Stylish Simplicity

By Derek Price

Volvo has come a long way from its days of building slab-sided, box-like cars.

Today’s Volvos have a sleek, sophisticated style that embraces the simple beauty of modern

Scandinavian design. Compared to flashy, maximalist luxury cars, they seem tastefully restrained.

For the current generation XC60, a two-row crossover that was named World Car of the Year when it was introduced a few years ago, things get even more stylish with the introduction of the Black Edition for 2024.

The Black Edition isn’t exactly new. Volvo offered a similar look on its S60 sedan in the past, and other car companies have added special blacked-out versions in recent years to goose their sales.

The Black Edition package seems especially fitting on the XC60, though, with understated elegance already built into its lines. Monochrome black only adds to its delightfully uncomplicated visual appeal.

Outside, Onyx Black paint is paired with glossy black trim, including the Volvo logo and word mark.

Unique 21-inch wheels give it a sporty look.

Inside, the same theme continues with a black headliner and charcoal leather seats.

Unfortunately for penny pinchers, you can only order the Black Edition as an upgrade to the top-level Ultimate trim, though.

Volvo is adding a sinister-looking Black Edition to its XC60 lineup for 2024, which includes 21-inch wheels and blacked-out trim and badges.

The XC60 offers two terrific choices for powertrains.

One is a turbocharged, mild-hybrid four-cylinder engine called the B5. It makes 247 horsepower, enough for good acceleration and 3,500 pounds of towing capacity.

The second is a plug-in hybrid powertrain called the T8. It makes 455 horsepower and a pavement-crumpling 523 pound-feet of torque, but it also lets you drive up to 35 miles on pure electric power. If you keep it charged at night, that’s like having an EV for local drives and a powerful gasoline engine for longer trips, all in the same vehicle.

The base B5 engine is rated for 25 mpg in combined city and highway driving, not bad for a heavy luxury crossover.

The powerful T8 gets even better marks from the fuel-measuring wonks in Washington. It’s rated for 28 mpg combined under gasoline power, or the equivalent of 63 mpg if you take advantage of its battery power.

The Black Edition carries into the cabin, where a dark headliner and charcoal leather seats contrast nicely with Volvo’s trim materials.

In the real world, the XC60 T8’s gas mileage varies dramatically based on how you drive it. If you keep it charged and stick close to home, you’ll almost never burn gasoline. If you regularly take long trips, you’ll stay somewhere closer to the 28-mpg rating.

My tester, which came with the T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain, was a delight to drive. Volvo has learned how to eke the most power and excitement from the least amount of gasoline.

Even with the Black Edition’s 21-inch wheels — a size big enough to ruin the ride on some luxury vehicles — I thought the XC60 had a perfect combination of stiffness when cornering and softness in straight lines.

Downsides? They’re almost nonexistent from my perspective.

Volvo’s newest cars, including the XC60, often get panned in reviews for their Google-based technology. Even though I’ve been an Apple person since I was a kid in the 1980s, the Google-designed interface in the latest XC60 didn’t bother me a bit. It was intuitive and quick to respond.

While the graphics aren’t as beautiful as in the older Sensus system Volvo used to deploy, the technology didn’t cause any problems for me. I’m guessing people with Android phones will find it even easier to use than I did.

In fact, the biggest downside I see is that the XC60 isn’t priced for the masses. The base version starts at $46,900, which is a lot more than some great Japanese, Korean and American two-row SUVs in the $30,000 range.

The plug-in hybrid T8 version starts at $57,900.

If you want the stylish new Black Edition, it starts at $57,500 with the B5 engine or $68,950 with the T8. It also comes with all the safety, tech and luxury features that are part of Volvo’s top-line Ultimate trim level.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2024 Volvo XC60 Recharge AWD Ultimate ($68,950). Options: Climate package ($750), power tailgate ($200), air suspension ($1,800), Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($3,200), massage seats ($600). Price as tested (including $1,195 destination charge): $76,695
Wheelbase: 112.8 in.
Length: 185.4 in.
Width: 74.9 in.
Height: 38 in.
Power: Turbocharged 2.0-liter engine plus electric motors (455 hp, 523 ft. Lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: Combined 63 MPGe


Style: 8
Performance: 9
Price: 6
Handling: 7
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 9
Overall: 8

Why buy it?

The XC60 offers head-turning Scandinavian looks in a utilitarian SUV package. Everything about it has a premium feel, including a lineup of strong and efficient engines.

Posted in Volvo

Too Good for America

By Derek Price

I’ve been waiting a long time for an electric car as good as this one, the Hyundai Ioniq 6.

The first EV I tested, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, felt like a street-legal golf cart when I first drove it in 2012.

And while I watched EVs get better in the following years, they still felt more like slow, gimmick-filled novelties than competitors for “real” cars.

Back then, I couldn’t imagine an electric vehicle that was as quiet as a Mercedes on the highway or thrilling as a BMW on the streets, all while draped in the timeless shape of a classic Porsche sports car.

That’s what buyers get in an Ioniq 6.

After a week behind the wheel, the experience reminds me of the best German luxury cars except for one component: the engine.

The Ioniq 6 doesn’t have one.

Instead, it has a battery pack and electric motors that let it drive up to 361 miles on a full charge.

For drivers willing to install a charger in their garage, this is one of the best vehicles I’ve ever driven for local trips, including both gasoline and electric vehicles. It’s that good.

The driving assistance systems are so flawless that it feels autonomous on the highway.

Hyundai’s Ioniq 6 electric car seems to draw design inspiration from classic Porsches and the driving spirit of thrilling BMW sports sedans. It’s an all-around great car that happens to be powered by electricity.

The in-cabin technology is so seamlessly integrated that it makes the car feel like an extension of your smartphone. Plus the colorful ambient lighting and solid-feeling construction make the Ioniq 6 seem more like a Lexus than a Hyundai from the inside.

It’s also wonderfully practical. The doors swing open wide to make ingress and egress easy, and the rear hatch lifts up like a crossover vehicle to accept big, bulky cargo.

As good as it is from a design and engineering perspective, though, this car has a glaring problem: America isn’t ready for it.

That’s not such a big deal for people who have a gas-powered car for road trips and can limit their EV driving to less than 361 miles a day. Anything beyond that, though, and you have to take advantage of America’s DC fast charging infrastructure that isn’t up to the task, at least not yet.

While the Ioniq 6 is designed to accept ultra-fast, 350-kW charging stations, there are relatively few of those around. And if you are lucky enough to find a working ultra-fast charger along your route, you may have to wait in line to use them.

When you do happen to win the 350-kW charging lottery on your trip, Hyundai says the Ioniq 6 can go from 10 percent to 80 percent charge in just 18 minutes.

The Ioniq 6’s cabin feels unusually spacious. It doesn’t have a traditional driveshaft and transmission, which creates a completely flat floor and adds to the airy, voluminous feeling inside.

My real-world charging experience wasn’t anything like that, which is very normal for the weeks I drive EVs. It involved hours of charging time and occasional waits for a charger to become available.

In fact, America hasn’t even taken the very fundamental step of mandating a standard charging plug yet, which makes me reluctant to install one in my garage when it will only work on some of today’s EVs and perhaps none of tomorrow’s EVs.

This is a basic, foundational problem that America hasn’t solved yet.

For a long time, the limiting factor in adopting electric propulsion was a lack of decent vehicles. Many previous EVs were either not very good to drive or outrageously expensive luxury products.

Hyundai did an incredible job making the Ioniq 6 not just better than a lot of electric cars, but better than most gasoline cars, too. My all-wheel-drive tester with 320 horsepower was one of the most thrilling, exciting and all-around useful cars I’ve driven in the past year.

It’s good enough to make this old-fashioned, gasoline-loving car guy fall in love with it. It’s absolutely perfect for commuting and local trips.

Just make sure you still have a gasoline car, too, if you ever want to make road trips without long delays and frustration.

Pricing starts at $37,500 for the rear-wheel-drive version with standard range. It tops out at $53,650 for the fast and luxurious Limited with all-wheel drive, dual motors and an extended range.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6 Limited Long Range AWD ($53,650). Options: Carpeted floor mats ($210). Price as tested (including $1,115 destination charge): $54,975
Wheelbase: 116.1 in.
Length: 191.1 in.
Width: 74 in.
Height: 58.9 in.
Motors: Front and rear (combined 320 horsepower)
Range: 270 miles
Fuel economy: Combined 103 MPGe


Style: 9
Performance: 9
Price: 5
Handling: 7
Ride: 8
Comfort: 8
Quality: 8
Overall: 9

Why buy it?

The battery-powered Ioniq 6 is an all-around spectacular car, including by traditional gasoline standards. It’s fast, powerful, quiet, luxurious and good-looking.

Posted in Hyundai

New Kind of Lexus SUV

By Derek Price

Lexus has long offered spacious SUVs for people who need three rows of seating.

There’s just one problem. The brand’s biggest SUVs — the GX and LX — are built on heavy ladder frames just like pickup trucks, which is ideal for off-roading but not necessarily a good fit for the upscale suburbs where luxury SUVs tend to gravitate.

On pavement, unibody construction is a much more logical choice because it weighs dramatically less, resulting in a more responsive ride and lower payments at the gas pump.

Now, for the first time ever, Lexus is selling a purpose-built three-row SUV with unibody construction called the TX.

While Lexus did offer a three-row version of the RX in the past, called the RX-L, it shoehorned a third row into a vehicle that didn’t seem properly designed for it. Kids may have fit back there, but it wasn’t great for adults.

That changes with the roomier TX.

Based on the same design as the new Toyota Grand Highlander, this fresh Lexus has a reasonably spacious third-row seat that could actually fit grown-ups comfortably.

The TX is a new Texas-sized Lexus SUV. It has three rows of spacious seating and is built with unibody construction for better gas mileage and crisper handling than body-on-frame SUVs.

It also offers the predictable recipe Lexus buyers have come to expect: a solid cabin built with luxurious-feeling materials, a generous suite of tech features and a syrupy, fluffy ride that makes highway trips relaxing.

I spent a week behind the wheel of the new TX, and I came away feeling like this is the first time Lexus has hit the sweet spot of the market for three-row SUVs.

The big LX is an incredible machine, but its base price around $94,000 means not many people can afford it. The outgoing 2023 GX starts at a more attainable price, around $60,000, but is rated for a combined 16 mpg in city and highway driving.

The TX 350, in contrast, is rated for 21 mpg in the city and a thrifty 27 on the highway, an impressive feat for a vehicle this size.

A turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is responsible for the thrift. Coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain felt silky and competent in my tester, although not quite muscular enough to power a truly premium SUV.

The gasoline-powered TX 350 accelerates from 0-60 mph in a ho-hum 8 seconds, according to Lexus’ measurements.

A huge, 14-inch touchscreen dominates the dash on the new-for-2024 Lexus TX.

If you want to upgrade to a faster TX, there two different hybrid versions to pick from.

The standard hybrid, called the TX 500h, accelerates from 0-60 in 6.1 seconds while delivering better gas mileage at the same time. Government wonks rate it at 27 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway.

A plug-in hybrid, called the TX 550h+, is two tenths of a second faster than the standard hybrid to 60 mph. It also lets you drive up to 33 miles on battery power before the gasoline engine kicks in. On the downside, it also tops the lineup in price, more than $20,000 over the TX 350’s starting sticker.

The TX comes with a long list of no-extra-cost features, which is unusual for a luxury brand. Every version comes with radar cruise control and lane centering, plus a gigantic 14-inch touchscreen that takes up the entire center of the dash to run its myriad tech features.

Its cabin seems to be designed more for fingertips than eyeballs. It looks very simple and understated in pictures, almost like the sparse, thrifty, minimalistic style of a new Volkswagen more than an old-fashioned, tufted-leather luxury car.

In real life, though, the TX feels and smells spectacular, with rattle-free construction and supple materials in all the right spots.

Pricing starts at $55,050 for the base TX 350. The hybrid version, which comes with the spirited F-Sport Performance treatment, starts at $69,350. Finally, the plug-in 550h+ Hybrid model tops the lineup at $78,050.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2024 Lexus TX 350 ($53,700). Options: None. Price as tested (including $1,350 destination charge): $55,050
Wheelbase: 116.1 in.
Length: 203.2 in.
Width: 78.4 in.
Height: 70.1 in.
Engine: 2.4-liter turbocharged four cylinder (275 hp, 317 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 21 city, 27 highway


Style: 9
Performance: 5
Price: 7
Handling: 6
Ride: 9
Comfort: 9
Quality: 9
Overall: 7

Why buy it?

The TX is a new kind of SUV from Lexus. It’s large and spacious inside, and its car-like unibody construction means it handles better and burns less gas than Lexus’ previous truck-based SUVs.

Posted in Lexus