2021 Volvo XC60 Review

2021 Volvo XC60 - Crisp and clean inside and out, Volvo's XC60 is likely the best all around luxury compact crossover.


The Volvo XC60 is a luxury compact crossover that was most recently redesigned in 2018. It's Volvo's best-selling model and comes only as a 5-passenger, 4-door wagon. Competitors include the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5, Infiniti QX50, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Lexus NX, Lincoln Nautilus, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Porsche Macan. Changes for 2021 include the availability of adaptive headlights, hands-free lift gate and additional USB-C ports.

All XC60 models come with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Models designated T5 get a turbocharged version that makes 250 horsepower. T6 models get a turbocharged and supercharged version that makes 316 horsepower. The Recharge is a plug-in hybrid that combines the 316-horsepower engine with twin electric motors and a 10.4-kWH lithium-ion battery pack to produce a peak of 400 horsepower. Also available is a Polestar Engineered version of the Recharge, which gets a high-output plug-in hybrid powertrain that develops 415 horsepower and 494 lb-ft of torque. All models have an 8-speed automatic. All but the base T5 Momentum come with all-wheel drive. Maximum towing capacity is 4000 pounds, when properly equipped.

The XC60 is available in three trim levels: Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription. Momentum starts as low as $41,700 and includes moonroof, LED headlights, rear-view camera, and support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play. R-Design models start at $47,850 and add blind-spot and cross-traffic alert, Harman Kardon sound system, and a 12.3-inch infotainment screen. The line topping Inscription begins at $49,200 and adds 4-zone climate control, leather- and wood-wrapped dashboard, ambient interior lighting, and a cooled glovebox.

The base engine provides adequate performance for around-town cruising. However, it is neither inspiring in highway passing response nor in the way it goes about making that power. Volvo claims a 0-60 MPH time of 6.5 seconds, which seems optimistic -- especially with several passengers aboard. Stepping up to the T6 nets a big horsepower bump and a significant increase in overall performance. Adding a supercharger to the equation, helps the XC60 squirt off the line and evens out the engine's performance across the powerband. Volvo's 0-60 MPH claim of 5.6 seconds is very believable and more inline with key competitors.

Opting for the plug-in hybrid Recharge models brings even more power, but also a lot of complexity, additional cost, and additional weight. If you have access to charging -- even a wall socket -- it can be a worthwhile upgrade, though. Keeping the lithium-ion battery charged can provide up to 18 miles of all-electric range in perfect conditions. For some with short commutes, that might mean staying electric most of the time and a substantially lowering overall fuel-costs. Once the battery reaches a preset threshold, the Recharge powertrain switches to normal hybrid operation. There is a nice "hold" feature that allows drivers to reserve charge for later all-electric driving and there's also a "charge" mode that allows drivers to charge the battery to increase all electric range by using the gas engine. In addition, the Recharge offers several driving modes including all electric, traditional hybrid, and sport. In the sport mode, the electric motors provide maximum assist under acceleration.

Regardless of powertrain choice, the 8-speed automatic shifts smoothly and provides quick and seamless downshifts when more power is needed. Some models are offered with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the transmission and the Recharge has a mode that maximizes regenerative braking when decelerating to increase battery charge. The available all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for extreme off-road use.

EPA numbers for the gas-only Volvo XC60 range from a low of 20/27 MPG for the T6 to 22/29 MPG for the T5. Recharge models have a combined rating of 27 MPG and an MPGe rating of 57. All models require premium-grade gasoline, which is the norm in this class. In routine driving the Recharge returns about 26 MPG in mixed suburban commuting. Owners can easily bump that number past 30 MPG if you plug in frequently. Keep in mind that the gas-only models get a 15.9-gallon fuel tank while the T8 gets a smaller 13.2-gallon tank.

Volvo's XC60 isn't the sportiest compact crossover in the luxury class, but it nicely blends on-road comfort with competent driving dynamics. When set in "comfort" the suspension provides ample bump absorption but also imparts too much bouncing and bounding on badly broken roads and too much body lean in quick changes of direction. Opt for "sport" and the suspension firms up enough to provide a more composed ride without undue harshness.

The steering, while nicely weighted, is a bit too sensitive on the highway and requires constant correction that grows frustrating over time. Brakes have a very linear feel and ample stopping power. There is no discernable transition from regenerative to friction braking on Recharge models.

The XC60 is available with Volvo's Pilot Assist automated cruise control. Pilot Assist not only maintains vehicle speed in relation to traffic bit also can steer on clearly marked roads. In reality, Pilot Assist works best on divided highways and can greatly reduce driving fatigue on longer trips. However, Volvo requires that drivers keep their hands on the wheel and remain alert at all times.

Interior noise levels are low, especially on Recharge models where the electric assist takes the edge off of engine noise in hard acceleration. Unfortunately, wind and tire noise can grow tiresome on extra-long highway trips.

With its modern controls and sleek lines, the XC60's interior is certainly Euro chic. Materials are more than class competitive and the overall design is fresh and extremely functional. Drivers face a large, legible and programmable instrument cluster. Most controls are handled through an oversized vertically mounted touchscreen that takes up much of the center stack. Once familiarized, it is one of the easiest infotainment systems to operate and works well to limit driver distraction. A few ancillary controls remain for radio volume, gear shift, and climate control, but the overall design is simple and elegant. Android Auto and Apple Car Play integration is among the best in the industry.

The XC60 thickly padded front seats are extremely comfortable and supportive. Also, there's plenty of head and leg room up front. Available heating and ventilation, now a class norm, add to the overall comfort. Rear seats are among the most accommodating in the class. Still, large adults will ask for a bit more leg room. Entry/exit is easy thanks to large and wide-opening doors and step in height is about perfect. Outward visibility is also quite good thanks to thin roof pillars and large quarter windows.

With the rear seats in use, XC60 offers 29.7 cubic feet of storage space. That's near the top in the class and, of course, the rear seats fold to increase capacity. Another nice touch is a cargo cover that has two height settings. Interior storage is quite good with lots of nice touches throughout. Recharge models have the same size cargo area but loose a considerable amount of center-console storage to the hybrid battery.

Bottom Line -- Volvo's XC60 is a great all-around competitor in the class. By offering each powertrain with any trim level, Volvo gives buyers lots of options to get the exact XC60 they desire. Pluses include a comfortable ride, lots of features, and outstanding value. Minuses include middling fuel economy (except for the Recharge) and finicky steering. If you are in the market, Volvo's XC60 is not only a value leader, but a style leader. Certainly, that's worth a test drive.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.