish, luxurious package, it's hard to beat the 2012 Volvo XC60.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Volvo XC60 is a compact luxury SUV that seats five people. It is available in 3.2, T6 and T6 R-Design trim levels. Each is available in standard, Premier Plus and Platinum sub-trims, while the 3.2 gets an additional Premier sub-trim.
Standard features on the XC60 3.2 include 17-inch wheels, roof rails, heated mirrors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with memory functions and adjustable lumbar, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, fabric upholstery, a leather-wrapped wheel and shifter, a split-folding 40/20/40 backseat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The 3.2 Premier and T6 add silver-painted roof rails, tinted rear windows, a panoramic sunroof, an eight-way power passenger seat and leather upholstery. The T6 differs with its more powerful engine and 18-inch wheels.
The Premier Plus sub-trims add parking sensors, a power liftgate, a cargo cover and power-folding rear head restraints. The Platinum trims gain a rearview camera, a navigation system, real-time traffic and a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system.
Each R-Design model is pretty similar in feature content to its T6 counterpart save for extra power, a sport-tuned suspension, special styling features, twin chrome exhausts, special interior trim, a sport steering wheel and sport seats.
The Climate package adds headlight washers, heated windshield washer nozzles, automatic wipers, heated front and rear seats and an interior air quality sensor. The Technology package adds adaptive cruise control, a collision warning and active brake system, a distance alert system, a driver attention warning system and a lane-departure warning system. Stand-alone options available on all trims include keyless ignition/entry, a blind-spot warning system, integrated rear booster seats and a rear entertainment system with dual screens.
The T6 can be equipped with the Dynamic package, which adds an adaptive suspension, speed-sensitive steering and adaptive headlights (available separately on 3.2 and T6).
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Volvo XC60 3.2 comes with a 3.2-liter inline-6 that produces 240 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard, but all-wheel drive is optional. Volvo estimates that the 3.2 takes 9.1 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with front drive and 18/24/20 with all-wheel drive. Both are average for the segment.
The T6 gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 good for 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are standard. In Edmunds testing, a T6 hit 60 mph in 7 seconds, which is average for the class. EPA fuel economy estimates are 17/23/20.
The T6 R-Design gets a more powerful version of this engine good for 325 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are also standard. In Edmunds testing, it hit 60 mph in a rapid 6.2 seconds -- only the BMW X3 xDrive35i is quicker. Volvo says fuel economy estimates will be identical to the regular T6.
Every 2012 XC60 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and whiplash-preventing front seats. Also standard is City Safety, which can mitigate or avoid a low-speed frontal impact by applying the vehicle's brakes without driver intervention. Optional features include integrated child booster seats, blind-spot warning, collision warning and active braking, distance alert, driver attention warning, lane departure and a heartbeat monitor that can detect intruders inside the vehicle.
In Edmunds brake testing, an XC60 T6 came to a stop from 60 mph in 119 feet, which is a bit better than average. In government crash tests, the XC60 received a perfect five stars for overall crash protection, with five stars for both overall frontal impact and side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the XC60 its highest score of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Volvo has been making an effort in recent years to give its vehicles some interior flair, and the five-passenger XC60 is the brand's best result yet. The thin-panel center stack -- which comes with metallic trim as standard and real oak trim as an option -- combines with the optional two-tone upholstery to make the XC60's cabin look both modern and inviting.
The straightforward dual-temperature adjustment dials and "mode man" pictogram make climate-control adjustments simple and intuitive. The audio system is fairly easy to use, too, though the array of small audio buttons is starting to look dated. The available DVD-based navigation system's interface works fine in practice (especially when operating the included iPod interface), but Volvo's navigation software still feels a few years behind.
The rear seat is particularly roomy as small crossovers go, with a high seat cushion, above-average headroom and decent legroom for adults. The available integrated dual child booster seats are a great feature. To accommodate cargo, the versatile 40/20/40-split rear seat can be folded in a number of different ways and maximum cargo space is a useful 67 cubic feet.
The 2012 Volvo XC60's impressive blend of performance and comfort should satisfy the majority of shoppers looking for a small luxury crossover. The T6's turbocharged engine lacks the aural excitement one might expect, but its smooth and energetic power delivery make it the preferred XC60 engine. In R-Design tune, the T6 is quicker than almost every other compact luxury crossover. Models with the base 3.2-liter engine are noticeably slower.
On the highway, the XC60 is quiet and stable. It also has one of the most comfortable rides in its class. Although this makes it feel a little soft when going around corners, the XC60 nevertheless remains poised even when rushed. No, we wouldn't call it fun, but we wouldn't call it uninvolved, either.