Autotrader: The 2021 Volvo XC60 is elegantly styled and a pleasure to drive

Panorama of a city business district with office buildings and skyscrapers and superimposed data, charts and diagrams related to stock market, currency exchange and global finance. Blue line graphs with numbers and exchange rates, candlestick charts and financial figures fill the image with a glowing light. Sunset light.

The 2021 Volvo XC60 premium compact crossover proves that sensible and family-oriented doesn’t also have to be dull. It has an elegant exterior, distinctive interior design and many advanced safety features — the company has always been at that particular cutting edge. It’s also spacious and comfortable. Yet the XC60 can tackle corners with ease, especially in R-Design form.

Now in the fourth year of its second generation, the XC60 has impressed the auto industry and is widely recognized as a class leader in a few important categories, interior design and comfort in particular. Volvo

 has been enjoying something of a renaissance over the last few years and the XC60 has been at the forefront.

The Volvo XC60


What’s new for 2021?

A lot of extra standard equipment. Blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, Care Key (a key with programmable parameters for young drivers), LED fog lights, full LED headlights with active bending, keyless entry/ignition, hands-free lift gate operation, and power-folding side mirrors.

A pair of USB-C ports replace the 12-volt outlet for rear passengers. Volvos can now communicate with each other, so there are new slippery road/hazard light alerts. Top speed is limited electronically to 112 mph — this applies to all the company’s 2021 vehicles. The Bowers & Wilkins audio system available in higher trims has some of its components upgraded.

The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) drivetrain that used to be called T8 has been renamed Recharge. And last year’s Momentum T8 is now the Recharge Inscription Expression. 

See: What is EV, BEV, HEV, PHEV? Here’s your guide to types of electric cars

What we like
  • Elegant styling inside and out
  • High level of standard equipment and safety features
  • Choice of drivetrains including PHEV
  • Smooth, luxurious ride
What we don’t
  • The T5 drivetrain is only so-so
  • Less athletic than sportier rivals
  • Polestar Engineered model is pretty expensive
How much?

$42,695 to $70,195

Fuel economy

Every XC60 comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The entry-level drivetrain is the front-wheel-drive (FWD) T5, which consists of a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts XC60 fuel economy at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg in combined driving. With optional all-wheel drive (AWD) fuel figures are 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined.

The T6 has that same turbocharged engine but adds a supercharger to develop 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive becomes standard at this point. Fuel consumption is 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined.

Recharge is a plug-in hybrid drivetrain where the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is once again turbocharged and supercharged, but it’s also augmented by an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery. Volvo’s eAWD system is standard on every Recharge-equipped XC60.

Total system output is 400 hp and 495 lb-ft of torque, with the horsepower rating going up to 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque in the Polestar Engineered model. The EPA puts combined fuel consumption at 57 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). Using gas and electric power together, the XC60 Recharge has an EPA combined rating of 27 mpg. The electric-only range is 18 miles.

It takes seven hours to charge the lithium-ion battery using a 240-volt charger.

Standard features and options

The 2021 Volvo XC60 comes with T5, T6, and Recharge drivetrains, each of which is available in Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription trim levels. The exceptions being that the entry-level with the plug-in hybrid drivetrain is now the Recharge Inscription Expression. And the high-performance Polestar Engineered version runs solely with its own iteration of the Recharge drivetrain.

All-wheel drive is optional with the T5 drivetrain at $2,300, which also includes heated front seats.

Momentum ($42,695) has 18-in alloy wheels, keyless entry/ignition, LED headlights with automatic high beams and active bending, LED taillights/daytime running lights/fog lights, roof rails, panoramic moonroof, hands-free lift gate operation, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, self-dimming mirrors, 10-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory settings, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, selectable driving modes, 12.3-inch digital driver information display, Bluetooth, Apple

CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, remote engine start, voice control, infotainment system with a 9-in central touch screen, 10-speaker audio, satellite/HD radio, two USB-A ports up front, two USB-C ports for rear passengers, and an auxiliary audio input.

Several advanced driver aids come as standard, including forward-collision warning with pedestrian/cyclist/large animal detection, lane-keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and road departure warning/mitigation, driver fatigue monitoring, and road sign recognition.

This trim is eligible for a Climate package that brings heated front seats (heated rear seats with AWD), heated steering wheel and heated wipers. Premium package includes navigation, remote garage door opener, front parking sensors, and power-folding rear seat headrests in the outer positions. An Advanced package adds a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera system, wireless charging, and a 12-volt outlet in the cargo area.

R-Design ($48,845) already has the contents of the Premium package, plus a sportier suspension, paddle shifters for the transmission, 19-in alloy wheels, several trim-specific cosmetic additions inside and out including black mirror caps and dual integrated tailpipes, Nappa leather/open grid textile upholstery, sport seats, sport pedals, quad-zone automatic climate control, and a Harman Kardon audio system.

Inscription ($50,195) has all the above, but replaces the R-Design’s sportier equipment for more luxurious alternatives and dispenses with the paddle shifters. It also comes a leather-covered dashboard, chrome exterior accents, perforated Nappa leather upholstery, and heated/ventilated front seats.

The R-Design and Inscription trims are also eligible for the Advanced and Climate packages, along with an adaptive air suspension and a 15-speaker/1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system.

Other individual options include an adaptive air suspension, child booster cushions for the rear-seat outer positions, self-parking system, and larger wheels.

T6 Momentum versions start from $48,495, R-Design from $54,645 and Inscription from $55,995.

At the time of compiling this review, there were no official 2021 prices for any XC60 Recharge variants. However, we expect the entry-level Recharge Inscription Expression to begin at around $57,500, the Recharge R-Design to start in the region of $62,500, the Recharge Inscription to come in close to $65,000, and the high-performance Polestar Engineered version to be about $72,000.

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The range-topping Polestar Engineered variant has the more powerful (by 15 hp ) plug-in hybrid drivetrain than the lower Recharge trims. It also includes an appearance package similar to R-Design and adds 21-in black-polished forged-alloy wheels, a Polestar-engineered suspension, and the Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system. A plug-in charging cable is included with all Recharge versions.


The XC60 features standard stability control, seven airbags (including a driver-side knee airbag and full-length side curtain airbags) and disc brakes for all four wheels.

Volvo’s City Safety system (standard in the XC60) has evolved to the point where it can provide steering assistance (between 30 mph and 60 mph) in situations where automatic braking would not be adequate.

Read: 10 things to keep in your car to stay safe on the road

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given this generation of XC60 its maximum overall score of five stars. The XC60 also earned five stars apiece in side impact protection for both the driver and front passenger. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also saw the XC60 earn its top scores in every crashworthiness category and named it a Top Safety Pick.

Behind the wheel

One of the many positive things about this high-class, highly intelligent interior is the ultra-comfortable seating, a perennial Volvo quality. The front seats are especially well-cushioned and well-shaped for long-distance support. The rear seats, meanwhile, are more accommodating than many in this class.

The XC60 is an absolute pleasure to drive. There’s a subtle athleticism in the way it moves that never becomes jarring. The ride is quiet and smooth, and the view from the driver’s seat is appropriately commanding. Even though there are plenty of modern driver assistance features, good old outward vision is still alive and well in the XC60.

Some European competitors are more athletic, as the XC60 typically prioritizes comfort over driving dynamics. That said, we’ve spent considerable time in the XC60 Recharge and it is very quick. The combination of an electric motor and a turbocharged gasoline engine delivers 400 hp. Most of the time, the XC60 Recharge operates in a very efficient manner, often putting comfort and fuel-efficiency over performance. However, when you really push the accelerator, the SUV’s demeanor changes and it feels more like a performance car.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Recharge is a plug-in hybrid and that means it can run on electricity only for a short distance. Volvo says that range is 19 miles but we’ve been getting more than 20 regularly. Autotrader’s executive editor Brian Moody says, “When the XC60 Recharge’s battery is fully charged, the range meter says “20” nearly every morning. Unlike some other hybrids or plug-in hybrids, the XC60 provides a lot of acceleration while remaining in EV mode. With some hybrids and PHEVs, when you aggressively step on the accelerator, the car too easily engages the gasoline engine. With the Volvo XC60 Recharge, that balance is just about perfect. The XC60 delivers a calm and quiet driving experience no matter what’s happening under the hood.”

Fold-down the 60/40 split rear seats for maximum cargo space of 63.3 cu ft. With the rear seats in place, there are 29.7 cu ft. of cargo space.

Other cars to consider

2021 Acura RDX — Spacious, well equipped for the money, and makes almost every road feel like it’s just been refinished with smooth tarmac.

2021 Audi Q5— A little pricier than the XC60, but with athletic handling, a comfortable ride, and lots of standard features including all-wheel drive.

See: The 2021 Audi Q5 is tops among luxury compact SUVs

2021 BMW X3— Comes with driving fun, technology, equipment, and quality all in high measure.

2021 Jaguar F-Pace— Impeccable driving manners, sleek styling, and plenty of occupant space.

See: Tastefully restyled Jaguar F-Pace offers new engine choices and improved interior

2021 Lexus NX — A big seller and well equipped, including an array of standard safety features.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class— Has virtues similar to the XC60, such as a roomy, well-designed cabin with supremely comfortable seats and a smooth ride. Even the base prices are comparable. The GLC-Class also benefits from many standard and optional features, premium styling, plus high-performance AMG variants.

Used Volvo XC60 — Now that this generation of the XC60 is in its fourth model year, used and certified pre-owned models are starting to pop up at pretty affordable prices. Check out Volvo’s CPO program.

Questions you may ask

Where is the 2021 Volvo XC60 built?

Although some XC60s are made in China, those destined for the U.S. originate from Volvo’s plant in Torslanda, Sweden. Tariffs on European-made vehicles are lower than on those from China.

Does the Volvo XC60 require premium gasoline?

Those XC60 models with the T6 and T8 powertrains require premium unleaded gasoline. Premium is recommended, but not required, for the T5.

How much can the Volvo XC60 tow?

Every drivetrain has a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

What is the Volvo XC60 R-Design?

The Volvo XC60 R-Design is a sporty and luxurious model with trim-specific alloy wheels, premium leather interior, and a lowered sports suspension.

Autotrader’s advice

If the funds allow, the T6 powertrain would be preferable to the T5. But the hybrid is also a good low-emissions choice.

Also read: Volvo’s XC40 Recharge impresses for space, safety and value

As excellent as the Polestar Engineered model appears, it’s in the same financial ballpark as the BMW X3 M and the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63. Although neither of those are hybrids, they’re better performance machines.

For driving in the real world, Momentum trim (or the Recharge Inscription Expression model) is really well equipped, thanks to an influx of more standard features this year. And that might leave some wriggle room for options.

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