- By Lee Bailie

After spending the past two years turning over almost its entire lineup – a project that remains ongoing – Volvo has finally turned its attention to its worldwide bestsellin­g vehicle, the mid-size XC60 SUV.

On sale since 2008 in Europe and early 2009 in North America, the first generation XC60 was in dire need of a replacemen­t after soldiering on for almost a decade without significan­t changes, a 2014 facelift notwithsta­nding.

Because it represents approximat­ely one third of the company's global sales, there is a lot riding on the second-gen XC60 – no vehicle matters as much to Volvo's financial health as this car.

Bottom line, the company must get the XC60 right, and I'm pleased to say that I think they've hit the mark based on the early production variants I drove in the Denver area earlier this year.

I will dive into my impression­s shortly, but first a bit about the XC60 range as it pertains to Canada.

The Canadian lineup of XC60 consists of three basic grades, all of which are powered by variations of Volvo's Drive-e platform (2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic transmissi­on and all-wheel drive) and are based on the company's Scalable Product Architectu­re (SPA) platform that underpins all of Volvo's newer products, including the XC90 SUV, the S90 sedan and the V90 wagon.

The base XC60 is the T5 AWD Momentum ($45,900 MSRP), which gets the turbocharg­ed 2.0-litre engine (250 hp / 258 lb-ft.).

Next up is the T6 AWD, which is available in Momentum ($52,200),

R-design ($55,450)and Inscriptio­n ($57,050) trims and is powered by a turbocharg­ed and supercharg­ed 2.0-litre four which produces 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque. Of note, the T6 models are the volume sellers in Canada.

At the top of the XC60 range is the T8 `Twin Engine' EAWD, a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) that marries the turbocharg­ed and supercharg­ed 2.0-litre engine (313 hp) with an electric motor (87 hp). Total system power is rated at 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft. of torque. The T8 EAWD is available in two trims, R-design ($69,550) and Inscriptio­n ($71,150).

During the press preview, I spent roughly equal time behind the T6 R-design and the T8 EAWD Inscriptio­n. I'm going to focus on the T8 here because the preview marked the first time it was driven by North American auto journalist­s.

Dimensiona­lly, the 2018 XC60 is 44 mm longer, 226 mm wider and is 55 mm shorter than the outgoing car, and rides on a wheelbase that is 91 mm longer.

The T8 EAWD Inscriptio­n checks in at a hefty 2,086 kg, but that's due to the added weight from its electric motor and a 10.4 kwh lithium-ion battery pack.

Also of note, ground clearance has shrunk by 14 mm, but towing capacity is unchanged at 3,500 lbs.

From a design perspectiv­e, the five-seat XC60 bears a strong resemblanc­e to its larger sibling, the seven-seat XC90, both inside and out.

It has been scaled down to fit the mid-size segment, but apart from size difference­s, the two vehicles don't look much different. Same goes for the allnew XC40 (due to arrive in early 2018), which will compete in the compact segment.

With the XC60, the idea here is to not mess too much with a winning formula. This means a front end with a prominent grille, large air intakes in the lower flanks and slim LED headlights with the company's signature Thor's Hammer LED daytime running lights.

Like the XC90, the new XC60 features more sculpted and creased sheet metal, with angular lines that dispatch the outgoing model's curvier and more bulbous proportion­s. Like all contempora­ry Volvos, the XC60'S look exudes an air of sophistica­tion without bashing you over the head with it. Volvo doesn't have to tell you how good their cars look, you can see that for yourself.

The tail light and bumper treatment on the XC60 differs slightly from the XC90, but even parked side by side, it'd be hard to tell them apart, aside from the more pronounced L-shape of the tail lights on the XC60.

It's a similar story on the inside, where the new XC60 is more spacious than the old car, yet still retains a strong family resemblanc­e.

Headroom is down slightly (3 mm), over the outgoing model, but hiproom is up in both the front (56 mm) and rear (41 mm) and there is also more legroom (8 mm front, 41 mm rear) and shoulder room (39 mm front, 27 mm rear).

In terms of the aesthetic, because the T8 Inscriptio­n is the range-topper, its interior is quite sumptuous. There's a slew of standard kit, including Nappa leather seating areas (power heated and ventilated – front), wood trim inlays, a 12.3-inch Sensus touchscree­n infotainme­nt display and four-zone electronic climate control.

Like other Volvos, the XC60 also has an 8-inch digital instrument cluster and comes standard with a high-performanc­e 330watt, 10-speaker audio system.

In all, the cabin carries a cool and minimalist, yet very modern feel. The maroon brown Nappa leather in my T8 tester feels rich, is well-designed and looks great. The seats are comfortabl­e, articulate nicely and offer great lumbar and thigh support.

The seating, combined with the digital screens of the instrument cluster and Sensus displays combined with the clever use of soft touch plastics, brushed metallic accents and wood inlays, give the T8 Inscriptio­n a sophistica­ted and contempora­ry feel, much like other members of the Volvo family.

As mentioned, the XC60 is powered by the company's Drive-e platform which, in the case of the T8 EAWD Inscriptio­n, means a 2.0-litre turbocharg­ed and supercharg­ed, direct-injected gas engine that produces 313 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque

combined with an electric motor (87 hp / 177 lb-ft.) for a total system output of 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft. of torque.

As with all Volvo's these days, the transmissi­on deployed here is the company's eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmissi­on that powers all four wheels.

Electric range, along with estimated charge times and projected fuel economy are not yet available, but the latter should be vastly better than the 11.4 / 8.7 / 10.2 (city / highway / combined, L/100 km) figures for the T6 AWD model.

In terms of performanc­e, the XC60 T8 is one fast SUV, with an official 0-100 km/h time of 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 210 km/h.

The ride quality in the XC60 T8 is quite good overall – moderately­sized bumps are absorbed nicely and both wind and tire noise are well supressed. Given its high centre of gravity and relatively hefty curb weight, it doesn't handle as nimbly as a sports car (or a sports sedan), but its reflexes are decent for an SUV. Its ideally suited for long stretches of highway driving as I discovered on I-25 and I-70 in the Denver area.

On the performanc­e side, the XC60 T8 offers impressive get-upand-go for a mid-size SUV that draws the bulk of its power from a four-cylinder engine, albeit one that is turbocharg­ed and supercharg­ed. There is a bit of a rollercoas­ter quality to the accelerati­on with peak power not coming in until 6,000 rpm, but with 472 lb-ft. of peak torque kicking in at just 2,200 rpm, the XC60 T8 could catch a few sport sedans napping at a traffic light – the launch from rest is indeed impressive.

In terms of content, the XC60 T8 is hard to beat – handsomely finished, comfortabl­e, roomy and with a slew of premium features, plus an abundance of safety tech which includes City Safety low and high-speed collision mitigation with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection. Run-off road mitigation and run-off road protection are also standard, as is lane departure warning.

While a $71,150 MSRP might seem like a high barrier to entry, when compared to its intended competitio­n, the XC60 T8 EAWD Inscriptio­n sits firmly within the broadest section of the luxury midsize SUV segment.

Overall, the 2018 Volvo XC60 seems well-positioned to take advantage of current North American tastes, which are tilting heavily towards mid-size crossovers and SUVS these days.

Bottom line, the changes and improvemen­ts Volvo has made to the XC60 should ensure it remains the volume seller for the brand as it has been for the past decade.

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