For the Volvo Enthusiast

Swedespeed Project XC60: Introduction

It’s hard to deny the luxury crossover segment. While most of the automotive market has slumped or even nose-dived during the recent recession, one of the few bright spots is the niche of car-based 5-passenger SUVs from luxury brands such as Volvo. The field varies widely from the pioneering BMW X3 to brand new competitors like the Mercedes-Benz GLK and Audi Q5 that are just as fresh-faced as the new CUV from Gothenburg that you see here. Given the newfound importance of the segment and the performance cred of the XC60 with its turbocharged inline six and surprisingly taught ride, adding one to our stable seemed a very smart move.

One needn’t look any further than the car’s steel skin to see one of the XC60’s major drawing points. Volvo designer Doug Fraser was the pen behind the brand’s stalwart seven-passenger XC90 SUV so it’s no surprise that he admits the look of the XC60 is evolutionary and more a coupe-like take on his first design with several modern Volvo design cues like the V-forming DRLs on either side of the car’s grille. The sporty appearance of the XC60 makes for one of the best-looking offerings in its class.

Pop the hood and the sporting theme continues. A very vanilla normally-aspirated 3.2-liter inline-six is late-addition base engine, but Volvo chose to launch the XC60 with its more powerful 281-hp turbo commonly called the T6. Though perhaps a little harder on gas, this is the enthusiasts’ choice in the lineup. It’s paired to a new six-speed automatic that, while unable to match the involvement of the manual offered with some XC60s available in Europe, is much quicker shifting than Volvo slushboxes of yore. We can live without the manual, which does seem silly in a crossover, but we seriously lament Volvo’s continued lack of available shift paddles to ease use of the car’s GearTronic manual-style gear selection.

Given its XC badging and its Swedish heritage, we weren’t surprised that many of the colors on the XC60 pallet are brownish derivatives to further push its rugged character as Volvo often does with the XC70. We decided to buck that trend though, acquiring our XC60 painted in a subtle metallic silver and fitted with black leather interior accented in aluminum trim for a look more industrial than organic. Only brown accent stitching on the seats hints at the car’s secret yearning to climb a mountain or go muddin’ with Bo, Luke and Cooter. And, we must admit we rather like this one subtle touch.

Base price on the XC60 T6 is $37,200. Ours came with a decent number of options including the aforementioned metallic paint ($525), a Multimedia Package with Dynaudio sound system, navigation and rear park assist camera ($2,700), and a Climate package with heated front and rear seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, headlamp cleaning system, rain sensor/humidity sensor and interior air quality system ($1,000). Our early 2009 XC60 also came with the laminated glass panoramic sunroof as a no cost option. Combine that with an $825 destination charge and our new XC60 weighed in at $42,250.

Over the next year, we plan to highlight the ownership experience of the XC60 in monthly reports. Not surprisingly, we can’t pass on the temptation to upgrade the car as well. Even though an aftermarket has yet to really explode for these luxury crossovers, the usual suspects like Heico Sportiv have already developed body kits, wheels and exhaust for the car, and there are plenty of companies readying or already selling T6 software updates for a few more ponies. Even Volvo itself has created a healthy accessories line for the XC60 including some OEM parts from the upcoming R-design version that’s just being released. Look for a further update in the next 30 days highlighting in more detail what we love, what we hate and maybe our first modification if the winter doesn’t set in too early.

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