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The 2015 Volvo XC60 R-Design laughs in the face of a Vermont snowstorm

by Todd Haselton | February 15, 2015February 15, 2015 9:00 am PDT

We’ve had a chance to check out a lot of Volvo’s new cars recently, starting with the all-new XC90 that’s going to launch later this year, followed by some evasive driving of the 2015 VC60 Cross Country. I had been planning to take a trip to Vermont for some snowboarding recently, and Volvo offered to lend me the 2015 Volvo XC60 R-Design for the trip.

The forecast into this weekend was calling for 9-14 inches of snow in the area of Vermont I was driving through on Sunday. In preparation, I told our editor-in-chief Sean Aune that I might be stuck working from a hotel room somewhere should I not make it back in time. I even extended the loan of the XC60 R-Design until Tuesday in preparation of not making it back. I shouldn’t have worried so much.

The Volvo XC60 R-Design handled the snow and ice without any issue.

The Car

My wife and I packed the 67.4 cubic-feet trunk – there’s plenty of space back there for two snowboards. You can also use the ski rack but I was in a rush and wanted to get on the road, so I quickly put down one of the passenger seats and loaded our gear in. We also packed enough gear for the two of us, an inflatable bed since we were staying in a ski house with about 20 other people, plenty of food for the trip and more.

The XC60 R-Design is Volvo’s most premium model of the XC60. It has an MSRP of $46,950, though ours was configured at about $50,000, and offers a 3.0 liter 6-cylinder Turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, 325 horsepower, 354 pounds of torque. It’s a beautiful car – one I wish I owned myself at this point. It offers the first-class looks of a luxury vehicle and the power to match, but it’s also a very capable and safe car, one I really felt comfortable driving even with a snowstorm in the forecast for my trip home.

The Drive Up

I left for Vermont after work on Friday evening at around 6:30 p.m. Most of the ride up was on highways that were clear of any snow or ice, though the highways were crowded. Apparently my wife and I aren’t the only ones who know that a snow forecast means there’s going to be some great snowboarding and skiing in our future.

We certainly felt the power under the hood on the way up – the car takes off, which meant merging on the highway was a breeze and that I had to keep a closer eye on just how fast I was going than normal. I’ll admit, I pushed it a bit on the backroads of Vermont as we approached our destination and where passing slower drivers was necessary. It has some muscle, that’s all I’ll say about that.

The front seats are super comfortable, though I think I found the premium seats in the new V60 Cross Country just a bit more comfortable when it came to support on my kidneys and lumbar support. Still – the ride beat out other SUVs that I’m used to driving, though they’re admittedly older and don’t pack the luxury design that Volvo’s known for.

I appreciated a lot of features on the ride up, specifically the blind spot detection system (BLIS) that Volvo equips on all of its cars. I also appreciated knowing that it would stop on a dime should I become distracted and approach the car in front of me too closely. I tested that on a track with the V60 Cross Country, so I know it works when it has to. The navigation system was pretty much hit or miss during my experience with the car; for whatever reason the voice navigation is off by default, which I found silly, and it would recommend new routes based on traffic situations that would save me 450 feet. When you’re driving to-and-from Vermont from my location, there’s really only one way to go – and Google Maps kept me going the right way. I did love that it shows small icons for restaurants off each exit, however, so I knew which one had a Dunkin’ Donuts ahead of time.

Overall, the ride up was relatively uneventful but was one experienced in pure comfort. As I’ve said in other posts about cars, I typically hate driving long distances, but I’m finding more and more that I don’t mind them so much while riding in the comfort of a first class cabin. Snobby, I know.

As we approached our final destination, we hit a small back road. On it, a small rental car was parked at the bottom. I later learned it was someone who decided to drive a rear-wheel rental car up on the trip, and the car didn’t have enough to get up hill to the driveway. That person ended up having to leave the trip the night before the pending snowstorm – go figure.

Off to the Slopes

On Saturday, my wife and I loaded up the car with two snowboards, all of our gear, a set of skis and more to head to the mountain for a day on the slopes. We drove a third person with us – we all carpooled over. The roads were getting a bit icy and there had been some snowfall already in the morning, but it wasn’t too bad. The car handled well – almost like a race car – through some of the more curvy roads leading up to the mountain. The drive there and back, about an hour in total, was pretty uneventful. It’s the next day when the Volvo XC60 R-Design was going to be put to the final test.

We learned on the evening of Saturday that the reports were true: at about midnight, Vermont was going to start receiving about an inch of snowfall per hour. That meant, with a good night’s sleep, we’d have at least 8 inches of snow on the ground when we woke in the morning. The party began to split up; three cars decided to leave early, including a Jeep Renegade and a Ford Edge, both of which I think would have handled just fine but the owners weren’t so sure.

I left the Volvo XC60 R-Design in the driveway overnight. Thankfully, by about 9 a.m. in the morning after we were done cleaning, it turned out that the reports weren’t as accurate as the Weather Channel had forecasted. I estimate we probably had about five inches of snow, with more coming down pretty rapidly. The folks in two Honda Accords decided to split early – front wheel drive gave one driver a struggle getting out of the parking lot, but those cars eventually made it out.

Another hour or so later, after we  had finished packing the car while the snow continued to fall, we made out for the highway, which was about 60 miles of driving down some smaller roads. It was so snowy at this point that I still had all my snow gear on, including a pair of bulky boots, snow pants and my jacket.

The Drive Back – Snow!

Our small back road had remained relatively unplowed, touched only by a few cars that had left earlier in the day. I expected – because when you’re driving in snow you try to expect more than react – that the XC60 R-Design might slip a bit. It wasn’t outfitted with snow tires, after all, and I was driving downhill at the start of the drive. As I tapped the brakes, I felt a slight skid that almost immediately stopped, likely due to the anti-skid features. I also think I felt the car managing the power between the front and back tires, which it does automatically to maintain control.

I tried to keep the car at about 35mph as we began our trek to the highway. Almost every car on the road was another SUV, which is pretty standard in a snowstorm. I like to think I was driving the nicest looking one and having the most comfortable ride, but that’s a matter of preference. Save for a small slight skid at another stop sign, the car handled the roads without any issue. It almost felt like we weren’t driving on ice and snow and that we were on just another paved road. It’s scary to think it was that good, I’m used to feeling the road and the slips under me, even while driving my personal SUV in a low gear with four wheel drive activated.

One feature I really liked while driving back was the in-windshield defrost system. I know there are folks who don’t like the small squiggly lines this leaves on the windshield, but it made all the difference while I was driving home. I didn’t have to worry about fog, and that meant a lot to me especially as I was trying to fight off the highway salt that kept splashing on the windshield once I hit the highway.

Final Thoughts

Despite the snowstorm, my wife and I made it home in about five hours, just an hour longer than it had taken us to drive up in clear weather. I think my big takeaway from the whole trip was the peace of mind I felt driving a Volvo. I’ve met and talked to a lot of the engineers who put a lot of their time into the features employed in these cars, and who take the safety of the company’s cars so seriously that I’m pretty sure it’s personal. I didn’t have to think twice the night before about leaving early, as some of my friends did, and in the morning I wasn’t afraid that, should something have gone wrong, odds are I’d probably walk away from an accident at the speeds I was driving.

The XC60 R-Design really helped turn a quick ski getaway into a fun and safe vacation. It offered a fun and speedy driving experience, plenty of control in some of the worst weather I’ve driven in, and a luxury cabin that made a five hour drive a real pleasure. If you’re considering a new SUV and want a beautiful mix of luxury and safety, check out the XC60. If you want something a bit more, especially if you’re looking for the latest and greatest from Volvo, then stay tuned for the XC90 later this year –  which we can’t wait to test out next.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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