A luxury contender. The luxury establishment is generally headquartered in Germany, with occasional inroads from Asia and America. The 2021 Volvo XC60 is clear evidence that luxury buyers would do well to look farther north.

The Scandinavian automaker brings an undeniable sense of style to its rendition of the luxury compact crossover. The exterior is simultaneously eye-catching and understated, an elegant shape complemented by tasteful accents.

If possible, the XC60 is even better on the inside. It’s attractive no matter where you look – soft leather upholstery, a crystal-tipped shifter, and an uncluttered dash sculpted with driftwood trim. It’s glamorous and relaxing, with much more character than many luxury competitors.

Space to spare. The cabin doesn’t just look good – it’s a nice place to spend time. Front seats are thickly padded and supportive, and they can be ventilated or massage-capable on upper trims. Headroom is plentiful, and three adults can fit comfortably in the back.

The XC60 does luxury well, but it’s just as happy hauling cargo. Folding the second row opens up more than 63 cubic feet of space, which is more than the BMW X3 or Audi Q5.

Even the infotainment screen is spacious: every XC60 gets a generous 9-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility. It’s sharp and easy to use, and the driver gets a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster to match.

Multiple personalities. The Volvo XC60 comes with a choice of four powertrains, and each has a distinct personality. The base T5 is cheerful and competent, with a healthy 250 horsepower. It’s also the only engine that’s available with front-wheel drive, which makes it lighter than the rest.

We prefer the upgraded T6, which supercharges the engine up to 316 hp. The engine is well suited to moving the XC60’s bulk, and it never feels strained. In the T6, 0-60 mph times drop under seven seconds, which is more than quick enough for most.

The downside of both options is mediocre fuel economy. Both the T5 and T6 are stuck in the mid-20s in miles per gallon combined, which is only average in an era of hybrids and electrics.

Luckily, Volvo has a plug-in of its own. The XC60 Recharge improves on base fuel economy, and even better, it offers up to 19 miles of electric range. That’s not much by plug-in standards, but it’s enough for grocery runs and errands around town. The Recharge isn’t boring, either — with 400 combined hp, it’s impressively quick.

It would be the quickest if it weren’t for the fearsome Polestar Engineered model, which tunes the engine up to 415 h and drops the 0-60 mph sprint under six seconds. It’s a genuine performance car, although it’s pricey enough that you’re not likely to see many on the road.

Still a Volvo. Volvo may have upped their luxury credentials, but they haven’t lost sight of their roots. The XC60 gets a nearly perfect report card from federal and independent testers, and every model gets a strong set of active safety features. Family buyers, rejoice.

The rest of the XC60’s features are divided among a simple and sensible feature range. Base trims are fairly good value, but we like Inscription models best for their Nappa leather upholstery and four-zone climate control.

When it looks this good inside and out, the XC60 is a genuine challenge to favorites like the X3 or the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. Both of these vehicles are more expensive than the XC60, and unless you’re set on a German badge, we suggest you cross-shop accordingly.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Volvo XC60 is hard to fault. If pressed, we could take issue with the limited plug-in electric range and the mediocre base fuel economy. But in all the ways that matter, the XC60 is exceptional: it’s comfortable, practical, and beautiful inside and out. For a luxury crossover, it’s hard to ask more.

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