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Driven: 2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E adds efficiency to safety image

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In Las Vegas last week Volvo shared with the collected automotive media that it's at the beginning stages of re-inventing their entire product lineup, building on the safety reputation of its heritage, but adding in some exciting new elements of power-train efficiency and environmentally friendly features.

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To this, all new power-trains are available in the front-wheel drive XC-60 models called Drive-E. The new engines are no longer shared with Ford heritage and will be the backbone for Volvo’s products going forward. Our front-wheel drive T6 model no longer comes with a turbocharged inline six, but instead an all new Drive-E 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine with both supercharging and turbocharging.

The T5 model previously had an inline five turbocharged engine and now features a 240 horsepower four-cylinder with turbocharging. That engine also mates up to an 8-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive models for 2015 still have the five and six-cylinder engines however.

The 302 horsepower engine in our T6 Platinum has a supercharger to offer up boost in the low rev range and transitions to turbocharged boost in higher rev ranges. The combination eliminates turbo lag, offers a fat torque band, and the feel of a larger engine overall.

Variable valve timing with roller bearing camshafts and an electric water pump reduce friction, allowing for maximum efficiency. A start-stop system helps fuel efficiency in town as well.

The EPA rates this new engine at 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. We didn’t get a chance to test this mileage on our drive, but instant averages displayed on the dash were right in line.

The Volvo XC60 got a significant exterior and interior design re-fresh for 2014 so as it rolls into the 2015 model year the style is carried over largely. The XC60 has a tidy and businesslike Scandinavian design which is distinctly Volvo.

Key design elements that improved upon the previous model are a better integrated radar sensor that disappears into the front grill much more gracefully than before. A new front fascia and headlamps also look sleeker than the last generation.

The rear view features familiar Volvo DNA in the tall LED tail lamps which curve into the roof line around the power lift gate. Large 20” alloy wheels on our Platinum model fill the openings well for a tightly packed look.

Our fully loaded tester had an eye catching black and blonde two-tone leather interior which was very handsome. It featured a host of driver assistance features and driving aids like city safety, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and collision warning with full auto brake.

Additionally there is a pedestrian and cyclist detection system which also has full auto brake capabilities. All of these systems are controllable and can be turned off if you like.

The TFT digital instrument cluster display is customizable with three distinct design and color schemes which give you a way to tailor the look and information set to your liking with various themes including ECO, Normal, and Sport.

A panoramic moon roof opens up the cabin with a nice supply of light, making it feel even roomier. As with previous Volvo models you can also option an integrated child seat system for the rear row.

The rear cargo area is plenty generous and features a hidden storage compartment under the carpeted deck that large enough for quite a few things.

On the road we found the power delivery to be immediate and thick with torque, not at all feeling like a 2.0 liter engine under foot. It’s obviously not as smooth and refined as the inline six engine that used to grace the T6, but it’s pretty impressive none the less.

The 8-speed transmission is impressively tuned to this engine luckily, shifting at just the right times to match its power curve. On the freeway it was good at grabbing a gear quickly when passing and not hunting about like many multi-speed gearboxes do.

The driving aids like lane keeping assistance worked as advertised, alarming you with a subtle chime when you changed lanes or drifted over the line without using the turn signal. All of the driver assistance features can be turned off if you choose which is good for the more OCD among us.

Handling and ride are very European in character which is to say that the road surface is transmitted well into the driver seat and steering wheel. You can feel and hear road texture which I happen to like but admit it’s not for everyone.

In town the driving experience is given some extra spice with the engine start-stop system. When you come to a stop, it shuts off the engine to save fuel. Upon lifting your foot from the brake pedal, it fires up the motor and it’s running before your foot reaches the accelerator.

The system works well, better than in some cars we have tested lately. Best of all, it can be turned off, unlike other cars we have tested lately. The only quirk experienced with this system is that it actually allows the power steering to go dead when the engine shuts off as this vehicle still has hydraulic power assist.

The 2015 Volvo XC60 remains the same classic package it has always been in terms of comfort, handling, utility and safety. It now gains the enviable distinction of also having high efficiency to go along with a good deal of power.

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