The XC60 R-Design's styling begins up front with a blackened grille containing that signature diagonal chrome strip that I always think of as the Volvo no-smoking sign.
From there, the eye follows a beltline that the XC60 wears above its belly button. But, unlike people who wear their belts that high, the XC60 looks aggressive and suave, thanks, in part, to the way that beltline rises so dramatically toward those big, bold taillights. (And they are big. They are the same height as the liftgate window they straddle.)
The pleasing styling was complemented by superb paint work and body fits. The only sour note, a pet peeve with me, was the body cladding at the base of the doors and on the rocker panels. Once a Detroit addiction, these plastic add-ons always strike me as afterthoughts.
The car's cabin proved a case study in clean Scandinavian design. The black-and-cream interior was at once understated and elegant. There was a wonderfully fresh, Bauhaus simplicity about the dashboard that permitted nothing superfluous.
The leather on the supportive seats was soft, and so were the other interior surfaces.
The backseat afforded adequate head and legroom for a tall person. The cargo space behind it was spacious, partly because there was little wheel-well incursion. The backseats folded flat. A section of the storage area's floor lifted to create a wall that split the space in two.
I also liked the console that folded out of the rear-seat back rest and opened to reveal two cupholders, a storage tray and a lidded compartment.
Situated above the back rest-cum-console was a third head rest. Unlike the conventional head rests flanking it, this center one consisted of the top eight inches of the back rest, which slid upward to create a head rest.
The XC60 tester proved as enjoyable to drive as it was to look at. The driving fun derived from that gutsy turbo engine and the R-Design performance tweaks, which included a stiffer body and suspension, and quicker steering. The suspension, coupled with those wide, 20-inch Pirelli performance tires (255/45R20 Scorpion Zeros), produced composed, sure-footed business in the corners. The engine sent the R-Design bounding out of the chute. Zero to 60 was achieved in well under seven seconds, which is quite punctual for a crossover.
The turbocharged R-Design's performance advantages over the standard XC60 involve some trade-offs, of course. The ride is noticeably firmer, although hardly punishing, and the gas mileage - 17 city and 23 highway - is pretty dismal.
Except for the firm ride, the accoutrements of a luxury auto prevail. The car is quiet, and feels solid. The seats are comfortable as well as properly bolstered.
Like the one in Xanadu, such pleasure domes do not come cheaply. Although the XC60 starts at $33,300, the loaded, all-wheel-drive R-Design I tested began at $43,700 and, after taking aboard goodies like the Platinum Package ($4,450), finished up at $52,675.
In the Volvo tradition, the XC60 has a top, five-star, overall vehicle score in the government safety ratings.
Contact columnist Al Haas? at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2012 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD (R-Design)
Base Price: $43,700.
Standard Equipment: Turbo-charged, 3-liter engine; six-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel-drive; R-Design performance tweaks and styling cues.
Options: Range from a voice-activated navigation system to safety wrinkles like adaptive cruise control, collision warning, pedestrian detection and lane departure warning.
Fuel economy: 17 city, 23 highway.
The Ben Key: Four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.