2009 Volvo XC60

The XC60 shares its basic architecture with the XC70 wagon and the S80 sedan. The XC60's transversely mounted 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six (also available in the XC70 and the S80) produces 281 hp and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with an available sport mode. With 295 lb-ft of torque on tap from 1500 rpm, power is plentiful throughout the rev range, and acceleration is smooth and seamless.

All-wheel drive will be standard on all XC60s sold in the United States, as is DTSC (Dynamic Traction and Stability Control). In the XC60, DTSC has been enhanced to detect skids at an even earlier stage, helping to provide a more stable and safer driving environment.

The XC60 is not a small vehicle, but on the narrow, twisty roads of Spain, the XC60 exhibited a nicely balanced ride that belied its hefty mass. The chassis is set up to minimize body roll, the steering is precise, and the braking performance is quite good.

Late in 2009, the XC60 will be available with what is called the Four-C option, an active chassis system that will enable to driver to choose from among three settings - Comfort, Advanced, and Sport - to adjust the chassis according to driving conditions and personal preference. The XC60 crossover is not as sporty or athletic as some of its competitors, but it is supremely comfortable to drive, with predictable handling and very good ride quality.

Studies indicate that 75 percent of all accidents occur at speeds of 19 mph or less, and, in fully half of those incidents, the driver never applied the brakes. Volvo's newest safety technology, City Safety, aims to avoid, or at least mitigate, those low-speed collisions. City Safety will be standard on all XC60s.

With City Safety, a laser sensor mounted at the top of the XC60s windshield detects vehicles and other objects up to 13 feet ahead of the front bumper. If it determines that a collision is likely, the system applies the brakes automatically. In theory, this might sound like Big Brother, but in practice the system is utterly transparent. We tested City Safety on a closed course, and even at the maximum speed of 19 mph, the XC60's front bumper barely kissed the obstacle that we would otherwise have run into.

City Safety works well, but it does have its limitations. The laser sensor can be limited by weather conditions, such as fog, snow, or heavy rain, and the windshield needs to be kept free of snow, ice, and dirt so that the laser is unimpeded. Also, the sensor detects objects through reflections, so we don't suggest testing City Safety by barreling up to your garage door.

Other safety systems, such as a collision warning system that works at higher speeds, a trailer-towing stability system, and lane-departure warning are also available on the XC60.

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