More Than Minivans: The 2017 Volvo XC60 Is Safe and Comfortable, but Not Boring

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If you’re at all like me, the first word that comes to mind when you hear the name “Volvo” is “safe,” and the second word is probably “boring.” I’ve been a passenger in a Volvo many times, but until I got a 2017 XC60 for a week, I had never actually been behind the wheel. And I have to say, Volvo has done a good job pulling away from “boring” yet not sacrificing safety.

The 2017 Volvo XC60 is comfortable, too. The driver’s seat is adjustable in every way you could want, including lumbar support, and has three memory buttons (though, curiously, you have to hold down the button until the seat finishes readjusting). The model I tried had the “Climate” package, which adds heating capability to the front seats, the steering wheel, and the windshield. I tried the car out in April in the mid-Atlantic U.S., so there was no snow or ice to really test it, but the heated windshield is something I’ve wanted for ages – and they do an excellent job making the heating elements invisible enough that they don’t impair the driver’s vision.

With all-wheel drive and plenty of power under the hood, the XC60’s suspension still manages to keep the ride as smooth as you could want. The cabin is spacious, although my 5’9″ son did complain a bit when riding in the left rear seat , because when I drive I usually put the seat as far back as it goes, or nearly so. Of course, he’s also a teenager, so take the complaint with a grain of salt. The back seat has room for three people, and (at least in the package I tried out) an integrated booster seat for littler geeklets. I also discovered (by accident) that there’s a button on the central console that makes the rear seats’ headrests fold forwards, so if your kids get annoying (and they’re big enough, of course) you can remotely give them a gentle swat in the head. There’s also plenty of cargo space in the back.

Speaking of the central console, therein lies the only major fault I have with the car. There are too many small buttons, making it often necessary for the driver to take their eyes off the road for more than a split-second. There are some very cool options available in the various menus that you can access on the (average-size) screen, but to access them you need to turn one of the knobs in the center console and push buttons to select or back out of submenus, and it’s nonintuitive enough that I only felt safe doing it when the car was parked.

There are also some cool functions available on the dashboard, which is one big computer display. You can pick from several themes, and you can cycle between different readouts. The default theme helpfully displays the speed limit where you are (and seems to handle changes instantly). It even puts a little tick mark on the speedometer dial for the limit. The dashboard settings are controlled using a knob on the turn-signal switch, which is still not something you should probably do much with while driving, but is at least easier to use than the console.

When it comes to safety features, the XC60 comes standard with blind-spot indicators, rearview camera, and low-speed automatic emergency braking. Also available is parking assist, though I found its beeps loud and annoying enough that I disabled it most of the time. For economy’s sake, the car by default (which it resets to every time you start the car) will turn off the engine when you’re stopped for a few seconds. I must assume this saves some fuel, but it takes some getting used to – particularly when you lift your foot from the brake and the engine comes back on. The XC60 is rated EPA combined at 22-26mpg, city at 20-23mpg, and 27-30 highway, which isn’t bad for a good-sized luxury car with some power, but it’s still not great enough that adding a few more mpg wouldn’t be a bad idea, and of course the less your engine runs the better for the environment it is.

The base price for the 2017 Volvo XC60 is $41,945 – $51,995 depending on which model you get. I like the car a lot, though if I were going to spend that much on a car I think I would probably look elsewhere, even if only because of the central console.

Photos: Matt Blum.

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