Deeming the 2012 Volvo XC60 an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick, or granting it a Five-Star Safety Rating (as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently did) is like proclaiming the sky blue. Well, of course it is, but there’s a whole lot of fascinating stuff that goes into why.
Start outside where the newest XC60 crossover (MSRP $32,900) is the recipient of far more than a beautiful Scandinavian design; there’s over 80 years of unparalleled Volvo function to accompany that form. Superior visibility reigns, as all XC60 trims – 3.2, T6 AWD and R-Design – get daytime running lights, a set of high-intensity rear foglamps and front and rear side positioning lights. An available pair of active dual xenon headlamps are optional, and actually pivot around corners, providing a vision range boost of about 230 percent during night driving.
The crossover’s structure itself is designed to lofty Volvo standards. The passenger compartment is specially reinforced with a high-strength steel safety cage, and the vehicle’s sides and front are equipped with energy absorbing deformation zones and a collapsible steering column. For good measure, a low-mounted cross member protects in the event of frontal collisions with vehicles lower than the XC60; nothing slips through the cracks and nothing slips beneath the bumper.
The 2012 XC60 gets a standard 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine, or an optional turbocharged six-cylinder that really takes driving to a higher level. But while the XC60 is specially tuned to be unleashed, it’s also brilliantly engineered to be controlled. All trims come standard with Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, and are available with an advanced Haldex® All-Wheel Drive system that expertly and actively delivers torque to the wheels with the best grip. R-Design trims get a special sport-tuned suspension, which delivers exceptionally precise handling.
A standard Rollover Protection System in the XC60 utilizes gyroscope technology to measure the lateral forces placed on the vehicle at any given time. Should it appear as if a rollover is imminent (during a tight turn at high speeds, for example), the system will engage, applying the brakes to one or several wheels to steady the ride and right the ship. The XC60 also gets standard antilock brakes with the added power of Hydraulic Brake Assist, Fading Brake Support and Ready Alert Brakes, all systems designed to aid in emergency braking maneuvers.
The cabin of the 2012 XC60 is outfitted with energy absorbing materials on the doors and panels. All seatbelts come with pretensioners, and all seats get integrated head restraints as part of the comprehensive Volvo Whiplash Protection System®. Front and rear seats are actually contoured to prevent occupants from submarining (slipping beneath the safety belts), and an optional pair of rear dual-stage integrated booster seats with adaptive safety belts fold up to provide small children a higher, safer vantage point.
The XC60 is the world’s first to have the Volvo City Safety system as standard equipment. Using advanced infrared technology, City Safety monitors the road ahead for unseen vehicles or obstructions at vehicle speeds up to 19 mph. If it senses a collision is unavoidable, it will prepare the cabin for potential impact, then actively apply brakeforce to slow the vehicle (and limit the severity of the crash) or stop it entirely. Optional systems like Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist and Distance Alert and Collision Warning with Full-Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection take similar approaches, using radar sensors and cameras to warn and slow/stop you should obstacles appear in front of you. Last, the XC60 is the first passenger vehicle in the world to get available Driver Alert Control and Lane Departure Warning systems, which monitor driver distraction (such as crossing lanes without obvious reason) and alert the driver that perhaps a break is necessary.
Grass is green, the sky is blue and the Volvo XC60 is one of the safest vehicles money can buy. In the case of the 2012 crossover, it’s not just where it ends up, but how it gets there that’s so impressive.