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 InscriptionThe 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 InscriptionThe 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 InscriptionElegant 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 InscriptionThe 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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Volvo will install 60 ChargePoint chargers at Starbucks locations in the west and Northwest.

Volvo

Volvo plans to be an electric-only automaker by 2030, and along the way to that goal, the automaker is investing in services and infrastructure to support its vehicles. Today, Volvo announced a partnership with coffee giant Starbucks that will provide dozens of chargers at coffee shops in the west and northwest U.S.

As part of the deal, Volvo will install up to 60 company-branded chargers at up to 15 Starbucks stores on the route between Denver and Seattle. Volvo says it aims to install charging locations every 100 miles along the 1,350-mile route between the Mile-High City and Starbucks hometown of Seattle.

Volvo-Starbucks PartnershipVolvo's goal is to install a charger every 100 miles. Volvo

Though they'll have Volvo's name on the front, the chargers are from ChargePoint, and drivers will use a built-in ChargePoint app to access services. The function is available in the vehicle's infotainment system, and will help locate and use the chargers. Volvo says all EV drivers will be able to access the chargers for a fee, but notes that its owners will get free or discounted charging.

A Volvo-Starbucks partnership isn't as crazy as it sounds at first. Beyond the fact that there's likely quite a bit of overlap in both brands' customers, the move furthers Starbucks' sustainability goals and provides Volvo owners with a free or low-cost charging solution. The project should be done by the end of this year, so keep your eyes open if you're getting coffee in a Volvo EV in the area.

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Some owners have discovered that their car's video games work when the car is moving.

Tesla

Tesla's vehicles are among the most advanced and forward-thinking products of any kind, but serious innovation doesn't come with tradeoffs. The automaker has been in the news recently because of issues with how its advanced cruise control systems function, and now, Autoblog reports that the NHTSA is asking questions about Tesla giving drivers the ability to play video games and browse the internet while driving.

Tesla Arcade hands-on: the Model 3 is your video game consoleyoutu.be

The feature is intended to be used while the car is parked, such as while charging, so the discovery that people can use them while driving is a serious one. Vince Patton, the person who filed the complaint with the NHTSA, tested his car and found that he could play Solitaire and a fairly involved action game while it was in motion. Internet browsing was also possible, meaning the driver could take their attention completely off the road ahead for extended periods of time.

Tesla Model 3Tesla's screens offer advanced functions that many others do not. Tesla

Tesla was already under investigation over crashes involving its Autopilot feature. Several collisions have occurred between Teslas and emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road. Following the initiation of that investigation, the NHTSA raised other questions with the automaker over a buggy software update that was pushed out, retracted, fixed, and reissued outside of the normal recall process. Despite their names, it's important to clarify that neither the Autopilot nor Full Self-Driving features are capable of driving the cars without driver awareness and input.

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