Selecting & First Impressions of My 2020 XC60 T8 Inscription
Part 1 of 7 - Intro & Selection
What led me to consider a Volvo? Many of the choices I made and why. While researching, I made mental notes of questions I had and some strong opinions in forums, reviews and watching YouTube automobile videos — that I’ve now been able to experience for myself. A lot of first impressions — aka my personal opinions — after just one week owning a 2020 XC60 T8 from a guy that is new to Volvo, but has owned Hybrids/BEV since 2005, and has special-ordered most of his Tesla, Lexus, MBZ, BMW and other rides over the past 40 years.
WARNING ... WARNING ... WARNING
If you enjoy A LOT of detail and have time to at least scan what follows, you may have found a few good bits.
OTOH if you prefer short, sweet, and net summaries, you should exit now.
I have attempted to organize this into multiple posts, each with headings and sections to help find areas of interest
...but it is still a very, VERY, VERY long series. You have been warned!
My intent with what has become a novella, is to help someone thinking about a Volvo for the first time; or considering coming to a Volvo from a Tesla or Lexus; or anyone simply interested in a soup-to-nuts POV from a fellow enthusiast on his decision process, order and delivery experience, and a bunch of observations on how he sees things working in the first few days with his 2020 XC60 T8. I don’t expect anyone to like or agree with everything — we all have a POV. Hopefully though, something spurs a thought or helps in some way. It’s why I took so much time putting this together, to offer the community a thread that does not begin with a problem or complaint as most tend to on any forum these days, but rather, some facts, thoughts, ah-ha’s, practical detail, and the few things IMO that could be make this really great ride, exceptional.
BACKGROUND & PRIORITIES
Details are important in most everything I do, and what makes something good for me into GREAT. I’m known by friends, family and associates as being a planner …and I admit to being a research hound and a very detailed kinda guy, especially when it comes to investments like my automobile.
I care a lot about owning a car with the specific options I desire, even if it takes longer and may cost more than compromising on a readily-available off-the-lot purchase. I only purchase my vehicles, never lease. I personally hand wash and detail my rides — it’s become a hobby of sort. My rides are garaged between outings. Most I have kept at least a year or two beyond basic warranty expiration — when they still appear near showroom fresh. I have special-ordered nearly all of my vehicles, and was OK doing that again. Overseas Delivery (OSD) was not something I could consider this time around. I was not in a rush to replace my Tesla Model S, although I knew once I completed my research getting down to a short-list of possibilities, I wanted to check them out in-person, make a decision, and order something new to have a few months later.
Over-Arching General Desires
Like most of us I suspect, my priorities and what I’m willing to pay, vary with the specific vehicle I’m after, where I am in my life, and acknowledging nothing will be a perfect match. With my last new automobile pursuits, I forced myself to first prioritize the top 5 things that are most important to me, before I begin considering which vehicles should be investigated further. The degree some priorities may be equal or ahead of another is not always clear, but I make myself declare a sequence to myself, even if it takes a few days to get there. The order has rarely been the same, especially when I kept a 2nd less practical car as my “weekend toy, just for me” — but this first step has always helped me focus and get started. This time, my final general priorities were:
- Reliability, especially being able to get where I need to be, when I must
- Latest Technology, including safety & driver assist systems, with robust Infotainment capabilities
- Luxury, i.e. stying, options, and creature comforts
- Quality Build & Quality Service both pre and post-sale
- Performance & Handling
Of Note, #3 & #4 were basically a toss-up. As much as a I care about quality, you may catch on later why Luxury (aka Styling) got just a bit more of a nod.
Specific Vehicle Needs — Fall 2019
I was in the market for a new Crossover/SUV to replace my Tesla Model S BEV sedan (another story as to “why” for perhaps another time.) The vehicle will be the single car in my garage, therefore must support both daily driver and extracurricular activities. Taking my broad desires to the next level of detail, I was looking for:
- Mid-size Crossover/SUV physically shorter by at least a foot, and several inches narrower than my Model S, which had become too large for my needs. A size closer to my former RX450h would be fine, or the next model size down would be better.
- Rides higher than most coupe/sedans with a hand-hold and perhaps air suspension, for easier (elder) passenger entry/access (which is likely to become more of a need during the life of this vehicle.)
- Must look good with my preferred and perhaps older esthetic: Classy and elegant, yet sporty with a modern twist; Nothing that screams “look at me”, has an overly aggressive appearance, or could be mistaken as an angular something-or-other from Japanese Anime. Please, a few curves as part of the styling — somewhere!
- Not enthusiastic to own another minimalistic interior design; I prefer to return to more premium luxury appointments with a very high quality build both inside and out.
- Must have great Infotainment: Navigation with all the features incl real-time traffic; Multiple music sources; iPhone Bluetooth integration; (Wireless) Apple CarPlay; CD player not required, but superior USB music support is; iPod support would be great, but not a deal breaker if USB functionality is rich enough; Terrific sound quality; etc.
Basically, the more complete capabilities and leading-edge tech, the better, to appease my music-lover self and what remains of a geekie heritage. Comparatively poor or aged Infotainment will likely eliminate a vehicle from consideration, despite everything else — it’s that important to me.
- Moonroof (that opens); A Pano Moonroof would be better
- Standard (incandescent) headlights are out; HID (halogen) are the minimum; LED preferred; Not aware if next gen Laser headlights are commercially available yet, but I would be game to try them.
- Towing or use of a hitch for a bike rack upon occasion would be nice, but is no longer the priority or requirement it was on former SUVs
- I drive solo more often than not, but the vehicle must have comfortable seating for 4 adults upon occasion; It needs to have easy access and room for my Golden Retriever to lay down in her back seat (not the cargo area.)
- Good interior cargo space when back seats are up (day-to-day), and down (home improvement runs, perhaps a bike in the back, hauling a few boxes.)
- Safety and driver assist systems (the more, the better) — including SAE autonomous level 2 “hands-off” (still needs hand/wheel contact, e.g. Volvo PA); OTOH, I do not require a vehicle with marketing promises it may allow level 3 “eyes-off” or better one day. I’ll likely replace any new vehicle in a few years with then superior autonomous hardware & software systems — well before level 3 becomes an out-of-beta reality I will fully trust and use as more than an occasional toy.
- Estimated annual mileage <7500. I no longer have daily commutes and regular trips involving interstate speeds and long distances. Daily use is more “around town” 0-20 miles most days, approx 50 on the weekends, with occasional highway roundtrips of perhaps 200 miles, and 2-3 longer road trips >750 miles per year.
- Another BEV was preferable, but going back to a Hybrid of some sort was more likely. Having owned Hybrids and BEV since 2005, returning to an ICE was essentially a no-go (see Justifying a Hybrid below).
- I have no desire to turn my relatively large SUV into a sports car, yet my daily driver can’t be gutless in terms of acceleration, or when going uphill with passengers or cargo in the back at higher speeds. I don’t go to the track, play games at stop lights, or off-road, but a daily driver that could provide a bit of extra fun when I want it is a plus.I prefer driving in a more comfortable, yet still responsive mode most of the time — far from what my grandmother’s floaty Buick land-yacht sedans were in the early 70’s, but also not on the other extreme where I feel every bump and steering is overly-sensitive when performance is the primary objective. It is not a requirement, but an ability to easily change the setup into a “sportier mode” (shifting, steering responsiveness, suspension, etc) upon occasion would be a plus.
- Minimal roll around corners
- I was willing to explore brands beyond Lexus, MBZ, or Acura (which I’ve not owned in 25 years), but must ensure whatever I considered had multiple dealers within reasonable distance of my home in case one lets me down pre or post-sale.
I also needed to understand what dealerships and public BEV/PHEV charging there was or not on Oahu and Maui, should the vehicle move with me one day back to Hawaii where there are fewer choices... (I know, it’s a sad thing to be worried with. )
- Given this will be my single vehicle, I did not want to consider first year model production, especially if it involved new powertrains. Pre-order of an announced but not GA vehicle with few details, or from a relatively new company is out. My days are done playing those games and taking the reliability/quality/service risks unless I win the lottery.
- I prefer mfgrs that demonstrate increasingly sustainable manufacturing processes and a vehicle that is designed for more EOL recycling possibilities.
- Prelim pricing analysis included vehicle MSRP with options, shipping, tax & license, less any Fed/State rebates, PLUS dealer-supplied scheduled maintenance for 6 years @ 10K max miles/year, with one brake & rotor replacement and two front-end alignments at today’s cost.
Creating a Short List
What we’re willing to pay of course, drives nearly everything else. Given all the variables and opinions, I never talk major purchase numbers with anyone, but I will say this for context: When I began this journey in late summer 2019, I had not paid close attention to new cars for several years, or what my Tesla Model S90D may be worth in trade or private sale. To help narrow down the models I would initially explore, I spent no more than 2 hours looking at Autotrader and a few mfgr websites that came to mind after my desires and needs work above was complete. From that, I landed on $55-75K as an initial out-the-door target price (with tax/fees, but before 6yr maintenance) and would see where my research took me from there.
Over the next few weeks, I evaluated more than a dozen vehicles to varying degrees — running many mfgr website configurations to come up with prioritized color/option combos, reading 3 different owner manuals front-to-back, watching numerous videos, and reading through hundreds of articles and posts on forums including SwedeSpeed. A few data points went into a spreadsheet (model, price, 6-yr maint cost, key dimensions & powertrain specs, etc), along with my more subjective POV of reliability and unique desirable features or lack thereof. A number of models were eliminated as the analysis progressed, and I narrowed down what was left into a prioritized short list of 3-4 models to then go see in-person and test drive.
For inquiring minds, in no particular order, the following models were more seriously considered as part of my broader list of possibilities: Model S (keep what I owned), Model 3, Model Y (yes, the elusive future vehicle), RDX, MDX, Q3, Q5, XT5, QX50, F-Pace, UXh, NX300h, RX450h, GLC, Macan, Macan S, various Jeep, XC40, XC60, S60.
I was very surprised that both a Volvo XC40 T5 and XC60 T8 ended-up in my top 3 short-list to more closely consider — especially when I don’t believe I may have even ridden in a Volvo except perhaps as a kid in a friends parent’s car, let alone driven or ever considered owning one. Interesting, huh?
The Final Choice: XC40 vs XC60
Only after seeing and driving both Volvo in-person, did the decision points became more obvious. While there are subtleties, Volvo did a great job making the XC40 appear like the little brother of the XC60; Magically, the cabin appears similar in size and appointments — it’s only as you look closer differences begin to appear, e.g. XC40 rear seat backs are more vertical, it has a bit less cargo space, less leather and more plastics in secondary areas, different inside/out color combos, and XC40 lacks a few less obvious options and trim-level features like HUD, Bowers & Wilkins, and better Inscription seats (no front adjustable bolsters & thigh support, with massage). Under the hood, the greatest difference being XC40 has no T6 or T8 variant, and of course each has different est MPG. With a relatively short test drive, the XC40 T5 seemed more fun to drive likely because of it being physically smaller, which would also make life simpler maneuvering and parking around town. Since I primarily do city or shorter highway driving these days with just 1 or 2 in the front, XC40 would likely be fine — but longer hauls especially with more people or stuff, XC60 would prove superior with its Inscription seats and powertrain alternatives.
It took only a couple hours to conclude I would “downsize” from my Model S to an XC60 T8, as an intermediate step to what will likely be an XC40-size SUV next time around. An XC40 T5 would have been more than adequate for me in most ways today, but I truly wanted (at least) a Hybrid again —PHEV was a bonus— and highly desirable options like HUD and Bowers & Wilkins were not available in the XC40. More subjectively, I felt the XC60 had the better interior and exterior aesthetic for my taste. Since I wasn’t into R-Design or Polestar Engineered trim levels, XC40 Inscription left me with a “cute and good looking” sorta vibe, whereas something about the XC60 Inscription, felt more refined (and had a preferred blonde headliner, with my preferred blonde leather.)
All that to say, I ordered a larger and significantly more expensive 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription this past September from Alexandra (Alex) at Volvo Cars Carlsbad (Southern California, USA) https://www.volvocarsofcarlsbad.com. I couldn’t be happier with my Sales Rep, the transaction itself, the recently renovated dealership inside and out, or the delivery process (You’ll find a reoccurring theme as you read on: My end-to-end Volvo sales experience was on-par with the best of my former Lexus special orders — which have held my highest excellence bar for years.)
Continued in Part 2…