2021 Volvo XC60 Review

2021 Volvo XC60 - Recharging both the vehicle and the driver with a spa-like interior.


Remember when Volvo made rather boring, but very safe, boxes on wheels? They tended to be seen as dull and bland when I grew up in the 80s and 90s. Mostly everything (not the safety aspect) I thought about Volvo growing up has taken a 180-degree turn with their current models and much of that began with the introduction of the XC60 when it debuted in 2008. It followed the debut of the larger XC90 that was introduced several years earlier but the XC60 had a bit more design flare to it and accommodated five passengers. Fast forward to today and the XC60 is in its second official generation that debuted for the 2018 model year. It remains a five-passenger crossover that carries on Volvo's modern style inside and out and is one of their best-selling models.

There are three basic styles known as Momentum, Inscription and R-Design. Each of these styles can be paired to either the T5, T6, or the T8 eAWD powertrains. It's available with multiple powertrains, including a plug-in hybrid known as the Recharge (T8 eAWD) that this review will highlight. Base prices start at $41,700 for a front wheel drive T5 Momentum or $54,595 if you're considering the Inscription Recharge which is the lowest price plug-in hybrid offering. At the top end of the lineup is the Polestar Engineered performance variant that starts at $70,845. The configurations can get confusing and Volvo's build feature on their website is not as simple as many others, leaving me to hunt for more information. Volvo also offers subscription services for their vehicles so I would advise prospective buyers to do some homework and plan to visit a local dealer for more exact configurations and pricing options. The test vehicle for this review was a T8 eAWD Recharge Inscription model with added options that brought the price up to $71,300.

Under the hood of the Recharge model is a supercharged and turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder engine paired with a 11.6-kwh lithium-ion battery to deliver a combined 400 horsepower and 472lb.-ft. of torque. All-wheel drive is standard on the Recharge and it is estimated to go 0-60 in around 5 seconds. Acceleration is both smooth and powerful making this a nice highway ride.  It delivers a quiet ride that absorbed all road imperfections and handled curves well.

The XC60 Recharge comes with multiple drive modes that include hybrid, pure, power, AWD, Individual, and off road.  Hybrid is the default and will utilize both the electric and gas engines as needed. Performance is optimized for performance, fuel-consumption and comfort... it takes all driver thought out of the equation and lets you just drive. Pure mode maximizes fuel economy and focuses on electric operation.  The notable differences in this mode are reduced power from the air conditioner and overall vehicle performance. It will remain active until speeds exceed 78 MPH, at which time the gas engines will kick in.  Note that when in pure mode, economy is optimized so the engine start/stop function is activated; engine, gearbox, and climate system are set to Eco mode; the electric heating of the rear window and side mirrors have reduced power; and information shows up on the driver display on how to drive as economically as possible.  If you're looking for a more engaging drive and less concern with economy, select the power mode that engages both front and rear wheels providing the strongest performance and response.  AWD will improve traction in slippery conditions and off road can be used at speeds below 12 MPH, but do note that the XC60 does not have a low range and is not intended for serious off-roading.  The individual mode allows owners to customize driving dynamics to their personal preference.

It comes with a TurboCord which is dual voltage (110v and 220v) charging cable. This allows you to charge in a standard home outlet, plugging in to my 110v at night meant the XC60 would be fully charged by morning. Unfortunately, those 19 miles disappear rather quickly but you can opt to press a hold button on the center display to keep the current battery charge for a later use. There is also a charge button that uses the gas engine to charge the battery up to a certain level. Both of these functions are nice adds but ultimately a higher range that would accommodate a basic commute would be a huge improvement. Comparatively, I recently drove the Toyota RAV4 Prime that delivers 45 miles of electric range which meant that after daily charging and driving, I barely used any gas. This was not the case with the XC60 as ultimately, I did use up gas after a week of normal driving (that includes a 25-mile commute on the highway) and regular charging.

From an exterior styling perspective, the XC60 hasn't changed dramatically since its initial introduction, but it has gradually evolved to include modern Volvo touches such as the signature "Thor's hammer" LED lights up front. Volvo's newer styled grille with its logo stretched across the center looks classy surrounded in chrome trim. The side profile is where the XC60 has stayed true to its roots dating back to the initial concept that was seen in 2007. It has a longer nose with a stretched wheelbase that pushes the tires to the corners. The rear quarter panel comes almost comes to a point at the end of the character line above the rear wheels with a dramatic angle down from the C-pillar. Finally, around back the XC60's taillights continue to stretch upwards along the rear window giving it a unique style compared to many competitors. When it was refreshed, Volvo extended the lights by adding a short piece that extends across to the center toward the license plate. The LED lights in the taillights also offer a nice signature when illuminated. Dual integrated tailpipes blend into the rear bumper and V-O-L-V-O continues to be spelled out across the center like on all models. Polestar models add gold brake calipers, Polestar badging, 21" Y-Spoke lightweight forged alloy wheels, and black chrome exhaust tips.

Hopping inside, it offers a recharge for the driver. Volvo has created a spa-like environment inside many of its vehicles with a simple, but modern design. Drivers face a 12.3" digital display cluster that can be customized to personal preferences. An available head-up display showcases speed, navigation, and more in an unobtrusive, but clear projection to the windshield. At the center of the dash is a 9" vertical touchscreen that integrates with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Nearly everything can be controlled through the touchscreen and the interface is user friendly. Favorite apps can be saved to the home screen for quick discovery and climate/comfort controls are always at the bottom of the screen. Flanking the touchscreen are vertical air vents all wrapped in premium materials such as Nappa leather, driftwood trim and chrome accents. A large volume dial knob is below the screen and easily accessible.

Volvo places its keyless start knob in the center stack below the gearshift and the button must be turned to activate the car. An illuminated Orrefors Crystal gearshift is available on the Recharge Inscription model which complements the rest of the high-quality trimmings. A silver dial knob for switching the drive modes sits right below the start knob. Next to the gear shift is a wireless charging tray for your mobile device and a pair of cup holders. Up above, an available panoramic moonroof with power sunshade is standard on Inscription models.

An optional sound package is available for a premium price of $3,200 that is powered by Bowers & Wilkins.  While pricey, this system provides crystal clear clarity. Preset configurations include 'concert hall' which recreates an acoustic experience of the world-famous Gothenburg Concert Hall. What this means to the everyday person is that cranking up the volume will immerse you in the music rather than just listening and when you turn it off, there's an echo tone that you get when a band plays their last note. Other settings include jazz club, individual stage, and studio. Sound can also be customized to personal tastes.

The XC60 seats five comfortably with stylish slim seats. Front seats come with 10-way power seats with driver memory and available massaging and ventilated Nappa Leather. They don't appear to be overly bolstered with padding like some competitors, but at the end of the day I found these to be among the most comfortable seats I've been in. Rear passenger room was suitable and also include an optional built- in child booster seat which is a great convenience if you have kids who use them like mine. It's easy to use and accommodates children between 33-80 pounds and whom are at least 37" tall. Behind the second-row seats is 22.4 cubic feet of space which gets a boost to 63.3 cubic feet with the seats folded down.  To further accommodate cargo needs, Volvo offers under the floor storage, an adjustable power liftgate, and an air suspension which will lower the vehicle for easier load-in and out.

Volvo has always been synonymous with safety and that has remained the same through the years. The standard safety list is impressive and includes features such as lane-keep assist, distracted driver alert, oncoming lane mitigation, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and many more features. Additionally, Volvo's pilot assist driver system is one of the best out there. It's a driver's aid that will adjust speed, alter steering, and assist with braking when engaged.  It requires hands on the wheel at all times and works at highway speeds up to 80 MPH. The intuitive system operates smoothly and quickly adjusts as needed.

Similar to the XC90 Recharge I drove earlier this year, the XC60 is an overall impressive vehicle. I think it's a standout in the luxury mid-size crossover segment when paired against vehicles such as the Audi Q5, Acura RDX, BMW X3, Lincoln Nautlius, Lexus NX, or Mercedes-Benz GLC.  The styling is a personal favorite that is contemporary and different with signature LED lighting and sculpted shape. Inside is truly an impressive space with blends of top-notch materials, a simple layout, and modern technology. There is a range of options and prices that all come with more safety features than most. The addition of the Recharge models is one step closer to electrification for Volvo and I believe they are on the right track.

First Impression Summary:

Test Vehicle:
2021 Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 Inscription
Exterior Color: Denim Blue Metallic
Interior: Nappa Leather
Notable Options: Climate Package ($750), Advanced Package ($1,900), Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound ($3,200), 4-corner air suspension ($1,800), and 20" Alloy Wheels ($800), Metallic Paint ($645)
Price as tested: $71,340 (With Destination)

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.