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Buying used: Volvo crossover a safety pioneer

2010 Volvo XC60

Ted Laturnus/The Globe and Mail

Introduced to the Canadian market in 2010, the Volvo XC60 was arguably one of the safest cars on the road.

For example, one of its many security features was a system the company called City Safety. The idea was to prevent or mitigate accidents occurring at speeds of 30 km/h or less by automatically applying the brakes at the last possible moment. According to Volvo, 75 per cent of all collisions take place at or below this speed and, half of the time, the brakes aren't applied at all.

City Safety also worked in concert with other protective features on the XC60, including the airbags and seat belts, to further reduce the possibility of injury. It worked equally well during the day or night (although the windscreen must be kept clear), and functioned independently of Volvo's Adaptive Cruise Control system, a sonar-based technology designed to keep a safe distance between you and the car in front during highway driving. It's interesting to note that these features, comparatively rare three years ago, are common throughout the industry today.

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But there was more to the XC60 than an automatic braking feature. Standard equipment also included a lane-departure warning, rear park-assist camera, collision warning, a blind spot information system and driver alert control.

And a traction control system, hill descent control, vehicle stability system, brake fade support and the usual roster of airbags and ABS. With this generation of the XC60, Volvo went above and beyond in the pursuit of accident prevention, and you could argue that this was one of the most driver-insulating vehicles on the market.

Power was delivered by a 3.0-litre, 281-horsepower turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine and the XC60 came with one transmission: a six-speed automatic mated to a fourth-generation Haldex full-time all-wheel-drive system. Parts of this drivetrain and various other components were used elsewhere in Volvo's lineup, including the S80 and V70, and it featured 231 mm of ground clearance for those who felt the urge to go off-roading. A normally aspirated 3.2-litre V-6 came later.

The XC60 was designed at Volvo's California studios and built in Ghent, Belgium. Volvo was hoping owners of the diminutive C30 coupe would move up into the XC60 and its competition included the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Lexus RX350 and especially BMW's X3. It was, in all respects, an upscale vehicle.

Standard – non-safety – equipment included leather interior, dual-zone climate control, heated outside mirrors, power seats, hands-free Bluetooth interface, Sirius satellite radio and a fold-flat rear floor area with 40/20/40-split rear seats.

Flying in the face of all its safety features perhaps, there are five safety recalls to report. These include a possibly flawed passenger front seat, which may not have been installed correctly at the factory; an airbag problem involving incorrect installation that could result in no airbag deployment when you need it; a possibly leaky fuel line in the engine bay; and driver's-side seat belts that may not do what they're supposed to in an accident.

To this, we can add 29 technical service bulletins from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These range from "unstable" rear suspension, to a whining noise emanating from the power steering pump, to various airbag issues, to service lights mysteriously coming on during the vehicle's operation. Lots to work with here.

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Still, Consumer Reports likes this one and put it on its Recommended list – possibly because it came with so many safety and security features. While the magazine had misgivings about the fuel economy, it liked the XC60's comfort level and handling. The vehicle received an "above-average" rating from this organization.

Some comments from owners: "After starting up from a stop, City Safety activated with an emergency brake activation," "While driving, the fuel tank began to briskly leak gasoline" and "Car should not be using half the oil in the engine between services."

Market research company J.D. Power, meanwhile, is lukewarm; it likes the XC60's overall quality and comfort level, but is less than happy with things like its performance and mechanical features and accessories quality. It garners an "about-average" rating for overall performance and design, and a "better-than-most" grade for predicted reliability.

From a base price of less than $40,000 in 2010, the XC has dropped by almost half. Expect to pay anywhere from the mid-$25,000 range for the base version, right up to the mid-$35,000 range for a fully loaded T6.

Tech specs

2010 Volvo XC60

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Original Base Price: $39,995; Black Book: $28,100-$35,750; Red Book: $24,500-$33,100

Engine: 3.0-litre, turbocharged, inline-six-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 281 hp/295 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 14.7 city/10.7 highway; regular gas

Alternatives:BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK 350, Lexus RX350, Acura RDX, Infiniti EX35

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