Volvo XC60 — Engine technology on display

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The all-new Drive-E engine architecture has transformed Volvo's 60 Series vehicles into frugal high-performance driving machines using both a supercharger and a turbocharger on its new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making an energetic 302 horsepower while providing class-leading fuel economy. Earlier this year we drove the 2015 S60 E-Drive T6 sedan and came away astounded by the performance and gas mileage. Next up was the compact 2015 XC60 crossover and it did not disappoint.

The XC60 is a quiet, stylish and well-mannered hauler with scads of features that have kept Volvo at the head of the class in safety features. Adding the four-cylinder technology is a defining moment for Volvo making the 2015 edition a must-see for the luxury crossover shopper.

The new Drive-E actually comes in two flavors, labeled T5 and T6. The T5 is a turbocharged version of the new engine making 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. But it's the T6 that has set Volvo apart from the rest of the industry. It has already won several honors, and was recently awarded a Popular Science "Best of What's New" award.

With the new T6 engine, the supercharger kicks in immediately to add power at low speeds, where most small engines feel weak. This buys time for the turbocharger to engage once the engine revs up.

We found the hand-off from supercharger to turbo so seamless and quiet that you don’t really notice it. The supercharger provides instant boost, allowing the XC60 to dig hard from a stop. There’s no induction roar, exhaust bark, supercharger whine or any other indication that you are piling coals on in the engine room. The dominant sound is that of the wind rushing over the A-pillars and door mirrors.

Plus, the combination of a twin-charged motor and an eight-speed automatic transmission (with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters) pretty much guarantees that you’re not at a loss for acceleration when needed. And here's the bottom line — the engine in the XC60 has been timed at 6.1 second from 0-to-60 and 14.6 seconds at 97 mph in the quarter mile. And it carries a fuel economy rating of 22 city, 30 highway and 25 combined. The smaller T5 is rated at 24/31/27. Mileage is helped by Volvo's engine stop/start system, and while it is not totally unobtrusive it is better than most competing systems.

If all-wheel drive is a must the XC60 with a carryover six-cylinder is currently your only choice. Volvo's 3.2-liter inline-6 that produces 240 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission has rather leisurely performance measured at 9.1 seconds 0-to-60 and yields a rather average 18 city/25 highway mpg.

For those people who want a little more performance from their all-wheel drive experience, Volvo has carried over the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6 making 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque and the R Design version making 325 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. Mileage ratings are 17/24/20. Expect a Drive-E with all-wheel drive in late 2016 or early 2017.

On the road, the XC60 Drive-E is comfortable and controlled with very accurate speed-sensitive steering. It handled the twists and turns of our usual winding road "test tracks" with competence. Its combination of performance and handling trumps most of the competition.

The cabin features a modern design that works well. The "floating" center stack is one of the car's most distinctive features. The dual-temperature adjustment dials and "mode man" pictogram make climate control adjustments simple and intuitive. The audio system's phone-style number pad and surrounding buttons may look a bit antiquated in the luxury class these days, but they're simple and make controlling basic stereo functions easy.

A couple of things that made our test car a delight were the Technology package that included an excellent adaptive cruise control system, collision warning, lane departure warning, and blind sport monitoring; and a 160-watt high performance audio system with eight speakers. There's even a better 650-watt, 12-speaker system available. The ergonomics are top notch with good sight lines and comfortable seats surrounded by a strong, safe structure. The interior materials are very good and everything works with a precision that is friendlier than that of comparable German luxury makes.

The 2015 XC60 starts at $36,675 to the T5 Drive-E and goes up to $47,575 for the T6 R Design AWD. Our T6 Drive-E edition carried a base price of $41,825 and a bottom line of $50,175 with several options included.

Base price: $36,675; as driven, $50,175
Engine: supercharged & turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 302 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 295 foot-pounds @ 1,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 109.2 inches
Length: 182.8 inches
Curb weight: 4,043 pounds
Turning circle: 38.4 feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 30.8 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 67.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity:18.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 30 highway, 22 city, 25 combined
0-60: 6.1 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Audi Q5, BMW X3, Acura RDX

The Good
• Outstanding performance
• Above average gas mileage
• Well-crafted cabin
• Large cargo area

The Bad
• Rear seats don't recline

The Ugly
• AWD tied to carryover 6-cylinder engine