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2015 Volvo XC60 T6 E-Drive: New engines, styling boosts appeal

by: JOHN M. VINCENT - Volvo has redesigned the Volvo XC60 for 2015, giving it a sleeker look.Forget everything you think you know about old reliable but boring Volvo.

The truth is, Volvo hasn't been that stodgy for years. But now the company is rolling out a wave of advanced engines, redesigned models and all-new vehicles, thanks to an $11 billion investment by its current owner, China's Geely automotive group.

Exhibit A is this week's test vehicle, the redesigned 2015 XC60 luxury compact crossover with a radical supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Part of the company's new line of modular Drive-E engines, it cranks out 302 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque. That's more than enough to propel the two ton-plus SUV down the road while delivering an EPA estimated average 25 miles per gallon.

Even automotive enthusiasts might be baffled by the concept of a supercharged and turbocharged engine. Basically, it uses a belt-driven compressor to pump more fuel and air into the combustion cylinders at low speed, increasing the available power. Then, as the engine speed builds, an exhaust-driven turbine takes over, using otherwise wasted energy to continue the process.

The new engine replaces the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6 that was the optional engine in last years XC60. Although not quite as powerful as the T6, it averages five miles per gallon better, according to the EPA.

But, just to confuse matters, Volvo is keeping T6 as part of the name of the top-of-the-line 2015 XC60. Go figure.

by: JOHN M. VINCENT - The interior of the 2015 Volvo XC60 is more refined, but the biggest changes are under the hood.On the road, the interaction of the supercharger and turbocharger isn't noticeable. In fact, the only obvious sign that the engine ha so much technology is a slight whine from the supercharger at lower speeds. Mostly the little four-banger just feels like a bigger engine, which is the goal. Mated to a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, our 2015 XC60 scooted down the road, up hills and past freeway traffic with ease.

The ride was always quiet and comfortable, thanks to quality construction and a refined suspension.

Although the S/T2.0 is only offered with front-wheel-drive for now, all-wheel-drive will be available when the fully redesigned model debuts next year.

The base engine in this year's XC60 is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4. It replaces the naturally-aspirated inline 6 in last year's model. The new base engine is more powerful than last year's, and it gets six miles per gallon better, too.

Other changes to this year's XC60 include a sleeker front end and more refined interior. Both make it more contemporary without undermining the sophisticated but restrained styling that characterize most Volvos these days.

The luxury compact crossover market is one of the most competitive in the automotive world these. Even the least expensive compact crossovers can be ordered with such premium amenities as leather interiors and practically every technological option known to man. This means the more expensive models have to work harder to justify their price tags. And that's exactly what Volvo is doing.

The XC60's direct competitors are the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class. All offer impressive levels of refinement and sophistication. But so does the XC60, even though Volvo may not have the cache of the German manufacturers, at least not yet. That will soon change if the company's owners keep investing in new and improved products like the 2015 XC60 T6 E-Drive, however.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2015 XC60 T6 Drive-E.

• Manufacturer: Volvo.

• Class: Compact crossover.

• Layout: Front engine, front-wheel-drive.

• Style: Five-door SUV.

• Engines: Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4 (240 hp, 258 lb-ft); Supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4 (302 hp, 295 lb-ft);

• Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode.

• EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 24/31/27 (T2.0/FWD); 22/30/25 (ST2.0/AWD).

• Price: Beginning at approximately $35,000 ($50,725 as tested).