Volvo has become the darling of the North American Utility of the Year award program in recent years, having just won last year with its then new XC90 mid-size SUV, but now it’s the redesigned 2018…

New Volvo XC60 wins 2018 North American Utility of the Year

2018 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design
The stylish new Volvo XC60 has just won the 2018 North American Utility of the Year award. (Photo: Volvo)

Volvo has become the darling of the North American Utility of the Year award program in recent years, having just won last year with its then new XC90 mid-size SUV, but now it’s the redesigned 2018 XC60 compact SUV’s turn to be honoured with the prestigious title.

Like the previous winner, the sharp looking 2nd-generation XC60 represents a completely fresh approach for Volvo and a much more competitive entry within the compact luxury SUV segment.

“The Volvo XC60 raises the bar for safety and driver assistance systems in compact utility vehicles, and does it in a package that exudes Scandinavian design,” said Mark Phelan, president of the North American Car of the Year Awards organization.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
A factor benefiting the new XC60 is a strong engine lineup that includes this T8 model’s 400-hp plug-in hybrid drivetrain. (Photo: Volvo)

It’s true, Volvo is one of few models in the compact luxury SUV segment to include autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assist as standard equipment, while additional standard safety gear include full LED headlamps, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, a driver’s knee airbag, and more. On top of these advanced features, the new 2018 XC60 can be upfitted with automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, road sign recognition, and new Pilot Assist, which is Volvo’s highly advanced semi-autonomous driver assistance system that manages steering, acceleration, and braking on well-marked roads up to 130 km/h (80 mph).

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
Few XC60 rivals offer standard LED headlamps, this just one of many advanced safety features that set the compact luxury SUV apart from its peers. (Photo: Volvo)

Like in previous years, the 2018 North American Utility of the Year was chosen by a jury of 60 professional automotive journalists from the US and Canada who provide content for independent print newspapers and magazines, TV and radio stations, plus websites. The results of their findings were presented at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this month. The award, which also includes a Car and Truck of the Year, honours “excellence in innovation, design, safety features, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value,” stated a press release.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
The XC60’s standard infotainment system is large at 9.0 inches, plus it’s an award-winning system that’s been lauded by customers and industry professionals alike. (Photo: Volvo)

“We are so proud the XC60 has won this prestigious award,” said Anders Gustafsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars USA. “It is a very tough competition and we thank all the judges for recognizing the great style, technology, and engineering in the XC60. All car shoppers should take a test drive to see for themselves how great it really is.”

It appears a lot of Canadian consumers have done just that since the new 2018 XC60 was introduced in August last year. Prior to that XC60 annual deliveries had been hovering between 1,500 to 1,700 unit sales for years, but despite only being on the market for five months the new redesign helped push XC60 sales up to 2,315 deliveries for 2017. More specifically, year-over-year XC60 sales were up 41 percent in August, 140 percent in September, 290 percent in October, 264 percent in November, and 251 percent in December. The importance of this growth can’t be underestimated, as the XC60 represented 30 percent of the Swedish brand’s worldwide sales before the redesigned version arrived, so therefore the new model’s uptick in popularity will be a boon to the Volvo brand overall.

2018 Volvo XC60
This panoramic sunroof is standard across the entire XC60 line, just one of many examples of the XC60’s value proposition. (Photo: Volvo)

Part of the 2018 XC60’s appeal is its highly efficient yet powerful engine lineup. All utilize Volvo’s direct-injection turbocharged 2.0-litre “Drive-E” four-cylinder, with the base T5 version making 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The same turbo-four in T6 trim adds a supercharger for a boost to 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, whereas the XC60 T8 includes the supercharger as well as identical Twin Power plug-in hybrid technology to the XC90 T8, resulting in 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. This allows the XC60 T8 to sprint from zero to 100km/h in only 5.3 seconds.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
This top-line XC60 T8 Inscription model shows how far upmarket Volvo has taken its luxury image. (Photo: Volvo)

All powertrains are made even more efficient thanks to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission featuring automated engine start/stop functionality to reduce emissions and save fuel, the technology helping the new 2018 XC60 achieve a five-cycle Transport Canada claimed rating of 10.7 L/100km in the city, 8.5 on the highway, and 9.8 combined for the XC60 T5 AWD powertrain, or 11.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.2 combined for the XC60 T6 AWD, albeit no estimate yet for the XC60 T8 eAWD.

This won’t stop us from guessing that the smaller, lighter XC60 T8 eAWD will be slightly thriftier on fuel than larger, heavier mid-size XC90 T8 eAWD, an SUV already rated at 10.1 L/100km city, 8.8 highway and 9.5 combined. This said, when factoring in regular charging an owner could potentially drive the XC90 T8 eAWD every day without ever needing to fill the gas tank, although its official Le/100km (gasoline litres equivalent per 100 kilometres) rating is more conservatively estimated at 4.7 combined city/highway. A slightly better rating should be achievable with the new XC60 T8 eAWD.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
The XC60’s rear legroom is best-in-class. (Photo: Volvo)

While the new 2018 XC60’s powertrain lineup might be reason enough to earn it North American Utility of the Year status, its many other attributes combine for a truly special compact SUV. Its styling, which combines key design cues from its larger XC90 sibling as well as other recently redesigned Volvo models, also has some completely new elements of its own, while its uniquely rich interior design and execution raises the bar in the compact luxury SUV segment.

Its 965 millimetres (38 inches) of rear legroom is best in class as well, while its 731 litres (25.8 cubic feet) of cargo capacity behind its 60/40-split rear seatbacks and 1,792 litres (63.3 cubic feet) of maximum luggage space make it one of the easiest to live with in its segment. Additionally, the XC60 comes standard with a convenient rear centre pass-through that lets rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable outboard seats while longer cargo, such as skis, get stowed down the middle.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
The XC60 delivers one of the roomiest cargo compartments in its class, plus the convenience of a centre pass-through as well as optional power-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Volvo)

The 2018 XC60 represents strong value as well, with additional standard features not yet mentioned including an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, a high-resolution colour multi-information display, dual-zone auto climate control, leather upholstery, heatable powered front seats with driver’s memory, one of the largest infotainment touchscreen’s in the class at 9.0 inches, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, voice activation, SMS/text message reading and response capability, 10-speaker premium audio, satellite radio, a panoramic sunroof, a powered rear liftgate, roof rails, and much more.

The base 2018 Volvo XC60 Momentum is available now from just $46,350 before freight and fees, while the sportiest R-Design model can be had for $56,000 and top-tier Inscription trim starts at $57,600.

Energi is Ford-speak for plug-in hybrid or PHEV, and this important future-looking model continues with the 2017 Fusion’s mid-cycle makeover. The changes to the entire Fusion line are subtle but effective,…

2017 Ford Fusion Energi Platinum

Energi is Ford-speak for plug-in hybrid or PHEV, and this important future-looking model continues with the 2017 Fusion’s mid-cycle makeover.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi Platinum
Ford has refreshed its popular Fusion for 2017, with this plug-in Energi Platinum being top of the line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The changes to the entire Fusion line are subtle but effective, the grille now appearing less Aston Martin-like and therefore more acceptable to those of us who’d rather not see a favourite sports car brand plagiarized, the headlamp clusters scalloped slightly on their lower edges, a new more horizontal lower fascia providing a cleaner yet sportier look, redesigned taillights that now feature a chromed strikethrough stretching across the trailing edge of the deck lid to visually connect the two, and other small details modernizing the popular mid-size sedan.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi Platinum
All 2017 Fusions get redesigned taillights with chromed trim spanning the taillights and trunk lid. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also new for 2017 is top-tier Platinum trim level that sits above the previous-best Titanium model. That’s what we drove in our recent weeklong test, a $44,588 near-luxury sedan that adds a unique Sport grille, stunning diamond-quilted perforated leather upholstery, a leather-adorned dash and armrests, tasteful woodgrain trim, a heatable steering wheel, ventilated front seats, navigation, rain-sensing wipers, a universal garage door opener, a powered glass sunroof, and a number of active convenience and safety features such as adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, autonomous pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, blindspot warning, lane keeping assist, enhanced semi-autonomous park assist, and more.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi Platinum
Platinum trim adds a new level of luxury to the Fusion, placing it very near Lincoln levels of pampering. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Only Hyundai’s Sonata joins the Fusion Energi in offering plug-in hybrid technology to the popular mid-size sedan segment, this allowing owners to recharge a larger battery capable of driving longer distances on 100-percent electric power, not to mention at higher speeds than conventional hybrids can do in EV mode. While the Fusion Energi is only good for about 30 kilometers of pure EV propulsion before its 2.0-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine joins in for assistance and regular hybrid usage ensues, a full charge can be achieved in just 2.5 hours which makes it possible for commuters to recharge at work or those who use their cars throughout the day, for business or running personal errands, to recharge their cars at shopping malls or other facilities that offer fast charging stations.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi Platinum
The Energi Platinum gets every available Fusion option including cooled seats, navigation and self-parking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The 2.0-litre engine makes a mere 141 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque alone, but when combined with its electrical assistant raises output to 188 horsepower. Ford doesn’t provide total torque as it’s a difficult figure to estimate, but strong performance off the line has caused auto experts to estimate it between 180 and 190 lb-ft.

The Fusion Energi drives the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT), par for the course amongst hybrid drivetrains, while fuel economy is estimated to be 5.8 L/100km in the city and 6.5 on the highway when in regular hybrid mode, or 2.7 Le/100km when factoring in regular usage of its EV mode.

Stay tuned for a full road test review of this impressive new 2017 Fusion, not only covering its plug-in characteristics and unique driving dynamics, but also detailing its upscale Platinum trim…