Behind the Wheel

2020 Volvo XC60 Review: Sporty, practical, good looking, and extraordinarily safe

Americans don't like station wagons, but they do love SUVs.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

When people find out what I do, they invariably ask me what car I own. Presumably they feel this will reveal some great insight into the automotive world, or they just are curious that, of the many hundreds of cars I've driven and reviewed over the years, which one stuck out so much that I decided I needed to have it.

The answer is, of course, a Volvo wagon. Journalists love Volvo wagons. I once borrowed one from Volvo for a month (it was brown, of course), and my dad had one when I was growing up (and then another one when I was learning to drive as a teenager). I've written about them before. I have a 2016 Volvo V60 and I just drove it from New Hampshire to San Diego over four-and-a-half days and it was absolutely lovely.

2020 Volvo XC60 Inscription The stylish Volvo XC60 is the little brother of the XC90.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

New Hampshire to San Diego is a three-thousand-mile jaunt and is about as far as you can go from one end of the country to the other. I also managed to visit Oklahoma and Arkansas, two of the states I hadn't visited before, on the way (Remaining: Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Montana, and North Dakota).

Volvo wagons are also sporty, eminently practical, rather good looking, and extraordinarily safe. Curiously, they're also rather unpopular here in the States because there exists something that Americans love even more than sporty, practical wagons: the Sport Utility Vehicle.

Luckily, in addition to the V60 wagon that I own, Volvo makes the XC60 SUV. It's the mid-size variant and is probably the vehicle I recommend the most when people ask me which car to buy because it's sporty, practical, good looking, and extraordinarily safe. It's not as good looking or as sporty as the V60, but it's arguably even more practical and equally safe.

In Volvo-parlance, the V in V60 stands for "Versatile" and the XC in XC60 stands for Cross Country, which is also an off-roady variant of the V60. Confused yet? Don't be.

2020 Volvo XC60 Inscription The rear of the SUV blends it in with the rest of the Volvo crowd.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

These days, Volvo sells sedans (S), wagons (V), and SUVs (XC). The number at the end tells us how big it is (40, 60, 90). So, XC60 is the medium sized SUV which means that's the one to buy. The XC90 is larger and drives like it. Sure, there are three rows and more cargo space, but if you don't need three rows, you should buy the XC60 because it's far nicer to drive and quite a bit nicer on the wallet as well.

My tester was a top-tier Inscription model with almost all the bells and whistles, with a "T6" engine — that translates to a super- and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit that makes 316 horsepower. It's incredibly clever and they've been building that engine for more than five years now. In one form or another, it powers every car that Volvo makes. There's also a T5 variant that is solely turbocharged and a plug-in hybrid T8 variant that goes more than 20 miles on a charge (I reviewed the XC90 T8 earlier this year).

But like with the XC60, the T6 is also the engine sweet spot. It purrs like a kitten and propels you from zero to 60 mph faster than you expect. I don't quote the actual time here because what does it matter? This is a family SUV. It's got plenty of go when it needs it.

2020 Volvo XC60 Inscription Elegant finishes and soft leather make the XC60 a fully luxurious vehicle.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

The Inscription trim is the luxury version and it isn't strictly necessary, but includes niceties like four-zone climate control, fancy interior lighting, auto-dimming mirrors, power-folding rear seats, navigation, and some other stuff. The Advanced Package is $2,500 and includes Volvo's Pilot Assist driver assist system which I would have enjoyed greatly on my cross-country drive. It's an advanced lanekeeping system that makes driving on the highway considerably less taxing because the car does a bunch of the steering for you. It's not hands-free, but it's close. Hand's-free driving is coming on the next-gen XC90.

The Luxury package is another $2,200 and includes extraordinarily comfortable seats that massage you, but isn't strictly necessary if you're on a budget. The 4-corner air suspension ($1800) and 20-inch wheels ($800) are also skippable items, though I'd be hard-pressed to pass up on the exquisite $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system. It can perfectly replicate the acoustics of the Gothenburg Concert Hall which is a nifty party trick.

All in, my tester XC60 was $65,740 delivered straight from Gothenburg, Sweden. If you're frugal and willing to sacrifice some luxe features, you can get the XC60 Momentum trim down into the low-50's or even high-40's.

2020 Volvo XC60 Inscription The rear seats are just as comfortable as the front seats.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

Whichever you buy, the XC60 will keep you safe and treat you right, and you can't ask for more.

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Honda is working with Verizon on self-driving cars technology.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

The Mcity campus was designed to be a proving ground for new technologies. Honda and Verizon are utilizing it as such as they partner to explore how Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband and 5G Mobile Edge Compute (MEC) can be used to ensure quick and reliable communication between road infrastructure, vehicles, and pedestrians.

The 5G technology leverages cloud technology to deliver lower latency, a large amount of bandwidth, and improved communication. This communication includes the way that vehicles interact with ther cars, traffic lights, pedestrians and emergency vehicles to improve threat detection and avoid accidents when seconds matter most. That's where the "V2" in acronyms like "V2V" (vehicle-to-vehicle) and "V2X" (vehicle- to-everything).

Honda and Verizon Test How 5G Enhances Safety for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles www.youtube.com

Honda has been working since 2017 to develop a technology that will help to create a collision-free society. The technology, called Safe Swarm, uses V2X communication to enable vehicles to communicate with other road users and share key information such as location, speed, and vehicle sensor data.

There are some obstacles, not the least of which is the need to outfit each vehicle with onboard artificial intelligence capabilities. The use of 5G helps move the AI capabilities from the vehicle to the MEC, reducing the need for AI onboard each vehicle.

"The ability to move computing power to the edge of our 5G network is an essential building block for autonomous and connected vehicles, helping cars to communicate with each other in near real-time and with sensors and cameras installed in streets and traffic lights," said Sanyogita Shamsunder, vice president of Technology Development and 5G Labs at Verizon. "When you consider that roughly 42,000 people were killed in car accidents last year and 94% of accidents are caused by human error, our new technologies including 5G and MEC can help drivers 'see' things before the human eye can register and react helping to prevent collisions and save lives."

Three safety scenarios have been explored as part of the testing:

  • Pedestrian Scenario - A pedestrian is crossing a street at an intersection. An approaching driver cannot see the pedestrian due to a building obstructing the view. Smart cameras mounted in the intersection relay information to MEC using the 5G network. Verizon's MEC and V2X software platforms detect the pedestrian and vehicle and determine the precise location of road users assisted by Verizon's Hyper Precise Location services. A visual warning message is then sent alerting the driver of the potential danger.
  • Emergency Vehicle Warning Scenari - A driver cannot see an approaching emergency vehicle and cannot hear its siren due to the high volume of in-vehicle audio. Verizon's MEC and V2X software receive a safety message from the emergency vehicle and send a warning message to nearby vehicles. The driver receives a visual warning.
  • Red Light Runner Scenario - A vehicle fails to stop at a red light. Using data from the smart cameras, MEC and V2X software detect the vehicle and send a red-light-runner visual warning message to other vehicles approaching the intersection.

You can watch the video of Honda and Verizon's Mcity tests at http://honda.us/5GResearch.

Honda isn't the only company exploring what 5G communication can offer. Pirelli has installed the tech in its tires and BMW recently updated its My BMW app to make it compatible with the new technology. Audi is working on similar technology out on the road in Virginia and Georgia.

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The F-150 has gotten an available hybrid power plant for 2021.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Don't get so focused on similarity of the headlights and bed of the redesigned 2021 Ford F-150 that you miss the significant new details that make the truck one of the best you can buy. Consider that its revisions are a response to consumer demands and the F-150 really begins to shine.

One of the shiniest spots of the F-150 PowerBoost comes from its hybrid powertrain. Its also one of its sorest points. Each F-150 hybrid is equipped with a 3.5-liter hybrid V6 engine. Unlike some engines that are calibrated for fuel economy ahead of power availability, the Ford engine allows for both delivering 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque upon request.

2021 Ford F-150 interior features The interior of the F-150 is quite well-appointed, but not as luxurious as the Ram 1500. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

It never really feels like the truck wants for power, but switching from all-electric power off the line to a traditional hybrid power combination while getting up to speed makes the truck shutter to life. Playing it easier on the accelerator does help, not that you need to be a lead foot to make the shutter happen.

Through it all, the transmission doesn't question what is happening. It's smooth as silk, with the same gear ratios with the hybrid engine as it has with all other available F-150 engines.

Buyers can get their PowerBoost powertrain with either two- or four-wheel drive. The 2WD version is more efficient, but just barely, putting up 25 mpg combined to the 4x4's 24. The other F-150 engines fall between 19 and 21 mpg combined. Towing and hauling will significantly impact those numbers (it has a 12,000-pound towing capacity).

As tested in the mid grade Lariat trim, the Ford F-150 felt just right. It wasn't as fancy as the Platinum or King Ranch versions of the truck, but comfortable enough to be lived in with the right blend of refinement and tech. It's a truck you can use every day, not worry about getting dirty, and take your date out in on a Friday night.

2021 Ford F-150 Lockable rear under-seat storage is a major plus when it comes to grocery shopping. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

With the SuperCrew box, the F-150 Lariat starts at $47,055. For the average customer the truck's equipment list is going to make it feel pretty loaded: 12-inch driver information screen, 12-inch infotainment screen, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Wi-Fi hot spot, leather-trimmed seats, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, a Class IV trailer hitch, and Ford Co-Pilot360 2.0.

Plus, it has most of the features that Ford has included as part of its generational revision like the tailgate work surface, lockable rear under-seat storage, flat fold-out work surface in the center console, and foldable shifter.

It all works well, almost too well, as a matter of fact. The features of the interior of the truck are almost nice enough to get you to forget how well the Ram 1500 is appointed for a similar price tag. But, the Ram 1500 doesn't have a full hybrid system, on-board generator, or a host of other technologies that the Ford has.

2021 Ford F-150 interior features The center console folds out to a flat surface that can be used for work or as a table. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Ford is better than the Chevrolet 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, and Ram at all but one thing. Fix the shutter from a stop and the F-150 PowerBoost will quickly become the best choice for pickup truck buyers.

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