Volvo XC60 T6: No dragon tattoo here


Photo courtesy of Volvo
Warren Brown
Columnist September 14, 2012

Corporate takeovers can be beneficial. It all depends on the purpose of the takeover. If it is to strip an ailing company of its few remaining resources, and do so at maximum profit to the new owners, the company will die and its workers will perish. If it is to improve what is good, and do so by encouraging many current employees to stretch their imaginations and redouble their efforts in pursuit of maximum quality, a corporate takeover can be a very good thing.

It has been two years since the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of Hangzhou, China, bought Volvo Cars from Ford Motor Co. for the bargain price of $1.8 billion. But the evidence, based on a week-long drive of a Geely-sponsored 2013 Volvo wagon, is that Geely is doing a much better job of handling Volvo than Ford did during its ownership of the Swedish car company.

Warren Brown is a columnist who writes about autos for The Washington Post. View Archive

The wagon in question is the 2013 Volvo XC60 T6 with all-wheel drive.

It possesses a simplicity in engineering and design that beautifully reflects its Swedish roots. There is nothing conflicted about it, as was the case with too many Volvo vehicles under the tutelage of Ford, which seemed more interested in turning Volvo into a manufacturer of oversize luxury sport-utility vehicles than anything else.

Geely, judging from the execution and design of the new XC60 T6, seems to have decided to trust Volvo to be Volvo without any overlay of misguided corporate-parent ambitions to be what it isn’t and never was — a gilded, luxury motor vehicle, given to pomp and circumstance, with safety, comfort and ease of use offered as secondary attractions.

Geely, in short, is selling Volvo as Volvo — a tough, safe, well-engineered, simply but beautifully designed wagon (in this case) that can serve as a long-distance travel companion and family hauler over rough roads and in inclement weather. There is nothing especially sexy about it. But if it is a happy, consistent commitment you want in a relationship with a car or wagon, the 2013 Volvo XC60 T6 with all-wheel drive offers that in abundance.

In fairness, Ford did many good things during its stewardship of Volvo Cars, which it bought from Sweden’s AB Volvo in 1999 for $6.45 billion. It infused the company with a lot of sorely needed cash to modernize its production operations. The problem was Ford’s vision. It had bought a company that gained fame for making cars that could survive harsh driving conditions and offer drivers and passengers a better-than-even chance of surviving horrific crashes. Ford, unsuccessfully, tried to turn Volvo into one of its motorized luxury baubles, one that just happened to have a reputation for excellent safety.

It is a matter of emphases, and Geely’s hands-off, let-Volvo-do-what-Volvo-does-best approach seems to be working better.

That means prestige seekers and self-avowed auto enthusiasts are not likely to find the all-wheel-drive XC60 T6 wagon to their liking. Here’s why:

Despite its beautifully rounded exterior, the XC60 T6 is an unabashed family wagon. Everything about it says family — its two-tone leather seats with the darkest and thickest covering on seatbacks, which are usually the targets of children kicking and scuffing; an exceptionally versatile rear loading area in which the rear seats easily fold to form a flat load floor, and in which a sub-floor compartment provides lots of space for things you want to keep completely out of sight; an available automatic rear hatch that opens wider than those of many competitive wagons, allowing you to load and haul all kinds of odd-shaped stuff.

I have said many times, in this space and elsewhere, that Volvo offers the most comfortable seats in the car business. The five available seats in the XC60 T6 bear this out. There is enough space in the rear seats to create adequate demilitarized zones for warring children. And should you be of a mind to bring along pets with that brood, Volvo offers accessories to create two separate XC60 compartments for dogs (preferred here), cats or other furry types in the cargo area.

The XC60 T6 comes with a turbocharged 3-liter six-cylinder engine creating maximum 300 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque. That’s more than enough power for people who just want to move themselves, their families and their stuff from one place to another as quickly and safely as possible.

The turbocharger, which pulls more air into engine combustion chambers for a better air-fuel mix, creating more power without egregiously increasing fuel consumption, does its work quietly, unobtrusively. The XC60 T6’s exhaust note is pleasant, neighborhood-friendly.

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