Home Reviews 2021 Volvo XC60: The Most Excellent Middle Child

2021 Volvo XC60: The Most Excellent Middle Child

Volvo prides themselves on simplicity with elegance, and this is no exception. It’s not a gaudy car in any real way (except maybe that shift knob) but it doesn’t leave you feeling like you are missing out on a great experience. This is the Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 Inscription, a turbocharged, super-charged, plug-in hybrid beast. Let’s dive in, shall we?

SwerveAutos Score: 80/100

Styling 8/10Volvo-8.jpg

Ever unassuming, the Volvo design language is arguably timeless. They’ve become less boxy over the years, but it’s still a boxy design all things considered. And despite many years of this XC crossover being the same generation, they’ve continued to make updates and improvements. The very distinct Volvo taillights dominate the rear and guide your eyes to the “V O L V O” logo. The lights are all LED, and the bit extending onto the hatch is mimicked in chrome below.
The front is also striking and simply beautiful. The “Thor’s hammer” daytime running light LEDs are present, wedged between projector LEDs for headlights and brights. The classic Volvo grill finishes it off nicely, though I think their logo could use updating as many other brands have done. This particular specimen is painted in Blue Denim Metallic with 20” alloy wheels in polished silver, which all pair together quite well. It’s not perfect, but it’s timelessness gives it an 8 out of 10.

Interior 9/10

The Scandinavian minimalist mindset continues in the subtle and simple interior. Equally as appealing as the exterior color, the interior has a blond Napa leather choice, mated with dark charcoal, almost black. Various bits of piano black and muted chrome adorn the cabin and separate materials nicely. Perhaps the best of all is the wood trim along the dash and center console. When I first sat down, I was struck by how few apparent buttons there were. It’s very simplified, but I came to find every single feature I could want still easily accessible. The infotainment is simple and beautiful, down to the font choices. The steering wheel is an interesting two-tone blend of the blond and black leather, which I quite liked.
And we would be remiss to not mention that shifter. Being the Recharge model, or in other words the plug-in hybrid, you get this interesting crystal shift knob. It’s stunning, but not out of place. The Bowers & Wilkins sound system is the icing on the cake, both in looks and in pure entertainment. 12-channel amplifier, 1400W output and 19 separate speakers fill the entire car with a stunning soundscape. It’s an incredible interior coming in at 9 out of 10.

Performance 8/1

Upon hearing I would get to experience the 400hp top-of-the-line Volvo with all the goodies attached to the standard 2.0L inline-4, I was thrilled to try it out. Volvo simplified things by having this same engine in all its cars, only altering it by turbocharging, supercharging, and/or electric motors and PHEV system. Having all three, I expected pure bliss. In reality, it was really good. Genuinely. But not pure bliss. It has a fair bit of spring in its step, but it is delayed from when you hope for it. But when it does reach its optimal power a couple seconds into the sprint, you find yourself smiling.
The PHEV portion lets you charge via a standard J1772 connector, and will take you up to 18 miles on EV-only power. That was possibly the best experience, and depending on your commute may be the majority of your driving. The air suspension on this particular model was another welcome inclusion, feeling nicely planted in the corners, albeit a bit stiff at times with too many bumps. Overall it performs well, plenty of capability for almost anyone, bringing it a solid score of 8 out of 10.

Practicality 7/10

The XC60 being the middle child actually works to its advantage quite a bit. You have the most leg room of all the CUV’s they offer, not having to compromise for a 3rd row and leaving a decent-sized trunk area. Interior storage otherwise wasn’t super impressive, but had most everything I needed. All 5 seats were functional, though that middle seat in the back was inhibited by the transmission tunnel an uncomfortable backing.
Volvo-14.jpgAs a four-seater, however, this would be an incredible option, both for around town and on road trips. The fuel economy only gets up to about 30 MPG as standard, but with the PHEV functionality optimized, it rates it closer to 60 MPGe. Even 30 isn’t a bad number for a CUV, but given the hybrid counterpart it does seem a bit low on their priority list. There’s some room for improvement, but overall quite practical, enough for a 7 out of 10.

Comfort 8/10

The seats were composed of a perforated Napa leather, and were a pleasant surprise. The surprise is somewhat due to the initial feeling when sitting, as you may wonder about all the specific bumps and textures. However, after just a few minutes, I realized they were very comfortable, just not in the “cloud-like” way you find in some cars. They are incredibly adjustable, including 2D lumbar, bolster width, and thigh extensions.

The heating and ventilating worked well, and to my surprise, could be used simultaneously. I wish more cars had that option! The back seats also had ample comfort as well as legroom and headroom. It’s very comfortable, both front and back, at least 4 of the 5 seats…. seat math aside, the score for comfort is 8 out of 10.

Tech 8/10

The tech is another impressive factor of modern Volvo, including the HUD, wireless charging pad, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and the impressive screens both in front of the driver and in the middle. I do wish the middle screen was a bit bigger, or at least wider. The way CarPlay is laid out, it’s a bit scrunched. I also think wireless CarPlay would have been a nice addition, but that was not included in any way.
The wireless charger is a bit finicky with its placement, but works well as long as your don’t accelerate too quickly. The Pilot Assist cruise control complete with lane-centering, auto-dimming mirrors, brights, and rain-sensing wipers all worked perfectly, which helped build on the effortless drive. The center screen is a bit slow on initial startup, but quickly becomes usable and its easy interface helps it along with a total tech score of 8 out of 10.

Connected Services 8/10

Like everything else these days, Volvo has an app. Called “Volvo On Call” it allows your to start your car remotely, lock/unlock the doors, and see statistics of driving. Within the car you have Sensus Connect, which houses a few various streaming apps and the capability to use your smartphone to tether as a hotspot. There are also vehicle hotspot options via AT&T, with a 3 month free trial and $10-20/mo afterwards. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all models, though again, not yet wirelessly. All in all, they do include most capability anyone could ask for, and it gets a solid 8 out of 10.

Active Safety 8/10

Volvo-7.jpgOne extremely respectable trait of Volvo is their commitment to safety. Most all safety equipment is standard on all models, and it seems to be very good and useful. Rear cross-traffic alerts, automatic braking and collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, all seemed to work just fine and brought more peace of mind to any drive. The Pilot Assist cruise is standard on “90” level models, and an upgraded option on all others. This was fitted with it, and I don’t think I could go without at this point. It makes commuting more effortless, if not more interesting. Safety earns it a 8 out of 10.

Value 7/10

This is nearly the top of the line XC60, coming in at just over $70,000 as tested. It’s no small penny, but it’s also just as good, if not better than some six-figure vehicles I’ve encountered. When fitted with the B&W sound system and the air suspension, I think it’s well within its price point. Even lower trimmed models still feel premium in that distinctly Volvo way. It’s generally a good value with 7 out of 10.

Editor’s Influence 9/10

I really enjoy this car. Even reading my notes of the quirks that could be improved, they’re easily overlooked by the simplicity that i driving it. Highways were effortless with Pilot Assist, and I was never lacking in power. It may not be super quick, but I didn’t feel the hurry of the world in my quiet Swedish rolling estate.

The canyons felt planted and I enjoyed every moment of it, especially when dialed in to my favorite Taylor Swift album over the mellifluous Bowers & Wilkins speaker suite. I would happily drive this car forever, or at least until my extended warranty runs out. I can’t speak to the long term reliability of the complex power plant, but at least it made me look for excuses to drive. I’m happy to give this a 9 out of 10.

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I love the trajectory of transportation. It's always fascinating to see the emergence of technology within vehicles, and how they compete. I have a tremendous appreciation for EVs and old British all-mechanical roadsters alike. My personal daily driver is a NC Miata, but hoping to add an EV to the mix soon.