Sunday, October 23, 2011

Volvo XC60 Crossover -- Review after 1+ year

The longest I have ever kept any car I have owned was the 3-4 years during where I happily drove my Porsche 911 Carrera 2, and unhappily paid a crap load of money every 15,000 miles during the dealer recommended service.  Although I don't own most of my cars for a long time, I am a frequent user and often put quite a lot of miles in a very short time period.

With that in mind, you'll understand why it's hard for me to say no to 5-years of free included factory maintenance (that always comes with a loaner car), 5-years of warranty, and wheels that last for 50,000 miles.  Most cars I have owned before had tires that averaged only 15 to 20,000 miles.

For example, the 3 or so years I owned the Porsche, I managed to put 50,000 miles on the odometer.  For the Honda S2000, I managed to put from new to 1.5 years close to thirty thousand miles and blow right past the factory warranty.  BMW M3, 1-year ownership and almost 20,000 miles... well, you get the point.

Here's my review of the Volvo XC60 crossover so far. I have managed to put from since new 24,000 miles my Volvo which I have owned for 1.5 years.  I love the car and don't plan on trading it in anytime in the near future. I managed to be pleasantly surprised by the car even now.  I have owned fairly impractical cars most of my life and I have never owned anything this practical.  Besides for an initial glitch with the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and the daytime running led, the car has been relatively trouble free.

I love the interior build quality.  I strongly feel the quality of this Volvo easily surpasses those of BMWs and may be on par or slightly better than the current Audi's.  The design is overall also very well thought out.  Besides for having a spacious interior, the rear seats fold down flat in several configurations (60/40 or 40/20/40) that allow you to fit 2 full size bicycles and a large (70 lb) dog in the back.  In fact, the interior is so flexible and practical that I have yet to purchase a roof ski/bike rack.  There are independent A/C vents for the back passengers or any furry creature you may be carrying in the trunk.  I would also highly recommend the factory "zoo grate" option, which looks like it's built tough enough to hold back a tiger.  Why would I spend extra money on a roof rack (although the XC 60 has built in roof rails) when I can store my bicycles in the back safely and privately (the rear windows come with factory tint).  Of course, if I had kids the roof rack may start looking more appealing.

The leather interior wears very well, but I would recommend getting a darker color.  I have historically owned only cars with black or dark grey leather interiors, and this is my first beige leather interior vehicle.  The XC 60 interior leather, although very durable, stains easily (unless you opted for the base cloth option, which stains even easier.  One paw print, bam!  I'm sorry to the guy who purchase a cloth interior XC 60 with a random paw print in the back).  You will within a year of daily use start seeing the color of your jeans get ingrained into the seats.  But I would hesitate getting black leather as well.  The issue I have experienced with black leather seats (in my 911) is that after constant use, the leather wears and you start seeing the natural leather color underneath the initial black dye and through the stress marks.  I love the keyless entry and start feature.  I have gotten so used to not having to take out my keys when I go to the car that sometimes I forget that I don't have the keys with me and wonder why the car won't unlock or start in my presence.  The seats are very supportive and big.  I have heard a couple people complain about the seats in this car and I can't quite honestly figure out what cars they downgraded from -- maybe Cadillac, or a Bentley?   The Bluetooth, ahhhh... even with crappy AT&T service, most people can't even tell I'm having a conversation with them in my car.  The stock stereo system is pretty powerful and decent as well, though I came from a Porsche sound system where any music coming out of it sounds like it was sang by an asthmatic man.

I did cheap out and only get the FWD 3.2 version, so there is definitely a noticeable lack of power. I heard the T-6 version is more peppy but I chose the 3.2 due to less maintenance and better reliability (post warranty and the included 5-year maintenance).  I also don't have to fill the car up with premium, which is recommended with any high compression turbo engine.  I have read of people comparing the T-6 model with the BMW X3 and claiming that the XC 60 is faster and peppier.  I can really deny or back up this claim, but I can tell you that in mixed city and highway use I rarely get past 21 mpg, even though the sticker claims much more.  The automatic shifts fairly smoothly when not driven aggressively and I have to admit I am less stressed when driving this car. In addition, the crossover, because it is built on a sedan (e.g. S60) platform, drives like a car.  Even with the lack of power, if you drive the car correctly and smoothly, you can take corners much faster and with more speed than most other large SUVs on the road.  The XC 60 also comes with massive brakes that I'm convinced was almost as big as the ones that came standard on my Porsche -- the brake bites HARD and it takes getting some used to to modulate.  Of course, if you decide to get the R-Design 20" dub (baller) status factory wheel option, those massive brakes will look really tiny - just a thought.

The car is also very intelligent.  Maybe too intelligent.  Through the computer and display on the dashboard, the vehicle is able to tell me exactly which passengers in the cars are (and are not) wearing their seat belt.  There are also weight sensors under each seat so there aren't any false readings.  I'm pretty sure if you are researching this car, you already know about City Safety.  Although I initially thought this was an useless feature, it has saved me a couple times on very early mornings where I am not fully awake and the driver in front of me stopped short suddenly for no apparent reason.

My only complaint is the wind noise during highway driving.  Because Volvo (and their then parent company Ford) tried to reuse as much from the collective Volvo parts bin as possible to keep the cost of the vehicle down, they decided to fit the huge vanity mirrors from the full size SUV, the XC 90, on the much smaller XC 60.  The result of this is great rear visibility (and minimal blind spots, which makes their blind spot sensor option (BLIS) a bit of a waste), but also annoying wind noise caused by the drag from the giant mirrors.  I have thought about replacing them with M3 like aero rear view mirrors, but because I cheaped out and didn't get any rear parking sensors, that would have mitigated my ability to parallel park.  Oh, one other thing.  On colder mornings or if you have parked your car for some time, the initial startup RPM goes up to almost 1.5-2K rpm for up to a minute before it settles to a normal ~0.5K RPM at idle.  I never had this happen to any other cars I have owned in the past, but the dealer claims this is normal.  Maybe it's some sort of new emissions thing?  Lastly, if you ever have to ride in the trunk of this car, or have a really picky dog, the ride is a bit "bumpy".  I get to hear my dog complain quite often, and a tempur-pedic bed would be most wise.  

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