2018 BMW X3 XDrive 30i vs. 2018 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design: Two luxury crossovers get prettied up for 2018, so let's put them side by side.
This week: Volvo XC60.
Price: $59,740 as tested (base price $48,200 for the trim level). The Convenience Package added $2,000 for adaptive cruise control, power folding seat, heated wiper blades, and more, while the Vision and Advanced packages totaled $3,000 for a bevy of safety features. (More options mentioned in the column.)
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver liked the "fantastic seats, stunning interior, a tiny Swedish flag," but not that the "engine lacks character, many are quicker, many are sprightlier."
Marketer's pitch: "Winning over the world."
Reality: Most improved.
What's new: Like the BMW X3 from last week, the XC60 gets a redesign for the 2018 model year. It's really based on the XC90, the flagship SUV that really gave Volvo a real leap forward.
Up to speed: Volvo's lineup-wide 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine receives different treatments depending on the model. For the XC60 T6, turbocharging creates 316 horsepower, and rockets the vehicle to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, according to Motor Trend. (The T5 level offers a less powerful engine along with other less enjoyable features.)
Adjustments: Like most vehicles in the price range, the XC60 offers adjustable drive settings. Dynamic really squeezes every last ounce of pep from the engine, but it's a little touchy for stop-and-go driving. Comfort mode actually seemed to have a bit of hesitation, especially when the engine was still cold.
Shifty: The 8-speed Geartronic automatic offers shift capability from the shift lever or via the world's smallest, most understated steering wheel-mounted paddles (part of the $3,300 R-Design package, which also gave us a 12.3-inch display, driver and passenger seat bottom extensions, drive mode settings, and some more fun stuff). But the paddles function well and are unobtrusive.
The gearshift is a real gearshift, though, not the usual electronic joystick that's found in European models.
On the road: Handling is fairly sporty – for a tall, narrow crossover. One can feel the zigs and zags on the fun curves. Still, I feel a bit of concern that the road feel of the XC60 could make the less initiated forget about the physical properties of its tallness, leading to a flurry of XC60s lying on their sides.
Driver's Seat: The leather- and nubuck-covered seat cradled Mr. Driver's Seat in comfort – a little on the firm side, but not terribly. Nubuck is Volvoese for suede, and it does offer a touch of warmth in the seat, although the seats are heated. I'd like to try it on a hot summer day and report back.
Volvo offers drivers a graphically beautiful gauge pod, with dials that have a touch of feathering and a nice typeface. Really thoughtful.
Play some tunes: Falling in love is easy. Staying in love, not so much. And so it is with Volvo's iPadlike vertical touchscreen.
I confess I was drawn in by its shiny newness and the ability to swipe into one screen for infotainment settings, the main screen for stereo, navigation, and such, and a third screen for car settings. It seemed like a solution to a lot of problems, and it's a feature I still like.
This time around, though, I realized how annoying the touchscreen can be when you just feel like switching among a few Sirius channels. Sliding the touchscreen a dozen numbers is a real pain, and, in fact, changing the settings requires hitting some pretty small icons just so.
A dial controls volume, and buttons move things forward and back, but this system is not what one would call simple.
Furthermore, the sound settings that impressed me so much in the XC90 just didn't hit the right notes in the XC60. And try as I might, I couldn't find a way to change just bass or treble.
Friends and stuff: Rear seat room is pretty nice if you don't have to sit in the middle. Outboard passengers get plenty of legroom, headroom, and foot room, while the third victim gets a big, old hump.
Cargo space is 67.6 cubic feet behind the first row, slightly bigger than the X3.
Night shift: The headlights are bright and diffuse, and they bend with the steering wheel. The interior lights are almost too subtle, but at least they don't interfere with the road.
Fuel economy: One pays for all that performance at the pump. I averaged just around 20 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver's Seat range of testing. Feed this baby premium, of course.
Where it's built: Ghent, Belgium.
How it's built: Consumer Reports predicts a 2 out of 5 for the XC60's reliability.