Sure, you always should signal and keep your distance from the car ahead. But on a packed I-95, no matter how careful you are, you can't eliminate the random behavior of other drivers. Guy tucks in front of you, and the car slams on the brakes. Unnerving.
Switched off, no problem.
The adaptive cruise control, however, can be left on when other nannylike features are off. In light traffic, it held the set speed. In heavier traffic, it slowed the XC and maintained a safe following distance, then accelerated to the set speed when possible.
If you just don't like intrusive gadgets, don't spend $1,695 for the "technology package."
• Optional stereo's good. Solid bass; not boomy. Crisp highs; not shrill. Typical of good factory systems, though, you couldn't turn it up enough. Rockin' down a big road, windows down, max volume didn't cut it.
• Suspension underwhelms. Around town, good ride, nice agility. But hustling down a tightening-spiral exit ramp, the front pushed hard to the outside of the corner. All-wheel-drive utilities, no surprise, are less agile than a sportier vehicle. But they shouldn't require unusual steering input.
XC60 beckons with its engaging styling, ravishing interior and useful options. But a sometimes-jerky drivetrain is a turnoff.
2010 VOLVO XC60
• What? Volvo's least-expensive, smallest crossover-utility vehicle; four-door, five-passenger, all-wheel drive.
• When? On sale since mid-March.
• Where? Built at Ghent, Belgium.
• Why? A hot segment in a cold market.
• How? Trim, stylish body on a platform similar to that used for the bigger XC70, XC90 crossovers.
• How much? $38,025 with $825 shipping; high $40s decked to the nines.
• How powerful? More than adequate: 3-liter, six-cylinder, turbocharged engine rated 281 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, 295 pounds-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm, mated to six-speed automatic transmission. Haldex all-wheel drive operates in front-drive mode until wheels slip, then sends up to 50% of power to rears.
• How well-equipped? Satisfyingly and tastefully so — it's a Volvo, after all.
Unique standard feature: City Safety. At 2 to 9 mph, it slams on the brakes if you fail to so you don't smack the car ahead. At 10 to 18 mph, it brakes hard to minimize the crash force (but can't prevent contact).
• How big? 5 inches shorter than rival Lexus RX 350, otherwise similar. XC60 is 182.2 inches long, 74.4 in. wide, 67.4 in. tall on a 109.2-in. wheelbase. Weighs 4,174 lbs. Carries 1,194 lbs., tows 3,300 lbs. Hauls 30.8 cubic feet of cargo behind back seat or 67.4 cu. ft. when seat's folded flat.
Turning circle: 38.4 ft.
• How thirsty? Rated 16 miles per gallon in town, 22 highway, 18 combined (5.56 gallons per 100 miles). Test-car trip computer showed 20.2 mpg (4.95 gal./100 mi.) in fast 250-mile highway run and lurch-and-languish return on same roads.
Uses regular, holds 18.5 gallons.
• Overall:Neat machine undercut by jerky drivetrain.