2015.5 Volvo XC60 Review: Soft Surrounds And Smart Tech To Battle A Harsh Winter

Volvo Xc60
Volvo XC60

You dress for the elements; your car should, too.

This is the time of year when you really want to trust your day to the Swedes. An inch of snow today, a foot predicted  next week and even if you can get out of your driveway, you know it’s going to be a long, slippery, cold commute. That’s when you want a car that has thought of all the little things you will need to face ice on the driveway or slush on the highway.

Volvo Xc60

2015.5 Volvo XC60 is a smaller 5-passenger crossover capable in good weather and bad

For these days, and for the rest of them, Volvo takes care of you.

Designed and engineered in Sweden, Volvo has a heritage of building cars known for being safe and comfortable, especially in winter (Sweden’s sweet spot). Volvo’s interior design features creature comforts that insulate you from winter weather, including

  • A heated steering wheel that never turned off until I turned it off;
  • Toasty warm heated leather seats that were turned on via a touch screen control (not all heated seats are created equal and these were pretty good)
  • Heated windshield wiper nozzles keep wiper fluid flowing even in the coldest temperatures
  • A panoramic sun roof allows sunlight to warm the cabin when the weather finally clears.
  • Soft touches around the cabin including leather seats
  • A human-icon climate control system that shows you how to direct the heat where you want it.

A heritage of innovating safety

Volvo has long been known for its safety innovations; it was one of the first to introduce seat belts and a reinforced roll cage construction to make the car safer in a crash. The company prides itself on excellent crash test ratings, and to accommodate winter conditions, Volvo’s traction control system and all wheel drive (available on some models, others are front wheel drive) help in wet or icy conditions. Then, there are small touches like lights on exterior door handles that come on when you unlock the car so you can enter the car safely; I found this to be really helpful when getting into the car in the morning after snow melt turned into ice overnight.

Modern tech to make time on the road smarter and more comfortable

Volvo incorporates modern technologies that keep your car even safer on the road. Systems like adaptive cruise, blind spot detectors, lane keep assist (which has a nicely loud tone that drove my husband crazy but kept him aware of the road) and collision warning alert keep you safe on the road.

One-touch commands on the steering wheel include voice control and Bluetooth to connect phone or music while keeping your eyes on the road. The infotainment system is neatly displayed on a screen that is at the center of the dashboard, and behind it there is a little niche carved out where you can stash your phone, keys or other small items. Volvo owners can also download an app to their phone that will report fuel levels, let you start the car remotely and lock or unlock the car. No more sitting in a cold car waiting for it to warm up; you can do that while you finish your coffee.

It’s the thoughtful little things that count most

Awww… I love it when designers are thoughtful! It’s like they spend time in the car too, and they add things they would love to have. Like: 

  • Fold flat second row seats, which make it great for hauling firewood, furniture or other bulky items;
  • A pet crate built into the cargo space of the model we tested (an extra cost, but if you have a dog, it’s a great investment). Our dog wasn’t crazy about the crate, but he got used to it and was safe there, and because of it he didn’t leave fur all over the cabin of the car;
  • Roof racks, a necessity for families who ski, bike or take road trips with the family dog in the crate, which takes up about half the cargo space. The XC60’s not overly tall, which makes roof rails easy to reach —easier than many SUVs;
  • A roomy second row that seats three comfortably;
  • Climate control vents embedded in the pillar between the rear and front passenger doors
  • More back seat passenger comforts including a fold-down console between the seats and 12-volt cigarette lighter power port for charging devices.
  • WiFi to connect you and your passengers to your devices.
  • A Harman Kardon sound system; long an innovator in sound systems (as Volvo has been in safety) HK fills the car’s cabin with crisp, rich sound

Volvo: Its Swedish DNA remains despite its Chinese parentage

Volvo has undergone some fundamental changes over the last few years; the company was sold by Ford to the Chinese Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. But design and engineering are still done in Gothenburg, Sweden, as is the identity of this car: it is still built by and for the Swedes who master each nuance and innovation. The transition to Volvo’s new Chinese ownership resulted in a bit of a hiccup in new model delivery and Volvo customers have been patiently waiting. To get the cars to market, the current model ‘year’ is actually a half-year release; we tested a 2015.5— released late in 2014. But the car’s design is not a hiccup; it continues to evolve as modern and beautiful, keeping the iconic Volvo shape but with a muscular European feel, sleeker lines and arrow-like tail lights and maintaining Volvo’s commitment to premium car status with lots of luxury touches.

Understanding how the car is named

Not being a Volvo expert, the letters and numbers that designate different models were confusing to me. Until I understood it, and now, it’s simple. Models designated “S” are sedans; models designated “XC” are cross country, or crossovers; models designated “V” are versatile, like a station wagon. The bigger the number assigned to the model, the larger the car. Simple, right? Which is clearly what Volvo’s designers were thinking: Why make things complicated? Because when you need a car to do what conditions, life, or your family demand of it, you just want it to do its job, and that’s what the XC60 does, its job, but in that nicely comfy, thoughtful way.

2015.5 Volvo Xc60

The rear view of the 2015.5 Volvo XC60

What We Loved

  • Blind spot detectors
  • Built in pet crate
  • All wheel drive
  • Door handle lighting
  • Cream and gray leather seating (gave the cabin a lighter feel)
  • Heated seats
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Human-icon climate control system
  • Panoramic sun roof
  • Roof rails
  • Available built in child booster seats (not in the model we tested)
  • Power tail gate close button
  • Cubby  behind the center stack console to hold small things behind the center stack
  • In car technology including WiFi
  • Harman Kardon premium sound system
2015.5 Volvo Xc60

Even though it’s a crossover, the XC60 isn’t overly tall; the roof rack is easy to reach

What You Need to Know:

  • Pricing starts at $42,650
  • Price of the model we tested, about $50,000
  • Fuel economy estimated at 17 MPG city/24 MPG highway (we averaged about 16 MPG)
  • Premium fuel recommended
  • One USB port and three cigarette lighter style power ports (one in rear cargo space)
  • Blind spot detection system is an extra $925
  • Drive technology package (adaptive cruise, lane keep assist, collision warning alert and more) is an extra $1500

Disclosure: Volvo loaned us the XC60 to test drive; opinions expressed here are all my own

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss