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Volvo XC60 brings wagon up to date

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Consider the 2012 Volvo XC60 a modern-day interpretation of the Volvo station wagon of yore.

It hews to the Swedish company’s long tradition of family transportation focused on safety, comfort, utility and durability.

And especially in top-of-the-line R-Design garb, the XC60 adds a few new twists for the once-stodgy wagon: Potent performance, sporty styling and a thoroughly chic but functional cabin.

2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design
E2VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door, five-passenger, compact luxury SUV
BASE PRICE: $43,700
PRICE AS TESTED: $52,675 (incl. delivery fees)
POWERTRAIN: 3.0-liter, DOHC, turbocharged six-cylinder; 325 horsepower; 354 lb.-ft. torque; six-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
WHEELBASE/LENGTH: 108.2″/182.2″
CURB WEIGHT: 4,236 pounds
EPA FUEL RATING: 17 mpg city/23 highway

The list of luxury compact SUVs has expanded until nearly every automaker now has one. Infiniti, Acura, Audi, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, BMW: That’s just a few of the offerings, with more to come – even Porsche and Jaguar are considering one.

But Volvo brings to the table an attribute few if any of its competitors can duplicate: The company’s lifelong, total devotion to safety. Certainly others in its class build safe vehicles. But Volvo is rabid about it – the tally of cutting-edge safety systems is unparalleled and way too long to list here. There are even high-tech systems designed to avert an accident before it happens.

Suffice it to say, throw in the XC60′s tanklike built quality and this is one supersafe family hauler, a fact underlined by its perfect, five-star scores in the tougher-for-2012 government crash ratings.

The top-of-the-line R-Design package adds a number of features, including special, 20-inch alloys; a sport-tuned chassis; some unique interior and exterior trim; and a pair of form-fitting sport buckets up front, complemented by handsome, two-tone-accented leather upholstery.

Perhaps most welcome is the R-Design’s additional power. Utilizing the same 3.0 turbocharged twin-cam inline six-cylinder used in the lower-level T6 model, horsepower is boosted to a generous 325 (from 300) and torque climbs to 354 pound-feet. Delivered through a solid-shifting, six-speed automatic transmission, that’s plenty to provide spirited performance, well-matched to the sport-tuned suspension, responsive steering and potent brakes.

The XC60 extends Volvo’ s recent successes with cabins that offer not only comfort but style and ease of use. To that end, quality materials and modern design create an appealing space. On the road, well-damped road and wind noise advance the aura of calm and contentment.

Go easy on options or the XC60′s price can top $50,000. Still, even at that price point the Volvo is a unique proposition, and one well worth checking out.

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