One in an occasional series reviewing consumer vehicles.
Some times it pays to read the owner's manual or listen to the spiel of the person dropping off the car, lest you find yourself speeding along the 73 freeway with a bank of red lights flashing in front of you or the nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh sound humming in your head, without a clue as to what they mean.
What they mean on the 2017 Volvo XC60 T6 all-wheel-drive Inscription SUV, respectively, is you are getting too close to the vehicle in front of you and you are swerving too close to the lane markers, center divider or shoulder of the road.
Volvo is all about the warning lights and sounds, as even the most infrequent television advertising watcher knows the Swedish carmaker uses its penchant for safety as a marketing tool. (As in, "Most Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Pick+ Awards of any luxury automaker in 2016.")
This smaller SUV is the motoring equivalent of over-bundled little Randy in A Christmas Story. Safety features on the Inscription I tested included a cross-traffic alert, City Safety low speed collision avoidance system, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), collision warning with full auto brake, pedestrian/cyclist detection with auto brake, driver alert control, air bags in front and on the door sides of the driver and front-seat passenger, inflatable curtain head side impact air bags in the front and rear seats, a side impact protection system, a whiplash protection system for the driver and front passenger and front seat belts with height adjustable and force limiters.
These are in addition to the child safety locks, unibody high strength steel safety cage and rear park assist camera. The onboard emergency crash notification system, which sends data from a crash to the outside world, is good for 10 years on the Volvo—beyond the life of the typical lease.
The commitment to safety can give drivers of precious cargo peace of mind, but it's also an extremely smooth riding vehicle. The eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with Advance Quick Shift practically eliminates the jerky feeling one normally experiences as a vehicle up shifts or down shifts.
Meanwhile, the 2.0-liter super and turbo-charged direct injection engine, which produces 302 horsepower at 5,700 RPM and 295 pounds of torque at 2,100 RPM, had me pulling away—and far, far away—from a pack of metal snails on the 73. Having just jumped onto the freeway from UC Irvine, it felt like going 0 to Fountain Valley in 10 seconds.
And yet, the Inscription is an ultra low emission vehicle. Getting 20 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway and 22 combined, the SUV has a smog rating of 6 (10 being best) and a fuel economy and greenhouse gas rating of 5.
I'm kicking myself for not having really put the all-wheel-drive with instant traction to the test as the recent heavy rains, complete with pounding hail, provided the perfect opportunity. But I did take as many curves as I could find once the skies cleared, and it was amazing how the power assisted rack and pinion steering, advanced Electronic Stability Control, Roll Stability Control and suspension (front McPherson strut, rear multi-link) combined to snap me back into my lane, no matter how fast I took them.
Whether racing, snaking or simply commuting, I enjoyed the same luxury ride thanks to the leather upholstery, the front seat power lumbar support and the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Turning that up a notch on the test vehicle was the Climate Package, which includes a heated steering wheel and front seats with, my favorite, the ability to confine that heat to my butt, my butt and lower back or the entire backside.
I raved in a previous review about the panoramic sunroof on a Kia. The Inscription made it two-for-two with its laminated panoramic roof with power sunshade. It was cool looking at both the stars and heavy raindrops smashing into the glass.
Other standard features: anti-lock brakes with Ready Alert brakes; electronic brake distribution and assistance; 19-inch Diamond Cut alloy wheels with all-season tires; 7-inch color LCD monitor; a 160-watt high performance audio system with eight speakers; in-dash single CD player with Windows Media Audio and MP3 capabilities; Bluetooth hands-free with audio streaming; and Sensus navigation system. Those who lease and buy can also use Volvo On-Call, Sirius satellite radio and Sensus Connect with wifi hotspot free for six months; you must subscribe after that.
Also standard are Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH); LED daytime running lights; tire pressure warning system; eight-way power front seats (with three-position memory for the driver); keyless entry and drive with safe approach lighting; electronic ignition with push button start and stop; power tailgate; tilt and telescopic steering wheel; electronic parking brake; two-zone electronic climate control; auto dimming inside rear view mirror; heated power outside rearview mirrors with memory; silver integrated roof rails; and 40/20/40 flat folding seats with rear headrests.
On my test vehicle, the BLIS and Diamond Cut alloy wheels were part of a $2,475 inscription equipment package that was included in the importer's suggested list price ($46,350) that also included accent lighting, linear walnut wood inlay and auto dimming exterior mirrors.
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However, this SUV had three other packages of extras that rose suggested retail price to $53,555. Those goodies included: active dual Xenon headlights with headlight washers; HomeLink integrated garage door opener; front park assist; 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area; the aforementioned heated seats and steering wheel; power child locks on the rear doors; dual outboard two-stage child booster seats with adaptive seat belts; interior air quality system; heated windshield washer nozzles; heated windshield; adaptive cruise control with Queue Assist; distance alert; active high beam; Harman Kadon premium sound speakers; a metallic pain job; and the destination charge ($995).
My second favorite extra was the road sign icon that would light up on the instrumental panel to match the last road sign you passed. My favorite was something the fellow dropping off the car did show me: electric folding rear headrests. One of my pet peeves is seeing unoccupied headrest from my rearview mirror. Push a button and they disappear.
Just think of the Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription as the pricey bridge to our driverless car future.