BARCELONA, Spain – Volvo makes its bid for a bigger piece of the burgeoning midsize luxury CUV segment with the all-new ’18 XC60 slated to go on sale in the U.S. in August.

Built on the same Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) that underpins the enormously successful XC90 CUV, the XC60 gives buyers a 2-row option at a lower price point while still offering all the powertrain, technology, creature comforts and unique Swedish design available in its larger, 3-row sibling.

The XC60 is Volvo’s best-selling model and is the top seller in its segment in Europe. U.S. sales topped 26,000 units in 2015, declining to about 20,000 last year. The automaker sold 7,377 XC60s through the first five months of 2017, WardsAuto data shows.

Like the XC90, the second-generation XC60 T6 model is powered by Volvo’s award-winning 2.0L I-4 Twincharger engine, featuring both supercharging and turbocharging. The 316-hp, 295-lb.-ft. (400 Nm) powerplant was a 2016 Wards 10 Best Engines winner (and a 2017 honoree in its higher-output Polestar tune).

A T5 version also will be offered at launch with the base 2.0L turbocharged I-4 producing 250 hp and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) of torque, but gearhead greenies will want to wait until September when the T8 hybrid model hits the market.

The T8, powered by the same 400-hp, 472-lb.-ft. (640-Nm) plug-in hybrid powertrain offered in the 370-lb. (168-kg) heavier XC90, joins the higher-priced Porsche Macan Turbo in the very small group of premium CUVs with 400-hp powertrains.

Volvo says the XC60 T8 will be good for 4.9-seconds 0-60 mph (97 km/h) while offering a 20% increase in usable energy from a revised battery pack producing 10.4 kW/h, up from 9.2 kW/h in the first-gen XC90. Range and fuel-economy estimates aren’t available yet, but an ’18 XC90 T8 is expected to see maximum EV range increase from 20 to 25 miles (32 to 40 km), says Olle Fast, powertrain project leader.

All XC60s will feature all-wheel drive in the first model year, with front-drivers possibly coming in the second year, although Volvo isn’t committing to that version yet. Eight-speed automatic transmissions are standard across the board.

While sharing design language with the XC90, the XC60 presents a much more athletic appearance, from its convex grille to the taut sheet metal on its flanks to its distinctive take on the vertical Volvo taillamp treatment.

On a press drive here in the south of Spain, we get behind the wheel of a T6 model featuring many of the familiar Volvo interfaces and switchgear found in the S90, including the large 9.0-in. (22.8-cm) vertical touchscreen flanked by aero-inspired vents and a 12.3-in. (31-cm) instrument cluster.

Malin Labecker, director-digital user experience, says a center touchscreen makeover prompted by customer and internal feedback moves four tiles previously stationary at the bottom of the screen to a vertical column (that can be hidden) along the driver’s side of the layout to help operators more easily differentiate among the various functions. Additional color also more clearly communicates functions while a larger text size aids readability.

“The object is to make it easier to understand, to have your eyes on the road,” Labecker says.

The updates also focus on quicker reaction and startup times, especially in a key function such as route recalculations.

Our top-trim Inscription tester features artfully inlaid driftwood framed by a satin metallic trim piece running the length of the instrument panel. A small representation of a Swedish flag, inserted into the metal above the glove box, provides just enough room to allow for contraction and expansion of the otherwise solid trim piece. A tunnel-mounted shifter, knurled chassis controller and ignition switch all reside close at hand on the long, narrow center console.

Perforated-leather seats are comfortable, supportive and highly adjustable, despite a relatively thin profile. The 60/40 split-folding rear seats are good for two in outboard buckets with good legroom, but the center seat rides tall with reduced head room. Cargo room is ample, deep and wide.

Nimble best describes the XC60’s driving feel, whether compared to its heftier platform-mate or other vehicles in its class. In Dynamic mode, one of four settings in addition to Eco, Comfort and Custom, chassis and powertrain responses become significantly sharper, giving the engine and steering much quicker reaction.

But it is the unseen balancing act the optional Four-C air suspension provides that gives the XC60 its light yet planted road feel, keeping the chassis flat through corners and balanced fore and aft in aggressive acceleration and braking. Even when pushed hard over uneven pavement, the XC60 maintains a firm, predictable grip. For higher-speed stability (+75 mph [121 km/h], the suspension lowers ride height 0.4 in. (10 mm), and .79 in. (20 mm) above 112 mph (180 km/h).

The T6 engine, already a crowd-pleaser in the XC90 and S90 sedan, is even better suited for work in the XC60, providing strong power across the band. Punch the accelerator at 60 mph and the response is immediate, quickly hustling the CUV to significantly higher velocity. Most engine noise is isolated and any sound making its way into the cabin is easily offset by the 1,100-watt, 15-speaker Bower & Wilkins audio system.

Volvo continues to improve its driver-assistance and safety features, adding standard collision avoidance (up to 37 mph [60 km/h]), City Safety with improved steering response to assist in avoiding collisions in the 31-62 mph (50-100 km/h) range and Oncoming Lane Mitigation that assists in preventing head-on collisions from 37-87 mph (60-140 km/h).

While we’re happy to report we didn’t need any of the aforementioned features, we did sample Volvo’s excellent Pilot Assist II adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance. The system’s automated speed and braking controls perform almost flawlessly in virtually every situation (up to 80 mph [129 km/h]), but lane keeping still needs a nudge on the wheel from time to time to keep it on course.

But in the event of a collision, the XC60 wouldn’t be a Volvo if it didn’t incorporate a maximum level of protection for occupants. Graeme McInally, director-crash analysis, says 36% of the XC60’s structure is high-strength boron steel, down from 40% in the XC90 strictly due to its smaller dimensions.

For the U.S. market, the XC60 comes in three trim levels, the base Momentum, the sporty R-Design and the top-level Inscription. Base pricing (not including $995 for freight and handling) starts at $41,500 for the Momentum T5, hits $48,700 for a well-equipped T6-powered Inscription and reaches $56,700 for a top-trim Inscription T8 hybrid. Volvo notes the T8 is eligible for a $5,002 federal tax credit.

XC60 production is under way at Volvo’s plant in Torslanda, Sweden, which also builds the larger XC90 and the S90 sedan.

bgritzinger@wardsauto.com @bobgritzinger