Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design (2012)

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Have you ever wondered what happened to Volvos televised crash tests where it seemed nothing could hurt the darned things? Well the TV grandstanding may have ended but the Swedish engineers are still hard at work across the pond ensuring the cars and SUV’s they build are as safe as ever.

With that said, I recently had the opportunity to drive the Volvo XC60 T6 R-design, a compact luxury SUV that should be on your shopping list if you’re looking in the $33 to $43 thousand dollar range.

The XC60 is a 5 passenger Sport Ute that separates itself from European, Asian and American SUV’s in its class with a sporty, aerodynamic exterior design and a unique approach to interior luxury.

This is not the old boxy design of years past, so get that out of your head right now. As for the interior, it hits a certain “I like it, minimalist” style that is quite appealing. Let me explain; the center stack in the XC60 isn’t cluttered like most of today’s other offerings. The flat panel between driver and front seat passenger has enough space around the audio and climate controls that it makes a statement…it actually draws your attention to its clean, sparse, approach to design. Nicely done I say.

As for standard features, the list is long and includes all of the niceties you’d expect in a luxury compact SUV. I’m not sure how many times you use heated seats in Houston, Texas, but I, for one, can do without the Climate Package and I’m not a big fan of sunroofs. In this heat, are you kidding me? Unfortunately, it’s part of the T6 designation. Okay, I’ll take it if I have to.

The interior leather and fabrics are also different, from the stitching placement to the headliner. Now you may think, “How can he make such a big deal out of these subtle little things?” It’s the subtle little things that add up to make the whole and the whole in this story is a fabulous, different kind of ride from the everyday, run-of-the-mill luxo sport utility vehicles.

The ride quality is also different – it must be in the water or something over there. A taut ride usually translates into harsh or stiff, but the Volvo XC60 is more sports car-like; nimble to throw around corners but doesn’t give you the feeling of being top-heavy.

My T6 R-design is fitted with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder power plant. Most 6’s these days are of the V variety – 3 cylinders on each side. This may help designers put that engine in a small space but it many cases it hurts torque. On the other hand the straight 6 typically produces enough grunt to be felt the moment you leave a standing start. Turbo charge it and you’re gonna kick almost every one else’s butt.

My first hot rod motor was a Inline 6 with two one barrel carbs an Offenhauser manifold and dual point ignition. Had so much torque, it pulled the front wheels off the ground during hard launches.

Of course power comes from fuel and the T6 R-design is a little thirsty getting only 17-city and 23-highway.

The T6 also comes standard with all-wheel drive while the lower priced XC60’s are equipped with rear-wheel drive and all-wheel optional.

As for competitors in this upper end class of SUV’s I would have to include the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK 350. Personally, I like the Volvo better than either one. That’s not to say they suck…not at all. I just like that Swedish touch – no not message, Mikey.

The base price of the Volvo XC60 is $33,300 while the all decked out T6 R-Design begins at $43,700. Tack on the Platinum bells and whistles and your drive out is about 50 G’s.

I’ll give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.