2021 Volvo XC60

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2021 Volvo XC60 Test Drive Review: Sophisticated And Spirited

Nothing sums up the refreshed ethos of Swedish automaker Volvo quite like the XC60: The mid-size crossover drips with style without being ostentatious, has a distinctive and elegant interior, the build quality is on point, on-board tech is leading-edge, and there's a range of technologically innovative drivetrains on offer. Power in the base model is supplied by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine making a respectable 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Going up in the range, you'll find a 316-hp four-cylinder engine that utilizes both a supercharger and turbocharger. Topping things off, you can opt for the Recharge PHEV, which currently uses the supercharged and turbocharged engine paired with a plug-in hybrid system, and makes a healthy 400 hp. But that's not all - the Polestar Engineered version, which we had for a week-long test drive, takes this up a notch with an extra 15 horses.

There's a lot to take in when it comes to the Volvo XC60, including genuine leather in the cabin, a raft full of safety and convenience features, and those wonderful Thor's Hammer headlights. The XC60 isn't perfect, though, and the price isn't pocket change. Nevertheless, it remains a compelling vehicle in the space occupied by stalwarts like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 9 /10
  • Performance 9 /10
  • Fuel Economy 8 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 9 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 10 /10
  • Reliability 7 /10
  • Safety 10 /10
  • Value For Money 9 /10
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2021 Volvo XC60 Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2020 XC60?

There have been a number of updates to the standard features list for 2021. Safety is prioritized with every model now equipped with LED headlights, blind-spot monitoring, front parking sensors, and rear cross-traffic alert. There are new 19-inch wheel designs to appreciate this year, too, along with power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors. The infotainment has also undergone changes, with the deletion of AM Radio and the addition of a wireless charging pad.

There has been quite a bit of shuffling of the standard and available features, with park assist stripped away unless you pay extra, and several packages have been renamed and repriced as their contents have shifted to suit all the changes. Inscription models have a new package that includes massaging front seats.

The big news is the renaming of plug-in hybrid variants as Recharge models, which also boast a new entry-level trim for 2021 called the Inscription Expression. With an attractive base price, access to satisfying and efficient performance from Volvo is easier than ever.

Pros and Cons

  • Handsome exterior
  • Competent handling
  • Plenty of passenger and cargo space
  • Extensive list of standard features
  • Logical and stylish cabin layout
  • Plug-in hybrid has great acceleration
  • Expensive to buy and run
  • Not as premium inside as other European rivals
  • Some tech is a little too complicated

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2021 Volvo XC60 Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
T5 Momentum
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
T6 Momentum
2.0L Twincharged Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
T5 R-Design
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
T5 Inscription
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
T6 R-Design
2.0L Twincharged Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
See All 2021 Volvo XC60 Trims and Specs

Handling and Driving Impressions

There's a reason you rarely see a Volvo XC60 being driven aggressively. There's something about the whole package that encourages you to drive like a sophisticated adult, even if you're an impatient automotive journalist with a heavy right foot. The ride is as smooth as a kitten's fur and, unless you go with the fussier R-Design styling, the interior inspires the kind of relaxation you'll find in an upmarket and freshly built European log cabin. That doesn't mean you'll end up being that car in traffic holding everyone up, though. The standard turbocharged engine has enough get-up-and-go to do just that, while the twin-charged engine will get you cruising quickly. However, if you mash the throttle pedal, particularly with the twin-charged engine, the coarse sound of a four-cylinder engine being forced to do the work of a six-cylinder lump brings about some cognitive dissonance. You're driving a superbly smooth vehicle, yet with heavier throttle inputs, the engine sounds like there's sand in the oil.

Thankfully, the engine sound at lower revs is fine and is mostly canceled out by the plush soundproofing. Our Plug-In Hybrid tester proved to be a genuine delight. The cabin is both airy and quiet around town and when cruising on the freeway, and the engine noise only creeps in when it's being pushed. If you do push the XC60 on a back road, it's surprisingly spry - even with the weight of the hybrid system added on Recharge models. While an optional air suspension setup is available to regular models, the Polestar Engineered variant gets an Ohlins adjustable suspension as standard as well as a lightweight front strut bar and Akebono brakes. We found that while it's no sports car, the XC60 is all about getting where it's going in confident style - and, as a bonus, the Polestar Engineered version can even be quite fun.

Verdict: Is the 2021 Volvo XC60 A Good SUV?

While we love the XC60 in all its guises, we do wish Volvo had gone for a six-cylinder engine as an upgrade from the base model over the complexity of two forms of forced induction technology. Add that to the hybrid, and while there are no heavy reliability issues noted by the organizations watching for them, we don't like the idea of maintenance further down the road, and the wealth of issues having all those systems working together could present. If you're going to drive one of the upper-tier models for just three or four years, we wouldn't worry, but we have reservations about taking the twin-charged engines into 150,000 miles plus territory. Having a turbo, a supercharger, and a battery pack to think about in the future is worth bearing in mind now.

If none of that worries you, the XC60 is a wonderful crossover and a brilliant alternative to BMW's X3, Audi's Q5, and the Mercedes-Benz GLC. The XC60 lacks the full range of driving dynamics available from the X3, the cutting edge technology on the Q5, and the opulence of the GLC, but every evolution of the XC60 carves Volvo's own take on the mid-size crossover deeper into the segment.

Check out other Volvo XC60 Styles

2021 Volvo XC60 Comparisons

Audi Q5 Audi

2021 Volvo XC60 vs BMW X3

It is hard to compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW, but Volvo makes a valiant effort with the XC60. The slightly lower starting price might sway some more frugal shoppers to move over to the Swedish camp, but the BMW X3 is certainly worth the extra investment. For starters, you get a choice of two far more capable powertrains, with the stronger one developing 382 hp and 365 lb-ft. Despite having more power, the X3's engines are also more refined, so they offer better fuel economy figures. The comparable starter engine returns 25/29/27 mpg to the Volvo's 22/29/25 mpg. The X3 Hybrid also gives the XC60 Recharge a good run for its money.

However, since luxury shoppers are unlikely to care too much about fuel economy, the real comparison comes down to how each car drives and feels. The X3 is the sportier SUV, with tighter handling and even better ride comfort when taunting the corners at higher speeds. However, it falls a little behind in terms of cabin quality and available features. If speed isn't at the top of your list, the Volvo seems to be the better value proposition, but the combination of performance and sportiness in the BMW X3 will win over quite a few shoppers.

See BMW X3 Review

2021 Volvo XC60 vs Audi Q5

Much like Volvo, the German automaker prides itself on more than just designing fast, attractive vehicles. Audi understands that even elite consumers are savvy to a good deal, so fuel economy, practicality, and overall value are top of the agenda. Both midsize SUVs are equipped with capable engines, with the Q5 offering slightly more horsepower than the base T5, at 261 hp, thanks to mild hybrid assistance. This changes when you spec the Volvo with the T6 powertrain, though, since Audi does not offer a second option. Neither vehicle is going to wow drivers, but we have to give the Q5 a nod when forcing ourselves to decide which is the more enjoyable ride. Inside, the two are similarly equipped with loads of tech and a comprehensive, easy-to-use infotainment suite. It will ultimately come down to personal taste or, less likely, your budget since the XC60 is nominally cheaper.

See Audi Q5 Review

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