Last week, we flew out to Arizona to test Volvo’s lineup for 2012. You can check out the first part of our article about the 2012 Volvo XC70, here.
On the second day we took the XC60 on the Sedona Driving route. It is a diverse stretch of open road that really gives you a feel for how a car drives in a varying set of driving situations. For instance there was in-town driving, switchbacks, a bit of traffic and even snow at the higher elevations along the route. R-Design is Volvo’s effort in the performance arena, and with Polestar, it is more than just an appearance package. In the past Volvo tried its hand at offering a dedicated performance brand with the S60R and other R themed models. That effort offer a performance brand akin to BMW’s M Division and AMG over at Mercedes-Benz didn’t last too long. Somewhere along the line they figured out that outrageous doesn’t work for Volvo. R-Design’s basic premise is that the original package works quite well, and that there are enthusiasts and design-focused individuals who want it in a sportier and more avant garde flavor. We always liked the idea of R-Design right from the get go, and that was when the car was at the same power level as the standard XC60.
Polestar included gives the car an extra kick. You can really feel the boost too; the added power helps drop the XC60′s 0-60 time by 0.3 seconds. Throttle response was excellent throughout the mountain ranges. The inline “T6″ six-cylinder is a lovely engine, and a great match for the XC60′s chassis. With Polestar, the XC60 R-Design generates 325 horsepower and 354 pound feet of torque. Steering is very tight, which results in good behavior on the switchbacks. Only small corrections to the wheel and tight inputs are needed with grip excellent at speed. It was really an enjoyable driving route. This more sporting character is a result of a 10 percent stiffer suspension and 10 percent tighter steering ratio on the R-Design model.
XC60 and XC70 could not be more different in their approaches to driving, as well as design. While the XC70 is boxy and utilitarian, the XC60 goes for smooth, aerodynamic surfaces. It is very stylish, and manages to still be uniquely Volvo thanks to defining design cues such as the vertical rear taillights. Stylistically, the R-Design package does a lot for the XC60, which is already a handsome crossover as it sits.
Changing up some key elements like swapping out black plastic for body-color cladding and adding 20-inch wheels that fill the wheel wells give the crossover a different personality. If the XC60 R-Design looks lower, it’s just visual trickery, since the R-Design’s ride height remains the same. The XC60 is one of the most modern-looking and stylish designs in the segment, and R-Design kicks that up a notch with subtle but substantive changes.
The interior of the R-Design features two-tone seating surfaces, with leather and a ribbed material offering textural variety. Our vehicle had a cream and black interior combination that was light and airy. Material quality was also some of the best we’ve seen on any modern Volvo, besting the XC70.
One thing interesting we noticed on both XC60 and XC70 is a focus on rear-seat passengers. Instead of vents down low in the center console like usual, they are located in the B-pillar, which is an optimal location for outboard passengers. That is a key different, along with the availability of rear-seat heaters. There are only a few cars that feature this, and it is a nice comfort item that is usually only enjoyed by the driver and front passenger.
As far as Volvo’s standard, and class-exclusive City Safety system, we got an unplanned test of the system at the upper end of its operating range. Out of the blue a driver pulled out from a driveway onto the road, at a very unreasonable distance. The XC60 immediately signaled with a warning in the instrument cluster, priming the brakes for a quick stop. This proved invaluable as a safety feature. City Safety is standard on every XC60.
R-Design is a really compelling package for the Volvo XC60. If we were looking at this car, we wouldn’t have it any other way. R-Design will likely attract enthusiasts for its substantive changes as well as those who want a more avant garde styling package inside and out. Addition of Polestar makes it all that more appealing and the result is a very dynamic, balanced package that we think a lot of consumers will find attractive. Evidently Volvo is having a hard time building enough XC60s to keep up with demand. After spending quality time with this CUV in Arizona, we can clearly see why.