SUV Review: 2022 Volvo XC60 B6 Inscription

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SUV Review: 2022 Volvo XC60 B6 Inscription
© Provided by Driving.ca 2022 Volvo XC60 B6 Inscription

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” as Charles Dickens so famously wrote. He obviously wasn’t referring to a Volvo, of course, but having spent a week in the automaker’s 2022 XC60 , that vehicle could easily have inspired his words.

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This midsize, five-seater sport-ute is among the best out there for driving, updated with a mild-hybrid engine and minor styling refresh. But it’s hampered by an operating system that’s unnecessarily cumbersome, requiring too much attention on the centre screen when you should be looking at the road. This is, after all, the automaker that pretty much put safety on the map.

The XC60 comes in four versions, starting with a 247-horsepower turbocharged engine dubbed B5 and starting at $50,750. The top trims are plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), finishing up with the Polestar Engineered performance edition at $89,150.

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My tester was the next-step-up B6, and in mid-range Inscription trim starting at $62,450. It was then equipped with a number of packages and stand-alone options that took it to $75,650 before freight and taxes.

Both the B5 and B6 use a turbocharged 2.0L engine that includes a 48-volt mild hybrid system. “Mild” means the XC60 can’t run on electricity alone, and instead, the system provides a fuel-free power boost on acceleration. Its Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) also starts the engine, which it does very smoothly and quietly — and which is appreciated when start/stop is activated, which shuts off the engine at idle, such as when you’re sitting at a light, and then starts it up when you take your foot off the brake. The hybrid system self-charges its battery with regenerative braking.

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While the B5 is only turbocharged, the B6 adds an electric supercharger, which replaces last year’s mechanical one. Both these units pump in extra air — and, accordingly, extra fuel — for bigger-engine power out of that small engine as needed, and overlap to provide that across a wide range of engine rpm.

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The result is 295 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Natural Resources Canada rates the B6 at 9.9 L/100 km in combined city/highway driving, a slight improvement over the 10.3 rating in 2021 when the XC60 didn’t have the hybrid system. I drove in chilly weather and still came in slightly under the official number at 9.7 L/100 km, with premium-grade fuel required.

The engine’s power passes through a buttery-smooth, eight-speed automatic transmission — shifted with a crystal lever that’s a stylish touch, although I was not as enamoured with the double-tap required to engage each gear. All-wheel drive is standard, primarily powering the front wheels until more traction is required, and up to 50 per cent of torque can be sent to the rear. Acceleration is linear, and more luxury-smooth than sporty-powerful, which fits the XC60’s personality very well. It’s engaging, with responsive, nicely-weighted steering and composure around corners — some of which was due to my car’s optional $2,350 four-corner air suspension with active damping. The ride is quiet and comfortable, the cabin is roomy for front and rear occupants, and there’s a lovely feeling of being cocooned in it, especially with the optional massaging front seats and heated steering wheel.

The cabin design is Scandinavian simplicity. It’s ultra-elegant and looks even better than its price, but that austerity comes with some compromises. There aren’t a lot of handy spots to stash small items in the console — as my husband put it, “I’ve have thought a car from the country that gave us Ikea would have more storage.”

But what’s worse is that, to avoid cluttering the dash, Volvo stingily hands out just a few buttons and dials, and crams most of the car’s functions into the centre screen. Several functions can be voice-controlled, but it’s still a clunky way to do business.

You need a minimum of two screen taps just to change the cabin temperature or the heated seats, for example, and the icons are small and easy to miss when you tap. And while you can activate the front and rear defrosters with a button, you can’t operate the rest of the climate system until the screen has come to life and ready to accept a tap — and on cold days, that can take time. It’s fine to hide less-frequently-used stuff behind the glass, but for the adjustments you use all the time, it’s far less distracting to just reach over and spin a knob if you want to turn up something like the heater fan.

Volvo’s newest infotainment system incorporates Android Automotive, including Google maps and assistant. Get its attention with, “Hey, Google” and then ask questions in natural speech. I wanted to find a breakfast-style restaurant, and by asking where I could get an omelette, I was guided to one. But watch your language: When the digital assistant bungled a destination address, and I blurted out a profanity in frustration, I was told, “Please do not speak to me like that.”

The Inscription trim includes such features as a panoramic sunroof, hands-free liftgate, auto-dimming mirrors, four-zone climate control, Nappa-leather-clad heated and ventilated front seats, premium stereo, and 20-inch wheels. On the safety-tech side, you get blind-spot monitoring, cornering lights, front and rear emergency braking, lane-keep assist, power rear child locks, and front and rear park assist. My tester’s $2,900 Advanced Package added a head-up display, 360-degree camera, and Pilot Assist with adaptive cruise control and lane centring, among other features.

Overall, the XC60 is well-sized, very handsome, extremely comfortable, and the mild hybrid system smooths out the driveline and improves fuel economy. But while that centre screen is an improvement over the last system, it’s still too clunky and distracting. A few more easy-access controls, and this would indeed be the best of times.

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