2010 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design.
One of my best friends, who now have two kids, asked me for assistance in choosing a new vehicle for their growing family. Their priorities are safety, practicality, and space but also wanted a certain level of comfort. Equally important are the looks. The exterior, as well as the interior aesthetics were important, since it was a vehicle they would spend alot of time in as a growing family.
While they had already explored a bit on their own, this was the beginning of a secondary and more detailed effort in search of the final choice.
Their first explorations removed several vehicles off the list for a variety of reasons, such as the amount of effort it took to get a child in and out of the rear seats, the height of the rear storage/luggage area, not to mention the very simple emotional attachment we all have to our vehicle.
For this article, I won't go into great detail as to why, but here are some of the ones that were removed...
Audi Q7 - too big, too tall.
Audi Q5 - nice, but brought out no emotion.
Ford Flex - too long, difficult to park in the city.
Jeep Wrangler - safety concern with two small kids.
Lincoln MKX - not a fan of the exterior.
Volkswagen Tiguan - too small.
The list to explore included...
1) If money is no obstacle
BMW X5 3.5
Porsche Cayenne S
Range Rover Sport Supercharged
2) If we have to be a little bit thrifty:
2011 BMW X3 3
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-design
3) If we have to save:
So on August 23, 2010, we started the search. Below are our initial random thoughts, and not too loaded with tech talk. This is what you would say if you went to do the same and expressed opinions about it.
Our first stop was Volvo, and the first vehicle we saw was the Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design. The sticker was $48,350, which comprised of a $41,550 base, plus $2,700 for the multimedia package, $1,000 climate package, $700 for the blind spot system, $550 for Personal Car Communicator and a $850 destination charge.
The car was red, and it's not my favorite color, but the interior was impressive, with it's dual Color black and cream leather. If more vehicles had this kind of attention to details (as does Audi) the entire industry would be in a better place. The seats are quite comfortable, and the floating Center stack is well designed, but I was turned off by the cheap, fake, silkscreened pattern on the center area. The seats are beautiful, down to the graceful design of the headrests.
The gauge cluster is extremely simple, with just two dials (with digital inserts), an RPM and a speedo.
It feels more like a car than an SUV, and it has a satisfying amount of power and when you throw it around, it doesn't have much body roll. It feels nice and firm.
Overall, it's a nice size and feels quite manageable. It comes with a 5-year, 50k mile warranty. The 2010 has a 3.0 liter, turbo-charged 6-cylinder and is 281 hp, and the 2011 is 300 hp.
The dealer: We were instantly greeted, although this is a tricky area because there are times when you wish they would let you browse long enough to figure out what exactly it is that you are interest in. When we asked to test drive the car, we were given the keys, and he sent us on our way, alone.
We got back and of course were asked what we thought. We honestly told him how much we liked it, but that we were comparing other vehicles, and this was the first one. He really didn't like that answer and made every effort to get us to buy right then.
XC60 T6 AWD R-Design Specifications.
• Best-in-Class Coverage Plan from Volvo:
- 5 Years 60,000 Mile Warranty
- 5 Years Factory Scheduled Maintenance
- 5 Years Wear & Tear Coverage
- 5 Years Volvo On Call Roadside Assistance
• 3.0 Liter Turbocharged Engine 300 hp @5600 RPM, Torque 325 lb.-ft. @1500-4800 RPM
• 6-Speed Geartronic Transmission
• Volvo's All-Wheel-Drive System w/Instant Traction
• Refined and Distinctive Leather Seating Surfaces
• Power Driver & Front Passenger Seats
• Dual Xenon Gas Discharge Headlights with Active Bending Lights (ABL)
• Laminated Panoramic Roof
• Bluetooth® Hands-Free Capability
• HD Radio™ & USB Interface
• Sirius® Satellite Radio (Includes 6-Month Introductory Subscription)
• R-Design Styling
• R-Design Skidplates
• 20" Alloy Wheels
• Driver and Front Passenger Supplemental Restraint System - Dual Stage Air Bags
• Inflatable Side Curtains (IC)
• Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS)
• Side Impact Air Bags for Driver and Front Passenger
• Estimated 22 MPG Highway
Next was the Cadillac SRX4. I personally find this vehicle very attractive, especially when you compare it to the previous generation, but the mom, who is really looking to make a purchase, was not a fan. She had already seen this vehicle at the auto show, and dismissed it then, but I felt they should reconsider, so we came to give it another chance.
After coming right from the Volvo test drive, it didn't seem to stack up to the XC60r, who's interior is so superior. The SRX is very good, but it doesn't give you the desire to want to stay inside as the Volvo's does. That said, I continue to be a big fan.
It's interesting how the smallest details of a vehicle either attract or detract from the final choice. For example, I love the way the rear tail lights sweep up into a small little "shark fin", but mom hated it to the point that it was the very first thing she said.
Additionally, as soon as we lifted the rear hatch, I found the adjustable tracks to be very useful, and a detail that added a level of craftsmanship that almost all other vehicles lacked in this area of the vehicle. It was both convenient and attractive, but the dad instantly identified it as a possible area that would age and scratch easily, as would the two chrome "steps" on each side, from the constant loading and unloading.
The rear sliding cover had a very ingenious little feature, which included two locations for the track, one that would hold the cover completely closed, hiding all of your goodies from prying eyes, and the other opens it half way, but tilted upwards, allowing for easier access, without having to deal with the cover. The problem we found however, was that when you brought it back to the mid point, it would not stay, and slide back up. This could clearly be an annoyance that would drive you crazy after just a few uses.
I find the exterior very attractive (especially in silver) and the front grill has a very identifiable personality, however all of these minor issues made us leave the dealership without a test drive.
The Dealer: Not one person came to greet us, or ask if they could help, despite the fact that we were all over the car, even taking plenty of pictures.
The third visit was to Volkswagen to see the Touareg V6 tdi. 221 hp, with it's 3.0 liter V6 and 406 ft torque (18 mpg). This one listed for $45,290, plus $140 for floor mats and an $800 destination fee, bringing the total to $44,350.
I owned a V8 Touareg in 2004 and at the time, the interior was superior to it's sibling, the Porsche Cayan, but since it's refresh, the VW is feeling dated, but only when compared. It really is still quite good.
Dad immediately pointed out how small the sunroof was, and in fact, it made the interior feel smaller than it is, even thou Volkswagen interiors are always very well appointed and only second to Audi. The drive felt smooth as well as controlled and it had plenty of power. It was capable of dealing with whatever you asked of it.
The dealer: We were greeted by a young man, who was very helpful and not pushy at all. He came along for the ride and sat in the back as he explained all he knew about the vehicle.
I was surprised how I felt after leaving the test drive. I thought I would love it, and in fact, pushed hard to get it on the list of vehicles to try. But I felt bored. I suppose we humans just simply get tired of things we are familiar with after a while, no matter how good they are. That is what probably happened to me since, as I mention above, I owned a Touareg (and it was a V8) and I thought it was the best of the offerings at the time.
Next was The 300 HP 2011 BMW xdrive 35i with a 3.5 liter, (17mpg). It listed for $54,100, but got up to $62,425, which included $2,750 for the convinience package, $900 for cold weather package, $2,800 for the Technology package, $300 for running boards, $350 for rear heated seats, and an $850 destination charge.
I know that this is a well received vehicle in the market place, and that it does well but I was initially not excited to see this one. The X5 has been with us for some time and I guess I was just feeling that it was a bit too familiar. I was proven wrong instantly. As we walked towards the car, the new facia greets you with a smile, and the interior is fantastic. The roof is practically all glass. It feels very luxurious, and the comfort is unmatched, especially with the sports seats.
The ride was nice and tight, with the sports suspension. It was just a joy to be in. The X5 is built in North Carolina, so European delivery is not offered. It comes with a 4-year, 50k mile full maintenance program.
The Dealer: We had a few minutes to get our bearings, and then ran into a salesman who I knew, so it went well from there. He was very helpful and came along for the ride with us, sitting in the front, as he explained all of the details to dad.
Then off to see the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 (13 mpg), which comes with a 5-year, 100k mile warranty.
At $46,080, it included a base of $38,820, plus $1,495 for the 5.7 litter v8 upgrade, $1,495 for the Luxury Group II, $695 for the Trailer Tow Group IV, $550 for the Off-Road Adventure Package, $750 for the Media Center and a $780 destination charge.
We walked into the showroom and started with the rear. The rear glass opens without opening the hatch, and once the hatch is open, the floor has four chrome strips that look nice, but will instantly be ruined during your first load. The two fake plastic shields made to look like brushed aluminum are also a giveaway of cutting corners, and once you get inside, the interior feels like they did the same here.
There were a few exceptions, like the massive sunroof, door panels and seats, but to recap, the center stack seemed out of place.
It's not horrible, and is certainly better than the previous generation, but when you compare it to the competition, it just doesn't hold up, especially at a time when Chrysler needs a home run. Having said that, I still think it will do well, mostly because of it's followers and fans, and because I know that I am being extra critical.
At times I felt like they were begin held back by their very own heritage, one that kept them from coming up with a new idea, while in fairness, acknowledging that if they ever strayed too far from their past, it would create too big a disconnect with their brand and consumers. It's a tough place to be in.
The test drive went well. It was a bit bouncy, but had a nice ride overall. There was never a lack of power. It was quite effective.
The Dealer: As we drove into the parking lot, we instantly spotted "the pack"... The group of three salesmen waiting for someone to pull up, of course, we were barely out of the car before one of them had approached us.
Once we walked into the showroom, he disappeared when he learned we were just comparing, and by the time we wanted to take one out for a test drive, it took us 5 minutes to search for someone to help us. Eventually, we had to go back outside and ask one of the three to assist us, and when he did, he seemed disinterested.
Addiditonally, it always astounds me that they never know who to asks for the keys.
He came along with us, and before I realized it, jumped in the front seat, forcing me to the rear. The dad asked if he had one with leather seats, and his response was "you're sitting on them". Logical, you would think, except that the one we saw on the showroom floor had cloth seats, and all of the seats in the vehicle were completely covered in opaque plastic. You could not see thru it, and it was very uncomfortable, not to mention slippery.
While driving, he asked what he could do to get us to take one home today. Really?! After letting him know we have to ask the mom, he didn't say a word, took us back to the dealership, and dropped us off in the parking lot. He then took off, parked the car and we never saw him again.
Next was the Ford Edge. (17 mpg) 3.5 v6 265hp.
The base sticker was $35,770, with $1,995 for the Sport Premium package, $75 for floor mats, $1,595 for the Panoramic Vista Roof, $2,380 for Voice Activated Navigation, $1,000 for 22" polished wheels, $299 for dealer installed protection package that included graphic stripes, (nasty) door edge guards and $199 for wheel locks, and finally, a $750 destination charge for a total of $43,590.
The interior is very nice. This one had the dual colored seats with gray Alcantara inserts. It's got a huge dual-section sunroof. The interior was well appointed, the seats were comfortable and the materials were good quality. The 22" polished wheels were very nice too, and filled the wheel wells nicely.
The one disappointing element of the Ford center stack was the step and repeat graphic treatment of the word "sport" that is either silk-screened or etched (not sure which) across the entire surface.
It seems to be an amateurish application of a graphic design detail that is sure to not age as well as the rest of the interior. The upside is that it is easily changed, and will likely spawn several aftermarket options. A smooth and clean piece of brushed aluminum, or carbon fiber would be ideal here and would give the surface of the material an opportunity to be the hero.
The dealer: I was really hoping for a good experience because I've not had one at a Ford dealer in the past, and I did. We were asked if we were being helped, and after letting him know what we were looking for, the help came right away As we went to the test drive, he came along, and again was very helpful, interested and informative. While sitting down going over the details, the sales manager came by an introduced himself in the most casual and non-pressured manner, it was actually quite pleasant.
The last stop of the day was to go see the 2010 Mercedes GLK 350 (16 mpg). With a base of $36,600, plus $720 for Almond Black paint, $740 for heated front seats, $375 for an iPod kit, $3,150 for the premium package and $875 destination fee, the total came to $42,460. It has a 3.5 liter V6, with 268 hp, and 258 ft/lbs torque.
I really hate to say this, but I find this vehicle boring. The exterior and the interior, although the interior is slightly better.
The interior materials and fit was very good, nothing to complain about, other than it brought nothing new to the table, it was all nice but ordinary. It was obviously more luxurious than the Jeep, for example, but you would expect that in a Mercedes-Benz. I did like the gauge cluster, and it did have a dual sun roof, but was not as big as the BMW or the Ford.
The ride was firm, and tight, but it seemed like it was searching for power when needed. I did notice a bit of a rattle in the rear area when going over a few bumps, but nothing major.
• 268-hp 3.5L V6 engine
• 7-speed auto transmission
• 16/21 mpg (city/highway)
• 2WD (rear), 4MATIC option
• Seats 5 adults
• Up to 54.7 cu. ft. cargo capacity**
The Dealer: The greeting was pleasant and very professional and we were introduced to a salesman who was very helpful. When we went to the test drive, he came along, and asked to sit in front.
A blanket statement that probably applies to every car sold today, and one that feels like a petty little grab for an extra dollar is the charge they add on for floor mats. Not just the amount, which is usually inflated to the point of insult, but just the fact that you have to pay for such a basic item when spending tens of thousands of dollars doesn't feel right. Don't get me wrong. I believe in paying for what you get, and I am not asking that it be free, but just add it to the total, like almost everything else in a car and keep it clean, I for one, would just feel better about it.
I drive countless cars each year, and every time I do, I learn something new, but there is a unique and critical mindset you get into when you are doing towards the goal of making a purchase.
Realizing this, I point out that we are being unusually critical about all of these vehicles. If there is one piece of advice I can give to anyone buying a car or SUV is to compare. And not just online, but onsite. Try to fit as many test drives into one day, so the feeling is fresh, and take notes. At the end of the day, some of the comparisons will start to merge and you won't remember what attributes or criticisms to apply to a particular vehicle. Doing this makes the best rise to the top much easier, and often ends up with a surprise. You may like a vehicle more than you thought you would, or your favorite before the tests will fall a notch or two.
Vehicle and Dealer recap.
This rating is as basic as it gets, and only takes into account the very reality that one of these vehicles will be purchased, and not just being tested for the purposes of a review. So from a scale of 1-10, I will judge what we've seen.
Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design: 8.5
Cadillac SRX4: 7.5
Volkswagen Touareg V6 tdi: 5
BMW xdrive 35i: 9
Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited: 4.5
Ford Edge: 6
Mercedes-Benz GLK 350: 5.5
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