Oct 152017
 

Determined to end deaths or serious injury in a Volvo vehicle by the year 2020, the Swedish automaker encroaches on that goal with every new model or redesign. The 2018 version of the XC60 small sport utility vehicle (SUV), for example, gets three new collision avoidance safety features. I recently drove the XC60 at the launch in Barcelona, Spain for Latino Traffic Report. For those who haven’t been to Barcelona, imagine San Francisco—the two are strikingly similar. That backdrop would complement any car, but the 2018 XC60 stood out for its own assets, i.e. beautiful design combined with cutting edge safety and powertrain technology.

The midsize SUV has been a popular addition to the Volvo lineup. According to Volvo, over one million XC60s have been sold globally since it was introduced in 2008 and the vehicle represents 30 percent of Volvo Cars’ global sales.

Car buyers already benefit from Volvo safety innovations, like the three-point seat belt or the Blind Spot Indication System (BLIS). New safety updates on the XC60’s Intellisafe City Safety system include Oncoming Lane Mitigation that uses steering assistance to prevent drivers from changing lanes into other vehicles. Steering assistance has also been applied to BLIS for the new XC60. It may feel like a “ghost in the machine” but when tested in Spain, the nudge it provides is just enough to get the driver’s attention but not so strong as to be alarming. They join standard City Safety features like pedestrian, cyclist, vehicle, and large animal detection. BLIS, however, remains optional, but we were informed at the launch that it will be a standard feature on future models. For added security, Volvo On Call with remote engine start is standard on all models for four years.

The XC60 also includes Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous feature from Volvo. It helps with steering, braking, and acceleration on roads at speeds up to 80 miles per hour, like adaptive cruise control but without needing a car in front of it to follow. According to Volvo, it’s intended to reduce stress in “stop-and-go commuter traffic.”

Safety isn’t all that Volvo improves upon. The striking but utilitarian Scandinavian design on every model gets better and better. On the 2018 XC60, designers repurpose driftwood to accent the interior on the Inscription trim level. According to Thomas Ingenlath,
senior vice president, design Volvo Cars: “Driftwood is a material formed by the sea and colored by exposure to salt and the extreme temperatures of our unique geography. Driftwood’s naturally silvered surface is an entirely new treatment that is alive with subtle colors and texture.”

For the test drive, we drove the T6 Inscription with the Luxury Seat Package that included heated and ventilated massaging front seats, heated rear seats, a power cushion extension on the front seats, a colorful 12.3-inch driver display for the digital instrument cluster, keyless entry, door handle illumination, and a hands free power liftgate.

To improve the ride, the XC60 sits on a new double wishbone front suspension for reduced torque and understeer and rear-wheel suspension with an integral link design. The available air suspension on the T6 and T8 features automatic leveling for improved ride stability as well as speed dependent steering, active dampers, and a Drive Mode selector with Comfort, Dynamic, ECO, Individual, and Off Road settings. All-wheel drive is standard on all XC60s.

Standard creature comforts include leather seats, a nine-inch Sensus screen that also provides a clear vantage when utilizing the standard backup camera, a panoramic sunroof, multi-zone climate control, and 4G LTE connectivity with in-car Wi-Fi hotspot. It offers seating for five and 63.3 cubic feet of cargo with rear seats folded, a loss of about four inches from the previous XC60.

Two remarkable four-cylinder engines power the new XC60, a turbo 2.0-liter with 250 horsepower and 258 ft.–lb. of torque on the T5 base model, a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter with 315 horsepower and 295 ft.–lb. of torque on the T6. Super peppy and responsive, the engine belies its size, particularly on the T6 driven at the launch. The T5, however, should be the most fuel efficient, besides the Hybrid (see below) with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Pricing for the 2018 XC60 starts at $42,495. The as-tested pricing was about $53,795.

The 2018 XC60 launch took place in Barcelona, but the actual test drive headed into the surrounding countryside. While the route held certain challenges, like distracting Catalonian vistas and road signs en español, I knew the XC60 had my back.

—Valerie Menard

The new Volvo XC60 T8

Volvo Completes XC60 Lineup with the T8 Hybrid Launch

Volvo sees the future of cars as being electric and self-driving, and the 2018 XC60 T8 electric/hybrid is an early favorite in what will be a very competitive field. Recently launched in Denver, CO, the T8 hybrid is powered by a four-cylinder twin engine that delivers 400 hp and 472 ft.–lb. of torque matched to an electric motor and lithium ion battery. It has an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 59 mpge.

To enhance ride and handling, the Hybrid model offers six  drive modes—Hybrid, Power, Pure, Individual, Off-Road, and AWD.

I had the opportunity to spend some time in the T8 trim, which really is worth considering if electric power is important to you. Be advised, the T8 is great for highway driving, beautiful for a ride, impressive on the inside and out, but not racing. It handled beautifully at the launch, as it went through curves and challenges all along the Rocky Mountains. The power, however, is a bit crimped and stalled, but that’s how these electric/hybrid types are. You don’t get from electricity what you get from gas, and that can be a bit disappointing to your ears and your heart.

Clearly, the Swedes are taking aim at impressive luxury crossovers like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. The market for these vehicles is very competitive and promises to get even more so, but that’s great for buyers who today have more choices than ever before. All this and all the luxury and precision for which Volvo is known is on full display here.

On sale now, pricing starts at $53,895.

—Sammy Gomez

Aug 202017
 

XC60 Eclipse Viewer

(ROCKLEIGH, N.J.) Is this cool or what? Latino Traffic Report has just learned that Volvo Car USA has designed and developed a custom eclipse viewer for the standard panoramic moonroof in the all-new 2018 XC60. The viewers will be shipped to select Volvo retailers along the eclipse’s path, allowing individuals to view the August 21, 2017 event safely and comfortably in the all-new XC60.

The XC60 Panoramic Moonroof Eclipse Viewer is made with an ISO-certified 12312-2 material and features a magnetized frame to attach to the XC60’s roof. The size of the XC60’s panoramic moonroof allows viewing from all five seats in the vehicle. Select Volvo retailers in the eclipse’s path of totality in Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, Missouri and South Carolina will be prioritized for the limited number of viewers.

XC60 Eclipse Viewer

“The development of the XC60 Panoramic Moonroof Eclipse Viewer gives those in the eclipse’s path a unique way to experience this historic event in both comfort and safety,” said Bob Jacobs, Vice President of Marketing, Product and Brand Communications, Volvo Car USA. “For those not in the path of totality, we will live-stream the the eclipse in virtual reality and 4K high-resolution, 360 degree video.”

Volvo’s “Racing The Sun” campaign will broadcast the 2017 total solar eclipse in 4K high-resolution, 360 degree video and, for the first time, in immersive virtual reality. More on that program can be found at www.racingthesun.com

Nov 102016
 

2016-06-09-15-56-57

Car manufacturers take great pains to select a backdrop for new vehicle launches that help their products stand out. Volvo chose Spain’s Costa del Sol to launch its all-new 2017 Volvo S90 premium four-door coupé. Lucky me and Latino Traffic Report.

According to Anders Robertson, Volvo 90 Series product manager, 150,000 premium sedan leases will mature this year. Volvo hopes the well-timed launch of the S90, plus its styling, technology, and pricing, will encourage lessees to cross-shop and ultimately choose the S90.

Volvo begins by giving its flagship sedan curb appeal with distinctive design cues, specifically, all new tail lights and the T-shaped Thor’s Hammer headlamp design that first premiered on the 2016 XC90 sport utility vehicle.2016-06-09-16-16-26

Competing against brands like Audi, BMW, and Lexus, Volvo offers what no other manufacturer can, a Scandinavian interior that combines luxury with function. For starters, the tablet-shaped nine-inch touchscreen that interfaces with the Sensus infotainment and navigation systems, first introduced on the XC90, reappears on the S90. It’s more than just handsome to look at, it’s one of the easiest systems to operate as it functions similarly to a conventional tablet by sliding your finger to the left, right, up, and down. A cleaning cloth to remove fingerprints is included.

2016-06-09-16-14-51Standard leather seating combined with a power sunroof and unique air vents take the S90 interior up a notch. Instead of thin wood veneers that don’t appear convincingly real on some vehicles, the S90 T6 Inscription that we drove on the launch included chunky Walnut wood accents with a matte finish. I predict that this design cue will get copied, like so many of Volvo’s safety innovations.2016-06-09-16-15-04

In this segment, roominess has its advantages, particularly in the back. Rear legroom on the S90 comes to 35.9 inches.

Another XC90 feature that returns on the new S90 T6 is the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo and supercharged powertrain, for which Volvo has received numerous accolades. The power (316 horses and 295 lb.–ft. of torque) and responsive throttle belie the engine’s size, and it doesn’t sound like a four-cylinder either.

Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the S90 T6 should earn an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. On the test-drive en españa, I averaged 22.6 mpg. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder will power the T5 Momentum entry-level model.

2016-06-09-16-14-55No discussion of the S90 would be complete without considering safety. Volvo has committed to zero fatalities or serious injuries in one of its vehicles by 2020. To do this requires setting new benchmarks in safety technology. With the S90, Volvo has focused on avoiding large animal collisions. According to Jim Nichols, Volvo product and technology manager, 1.23 million deer strikes occurred last year in the United States. alone, resulting in 200 deaths. Volvo will include its latest technology, the Large Animal Detection system that uses radar to spot deer, moose, etc., and engage automatic braking.

All S90s come with an improved version of Pilot Assist that allows the vehicle to accelerate, decelerate, and come to a complete stop to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, up to speeds of 80 miles per hour (mph). This makes it the first car in the U.S. with standard semi-autonomous technology.

The S90 means to compete, con ganas, in 2016-06-09-15-57-34the premium sedan segment. Its design, technology, and value give it a definite advantage.

Pricing for the 2017 Volvo S90 T5 Momentum and T6 Inscription starts at $47,945 and $57,245, respectively. A wagon version, the V90, will be available in 2017.

Driving an S90 along Spain’s Costa del Sol wasn’t exactly on my bucket list, well, almost. Visiting Spain was, driving the S90 was just the delicious cereza on top!

Jun 072016
 

2016-05-17 19.40.19

To call the second-generation 2016 Volvo XC90 an award winner doesn’t really capture this Sport Utility Vehicle’s (SUV’s) success. With more than 110 global awards so far, including the 2016 North American Truck of the Year, the XC90 is quite simply, a hit.

Latino Traffic Report was first introduced to the new 2016 XC90 at the launch in 2015. I recently test-drove the 2016 XC90 T6 R-Design and after a week in the vehicle, I can report that my first impressions from the launch were spot on.

2016-05-17 19.39.56The appeal of the R-Design begins on the outside with the XC90’s streamlined silhouette and distinctive design cues, like the T-shape in the LED headlamps, referred to as “Thor’s hammer,” a lower front spoiler, a distinct front grille, and metal mirror side covers.

It’s on the inside, however, that the XC90 pushes Scandinavian design, combining luxury with utility, to its full effect. Catching immediate attention is the nine-inch tablet-sized center display where most of the vehicle’s control functions, e.g. music, climate control, navigation, are stored. A known proponent of preserving knobs for better utility, I can say that this application is the exception to my rule. Using the same sliding motion for a phone or a tablet, I found most of the functions I needed. I did have trouble with radio presets but that was because I was looking for the wrong word. Presets are found under the “library” tab and once selected it reveals every station, terrestrial or satellite, and I scrolled through them quickly and easily to select presets. One low-tech feature I was happy to find was the CD player in the center console.

2016-05-17 19.41.36The next innovation worth noticing is the 12.3-inch instrument cluster, which is completely digital on the R-Design. There is no hardware surrounding the speedometer or tachometer, and while you can scroll through to find information like tire pressure and average fuel economy, a center screen displays a digital navigation map—all XC90 T60s come with a six-month subscription to Volvo’s Sensus Connect navigation system. Other features specific to the R-Design include perforated Nappa leather on the seats and key fob, and perforated leather on the steering wheel and shift knob, and illuminated tread plates, to name a few.

Another cause for applause is the XC90’s powertrain, namely the 2.0-liter four-cylinder super and turbocharged engine that produces 316 horsepower and 295 lb–ft of torque. Offering plenty of oomph the engine is matched to an eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. The EPA estimated fuel economy for the XC90 R-Design is 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. I averaged 20.7 mpg.

Nothing defines a Volvo better than safety. Standard safety features on the XC90 2016-05-17 19.39.11include the City Safety collision avoidance system, Volvo On Call with remote lock/unlock and vehicle tracking, lane departure warning, and rear park assist and camera. The test model included the Vision Package ($1,800) with the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and Cross Traffic Alert.

Additional creature comforts include heated front seats, Sirius satellite radio, a hands-free tailgate, four-zone climate control, and keyless entry and drive.

For its part, the R-Design enhances the SUV’s sporty nature with bolstered leather seats that hug the driver and front passenger in place, but tend to grab hold when climbing out.

Finally, the fit and finish truly sets this SUV apart from the competition. Diamond-cut effects on knobs like the Adjustable Drive Mode (the R-Design included Sport, Comfort, Eco, Individual and Dynamic modes) and Start/Stop added elegance as well as a little sparkle.

2016-05-17 XC90.licPricing for the 2016 Volvo XC90 starts at $49,895. The as-tested pricing for the 2016 R-Design came to $67,155.

 

: The all-new XC90 is as intelligent as it is beautiful with a groundbreaking powertrain, tablet-inspired infotainment screen, and excellent fit and finish.

 

No: Essential safety features like BLIS and Cross Traffic Alert should be standard on a Volvo.

 

Feb 232016
 

CHICAGO (Feb. 11, 2016) – Nissan TITAN will be available in 4x2 or 4x4 drive configurations with three cabin configurations – Crew Cab, King Cab and Single cab – and three bed lengths – 5.5, 6.5 and 8 feet. Similar to TITAN XD, TITAN will be available in five trim levels – S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve. The TITAN will be powered by Nissan’s 5.6-liter Endurance® V8 gasoline engine capable of 390 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine will be mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. A V6 gasoline engine will also be available (details to be announced at a later date).

What brings journalists en masse to Chicago in the middle of winter? The largest auto show in the country, the Chicago Auto Show, that’s what, and this year’s reveals reflected a truck and big SUV resurgence, while at the same time, new green car initiatives.

Gasoline prices remain at an all-time low and that’s good news for truck and SUV buyers. Nissan brought forth two big bruisers, the all-new Titan half-ton and the 2017 Armada.

Last year Nissan introduced the award-winning 2016 Titan XD, powered by an all-new 5.0-liter V8 Cummins turbo diesel engine. This year the gasoline-powered version of the Titan (above) took center stage in Chicago. Powered by a 5.6-liter V8 engine and built on a separate chassis from the TITAN XD, it’s also 14.7 inches shorter.

2017 Nissan Armada

2017 Nissan Armada

Similarly, the all-new Armada will be powered by the new 5.6-liter V8 engine and matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission for better fuel economy.

The handsome full-size SUV will come with an extensive list of available safety and convenience features, like Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Backup Collision Intervention, Blind Spot Intervention and Blind Spot Warning, among other features. An eight-inch display, navigation, and heated front seats will be standard. Both the Titan half-ton and Armada will go on sale this summer.

The 2017 Ram Power Wagon.

The 2017 Ram Power Wagon.

Ram followed suit with its off-road monster, the Power Wagon. Based on the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty 4×4 Crew Cab, the 2017 Power Wagon receives all-new exterior and interior design elements. Seeking its own design statement, Ram abandons the crosshatch grille on the new Power Wagon for the one featured on its half-ton off-road sibling, the Ram Rebel.

2016-02-11 14.37.38

Pacifica Hybrid.

FCA also showed the hybrid version of its all-new Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Revealed last month in Detroit, the Pacifica replaces the Town & Country. A segment first, the hybrid will deliver an estimated range of 30 miles solely on zero-emissions electric power. New available technology will also include a Stow ‘n Vac integrated vacuum cleaner.

While the Pacifica goes on sale this spring, the hybrid version should go on sale in the second half of 2016.

Available in dealerships now, the 2017 Hyundai Tucson receives a fresh exterior design and LED lighting signatures, plus additional infotainment, convenience and safety technologies, including Drive Mode selection with Sport, Eco and Normal settings. Brandon Ramirez, senior product manager, unveiled the refreshed versions of the 2017 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport.

Kia Niro.

Kia Niro.

Expanding its green vehicle line-up, Kia introduced the 2017 Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle. The all-new Niro hopes to find a niche between the hybrid-electric vehicle and CUV segments, achieving a combined fuel efficiency rating of 50 mpg. It joins Kia’s green car line-up that includes the Soul EV, Optima Hybrid and 2017 Optima Plug-in Hybrid that also made its global debut in Chicago.

2016-02-11 15.32.57

Volvo XC90.

Finally, Volvo’s all-new XC90 continues to collect accolades winning MotorWeek’s 2016 Drivers’ Choice Best of the Year award. It’s the first utility vehicle to win the top honor in the 34-year history of the awards. To date, the XC90 has been named the 2016 North American Truck of the Year, the CUV of Texas by the Texas Auto Writers Association, and the Family Car of the Year by the Midwest Automotive Media Association.

“The XC90 brings Volvo firmly into the luxury space and fully represents the company’s new direction,” said Dean Shaw, vice president, Corporate Communications, Volvo Car USA.

Dec 112015
 
2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country

In the luxury segment, compact sedans abound, but only one comes from a company based in Sweden, the Volvo S60. For 2016, Volvo adds two new models to the S60 lineup, the Inscription, for those who’d like even more rear legroom and the Cross Country, for more adventurous drivers. At the recent launch in Sausalito, the two sedans demonstrated what Volvo does best, design and safety.

The test drive began with the all-new Inscription Platinum (there’s also a Premier trim), a model that will sit near the top of the line for the S60, setting itself apart with three additional inches of legroom in the back seat, the most of any luxury class sedan.

2016 Volvo S60 Inscription

2016 Volvo S60 Inscription

The Inscription comes with a choice of two engines—a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque or a 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbocharged engine with 250 horses and 266 lb.–ft. or torque. Each engine is matched to a specific Geartronic automatic transmission with Sport Mode—an eight-speed with the 2.0-liter or a six-speed with the 2.5-liter. We drove both at the launch.

The best fuel economy will come from the 2.0-liter, which should achieve an EPA estimated 25 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.

The S60 Cross Country will be offered in one version, Platinum, with the 2.5-liter and all-wheel-drive with Instant Traction that gives it an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 20/28 mpg.

2015-08-27 11.13.43Drive–E technology on both engines utilizes a turbocharger and direct-injection to deliver power and improved fuel economy. When engaged, the ECO+ system stretches gasoline further (up to five percent), with Start/Stop, Eco-coast, and Eco-climate functions.

All S60s include a leather steering wheel and gearshift knob, a 60/40-split rear seat, Bluetooth, Sirius Satellite Radio, and Volvo Sensus Connect infotainment with a seven-inch high-definition color monitor that manages information from the audio unit, navigation and other functions. Besides the extra rear legroom, the Inscription adds contour seats, linear walnut inlays, a power rear window sunshade, rear side sunshades, and a rear park assist camera. The Cross Country adds the Harman Kardon premium sound system.

Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)

Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)

With a reputation for safety, it’s no surprise that the City Safety system that helps prevent or mitigate collisions at speeds of 31 mph or less is also standard on all models. However, technology, like Volvo’s blind spot information system (BLIS) and cross traffic alert, remain optional, even on the Inscription Platinum and Cross County trims.

With distinct design cues, like a honeycomb grille, and capability, like a lower skid plate, side scuff plates, and black fender extensions, the segment-first Cross Country sedan emulates Volvo’s Cross Country wagons. It will offer better off-road capability, starting with 7.9-inches of ground clearance and standard Hill Descent Control.

Volvo S60 Cross Country

Volvo S60 Cross Country

All S60s come with Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, Advanced Stability Control, and Corner Traction Control by Torque Vectoring. At the launch, these technologies were put to the test by accelerating in a tight circle, i.e. donuts, to show how they managed to keep the sedan under control.

Roomy and versatile, these two new S60s maximize the appeal of Volvo’s entry-level sedan.

Pricing for the 2016 S60 Inscription and Cross Country starts at $39,640 and $44,400, respectively.

Jul 162015
 

2015-05-21 vxc90fro

When Volvo first launched its sport utility vehicle (SUV), the XC90, more than ten years ago, I was there. Fast forward to 2015 and Santa Monica, California, and I’m back for the launch of the all-new 2016 XC90. Highly acclaimed when it was first introduced, the latest version takes the SUV to a new, more luxurious level.

Like its predecessor, the XC90 captures attention from its design. It bears the “new face” of Volvo that includes a new grille with a prominent iron mark and revamped headlamps with the T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” design cue.

XC90-0197Competing in the premium SUV market, the XC90’s interior will be its ace in the hole. Scandinavian aesthetics, combining beauty and utility, abound, from the diamond cut metal around the control knobs, to the tablet-inspired nine-inch touch screen above the center stack where drivers can control the entertainment, climate, telephone, and navigation systems, or Sensus interface. Sensus can also access a wide selection of cloud-based applications.

Center stack display with a 360 back-up camera view.

Center stack display with a 360-degree back-up camera view.

On the plug-in hybrid version of the XC90, the gear lever is made of crystal from Orrefors, the Swedish glassmaker. It’s simply stunning.

Yet, with all this bling, there is one exception. Oddly, the tilting and telescopic steering wheel has a manual control rather than electronic.

The leather seats are configured to mimic the shape of the human spine to seat seven passengers comfortably and safely. The second row seats slide, as well as recline. Volvo’s innovative integrated child seat is optional as is a massage function.

Standard features like a panoramic sunroof, a 12.3-inch digital and configurable gauge cluster, and a separate climate control system for the rear seats further enhance the interior.

If the interior is the ace in the whole, then the XC90’s engine lineup is its royal flush.

2015-05-21 20.51.07True to Volvo’s commitment of utilizing four-cylinder engines exclusively, the XC90 offers two versions, one for its gasoline model, the T6, and the other for the world’s first seven-seat plug-in hybrid, the T8. Don’t let the numbers, six and eight, fool you. They only imply the kind of performance the T6 and T8 deliver, 316 and 400 horsepower, respectively from their supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder powertrains. Wow.

The EPA estimated fuel economy for the T6 is 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The plug-in hybrid should get an estimated fuel economy of 59 mpg equivalent (mpge) that includes a 17-mile range on electric power. Both are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The all-new Volvo XC90 - seven-seat interior overview

The all-new Volvo XC90 – seven-seat interior overview.

Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway and outlying areas, the XC90’s performance and handling was truly impressive, even more so with the Dynamic mode engaged. Drivers can also choose Comfort, Eco, and Off-road driving modes.

Known for advances in safety, e.g. the integrated child safety seat, Volvo equips the XC90 with the latest collision avoidance systems—run-off road protection and auto braking at an intersection—as well as all-wheel drive with instant traction control.

The blind spot information system, parking sensor, 360 surround view (back-up) camera, and lane keeping aid are available as part of optional packages. At least one of these systems should be standard, especially on a Volvo.2015-05-21 volvoxc90

Still, the new XC90 won’t disappoint Volvo fans and more than likely, will win a few more.

Pricing for the XC90 T6 and T8 starts at $49,895 and $69,095, respectively.

 

May 192014
 

120215_Volvo_XC60_R_Design

While not the sexiest of topics, car safety technology can save your life. Volvo leads the field by example with innovations like the three-point safety belt that has saved an estimated one million lives. Most recently, Volvo committed to achieving zero deaths or serious injuries in a Volvo vehicle by 2020. That kind of boldness is hot.

Hoping to jazz up its exterior appeal, Volvo introduced the R-Design package in the 1990s, transforming regular models by adding sportiness initially with design cues, and now, improved performance.

On a recent test drive of the 2014 XC60 T6 R-Design for Latino Traffic Report, the small premium utility vehicle proved to be a bit of a turn on.

Among European brands, Volvo appeals immediately with its Scandinavian aesthetic. The XC60 R-Design standard sport seats combine black nubuck textile, perforated leather, and contrasting stitching, and a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) center display in the gauge cluster allows drivers to select among three different themes: Elegance, Eco, and Performance.

2012-volvo-xc60-t6-r-design-interior-photo-455898-s-1280x782On the inside, aluminum inlays, ergonomically placed controls and storage, add refinement. Even the tapered leather sport steering wheel  feels just right.

On the outside, the XC60 R-Design features a frameless Tech Matte Black grille with high-gloss black stripes, plus a silk metal diagonal and a refined R-Design emblem. At the rear, the unique diffuser with aero fins is flanked by the round, high-tech R-Design tailpipes.

On the performance side, the XC60 R-Design’s stiffer chassis has more dynamic driving properties. Tuned to be firmer and more balanced, the shock absorber springs and anti-roll bars improve control and produce a sportier, road-hugging drive.

Advanced Quick Shift is another new standard performance feature for T6 R-Design models that adjust gear changes when Sport Mode is selected or when using paddle shifters.

l-volvo-s60-city-safety-system-blis-2014No discussion of a Volvo product would be complete without talking about safety. The XC60 was the first vehicle equipped with City Safety, a driver support system aimed at preventing or mitigating collisions by stopping automatically at speeds of 31 mph or less.

I’m a big fan of the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), another Volvo innovation, but while manufacturers most place the warning light in the side mirrors, Volvo puts theirs in the A-pillar, which I prefer. It comes as a package, not as standard equipment, however, even on the R-Design model, and includes other technology like Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Merge Aid.

The 2014 XC60 offers a choice of two engines. A 3.0-liter, six-cylinder turbo matched to a six-speed automatic transmission powered the test model. A 2.0-liter or 2.5-liter four cylinder engine will be available for 2015, as well as an eight-speed transmission.120157_Volvo_XC60_R_Design

The 3.0-liter had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. I averaged 20.8 mpg on the weeklong test drive.

Standard luxury features like a laminated panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade and sporty 20-inch alloy wheels set the CUV apart. Features like a navigation system and rear park assist were extras.

Pricing for the 2014 XC60 starts at $35,765. The as-tested price for the XC60 R-Design, with the Platinum ($4,000) and Blind Spot Information System ($900) packages came to $52,665.

For Latino car buyers, safety matters. Rather than downplay it, Volvo’s proud of its safety heritage, and I say, bravo!

Sí: Innovative safety technology and Scandinavian design, especially on the inside, offers elegant utility.

No: Safety features like a rearview camera should be standard, especially on a Volvo, not to mention, the R-Design.