With three new models on the agenda in one of the most picturesque areas in Canada, they could have called it the International Volvo Appreciation Event.
Moreover, it’s safe to say that the attending automotive critics did more than appreciate the 2020 XC90 and XC60 crossover SUVs. They drove them hundreds of kilometers in the area of Banff, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies.
The all-wheel-drive V60 wagon demonstrated its chops with runs up and down dirt roads on Kicking Horse mountain, which in the winter is a magnet for skiers, while the XC models dodged airplanes and sky divers on an impromptu performance course at a local airport near Golden, British Columbia.
There also were many miles/kilometers in the XC versions on smooth highways that were bereft of traffic but delivered curves, elevation changes and straightaways — ideal for evaluating new vehicles.
Driven for this review were Volvo’s best-selling crossover, the XC60, and the updated 2020 XC90, flagship of the Swedish manufacturer’s SUV lineup, in R-Design trim. It comes with a 316-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 295 lb-ft of torque, enough to move this three-row crossover easily though without much adrenaline rush.
The XC90 can be ordered with what Volvo calls “tailored wool blend upholstery,” an innovative addition for people like this reviewer who prefer sitting on quality cloth instead of real or faux-leather that needs to be heated and cooled. The fabric is made from wool and other recycled material and is comfortable over a broad range of temperatures.
With its three rows of seats, the XC90 can be ordered with a second-row bench seat to accommodate seven passengers or with second-row captain’s chairs for six passengers. The latter would be the choice for ease of entry to the third row, which should be reserved for children or teeny adults.
Also driven — the focus here — was the performance-oriented Polestar Engineered XC60 T8 midsize two-row crossover with all-wheel drive. It is a hybrid with a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged gasoline engine paired with an 87-hp electric motor that drives the rear wheels. The system makes 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque delivered to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Though both the XC90 and the XC60 have tactile, well weighted steering and a good handling feel, the Polestar Engineered model gets the driver’s juices flowing. It’s fast, with an advertised zero to 60 mph acceleration time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 140.
Moreover, it comes with upgraded performance brakes, highlighted by calipers painted gold that shine through the wheel spokes. Hammer the brakes hard in a simulated panic stop and the 4,733-pound crossover is almost nonchalant in reducing speed with minimal nosedive and squirrelly moves.
Enhancing the tested XC60’s handling is an Öhlins system that enables an owner to manually fine-tune the suspension system with outside adjustments at each corner. Most other systems have three or four combined settings controlled from the driver’s seat.
Cruising on the smooth Canadian highways was mostly a quiet time, with little intrusion of wind or mechanical noise. Tire noise also was minimal except on some rougher roads.
Inside, the XC60 Polestar Engineered featured Volvo’s trademark supportive and comfortable seats, optimized for long-distance cruising. Interior appointments displayed quality materials and good workmanship. The large center screen has vertical format and must be distractingly swiped side to side to access different menus.
Volvo has a negative mindset in two areas: As with other European luxury vehicles, the sunshade for the panoramic roof is made of a perforated cloth that admits too much light and heat. Sunshades should be opaque. Also, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the sides. These shortcomings were present on both the XC60 and XC90.
However, Volvo continues its emphasis on safety, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the three-point seatbelt, which first appeared on Volvo cars. The tested XC60 also had automatic forward braking with pedestrian, cyclist and large-animal detection; lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning and adaptive cruise control. Volvo also offers Pilot Assist, a partially automated self-driving system.
The base price of the tester was $72,705, including the destination charge. A couple of options, including 22-inch alloy wheels, brought the sticker to $73,490.
- Model: 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Polestar Engineered plug-in hybrid four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
- Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged and supercharged; paired with 87 hp electric motor; 415 combined horsepower, 494 pound-feet torque.
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
- Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 100/30 cubic feet.
- Weight: 4,733 pounds.
- Towing capability: 4,409 pounds.
- EPA city-highway combined fuel consumption: 27 mph on premium gasoline. Gasoline/electric combined, 57 mpg equivalent.
- Electric-only range: Up to 17 miles.
- Base price, including destination charge: $72,075.
- Price as tested: $73,490.
Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.
Photos (c) Volvo
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