Crossover sport utility vehicles are everywhere but the list is short of those that won't bore you behind the wheel. One of them is this week's subject, Volvo's new XC60.
Its fuel economy is disappointing, though, and its price is steep, especially considering how many fine competitors are available with factory discounts these days. Even Mercedes-Benz' new GLK class starts more than $1,000 less than this Volvo, including four-wheel drive.
On sale since March, the XC60 is truly carlike in its road manners, something attributable in part to its relatively light weight for an SUV: under 4,200 pounds.
A quiet, leather-upholstered cabin makes this ideal for long trips.
Aside from mileage and price, my complaints are few. Volvo has hidden the key navigation controls behind the steering wheel, where one can't read their labels and where one's fingers are apt to brush the windshield wiper stalk. Side and rear windows are too deeply tinted to see outside clearly at night.
Prices start at $38,025 with freight. A package with navigation, a rear video camera for backing up and an upgraded audio system added $2,700 to the tester's price. A cold weather package added $1,000.
All-wheel drive is standard and so is the turbocharged 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine, whose 281 hp. is one reason this vehicle is so enjoyable to drive. Volvo pegs zero to 60 mph at 7.1 seconds.
Fuel economy, though, is EPA estimated at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway. Buyers abroad can opt for either of two diesels but Volvo says it has no plans to offer them here.
An unusual feature that's standard in the XC60 is "City Safety," which can prevent or at least reduce the severity of fender benders in heavy traffic by applying the brakes if the driver has not and if sensors detect an imminent rear-end collision at speeds under 19 mph. Not standard, even for $38,000, are a garage-door opener, front and rear proximity sensors for parking, or a power tailgate release. They're in a package for $1,000. Collision warning, lane departure warning and blind-spot alert all are optional as well.
It would seem to make sense for Volvo to offer a less expensive XC60 without the city assist, with a naturally aspirated engine and maybe without all-wheel drive - with a sticker price that won't look so daunting in hard economic times.
Volvo and its dealers scored below average in the last two J.D. Power and Associates rankings, one measuring customer satisfaction in the first three months of ownership and another measuring dependability over three years. Volvos scored average or above, however, in Consumer Reports latest ratings.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has published safety ratings for the XC60.
2010 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD
Engine: 3.0-liter 6-cylinder, turbocharged, 281 hp.
Safety: Six air bags; 4-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, stability control with roll mitigation and brake assist; pre-crash brake pressurization; hill descent control; rear video camera; front and rear fog lamps; tire pressure monitoring; daytime running lamps
Place of assembly: Ghent, Belgium
Cargo room, rear seat up: 30.8 cu. ft.; seat down: 67.4
EPA fuel economy estimates: 16 mpg, city; 22 highway
Price as driven: $42,250 with freight
Bottom line: Fun to drive, but pricey