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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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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The 2022 Acura TLX has the technology enabled.

Photo courtesy of Acura

Toyota and Lexus announced that the WarnerMedia RIDE app would be coming to their models earlier this year. Now, Honda and Acura will be offering the same.

On certain Wi-Fi enabled Honda and Acura vehicles, AT&T unlimited in-car Wi-Fi users will have access to the WarnerMedia RIDE app. The app allows users to connect multiple devices in their vehicles to browse, stream and share premium content from the WarnerMedia library while on the road.

Honda and Acura vehicle owners have been able to use their on-board modem as a hot spot for connecting up to seven devices since 2017. Models compatible for the new tech include the Acura RDX (2019-present), Acura TLX (2021), and Acura MDX (2022) across all trim levels. Honda vehicles with the tech include Accord (2018-present, Touring), Odyssey (2018-present; Touring, Elite), Insight (2019-present, Touring)., Passport (2019-present; Touring, Elite)., and Pilot (2019-present; Touring, Elite, Black Edition).

The WarnerMedia RIDE App allows passengers to access 1,000+ hours of live and on-demand entertainment. The app includes hit TV shows and movies from top brands such as Cartoon Network, CNN, HBO Max, TBS, TNT and TruTV, spanning animation, entertainment, news, sports and more.

WarnerMedia RIDE app The WarnerMedia RIDE app allows users to choose their own avatar.Photo courtesy of Acura

Users can set up profiles and personalize their user exerpience with an avatar from the WarnerMedia library. Profiles also ensure age-appropriate content with options for adults to restrict access to their profiles with an access code.

"Wireless connectivity and connected car services continue to be key features for customers and our long-standing relationship with AT&T continues to be one way we deliver exciting new content to Honda and Acura owners," said Art St. Cyr, vice president of North American Auto Strategy for American Honda. "Honda will continue working to enhance the in-car experience, including the capabilities of the AT&T network and access to top content with WarnerMedia RIDE."

"We're always looking for new and innovative ways to elevate the connected car experience for our customers. With WarnerMedia RIDE, we are delivering a connected experience that's perfect for journeys," said Joe Mosele, vice president, Mobility & Internet of Things, AT&T. "Our collaboration is keeping Honda and Acura owners connected wherever they travel with hours of news and entertainment for the whole family."

WarnerMedia RIDE is available now in the App Store and on Google Play for all U.S. unlimited data plan subscribers. WarnerMedia RIDE is included at no additional cost for existing and new unlimited subscribers.

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